Thatcher 1979-90

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Thatcher 1979-90 Politics


  • 14th April 1982, the Times featured a report that indicated that Thatcher was widely considered to be the most unpopular PM in history. Her 24% approval rating reflected the increase unemployment (by 800,000 from 1979 to 1980 alone, inaddition to rising inflation that hit 18% in 1980.

Cabinet control

  • Achieved this largely through ridding her cabinet of wets in 1981 who opposed a lot oh her policies, these included 4 Heathite ministers, such as Christopher Soames.


  • Geoffrey Howe (COE)- poll tax
  • Nigel Lawson - Europe and the Common market
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Thatcher 1979 Election

Wilson, "sea change"

Labour lost because...

  • Environment under the Labour party, epitomised by the Winter of Discontent in 1979, a year that saw 29.4 million working days lost due to industrail unrest. Inflation also peaked in 1975 at 24%.
  • Weak in other ways, from 1977 the Labour Party government only survived due to the Lib-Lab pact, which made it only too easy for the party to lose the vote of confidence in 1979 and made them appear weak to the electorate. 

Conservatives won because (46 seat majority)...

  • Thatcher had a strong manifesto that promised to tackle the trade unions, right to buy. Also appealed to women through Thatcher's housewife image and 'housewife economics'. 
  • Strong media support, even the Sun, a tradition Labour party, favoured the Conservatives.
  • Powerful campaign, "Labour isn't working" playing on the fact that unemployment had soared by 1 million during the Labour years in office. 
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Thatcher 1983 Election

Conservatives won because...

  • The Falklands factor, Jeffery's "finest hour". Positive impact that Thatcher became a Hero, 50% surge of Tory support in many polls - 84% agrred with government action. Extensive media coverage, "Gotcha" The Sun, "The Empire Fights back" Newsweek. 26th May won the war. Labour opposed Thatcher's aggressive tactics favouring diplomatic ones instead, as a result they looked unpatriotic and asif they were not supporting the British troops abroad. 
  • Economy was recovering by 1983, the recession had bottomed out in 1981, in 1983 inflation was reduced to 4.6%. The economy had also begun to grow in 1982, and in 1983 growth reached 4%. T/U power had been reduced via the 1980-82 Employment Acts, picketing/closed shop. The 1980 Housing Act 'Right to buy', 100,000 a year being sold. 

Labour lost because...

  • Manifesto, Mp Kaufman "longest suicide note in history". Under Foot, he took the party too far to the left, unilateral disarmament/nationalisation/t.u rights/withdrawal EEC.
  • Winter of discontent
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Thatcher Trade Unions

Employment Acts

  • 1980 - introduce ballots for closed shop needings 80% support
  • 1982 - increased compensation for those dismissed by closed shop and restricted t/u immunities.
  • 1884 Trade Union Act - illegal to strike without ballot, needed 55% in favour to go ahead.
  • 1988 - Gave t.u membersthe right to challenge industrial action not properly balloted. 
  • 1990 - closed shop illegal and secondary action also made illegal.

Murdoch managed to overcome the action of SOGAT 1982, by moving his print unions from Fleet Streets to Wapping - worked with EePTU to impose restriction such as non-uniform recognition on workers new site - dismissed thousands of workers and broke the power weilded by print unions over newspaper industry. 

Changing nature of the Unions

  • 1979 13 million members, 1989 10 million. Working days lost 1979 29.5 m, 1990 1.9million
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Thatcher Miners strike 1984-85

  • 1981 made conessions to miners, but begand stockpiling coal. 1983 stockpiled surplus of 34 million tonnes of coal at power stations.
  • In the 1970s British mines running at a loss. McGregor, National Coal Board leader (prev leader of British Steel, series of strike, contractionary measures), announced the closing of 20 pits amounting to the loss of 20,000 jobs.
  • Scargill, leader of the Miners Union failed to call a ballot prior to strike action therefore NUM strikers not entitled to state benefits. (Nottinghamshire only 27% in favour). Used militant actions and refused to negotiate, but his power = weakened by the Employment Acts, in particular TU act 1984.
  • Battle of Orgreave - 4600 police stopped picketers at Orgreave plant, c.8000 people fighting - 200 miners jailed.
  • Polls suggested 65% public in favour of Government, 35% of the miners. 
  • 3rd March the NUM delegate conference, voted to return to work.
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Thatcher The Falklands war

