Was there a consensus after Thatcher? Introduction
During the years 1979 to 1990 it has been said that a revolution occured, to become known as Thatcherism. Jenkins advocates that Major and Blair between the years 1990 - 2007 did not reverse this revolution, but instead they 'super charged it. Blair himself claimed that over policy 'cross-dressing is rampant' thus indicating he too, thought that a new consensus was occuring. However, some historians would argue that consensus was not presnt due to changes in certain policy aspects; welfare and foreign policy perhaps being the most poignant. I would argue, that although there were areas that did not have the same level of consensus as other areas, notably the NHS when compared to economic policy, the years 1979-2007 were broadly a time of consensus.
Was there a consensus after Thatcher? Privatisatio
In terms of privatisation, Jenkins view can easily be evidenced. None of Thatcher's privatisations were reversed and infact privatisation was furthered under both Major and Blair. During Major's time in office he pushed for three new privatisations; coal, railway and the post office, although the latter had to be abandoned when the public was largely against this. By the time Blair came to office their was little left to be privatised, but it is important that he did not reverse these moves.Whilst Thatcher privatised industries, Blair uptook this ideology and applied it to public services to a much great level than any of his predecessors. By 2004 450 PFI projects had been completed and at the end of 2006 a total to £53bn of such contacts had been signed with more in the pipe line. Therefore, it can be argued that in terms of her policy on privatisation this was not only followed to the letter, but furthered under Blair thus supporting my own view that the period 1979-2007 was a period of consensus.
Was there a consensus after Thatcher? Economic pol
During these years, a broad monetarist style of economic policy was adopted as the consecutive governments became more concerned with the 'dragon of inflation' rather than unemployment. Neither Thatcher, Major nor Blair reduced public spending and Blair even pledged to continue the conservatives spending plan durin his first term in office. Under Thatcher there was also a shift in taxation, favouring to increase indirect taxes rather than direct as her 1979 budget shows; a £4.5bn cut to income tax, but a rise of £4.2bn in VAT. Major continued this by increasing VAT by 2.5% in an attempt to curb the effects of poll tax. Blair followed a similar line with his contraversial 'stealth taxes'. On the other hand, Thatcher's poll twas was abandoned by Major when facing the electorate, although he did at first attempt to instead reduce the cost per head to £140 before replacing poll tax with council tax. The social sector spending also rose under Blair from £97bn in 1997 to £127bn in 2004, something Thatcher would certainly not have done. Nonetheless, I would still argue that in general terms, the economic policies of Thatcher, Major and Blair did reflect that of consensus due to ideological similarities of tax and use of monetarist policy.
Was there a consensus after Thatcher? Health and E
Jenkins view can largely be supported in terms of health and education. In the NHS Major continued Thatcher's policies; there was no increase in spending or alteration to the private sector sub contracting. Blair also continued this consensus pattern by imitating Thatcher's 1987 reforms with his second reconstructing of the NHS. He copied Thatcher's trust hospitals only with a different name, foundation hospitals and even introduced further market forces and privatistion to the health system. His aim to make 40% of all operations to be performed by the new NHS partner's network. However, ideological differences between Blair and Thatcher challenge the view that there was total consensus within health as Blair increased spending in the NHS drastically from 34bn to 94bn, something Thatcher was never likely to do. In education Major continued Thatcher's policies on grant maintained schools and although Blair abolished these in 1997, he did allow them to continue at a local level. Blair's city academies were virtually indistinguishable from Thatcher's grant maintained and City Technology colleges. Therefore, whilst welfare does not portray the same high level of consensus as demonstrated within privatisation and economic policies, I would still argue that largely this was an area of consensus as Major continued Thatcher's policies whole heartedly and Blair did also, to a point.
Was there a consensus after Thatcher? Foreign Poli
Consensus was also present in foreign policy as Major was also a relucant European, he secured opts out of the Social Chapter and joining the European currency. However, both Major and Blair were on better terms than 'Lady De Gaulle', and Blair was extremely keen to go further into Europe, he even gave away the rebate in 2007 that Thatcher had gained. This shows an emerging difference in terms of foreign policy. However, Britian did remain close to America and this 'special relationship' was retained, shown through the joint ventured into Iraq and Afghanistan and the continuation of Thatcher's promise to supply British troops in the Gulf War for America. Therefore, whilst foreign policy is perhaps the weakest area of consensus during the years 1979-2007, it is still possible to argue that consensus did exist as there was still a shadow of Thatcher's legacy left behind for Blair to follow and this was America.
Was there a consensus after Thatcher? Conclusion
In conclusion, it is indisputable that there was an ideological consensus and that Major and Blair as Jenkins suggests did 'super charge Thatcherism', whilst other areas, notably health and education appear not as clear. I would still argue that at large, the years 1979-2007 represent a time of political consensus and that Thatcher undoubtably shaped politics for next two decades after her time in office, as historian's have said, 'we are all Thatcher's children'.