Britain under Thatcher

Britain under Thatcher

Britain under Thatcher

Britain under Thatcher

Synopsis

This concise, accessible, and balanced historical analysis of the Thatcher years and their consequences analyzes many controversial aspects of Margaret Thatcher's premiership, including the Falklands War, the miner's strike, bitter relations with Europe and the ill-fated poll tax. Books in this Seminar Studies in History series bridge the gap between textbook and specialist survey and consists of a brief "Introduction" and/or "Background" to the subject followed by a substantial and authoritative section of "Analysis" focusing on the main themes and issues. There is a succinct "Assessment" of the subject, a generous selection of "Documents" and a detailed bibliography.

Excerpt

When Margaret Hilda Roberts was born on 13 October 1925, Stanley Baldwin was the Conservative Prime Minister. Her parents had both been born when Conservative premiers were in power. She went to Oxford when the great Conservative war leader, Winston Churchill, was Prime Minister, and the year she married Denis Thatcher, 1951, saw Churchill return to defeat Labour and usher in thirteen years of Tory rule. She became an MP in 1959, representing Finchley, when another long-serving Conservative, Harold Macmillan, was premier, and under him, and later the aristocratic Tory Prime Minister, Alec Douglas-Home (1963–64), became a junior government minister. She was truly a product of the Conservative century, while her own subsequent political career helped ensure that the Tory domination of the century would continue over its last two decades.

Mrs Thatcher’s promotion through the party was swift. Her diligence, single-mindedness, intelligence and immense capacity for hard work, as well as her indisputable loyalty, made her an inevitable candidate for senior office, overcoming whatever obstacles might have been posed by her gender and her lack of public school education and membership of ‘old boy’ networks. Appointed to ‘shadow’ the education area when the Labour Prime Minister Harold Wilson was in power, she became Education Secretary after the June 1970 general election.

The new Conservative Prime Minister, Edward Heath, left her a largely free hand [20 p. 447] and she became a capable if occasionally controversial Education Secretary, most notably by abolishing free school milk to all primary children aged over seven, which resulted in her first serious attack from media and public as ‘Thatcher, the milk snatcher’. What tends to be forgotten is that she agreed this cut only to save the Open University. Some elements of her later ideological stances could be detected at this time, notably a suspicion of civil servants for being ‘socialist’ [29 p. 166] and the doubts she raised about parts of the 1972 Industrial Expansion Act, which made too many concessions to socialism for her liking. But she also battled with Cabinet to increase the education budget, and gave little indication, other than her acute tenacity and an impatience with waste and incompetence, of her future quality and outlook.

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