Morning Call: pick of the papers

The ten must-read comment pieces from this morning's papers.

1. Margaret Thatcher's Britain: we still live in the land Maggie built (Guardian)

The coalition is maintaining Thatcher's project of rolling back the frontiers of the state, dismantling the settlement that held from 1945 until it unravelled in the 1970s, writes Jonathan Freedland.

2. Marvel at Mrs Thatcher – the outsider who beat the system (Daily Telegraph)

Unlike most politicians today, she had courage, integrity and a clear sense who she was, says Peter Oborne. 

3. The Iron Lady towers over modern Britain (Financial Times)

Thatcher’s legacy is not order – though that was a precious achievement – but freedom, says Janan Ganesh.

4. Margaret Thatcher: the lady and the land she leaves behind (Guardian)

Her legacy is public division, private selfishness and a cult of greed that together shackle the human spirit, says a Guardian editorial.

5. How Thatcher restored Britain’s optimism (Times)

Children will study the former Prime Minister in the same way they study Elizabeth I, Cromwell and Churchill, writes George Osborne.

6. Margaret Thatcher broke Britain and replaced it with something crueller and nastier (Daily Mirror)

Many of the problems experienced today on bleak estates – joblessness, drugs, despair and hopelessness – can be traced back to her disastrous premiership, says a Daily Mirror editorial.

7. They underrated her, and always paid the price (Daily Telegraph)

Thatcher was not regarded as much of a threat by Labour when she became Tory leader in 1975, says David Owen. 

8. Thatcherism was a national catastrophe that still poisons us (Independent)

We are in the midst of the third great economic collapse since the Second World War: all three have taken place since Thatcherism launched its great crusade, writes Owen Jones.

9. This is a solemn and awesome moment in the history of our people, and we must mark it accordingly (Daily Mail)

Our nation pays no higher tribute to its great men and women than to accord them a state funeral, writes Simon Heffer. By any standards, Margaret Thatcher must have one.

10. The Lloyds workers are paying for their bosses' catastrophe (Guardian)

Average Lloyds employees face hardship and redundancy, writes Aditya Chakrabortty. Meanwhile, those that led them into this mess are thriving.

Paul McMillan
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"We're an easy target": how a Tory manifesto pledge will tear families apart

Under current rules, bringing your foreign spouse to the UK is a luxury reserved for those earning £18,600 a year or more. The Tories want to make it even more exclusive. 

Carolyn Matthew met her partner, George, in South Africa sixteen years ago. She settled down with him, had kids, and lived like a normal family until last year, when they made the fateful decision to move to her hometown in Scotland. Matthew, 55, had elderly parents, and after 30 years away from home she wanted to be close to them. 

But Carolyn nor George - despite consulting a South African immigration lawyer – did not anticipate one huge stumbling block. That is the rule, introduced in 2012, that a British citizen must earn £18,600 a year before a foreign spouse may join them in the UK. 

“It is very dispiriting,” Carolyn said to me on the telephone from Bo’ness, a small town on the Firth of Forth, near Falkirk. “In two weeks, George has got to go back to South Africa.” Carolyn, who worked in corporate complaints, has struggled to find the same kind of work in her hometown. Jobs at the biggest local employer tend to be minimum wage. George, on the other hand, is an engineer – yet cannot work because of his holiday visa. 

To its critics, the minimum income threshold seems nonsensical. It splits up families – including children from parents – and discriminates against those likely to earn lower wages, such as women, ethnic minorities and anyone living outside London and the South East. The Migration Observatory has calculated that roughly half Britain’s working population would not meet the requirement. 

Yet the Conservative party not only wishes to maintain the policy, but hike the threshold. The manifesto stated:  “We will increase the earnings thresholds for people wishing to sponsor migrants for family visas.” 

Initially, the threshold was justified as a means of preventing foreign spouses from relying on the state. But tellingly, the Tory manifesto pledge comes under the heading of “Controlling Immigration”. 

Carolyn points out that because George cannot work while he is visiting her, she must support the two of them for months at a time without turning to state aid. “I don’t claim benefits,” she told me. “That is the last thing I want to do.” If both of them could work “life would be easy”. She believes that if the minimum income threshold is raised any further "it is going to make it a nightmare for everyone".

Stuart McDonald, the SNP MP for Cumbernauld, Kilsyth and Kirkintilloch East, co-sponsored a Westminster Hall debate on the subject earlier this year. While the Tory manifesto pledge is vague, McDonald warns that one option is the highest income threshold suggested in 2012 - £25,700, or more than the median yearly wage in the East Midlands. 

He described the current scheme as “just about the most draconian family visa rules in the world”, and believes a hike could affect more than half of British citizens. 

"Theresa May is forcing people to choose between their families and their homes in the UK - a choice which most people will think utterly unfair and unacceptable,” he said.  

For those a pay rise away from the current threshold, a hike will be demoralising. For Paul McMillan, 25, it is a sign that it’s time to emigrate.

McMillan, a graduate, met his American girlfriend Megan while travelling in 2012 (the couple are pictured above). He could find a job that will allow him to meet the minimum income threshold – if he were not now studying for a medical degree.  Like Matthew, McMillan’s partner has no intention of claiming benefits – in fact, he expects her visa would specifically ban her from doing so. 

Fed up with the hostile attitude to immigrants, and confident of his options elsewhere, McMillan is already planning a career abroad. “I am going to take off in four years,” he told me. 

As for why the Tories want to raise the minimum income threshold, he thinks it’s obvious – to force down immigration numbers. “None of this is about the amount of money we need to earn,” he said. “We’re an easy target for the government.”

Julia Rampen is the digital news editor of the New Statesman (previously editor of The Staggers, The New Statesman's online rolling politics blog). She has also been deputy editor at Mirror Money Online and has worked as a financial journalist for several trade magazines. 

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