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Thatcherism refers to the political, economic, and social policies of Margaret Thatcher, who was the Prime Mister of the United Kingdom from 1979 to 1990. Her policies were so era-defining that they changed the outlook of British politics in regard to not just her party, the Conservatives, but also the other parties, notably the Labor and the Liberal Democrats. An analysis of Thatcherism shows that it was a major break from the post-war politics and that it had a profound effect on the policies of subsequent governments, including the new labor and the present coalition government.
Thatcherism versus the Post-War Government
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The post-war government had to deal with the slowing of the British economy problems as its European neighbors prospered. Thus, the government adopted Keynesian economics to let the ministers have a greater role in the determination of economic management, such as reducing taxes to stimulate economic activities (Oakley, 2011). Furthermore, the government accepted and even seemed to encourage the role of trade unions. It was apparent in the government consulting the trade unions in matters, such as income policies to curb inflation. The country also had a mixed economy where the state owned most of the essential public utilities in the country (Oakley, 2011). The government also had a greater role in the intervention in the economy. Furthermore, the government had taken the role of protecting the citizens against the shortcomings of the economy and inequality through the 14 welfare state and the social engineering, including progressive taxation.
When Margaret Thatcher took power, most of such provisions were progressively changed. At first, the government put more restrictions on trade unions and contributed to the decline of their influence (Oakley, 2011). The government did it through the requirement for pre-strike ballots, the end of union membership as the prerequisite for receiving employment in certain industries, and legally making unions pay for any damages caused by illegal strikes. The goverment also stopped consulting them on the income policies. Additionally, the government reduced the number of participants in the questions regarding economy (Oakley, 2011). Major public-owned industries were privates, including utilities, such as electricity, telephone, and British Air. On the issue of protecting the citizens against the shortcomings of the economy, the government slowly disengaged itself from the role of the universal provider and subjected the state welfare benefit to a test to check whether the person or people applying it were eligible.
Thatcherism and New Labor and the Current Coalition Government
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The New Labor is the name given to the labor party after Tony Blair took charge and revitalized it. The party implemented some of the features of Thatcherism, which were considered as politically, economically, and socially successful (Oakley, 2011). It is also apparent that the current coalition government between the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats is a continuation of the policies of Margaret Thatcher too.
The first instance of Thatcher’s policies influence on labor was the shift to the right occasioned by the death of Smith and the ascendancy of Tony Blair to power. The power of the trade union meant that in any case the labor had to find new electoral constituencies (Oakley, 2011). Trade union reform that Labor had inherited from the Conservative government continued remaining unabated. Furthermore, instead of leftist economic policies that had been the sign of the Labor Party in Britain, it chose the liberal economics of Thatcher (Oakley, 2011). Thus, labor abandoned the Keynesian economics for the prudent, private sector driven economy. On the issue of a welfare state, which had been one of Old Labor’s main pillars, the new Blair government continued the policy of Thatcher by implementing the welfare-to-work scheme (Oakley, 2011). Similarly to Thatcher’s point of view, the given policy sought to limit the number of people on welfare.
The current coalition government compprising of the Tories and the Liberal Democrat Party members is also a continuation of the Thatcherite creed. Firstly, as Thatcher did with the welfare state, the current government has implemented spending cuts in a similar aspect, the non-pensions social security budget (Lee & Beech, 2011). Such cuts have been so severe that the current Prime Minister, David Cameron, is seen as being “more Thatcherite than Margaret Thatcher” herself in spite of denying that he is a Thatcherite (McEnhill, 2012). The cuts resulted in the need to rebalance the economy. Moreover, the current government does not seem to pay much attention to the issue of welfare considering it a burden to the taxpayers, just like the Thatcher’s government. The neo-liberal approach to economy of the Thatcher era is also apparent in the current government (Lee & Beech, 2011). It includes reduction of corporate taxes so that to increase investment in the UK. The current administration has also been considering the idea of selling council houses to the tenant, a position that was advocated for and supported by Margaret Thatcher. The two government’s espousals of Thatcherism are an indication that Thatcherism is an established political position in the UK among both powers, namely the center right and the center left.
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It is apparent that Thatcherism was a major break from the post-war politics and that it had a profound effect on the policies of subsequent governments, including the New Labor of Tony Blair and the present Conservative-Liberal Democrat government. The post-war policies placed a great emphasis on the welfare state, the government interference in the markets, and government acceptance of trade unions. Margaret Thatcher reversed most of them for fiscal conservatism. Labor Party, which was the historical antithesis of Thatcher’s Party, used most of features of Thatcherism after Tony Blair became its leader. The current coalition government seems to be the ideological heir of both New Labor and Thatcherism, and thus, it has implemented most of Thatcher's policies.
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