King Alfred Press

Home » Politics » THE LEGACY OF MARGARET THATCHER

THE LEGACY OF MARGARET THATCHER

Text Widget

This is a text widget. The Text Widget allows you to add text or HTML to your sidebar. You can use a text widget to display text, links, images, HTML, or a combination of these. Edit them in the Widget section of the Customizer.

slide_290640_2310693_free

Margaret Thatcher (1925 – 2013) is a titan of world politics. A conservative heavyweight who effectively championed the conservative ethos in the public sphere and, in doing so, managed to transform her country for the better.

Margaret Thatcher was born Margaret Hilda Roberts on October 13th, 1925 above a green grocer’s store in Grantham, Lincolnshire. Thatcher was an ambitious and driven student who won scholarships to Kesteven and Grantham Girls’ school and Oxford University. After university, Thatcher worked as a chemist but abandoned it to study for the legal bar after meeting her husband Dennis Thatcher (1915 -2003), whom she married in 1954. Thatcher became a fully qualified lawyer that same year. Thatcher became the Conservative member for Finchley in 1959.

During her rise to power, Thatcher was not massively popular. Facing oppositions because of her gender – when she was elected she was one of only twenty-four female Parliamentarians (out of six-hundred members) and, even more unusually, was the mother of twins – and her social class. The Conservative Party had not changed its structure since the 19th century. She was often denounced as the “grocer’s daughter”, one conservative politician even commented that she was “a good-looking woman without doubt, but common as dirt.” In spite of these barriers, Thatcher managed to rise through numerous junior ministerial positions to become the shadow education spokeswoman in 1967. She became the Secretary of State for Education and Science when Edward Heath (1916 – 2005) became Prime Minister in June of 1970. Thatcher became the leader of the Conservative Party in 1975.

Margaret Thatcher was conservative Prime Minister of Great Britain from 1979 to 1990 and in her time, she changed Britain and helped define the times she lived in. Thatcher became Prime Minister after defeating James Callaghan (1912 – 2005) with a seven percent majority. There were many reasons for the conservative victory, the main ones being economic failure and the lack of union control. Thatcher was seen as aggressive but also as something of a paradox. She was the first scientist in Downing Street and was enthusiastic in pushing Great Britain’s technological innovations forward, but was an anti-counterculture revolutionary who opposed trade unions and the socialism they represented.

During Thatcher’s first term, however, it was the economy that needed the most attention. By the late 1970s inflation in Great Britain had peaked at twenty percent due to rising oil prices and wage-push inflation. The once mighty nation had become known as the ‘sick man of Europe’. According to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, by 1980/81 Britain was suffering from downward trends in employment and productivity. The great industrial cities were in decline. Glasgow, for example, had seen a decline in its population from 1.2 million following World War One to eight hundred thousand in the early 1980s. In some areas of Glasgow, male unemployment would remain at between sixty and seventy percent throughout the 1980s.  The director of the Department of Applied Economics, Wayne Godfrey, stated on the prospect of the 1980s: “it is a prospect so dreadful I cannot really believe there won’t be a sort of political revolution which will demand a basic change to policy.”

Inflation, particularly cost-push inflation, was seen as the biggest enemy. However, Thatcher knew that tackling inflation would require restricting the flow of money and causing mass job losses. It was a sacrifice she was willing to make. The government had a three-step process for tackling the issue. First, they increased interest rates. Second, they reduced the budget deficit by raising taxes and cutting government spending. Third, they pursued monetarist policies to control the supply of money. Despite great job losses, the economy slowly improved over Thatcher’s first two years in power.

In 1981, however, her policies caused a recession and unemployment peaked at three million. In fact, unemployment would remain a characteristic of the 1980s. Following the recession, Great Britain saw a period of economic growth with inflation dropping below four percent, although unemployment soared to 3.2 million before easing off a little. It is also of note that despite the mass unemployment, average earnings were, in fact, rising twice as fast inflation and those in employment had it better than ever. The Secretary of Transport, David Howell (1936 – ), stated in 1983: “if the conservative revolution has an infantry, it is the self-employed. It is in the growth of the self-employed, spreading out to small family businesses, that the job opportunities of the future are going to come.”  Thatcher’s biggest achievement in her first term, and the one which endeared her most to the British public was the Falklands War. Following the Argentinean surrender in 1982, Thatcher stated: “today has put the great back into Britain.” The Falklands War rekindled the British public’s pride in her navy and in the nation, itself.

listen-to-ronald-reagan-uncomfortably-apologizing-to-margaret-thatcher-after-invading-grenada

The Conservative Party won the 1983 election by an overwhelming majority. Thatcher had become the uncontested leader and saviour of the Conservative Party. Thatcher used the victory as an opportunity to change the configuration of the Conservative Party and reshape it in her image. She fired Foreign Secretary, Francis Pym (1922 – 2008) and sent the Home Secretary, William Whitelaw (1918 – 1999) to the House of Lords. Having ended the ancien regime, she refilled the front bench with dedicated Thatcherites. Only one old Etonian remained: Lord Chancellor Hailsham (1907 – 2001), who was eighty-five at the time. Thatcher then embarked on a policy of privatisation and deregulation with the intention of decreasing dependency on the government and encouraging personal responsibility.  Critics accused Thatcher of attempting to dismantle the welfare state and refusing to provide a base safety net for those down on their luck.  Unusually for an anti-socialist, Thatcher established the Greater London Council along with six metropolitan councils in an attempt to control local councils from Whitehall.

