Modern British history part 3

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Thatcher sucess in 1983 election
The economy was recovering, inflation falling and a sense of affluence was spreading in the
New, high tech industries were popping up in the south east.
The full impact of Thatcher's economic policy was confined to the north of England, South
Wales and Scotland.
The Labour Party had their worst result since 1918, receiving only 27% of the vote, resulting in
209 seats. The Liberal SDP Alliance got 26% of the vote, but only 23 seats in Parliament.
Thatcher had a majority of 142 seats in parliament, although only 43% of the vote, actually less
than in 1979.
Her support was based in the midlands and south of England, but the Conservatives had won
the support of 31% of the trade union members.
The Conservatives were reaching out to a dissatisfied working class, and this would be a
significant part of the Thatcher Revolution
It was universally agreed that the Labour Party was, by 1983, out of step with the large part of
Britain and needed to reform, especially after the impact of the newly formed SDP
. Reforms would not be quick or easy though, and would tear the Labour Party apart for the best
part of a decade.
The Height of Thatcherism, 1983 ­ 87
The dual victories in the Falklands and the election gave huge self confidence to Thatcher; her
and her policies had been vindicated.
The drys no longer had a convincing argument against her, as the British people had decided.
Thatcher reorganised her cabinet, banishing all but a few of them, notably Michael Heseltine,
who was not a very damp wet anyway. But he was a challenger for her primary position within
the party.
The main themes of her second term in office would be the confrontation with the miners and
the economic improvement following the `Big Bang' in the city of London, but there are other
areas that need studying also
North Sea Oil
Thatcher's government broke up the body set up by Callaghan in 1976 to keep North Sea oil
revenue under public control, the British National Oil Corporation.
Critics said that this was silly, as it squandered a great asset for short term gain
. Her government gained a lot of tax revenue through the selling of oil at petrol pumps etc, but it
was argued that the nation would have benefited far more and for longer had it kept control of
the selling of the crude oil rather than it be in the hands of private companies.
The Economy ­ an overview.
The firm policies of the Thatcher governments ensured that industry had to shed the wasteful
practises and over manning that had been part of the economic landscape for years.
Increases in unemployment meant that British industry was more efficient and streamlined, and
able to compete better on the world market.
Between 1979 and 1989 manufacturing productivity grew at 4.2% per year, the highest rate in
the highest rate since WW2, and the highest rate in much of Europe.
Deregulation and privatisation had undoubtedly put more money in more people's pockets, at
least in the short term. The economy began to recover due to spending and the start of a
consumer boom.
British industry moved away from manufacturing and towards the service sector.
New credit enabled thousands of small businesses to be set up, and many people became self
As a nation Britain stopped producing things and in time companies became owned by foreign
nations or businesses
. In time, also, people became saddled by more and more debt, but could often afford to pay it.
For the majority life got undoubtedly better, and internationally Britain recovered its reputation
For many, however, life became harder
. Although by the end of the 1980s unemployment had fallen, in many parts of the nation there
was very little help or opportunity, especially for the young, and those who had spent years in

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It should also be remembered that there were two deep recessions at the beginning and end of
the 1980s, where a lot of people lost their jobs and homes.
Much of the governments cuts were paid for by the money being made on the back of North
Sea oil, which brought billions into the government coffers.
Arguably it was this and not economic growth that enabled funding for unemployment benefit
and other benefits that the recessions of the 1980s necessitated.…read more

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Also, by the mid 1980s, Britain was no longer as reliant on coal as it had been in the past due
to electricity being produced by oil, gas and nuclear reactors.
Houses and factories were heated by gas, not coal any more.
The Strike.
The striking union, the National Union of Coalminers was led by Arthur Scargill, a radical anti
Thatcher socialist.…read more

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The Labour Party did not come out in favour of the strike. There was no real idea of what
Labour would do about the strike.
The police were largely successful in enabling strike breaking miners to get to work.
Since coal was no longer a vital necessity to the nation, there was a sense that the strike was a
futile gesture from an age that had passed.
Many were determined that Britain should not return to an age of overly powerful trade
unions.…read more

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Conservative voters by creating more share owning citizens.
After 1983, more sell offs took place and each year the government raised more that 1billion,
peaking in 1989 when 7.1 billion was raised.
The sale of Jaguar cars showed the success that privatisation could bring; as part of the
nationalised British Leyland, it was making a loss on 24 million and a turnover of 224 million. A
year after privatisation, by 1985, it was making a profit of 121 million and a turnover of 747
million.…read more

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Militant Tendency', four prominent Labour members broke away and set up their
own party, the Social Democratic Party.
The `gang of four' were Shirley Williams, David Owen, Roy Jenkins and William Rodgers, all
prominent Labour MPs, and some had served in previous Labour governments.
The SDP was a centre left party running between the left wing Labour and increasingly right
wing Conservative parties.
It breathed new life into British politics for a while. Many disaffected Labour and Conservative
supporters voted for them.…read more

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They had to justify their spending and open up their services to competitive tendering and
that services could not just be provided by councils themselves.
She hoped to make local government more accountable and cheaper. S
he wanted to curb high spending local councils, notably in Liverpool and Manchester, and she
broke up huge local councils, following the Greater London Council in 1983.…read more

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Her Relationship with the Conservative Party.
She had already clashed with too many members of her cabinet and some major players had
lost their jobs as a result of her reshuffles or refusal to compromise.
In 1986 Michael Heseltine resigned over the selling of Westland Helicopters to the Americans.
The reason behind this was that Heseltine was the only realistic challenger to her.
In 1989 her Chancellor, Nigel Lawson, resigned over her refusal to stop consulting her economic
adviser, Alan Walters.…read more

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She also wanted to ensure national sovereignty was upheld in the face of, what she saw as,
growing control over individual states from Brussels.
She successfully got a massive amount cut from the amount that Britain had to pay into the
EEC, but her fears of a `European Super State' taking over individual countries remained until the
end.…read more

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The key aspects of foreign policy in this period surround the following;
Continuing retreat from empire.
The causes and consequences of the Falklands War.
Thatcher, Britain and Europe.
Britain's contribution to the ending of the Cold War.
There were two main strands of Thatcher's foreign policy; firstly, standing shoulder to shoulder
with the USA in the Cold War, with a strong anti Communist stance, and secondly, a growing
scepticism about British membership of the EEC (EU).…read more


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