Thatcher the Iron Lady

6 Jan

Thatcher came to power at a time the old systems and structures were failing and political leadership had failed numerous times to resolve the problems. Previously full employment had been the objective of all the governments since the war with Attlee and the 1945 Labour party creating the stage. Keynesian Economic policies were used to boost the economy in times of low growth. Jobs were created via the public sector and when the economy was doing well taxation would be used to pay back the debt of borrowing money to bolster the economy.  Although that was the theory money wasn’t always used to cut the debt, and furthermore there was a pay off with inflation. With more money in the economy and fewer goods the price of the goods would rise.

However during the 50s and 60s economic growth was acceptable, most people tended to be better off each year and virtual full employment was achieved. However when comparing economic worldwide the results are not as impressive. The Right wing of the Conservative Party believed that a market with less government interference – Neo Liberalism would achieve full employment and higher growth. However change is very difficult during the relative good times and the Right were isolated even in the Conservative Party with most accepting Keynesian Economics and consensus politics.

During the 1970s the economy hit major problems manufacturing had become much more efficient and the labour required to do the work had been drastically reduced by more efficient machines. This had resulted in unemployment increasing year after year and unemployment had reached the magical one million. Moreover the increased money in to the economy had fuelled inflation which peaked at 25 percent in 1975. Unions obviously wanted to keep the standard of living of their members up and governments and industries were unwilling to pay the increases asked for. Britain had numerous strikes the dead were left unburied, rubbish piled several feet high in the streets, cars were not made and public transport were not available to take people to and from work.

Politically both Labour and Conservatives were given a go at resolving the problems but both struggled.  Moreover Labour had to make a pact with the Liberals to keep them in power as the majority on their own was none existent. This enabled the Right to claim to have the answers Thatcher came to power in 1979.

Thatcher and the Right had no interest in full employment and wanted to break the unions.  Politically Thatcher was a brilliant politician,  anyone who has watched “Yes Minister” will have an idea of the difficulties of getting change through the civil service let alone her own party and parliament.

The reason why Thatcher is hated by many is that she was willing to make the changes she believed were required by writing off a section of the population and these people were the least powerful in society. Despite manipulating the figures over 20 times Unemployment still rose over 3 million and  her government used every means possible to try to blame those unemployed for the problems they were in. Homelessness and break up of families, communities were seen as acceptable. Of course a section of the working class under Thatcher did very well by being given the opportunity to buy their council house.

The Global economy had started to kick in and the Tories had gone for a low skill low wage economic comparative advantage and our manufacturing industries had been replaced by Call Centres and service industries.

This legacy was continued in essence by Major and to a lesser degree Blair and Brown. However the problems of the banking and financial collapse can be traced back to neo liberalism and the belief that the economy works best left to its own devices rather than government legislating such institutions.

I know people who committed suicide because they could not find a job and could not see a future. Mental illnesses increased dramatically under Thatcher as did crime as people thought it was their only option in the state of greed and self interest that Thatcherism embedded

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