The conservatives won the 1987 election having lost twenty-one seats, but with a majority of more than one hundred. Thatcher focused on social issues and embarked on a program for social engineering. This was a seven-step process. First, the program actively encouraged women to stay at home and look after their children rather than join the workforce. Second, the program suggested putting the care of the old, unemployed and disabled into the hands of families. Third, the program suggested helping parents set up their own schools. Fourth, the program suggested providing support for schools with a clear, moral base, including religious schools. Fifth, the program suggested creating a voucher system to encourage parents to send their children to private schools. Sixth, the program suggested training children in the management of pocket money and the setting up of savings accounts. Seventh, the program wished to alter the way the public viewed wealth creation so that it would be seen as an admirable pursuit. Thatcher’s tenor as Prime Minister ended when she stood down from cabinet after her party refused to support her in a second round of leadership challenges. She was replaced by John Major (1943 – ).

After leaving office, Thatcher wrote two memoirs: The Downing Street Years (1993) and The Path to Power (1995). Thatcher was known as many things, including ‘The Last of the Eminent Victorians’, ‘New Britannia’, and, most famously, ‘The Iron Lady’. However, despite her many years in politics and her eleven years as Prime Minister, Thatcher was never a populist. This was probably because of her deep personal convictions which were stronger than her fear of the consequences. Thatcher did, however, demand and receive respect from the public. Satire almost always focused on her husband Dennis rather than on her. It is also worth noting that in her time Thatcher never lost an election. As a politician, Thatcher revolutionised political debate, transformed the Conservative Party, and altered many aspects of British life that had long been deemed permanent. Paul Johnson (1928 – ), a prominent English journalist, stated on Thatcher’s abilities as a politician: “though it is true in Margaret Thatcher’s case, she does have two advantages. She did start quite young. She does possess the most remarkable physical stamina of any politician I’ve come across.” In her time, Thatcher was determined to curb government subsidies to industry and to end the power of the trade unions. She made the trade unions liable for damages if their actions became unlawful and forced the Labour Party to modernise itself. Margaret Thatcher was an impressive and important Prime Minister whose political career and personality helped change Great Britain for the better.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