Jefferys - Thatcher's "finest hour"

  • General Galtieri (Argentine Leader) invaded British terriotory of Falkland Islands - wanted to claim ownership and believed Britain had taken island illegally. 
  • Br had encourages Argentine action prior to attack - withdrawal of British ships such as the Endurance, reluctant to invest in making Island prosperous as only 1800 population. 
  • A Task force of 10,000 BR troops sent to recapture the Islands - failed to agree a negotiated settlement.
  • 1982 GB sank the Belgrano, Britain sank Argentine cruiser 300, criticised as 200 miles outside of exclusion zone. 
  • Retaliation, Argentine forces sank the HMS Sheffield, killed 21, public wanted revenge.
  • 26th May the capital port Stanley captured and Britain won the Falklands. 
  • Cost 226 lives and £1600 million.
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Thatcher European Community 'Lady De Gaulle'

  • Argument over Westland - Westland (British helicopter manufacturer) in economic difficulity received offer from an American Firm, Sikirsky and another from European defence consortium. Heseltine wanted EU offer as considered eiyh increasing Britain's military dependency on America so tired to make agreement with Fr/It/Gr that gove would only buy European's helicopters - Thatcher favoured American offer. 
  • Signed the Single European Act in 1985 which committed Britian to greater institutional integration and to a single market
  • Thatcher established a good working relationship with French PM, Mitterand, when worked closely together on the Channel Tunnel Project
  • Announced would join ERM in 1989 (inflation)
  • Thatcher was determined to reduce the Br budget contribution when it was revealed we were paying higher than other countires, GB £1209m GR £699m. in 1980 she reduced the Br contribution to 1346 over the next 3 years. Lynch "She saved the british tax payer billions over the next 13 years"
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Thatcher and America

Developed a good relationship with America. Ronald Reagon and Thatcher had a great liking and respect for one another. In Reagon's time in office 1980-88 similar economic policies were adopted to that of Britain's at the time, thus showing the close ideolgy between the two.

Lynch "the two were like soul mates"

Clarke "no where was Thatcher more warmly received than in the USA"

1981 Britain allowed USA to install it's cruise missiles at the US air force at Greenham Common. 

1981 Britain bought Trident missiles to replace Polaris, £10bn. 

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Thatcher and Northern Ireland

IRA assassination of Airey Neive

Party conference in Brighton 1984 - IRA tried to bomb Thatcher's hotel

Hunger strikes in 1981, IRA members in Maze Prison - wanted to be recognised as political prisoners and have such rights, 10 died. 

Thatcher had been willing to make concessions for IRA prisoners - Gerry Adams, Norther Ireland Secretary blocked them

1985 Anglo Irish Agreement - Dublin would have a say in Northern Ireland in a bid to reduce violence - however caused nationalist Northern Ireland MP's to resign

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Lancaster House Agreement 1979 Ended the minority rule within Rhodesia allowing them independence following Ian Smith Universal Declaration of Independence in 1965 - the right of Thatcher's party were against this

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Resignation of Thatcher

Won the first leadership round, although not outright as failed to get a 2/3 majority

Challenged by Heseltine

Nov 1990 Thatcher resigns as PM 

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Thatcher - Cultural

Immigration was a continual source of social concern - a continual flow of immigrants from the sub continents causing the population to increase by 2 million (1975 to 1990)

In the late 1970s, Bricklane area of London became known as 'Banglatown' due to the high number of immigrants settled - Urban violence was increasing. Asian population of Bradford = 50,000

Immigration Act 1981 - denounced as racist for restrictions on non white entry - revoked automatic right of British citizenship of any child, including those born in the UK, unless at least one of his/her parents is a British citizenship at birth.

