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How far did Mrs Thatcher bring about a social, economic and political revolution?
Mrs Thatcher resided in office for eleven years from 1979 to 1990. In that time, she managed to
revolutionise British politics, bringing changes in the economy and social situations. So great her
move away from the consensus politics of the post war years, the term Thatcherism quickly came to
describe her individual, revolutionary and controversial policies. Her greatest success arguably was
her revolution of the Labour party, moving consensus to the right through her successive terms, and
destroying socialism from the British political landscape. Her revolution came at a price however,
many claiming her policies to widen social divisions, damage the economy through the destruction of
British industry, and cause high unemployment reaching 3.3 million in by the end of 1982.
Mrs Thatcher through her office brought about a complete social revolution, primarily for the worse,
widening the North South divide, perhaps this coming about due to her deep-set belief of self-help
and individualism, believing people to have become too reliant on the state and inefficient industries.
The move to monetarism and the economic crash of her first term in office brought about mass
unemployment, shooting up to 3.3 million in 1982, the worst hit areas the north of England in the
traditional industrial cities 94% of job losses taking place in these areas. Her policy of privatisation
arguably is majorly to blame in this revolution to a highly backward north, many privatised industries
laying off workers to regain efficiency. By the end of 1982, 25% of Britain's manufacturing capacity
had disappeared, the unemployment hitting cities such as Manchester and Liverpool. The move of
Britain to a highly divided nation of a prosperous south east to a declining stagnant north is clearly a
social revolution, one despised by the unemployed and enjoyed by the rich and enterprising new
industries. Coupled with the social divisions in British society came a rise in social unrest, in April 1981
Brixton residents rioting due to the mass unemployment monetarism and Thatcher had brought. The
move of Britain to a highly divided nation was a revolution, the Minister for Employment at the time
passing off the unemployment at the party conference: `-my dad- He didn't riot: he got on his bike
and looked for work, and he went on looking until he found it.'
As well as a revolution in the state of unemployment and inequality in the UK, Mrs Thatcher did bring
about positive changes to attitudes, contrasting to the consensus politics of the post war years. One
change in attitude was the move to an enterprising, efficient system of society, whereby equal
opportunity was to be encouraged. The Education Reform Act of 1988 introduced a national
curriculum which all pupils had to follow students tested through their academic carriers. As well as
this, home ownership under Mrs Thatcher increased from 44% of the population to 66% through her
office, as she deregulated council houses to the housing market, a massively popular move. An
`enterprise culture' was fuelling this revolution, as the public reaped the benefits of privatisation. The
policy opened up shares to the public, the number of shareholders increasing massively under
Thatcher, this a positive social revolution.
However, social revolution under Thatcher was only to some extent a reality. The role of the state
has ultimately failed under Thatcher, this at first being one of her core principals. In 1980,
government spending accounted for 43% of GDP, whilst in 1995 the figure was 42 and a half%. Far
from becoming Laissez-faire, it had become more interventionist, new powers extending over local
authorities such as rate capping. The failure to remove the state from people's lives can be seen as a
limit to a social revolution, as many post war governments under Keynesian economics had kept the
state heavily involved in the economy.
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Mrs Thatcher brought about a huge economic revolution in her office. Monetarism was a major
economic shift in Thatcher's first term in office, a controversial policy not only from outside her party
but also internally. Monetarism was a financial theory out forward by Milton Friedman, a US
economist, which states in order to control inflation government spending had to be cut, reducing
money in circulation.…read more
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Another economic policy undergone by Thatcher in her eleven years in office was undoubtedly the
revolution in the way in which trade unions were reformed, having a massive effect on the economy.
Before her election, trade unions had had a massively damaging effect on the British economy, the
most prevalent example being the `Winter of Discontent' under Heath, which resulted in over twenty
nine and a half million working days being lost, a massive cause of inefficiency in the economy.…read more