What Is Thatcherism Did It Succeed Essay

What Is Thatcherism? Did It Succeed? Essay, Research Paper 1979 Margaret Thatcher took over from James Callaghan as Prime Minister. On being appointed she appealled, in the words of Francis of Assisi for help in

What Is Thatcherism? Did It Succeed? Essay, Research Paper


1979 Margaret Thatcher took over from James Callaghan as Prime Minister. On

being appointed she appealled, in the words of Francis of Assisi for help in

bringing harmony when there is discord. For the next eleven years Margaret

Thatcher was Prime Minister winning an incredible three general elections.

During this time, though, her style was anything but harmonious. This style

and the policies that came to be associated with them came to be known as


There are several identifiable aspects of Thatcherism which helped her and

her government stay in power for so long and improve the United Kingdom so


Throughout the 1970s Britain had been subjected to a series of damaging

strikes and terrific inflation. The Tories 1979 manifesto pledged to

encourage private enterprise, lower taxes and restore power to the

individual. What Thatcherism was promising at the end of the Seventies was

the formula for renewed economic success in Britain through reinvigoration of

the supply side of the economy.

The high inflation crisis in Britain’s economy was gradually defeated under

the Thatcher government. In 1978, domestic production in the U.K. only grew

by 1% while consumer spending went up by 5%.An unacceptably high level of

inflation resulted. In the early years, the Thatcher government committed

itself to gradual reductions in the money supply and increases in various

taxes to quell inflation. These policies were monetarist. Monetarism was a

policy Thatcher believed in which distinguishes her from previous

governments. The Tories soon earned the reputation as honest and effective

inflation-fighters. As the British economy was recovering from recession in

1983, inflation fell form 20% to 4%, the lowest level in 13 years- largely as

a result of these monetarist policies.

During its years in power, the Thatcher government managed to weaken the

stranglehold labour unions held over industry and government in Britain.

Thatcher saw this as a very important part of her plans for the country.

Unions had contributed towards, or been responsible for, the downfall of

three successive governments. In 1980, 82, 84 and 88 legislation was

introduced affecting the Unions. Unions in Britain had priced many of their

members out of jobs by demanding excessive wages for insufficient output.

This had the effect of making British goods incompetitive. At first, unions

were able to hold down the Tories as they had done with previous governments.

But the government gradually piled pressure onto the unions until one of them

snapped. In 1984 the most powerful and most militant union went on strike. It

was the miners union led by a Marxist, Arthur Scargill. Thatcher had

ingeniously predicted and prepared for the strike; by stockpiling coal at power

stations the effects of the strike on the economy were minimalised. The

government had passed legislation to make striking more difficult with a

compulsory secret ballot and less effective with flying pickets being banned.

The Tories won the coal strike hands-down, and this win signalled that the

era of union supremacy in the governing of Britain came to an end. In

addition, at about the same time as the miners’ strikes, the Tories won

battles with staff at the Government Communications Headquarters. The

leashing of unions began to produce prominent signs of economic efficiency:

From 1973-9, general economic productivity amounted to 1% or so p.a. Since

then productivity has doubled, and in the manufacturing sector it has

quadrupled, due, in part to declining union clout. However, Thatcherism has

not done a thoroughly clean job in the area of unions. School teachers never

had been won over by the Tories and were threatening to strike in 1994. Also

high levels of unemployment assisted the Thatcher Tories in decreasing the

unions’ propensity to hold strikes. Thatcherism ushered in a new era of

government-industrial relations where more economic power was given to the

British people and workers, and less to the labour union elite. Heralding the

end of the tripartite coalition that had run the country since the war.

As mentioned above Thatcher believed very strongly in the freedom of the

individual and the removal of the state from the market system. So her

government started a series of massive privatisations in 1981 with British

Telecom. Thatcher also saw this as a way of stopping the inevitable conflict

of interests between owners and workers. Workers in the companies were

offered cut – price shares to encourage them to own part of the business.

This removed the need for trade unions (although most employees simply cashed

in on their shares).

Thatcher encouraged ordinary people not only to own the companies they worked

for but also to own the houses they live in. Huge numbers of council houses

were sold to their tenants. The cash generated from the sale of these houses

and the public companies served to alleviate the massive budget deficit


In the above, primarily economic areas Thatcher has devolved power to others

i.e. shareholders. Margaret Thatcher spent a lot more of her time, though,

taking power from other organisations and concentrating them in Westminster.

The most notable example of this power struggle was against local government

in general and Ken Livingstone’s GLC in particular. Thatcher also opposed

further UK integration into Europe perhaps to preserve her powers. So while

Thatcher believed in personal freedom she also believed very strongly that in

areas such as law and order or defence the government should be strong.

Mrs. Thatcher’s tenure included reforms in public spending and social

services which helped make Britain’s economy more efficient. In her first few

years of office government spending was cut by £1 billion, including cuts in

housing, energy, education, employment, industrial subsidies, transport and

foreign aid. The only departments that were not scaled down were the police

and armed forces. These changes were probably necessary for even in 1983 the

government still had to borrow £3 billion.

One component of the public sector that was in need of major repair was

education. As the Thatcher government was brought in, education in Britain

had serious defects. Schools had teachers of low quality, students of low

achievement, leaking roofs and poor libraries. The Education Reform Act

released in 1988 sought to correct the situation. Under the legislation,

local politicians would no longer be automatically in charge of schools,

hence there were provisions for self-government in every secondary school and

most primary schools. Teachers would no longer be automatically in charge of

what should be taught, letting government decide course content. The

increased control of education in Mrs. Thatcher’s hands allowed her to reform

history curricula so that they contained facts as opposed to trends, and

British as opposed to foreign history. The reforms in education should also

enable the government to keep local schools on track on sober policies in the

interest of a quality education for each student, and not different learning

content and teaching styles according to the whim of each individual

locality. The Tories also showed insight into the future as Mrs. Thatcher

designated 1982 the "Information Technology Year," with an

initiative to put a desktop computer in every secondary school. This

increased control of education could, though be setting a dangerous precedent

as it stops teachers from setting their own agendas and smacks of

dictatorship-like mind control.

Thatcher also sought to re-educate the public in more subtle ways. As she was

a self – made woman who had fought her way up from grammar school she wanted

to encourage enterprise. She did this in direct ways like cutting the top

rate of income tax but also, as mentioned, through re-education; she wanted

to encourage an American style reckless pursuit of wealth for its own good.

She tried to devulgarize the nouveau-riche and remove the stigma of


It is debatable whether Thatcher had a blueprint for Britain when she came to

office or whether she just reacted to the changing stimuli of the country

with a series of responses that came to be known as Thatcherism. I believe it

was a combination of the two; she had a strong set of principles which she

made her decisions by. These principles can be identified as a belief in

individual freedom and a strong role for government defending that freedom.

So the word Thatcherism is best applied to a description of principles rather

than a description of the individual policies she used.

The most memorable and some would say brilliant aspect of Thatcherism was not

the policies she put in practice but the sheer force of her personality. She

controlled her cabinet absolutely and pursued vendettas in a quasi-immature

fashion against people who she believed might stand in her way. She was the

archetypal conviction politician who pushed through unpopular policies with

the sheer force of her personality.

The effectiveness of as prime minister must be measured with numbers in order

to build up a subjective view and not one that is swept up in the romantic

aura of her personality. From 1983-1987 real average weekly earnings were

increased by 14% while the stock-market quintupled in value. While these

figures are selective and do not represent the whole of her administration

they show that Britons should be grateful to her for improving their national

economic health, for stopping the socialist rot in our country and for

increasing the standing of Britain in the world.