  1. British Broadcasting Corporation., 2001. Dome Woes Haunt Blair. [Online]
    Available at: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/politics/1172367.stm
    [Accessed 8 10 2014].
  2. British Broadcasting Corporation., 2008. 1979: Thatcher Wins Tory Landslide. [Online]
    Available at: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/politics/vote_2005/basics/4393311.stm
    [Accessed 10 8 2014].
  3. British Broadcasting Corporation., 2008. 1983: Thatcher Triumphs Again. [Online]
    Available at: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/politics/vote_2005/basics/4393313.stm
    [Accessed 8 10 2014].
  4. British Broadcasting Corporation., 2008. 1987: Thatcher’s Third Victory. [Online]
    Available at: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/politics/vote_2005/basics/4393315.stm
    [Accessed 8 10 2014].
  5. British Broadcasting Corporation., 2008. 1989: Malta Summit Ends Cold War. [Online]
    Available at: http://news.bbc.co.uk/onthisday/hi/dates/stories/december/3/newsid_4119000/4119950.stm
    [Accessed 12 10 2014].
  6. British Broadcasting Corporation., 2008. 1990: Thatcher Quits as Prime Minister. [Online]
    Available at: http://news.bbc.co.uk/onthisday/hi/dates/stories/november/22/newsid_2549000/2549189.stm
    [Accessed 8 10 2014].
  7. British Broadcasting Corporation., 2001. Dome Woes Haunt Blair. [Online]
    Available at: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/politics/1172367.stm
    [Accessed 8 10 2014].
  8. Chaline, E., 2011. Iron Maiden: Margaret Thatcher. In: History’s Worst Predictions and the People Who Made Them. England: Quid Publishing , pp. 194 – 199.
  9. Crewe, I and Searing D.D., 1988. Ideological Change in the British Conservative Party. The American Political Science Review, 82(2), pp. 361 – 384.
  10. Davies, S., 1993. Margaret Thatcher and the Rebirth of Conservatism. [Online]
    Available at: http://ashbrook.org/publications/onprin-v1n2-davies/
    [Accessed 28 09 2014].
  11. Elnaugh, R., 2013. Thatcher’s Children: Growing Up in 1980s Britain. [Online]
    Available at: http://www.channel4.com/news/thatchers-children-growing-up-in-1980s-britain
    [Accessed 5 10 2014].
  12. Garrett, G., 1992. The Political Consequences of Thatcherism. Political Behaviour, 14(4), pp. 361 – 382.
  13. Gray, J., 2004. Blair’s Project in Retrospect. International Affairs (Royal Institute of International Affairs 1944 -) , 80(1), pp. 39 – 48.
  14. Heffer, S., 2013. Kevin Rudd is Just Like Tony Blair. [Online]
    Available at: http://www.spectator.co.uk/australia/australia-features/8996621/kevin-rudd-is-just-like-tony-blair/
    [Accessed 29 09 2014].
  15. Jones, M., 1984. Thatcher’s Kingdom a View of Britain in the Eighties. Sydney: William Collins Pty Ltd. .
  16. King, A., 2002. The Outsider as Political Leader: The Case of Margaret Thatcher. British Journal of Political Science, 32(3), pp. 435 – 454.
  17. Kirkup J and Prince, R., 2008. Labour Party Membership Falls to Lowest Level Since it was Founded in 1900. [Online]
    Available at: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/2475301/Labour-membership-falls-to-historic-low.html
    [Accessed 8 10 2014].
  18. Maxwell, S. a., 2007. Tony Blair’s Legacy 20% Jump in Amount of Legislation Introduced Per Year. [Online]
    Available at: https://www.sweetandmaxwell.co.uk/about-us/press-releases/010607.pdf
    [Accessed 8 10 2014].
  19. Merriam-Webster, 2014. Spin Doctor. [Online]
    Available at: http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/spin%20doctor
    [Accessed 8 10 2014].
  20. McSmith, A, Chu, B, Garner, R, and Laurance, J., 2013. Margaret Thatcher’s Legacy: Spilt Milk, New Labour, and the Big Bang – She Changed Everything. [Online]
    Available at: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/margaret-thatchers-legacy-spilt-milk-new-labour-and-the-big-bang–she-changed-everything-8564541.html
    [Accessed 8 10 2014].
  21. McTernan, J., 2014. Tony Blair: His Legacy will be Debated But Not Forgotten. [Online]
    Available at: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/tony-blair/10977884/Tony-Blair-His-legacy-will-be-debated-but-not-forgotten.html
    [Accessed 5 10 2014].
  22. Palmer, A., 1964. Conservative Partyy. In: The Penguin Dictionary of Modern History. Victoria: Penguin Books, pp. 90 – 90.
  23. Palmer, A., 1964. Labour Party. In: The Penguin Dictionary of Modern History 1789 – 1945. Victoria: Penguin Books , pp. 181 – 182.
  24. Pettinger, T., 2012. UK Economy in the 1980s. [Online]
    Available at: http://www.economicshelp.org/blog/630/economics/economy-in-1980s/
    [Accessed 5 10 2014].
  25. Purvis, J., 2013. What was Margaret Thatcher’s Legacy for Women?. Women’s History Review, 22(6), pp. 1014 – 1018.
  26. Silverman, J., 2007. Blair’s New Look Civil Liberties. [Online]
    Available at: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/politics/4838684.stm
    [Accessed 8 10 2014].
  27. Thatcher, M., 1960. Public Bodies (Admission of the Press to Meetings) Bill. [Online]
    Available at: http://www.margaretthatcher.org/document/101055
    [Accessed 12 10 2014].
  28. Turner, L., 2011. Chariots of Fire: Tony Blair’s Legacy. [Online]
    Available at: http://www.themonthly.com.au/tony-blair-s-legacy-chariots-fire-lindsay-tanner-3183
    [Accessed 29 09 2014].
  29. K Government., 2014. Baroness Margaret Thatcher. [Online]
    Available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/history/past-prime-ministers/margaret-thatcher
    [Accessed 29 09 2014].
  30. UK Government., 2014. Tony Blair. [Online]
    Available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/history/past-prime-ministers/tony-blair
    [Accessed 29 09 2014].
  31. Warrell, M., 2013. Margaret Thatcher: An Icon of Leadership Courage. [Online]
    Available at: http://www.forbes.com/sites/margiewarrell/2013/04/08/margaret-thatcher-an-icon-of-leadership-courage/
    [Accessed 28 09 14].
  32. Younge, G., 2013. How Did Margaret Thatcher Do It?. [Online]
    Available at: http://www.thenation.com/article/173732/how-did-margaret-thatcher-do-it
    [Accessed 28 09 2014].

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: