What influence did Margaret Thatcher have on British politics?

Term Paper, 2014

13 Pages



1 Introduction

2 Literature review
2.1 Introductory background to British politics 1940 - 1990
2.1.1 Consensus politics 1940 – 1955
2.1.2 Consensus politics endangered 1955 – 1979
2.1.3 The Thatcher era 1979 – 1990
2.2 Conservatism explained

3 Thatcherism
3.1 Introductory political biography of Margaret Thatcher 1925 - 2013
3.2 Political and economic ideology

4 Conservatism vs. Thatcherism in Contemporary British politics

5 Conclusion

6 References

1. Introduction

The following term paper examines the extent to which Margate Thatcher’s term in office Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, from 1979 to her forced resignation in 1990, affected (conservative) British politics.

The motivation to write this paper stems from the rather divided opinion among the British and across the Globe on the news of the death of Margaret Thatcher in April of 2013. On the background of this, an examination of her role in and contribution to contemporary British politics has never been more pertinent.

It may interest readers to note that this paper also analyses the period between 1940 and 1990. The objective of this is to compare and contrast wartime (conservative) British politics with the period under Thatcher, so as to identify and draw conclusions on some (if not all) of the unique characteristics that define the period preceding Thatcher’s rule.

The following paper is divided into six chapters. After a brief introduction in chapter 1, an introductory review of literature on contemporary British politics will be presented in chapter 2, with an account of the three distinctive Politics that characterized the period between 1940 and 1990, followed by a brief presentation on Conservatism. Chapter 3 comprises an analysis of what has become known as Thatcherism and includes presentations on Margaret Thatcher as a person and of her political and economic ideals. Chapter 4 will offer some comparisons of the differences and similarities between Conservatism as an ideology and how it has been implemented under Thatcher, considering whether ‘Thatcherism’ exists as a pure political doctrine. Chapter 5 will present a conclusion on the findings from the topics covered in this paper and the final section 6 contains references.

Due to the ten page limit on this term paper, an exhaustive analysis is unfortunately not possible. Beyond that the English language literature available in the library are not up to date. However, it is my conviction that Thatcher’s role of or contribution to British contemporary politics has been adequately expanded upon.

2. Literature review

2.1 Introductory background to British politics 1940 - 1990

Kavanagh (1990, p.244-245) notes that, until 1979, the British political landscape was characterized by collectivism with greater roles for institutions and not persons. Kavanagh (1990) attributes this to the representative form of democracy being practised in Britain, as opposed to the presidential system in France and the US where personalities are of greater importance.

Hence, British politics during the period under review can be divided into three phases that are considered in detail in the following subchapters.

2.1.1 Consensus politics 1940 – 1955

During this period, in which there was a wartime coalition government, followed by Labour then Conservative governments led by Attlee and Churchill, the foundation for Britain’s foreign and socio-economic policy was laid (Coxall and Robins, 1994, p.19). On the international front, consensus building and cooperation characterized the polity with the aim of projecting Great Britain as an economic and military power of the world. The political agenda at the time was based on promoting strong economic and military ties with the US while at the same time developing the empire and building the Commonwealth. In an effort to counter obvious legitimate threats from the soviets, British foreign and military strategy involved participation in the building of intercontinental alliances, such as NATO, to defend Western Europe in the event of attack from the Soviets. (Ibid, pp.20-21)

Beyond this, large-scale military expenditure and opposition to joining the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC), for fear of loss of sovereignty, characterized British foreign and security policy at the time. (Ibid)

On the domestic front, a tax-financed welfare state, designed to include free national health insurance and family allowances amongst other provisions, was instituted. It must be noted that most (if not all) of the social policy decisions and measures introduced by the post war Labour government were not discontinued by a Conservative-led government that followed. (Coxall and Robins, 1994, pp. 19, 24)

2.1.2 Consensus politics endangered 1955 – 1979

According to Coxall and Robins, (1994, pp.27-28) British external relations during the period under review were more of a failure than a success. The period was marked by the succession of many of Britain’s foreign territories and by domestic economic challenges such as budget deficits that meant that it was no longer possible to aggressively advance its role as a super power. Britain’s position was also not helped by the effectiveness and efficiency of the EU (an organization to which it did not belong) compared with the European Free Trade Area (EFTA) (Britain was a member) and having to withdraw from the Suez Canal following external pressure. In addition, its quest to become a nuclear military power was not to be successful due to the collapse of military hardware agreements with the US.

On the decline both economically and militarily, British external policy shifted towards Europe, but its first and second applications in 1963 and 1967 to join the European Economic Community (EEC) were rejected as a result of French opposition (Warlouzet, 2010, p.1). However, when the British finally joined in 1973, Coxall and Robins (1994, p. 29), note that they were not only one of the highest payers, but also received the lowest amount from the European Union (EU) due to their relatively small agriculture sector.

On the domestic front, Coxall and Robins (1994, pp. 29-30) note British politics was not much different to the first period under review, with sectors such as education and housing attracting the most financial and governmental support. It must be noted however that there were some differences in the form of implementation. Whereas the Conservatives favoured self-ownership with regards to housing, Labour supported council housing projects. Also, some public organisation or sectors, such as road haulage and steel, which were nationalized under Labour, were then re-privatized by the Conservative government. It can therefore be concluded that post war British politics, especially during the period under review, saw an inception of ideological politics based differences between the two main parties.


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What influence did Margaret Thatcher have on British politics?
University of Flensburg  (International Institute of Management and Economic Literacy)
European Contemporary History
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what, margaret, thatcher, british
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Divine Swerwzie Agbleke (Author), 2014, What influence did Margaret Thatcher have on British politics?, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/274892


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