The National Fron was active in some parts of London (Bricklane and Southall) where large numbers of immigrants setted 

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Thatcher - The right to buy (Social)

1980 Housing Act - required all local authorities to make property available for urchase and to provide mortgages to facilitate purchase by tenants - provided an incentive for working class (C2's) to join a property owning democracy

Offering discounts between 33% to 50% depending how long the people had occupied their council house. 

Financial saving of £18bn to the Treasury

1988 - 2 million new homeowners - Lbour dropped opposition scheme

Home ownership was now 66% (highest in western Europe)

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Thatcher - Public Services (social)

Aimed to curb spending by local authorities and to cut government spending in order to control inflation and reduce taxation and borrowing

Education - GCSE's unified by bipartite system of GCE's and CSE's - national curriculum introduced and assessment tests at key stagaes of child's education (still in place bar KS3). 

Education reform Act 1988 introduced management by Governing bodies with parent participation - introduced OFSTED and league tables. In Universtities introduce management techniques and short term profit makining strategies introduced for competition

Spent £17.4bn by 1987 (yearly) prev = £15.9bn. This went against her manifesto.

Social security, increased spending on pensions and other social securty reforms. 1979 £33.7bn and by 1989 £44.8bn

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Thatcher - Inner City riots (Social/cultural)

Thatcher claimed there was 'no such thing as society' viewed as a direct attack on the welfare state

1981 riots - riots erupted in Brixton, Toxteth and Manchester. Scarman report into the Brixton ritos revealed that a route cause was the despair of unemployed black men and their feeling of alienation from the community especially by police conduct. 

1985 riots - violent rioting and attacks on police in Brixton, Handsworth and Tottenham - led to murder of PC Blakelock

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Thatcher - poll tax demonstrations (Political)

1989 Militant Tendency set up Anti Poll tax federation

1990 demonstration in Trafalgar square - 200,000 to 250,000.

5,000 protestors = injured including police and bystanders

300 arrested

By 1991 several million people hadn’t paid and as a result VAT had to be put up by two and a half per cent.

Ironically cost 2 and a ½ times more to collect than the rates had. 

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Thatcher - privatisation (Economic)

This policy aimed at increasing ‘popular capitalism’ by giving a much greater number of ordinary people the chance to become shareholders. 1979 – 3 million share holders, 1990 9 million. The largest of the 50 enterprises sold off were, British Airways, British Steel, British Coal and British Telecom.

BT = success, Needed modernising, 2 billion. Sold 51% of firm in 3 billion shares and gave the treasury £3.7 billion. In 1979-70 = £377 million 1985-6 £2600 million 1988-9 £7000 million.

Macmillan “selling off the family silver”

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Thatcher - monetary policy (economic)

Monetarism - Aimed to tackle the “dragon of inflation” by reducing the money in circulation and reducing plublic expenditure.

Rose interest rates to deter borrowing and keep £ strong.

Success = 1979 19% inflation, 1983 5%

Failure = 1980 c.2.2 million unemployed 1983 c.3.3 million unemployed

1980-81 Britain lost 20-25% of manufacturing industry, the loss of so much Britain’s manufacturing industries meant that more goods needed to be imported. BOP 1989 -13.6billion, 1990 – 16 billion.

1979-91 average annual growth – 1.75%, previous  10 year = 2.4%

Opposition such as the “wets” within her own party, ministers such as Francis Pym and James Prior. 

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Thatcher - tax (economic)

She aimed to reduce tax, borrowing and spending. COE Howe, Lawson and Major.

Income tax, reduced every annual budget 1979-1990 bar one, also national insurance contributions dropped as well, also substantial cut in corporation tax.

Increased in indirect tax, such as VAT eg, 1979 budget increased by £4.2 billion.

Spending, initial success, long term failure. Several reasons why she failed in this aspect; had to increase spending on defence, spend more on law and order, and police pay went up considerably. Three million unemployed, improvements in health care meant people were often living longer, thus spending on health care soared, accompanied by an increase in spending on education as there was demand for it.


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Thatcher - social

The top 10% saw their incomes rise by a 1/3 but the lowest earners only saw an increase of 1%

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