Thatcherism is typically described by analysts and political experts to be an ideology which espoused achieving a supported governing competency with the reconstruction of traditional conservative tenets with a focus on autonomy over a series of issues, they deemed as issues of “high-politics” Moravcsik, 1991).
Specifically Margaret Thatcher’s rise to power in came on the heels of post War World II, a deteriorating industrial based economy and the provision of abysmal governmental services and a deep seated crisis of the state during the mid-1970s (Gamble, 1988). These “new politics’ within the Conservative traditions emerged during a recession and a crisis in the post-War World II world order. Thatcher surmised that economic recovery would be attained by restoring the state’s authority and privatization of public enterprises.
The popularity of Thatcherism came during a confluence of events, including the British economy’s long term structural decline, the deepening of a worldwide recession, the disintegration of the whole social democratic consensus (long the tenant of Britain’s social framework), along with the slow demise of the third post-War World II Labour party and finally coupled with a “New Cold War” all came together and synchronized to popularize Thatcher’s proposed policies.
Amid such widespread adversities, labor disputes, a government on the verge of bankruptcy and increasingly rising unemployment, Mrs. Thatcher’s political theories and plans to restore order, came to the forefront and the public’s attention. In May of 1989 Margaret Thatcher was elected Prime Minister of Britain’s Conservative Party; she was the first woman in British to achieve such a status.
During the early days of or first tenure, attempted battle Britain’s widespread recession by raising interest rates to control inflation. Mrs. Thatcher then went on to systematically attack labor organizations, especially the miner’s union, and privatized public transportation and public social housing.
“Thatcherism” as Margaret Thatcher policies began to be referred to, included highly visible changes in public institutions (Norton, (1990). Specifically, Mrs. Thatcher wielded what was euphemistically called her handbag. Targets of the “handbag” treatment, repeatedly included the civil service, the legal profession, the education systems, the trade unions, the National Health Service, broadcasting authorities, public utilities and local governments. Needless to say such wide ranging autocratic policies came under intense scrutiny and defiance and eventually a slow erosion of her prowess.
During her first term, Mrs. Thatcher faced her first military challenge in April of 1982. Long contested by Britain and Argentina, a group of islands, off the coast of Argentina, the Falklands, were invaded by Argentina. Thatcher swiftly sent in the British military and retook the islands. Argentina surrendered in defeat in June 1982.
Thatcherism could be thought of less than that of a monolithic monstrosity, and instead analyzed in the view that various segments of the populace coalesced to encouragingly support Mrs. Thatcher’s initiatives. Certain segments of British society admittedly rallied around such issues as national patriotism, union bashing and national overseas interests, further supporting Mrs. Thatcher’s authoritarian populism.
The focal point of Thatcherism is, not just how it came to power due to the crisis and adversities the British government faced, but how, upon coming to power, it urgently began a counter-offensive to the various problems and dismal, socioeconomic turmoil’s the British country was enduring and suffering through.
Eventually, however, Mrs. Thatcher began to face opposition from her own party partners. Thatcherism was based on an unstable group of divergent interests.
Through a series of occurrences, not all of Thatcher’s policies were able to be widely implemented. This was mostly due to the Parliamentary offenses and counter-offenses offered by the competing Labour party. Throughout Mrs. Thatcher’s three terms her Parliamentary foes attempts to not just stop Mrs. Thatcher’s initiatives, but delay them in any way possible, while simultaneously showing the public how Thatcherism and its associated ideologies and policies were not in fact achieve their much touted goals.
Initially, such contentions were responded by Mrs. Thatcher’s supporters by almost ensconcing themselves within themselves and with others whose own ideologies agreed with Mrs. Thatcher’s policies. In the short term this temporarily worked, however, in the long term, such initiatives as restoring the British economy using monetary policies did not product the expected results.
At the foundation of the opposition party’s complaints was that such wide raging socio-economic fundamental shifts in traditional establishments, required law based advances, not just ideological dogmas. The Labour party’s contention was that authoritarian populism was not based on legislative laws but instead in a ramrod type of policy implementations, without the consensus of the overall Parliamentary establishments. Further, the Labour party argued that major stakeholders in Mrs. Thatcher’s overreaching financial and social changes were not included during the policy making processes.
Further the Mrs. Thatcher’s ideological based government failed to achieve their stated initiatives including:
How Mrs. Thatcher expected to re-invent and change her own Conservative Party
Challenging trade unions’ power
Incompletion of privatization initiatives
Many political and economic analysts maintain that Mrs. Thatcher was a major experiment in governance, and that her ideological dogmas were illusionary, and despite her extraordinary political dominancy, her policies ultimately failed (Evans, 2013).
Besieged by her own party’s power struggles and the change in the British populaces view towards Thatcherism ideologies and policy implementations, Mrs. Thatcher resigned in 1991. She died on April 8, 2013 at the age of 87.
Throughout the 1980s planning still remained dominant by tenets of Thatcherism and its ideological dogmas continued to affect policy making through the early 1990s (Thornley, 1999).
Gamble, A. (1988). The free economy and the strong state: the politics of Thatcherism. Duke University Press.
Evans, E. J. (2013). Thatcher and thatcherism. Routledge.
Heffernan, R. (2000). New Labour and Thatcherism: political change in Britain. Palgrave Macmillan.
Moravcsik, A. (1991). Negotiating the Single European Act: national interests and conventional statecraft in the European Community. International organization, 45(01), 19-56.
Norton, P. (1990). ‘THE LADY'S NOT FOR TURNING’BUT WHAT ABOUT THE REST? MARGARET THATCHER AND THE CONSERVATIVE PARTY 1979–89. Parliamentary Affairs, 43(1), 41-58.
Thornley, A. (1999). Is Thatcherism dead? The impact of political ideology on British planning. Journal of planning Education and Research, 19(2), 183-191.