Maggie (Thatcher) and New Conservatism

Perhaps I recall Homer Simpson call Margaret Thatcher as above…

But I digress, we would find below a partial precis (with commentary) of the Thatcherite years from 1984-87 from Veldman’s handy book.

New Conservatism in the 1980s was all the rage (Helmut Kohl, of West Germany, was interestingly put in the same category as Thatcher and Reagan). To battle economic woes (that of stagflation), the governments of Italy, Greece and Spain pushed down healthcare and salaries; while France allow retrenchments and downsizing.

Internationally, Thatcher’s rally of ‘peace through strength’ and good relations with Soviet leader Gorbachev and US leader Reagan brought to bear the eventual end of the Cold War. (One might wonder what it would have been like had Roosevelt died later; this in light of his better rapport with Stalin. Ah, a hypothetical question for the Post-Revisionist historian…)

Her belief on work and not welfare extended to development aid. This went south in the 1980s. Remaining aid was doled out with trade agreements as conditions. Weapons and and arms constituted the majority of British firms that won out from these deals. The UK became the second largest arms seller.

In 1986, Thatcher backed Reagan in bombing Libya for abetting terrorists. This was in contrast to her Euroscepticism. (Some other Brits scorned French culture; some recalled the German attacks from the Second World War; while finally between the 1950s and 60s, the balance-of-payment problems led to restrictions of British pound outflows to  50 each year for British households.) When Thatcher was Education Minister within the Heath government, she was against student exchanges to continental Europe! (Nothing could be learnt from them…)

In the late 1970s, Britain suffered a 1 billion deficit by staying in the European Community (EC). They received  some reimbursement after Thatcherite haggling. (Similar problems led to the Brexit in 2016.) This naturally worsened UK-Europe relations.

Unemployment benefits remained large because unemployment stayed strong. However, she continued with dampening pensions. In her first term, she decoupled inflation and state pension values (State Earned Related Pensions Scheme – SERPS). She managed to reduce this. One such step was that widows only received 50% of their spouse’s SERPS. Moreover, financial inducements were given so that people would turn to private pensions instead. (She hoped all these would help the ‘deserving poor’.)

The National Health Service took up 6% of the national budget. (This was less than the Continent at 10%.) But Thatcher felt the need to make it more efficient. More administrative personnel were led by Sir Roy Griffiths to lower costs. Yet, this backfired. Nurses refused to work and costs again rose. Healthcare expenditure was diverted away from patient treatment…

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