It aims to describe Thatcherism in a way that is both detached and engaging. It stresses that Thatcherism was not a timeless phenomenon that can be traced back into the nineteenth century or transported forward into the twenty-first.
It was rooted in the s and s -- a time when the Soviet empire seemed to be expanding and when the British economy seemed to be on its deathbed. Anyone who wants a flavour of the times should recall that Margaret Thatcher received her first ever letter from Ronald Reagan on the day that Saigon fell to the Viet Cong.
Thatcher before Thatcherism Thatcherism before Thatcher?
You really have to have background knowledge regarding British history and culture, otherwise you might not understand many of the references made throughout the book. Parliamentary politics, in the strict sense of tactical positions and specific decisions, are dealt with, but politics in a wider sense - the social tensions and public mood of the s - are all but absent. Curiously, the emphasis on Thatcher as a kind of cultural icon has often gone with a declining interest in the details of what her government did. Please turn this functionality on or check if you have another program set to block cookies. Margaret Thatcher divided a political nation, became a cultural icon, and was the longest-serving prime minister of the twentieth century.
Enoch Powell. Despite Thatcher's anti-union rhetoric, the closed shop, Vinen notes, was not made illegal until With high unemployment and low personal ratings, Thatcher looked set to disappear into history in the early s. She was in effect saved by the Labour party and General Leopoldo Galtieri.
Both served to make her look resolute and strong, Labour by choosing the unelectable Michael Foot as leader and Galtieri by invading the Falklands. And so the scene was set for Thatcher to inhabit her myth as the fearless, determined leader, taking on the miners, the IRA and Europe. Vinen is very good at showing that in these various disputes, Thatcher seldom demonstrated the kind of cold calculation that is popularly attributed to her.
Although she and her ministers laid plans for a conflict with the miners, it would have been bizarrely negligent had they not. A showdown with the NUM was a near certainty, though its timing - starting in the spring, well before maximum winter coal demand - played into the government's hands. Again, Thatcher was fortunate in her opponent.
Arthur Scargill was a vain man and a grandstanding leader who appeared to allow a sense of personal righteousness to cloud strategic judgment. Moreover, the architect of the government victory was Peter Walker, the biggest "wet" in the cabinet and avowedly not a Thatcherite.
Buy Thatcher's Britain: The Politics and Social Upheaval of the s UK ed. by Her period in government coincided with extraordinary changes in British. Thatcher's Britain: The Politics and Social Upheaval of the Thatcher Era. Front Cover. Richard Vinen. Simon & Schuster, - Great Britain - pages.
Like Scargill, Thatcher relished the binary clarity of conflict - us and them, good and bad - and when she ran out of external enemies she found them among her cabinet. Both Nigel Lawson and Geoffrey Howe, two key Thatcherites, eventually fell out with Thatcher in circumstances that fatally undermined her position.
All of this is well documented in Vinen's book, a tight and sensible assessment of the era, largely based on a careful reading of memoirs and biographies. The title, however, implies it is something else. Thatcher's Britain actually features very little of either Thatcher or Britain, both of which remain remote and oddly abstract.
The subtitle - The Politics and Social Upheaval of the s - is no less misleading. Parliamentary politics, in the strict sense of tactical positions and specific decisions, are dealt with, but politics in a wider sense - the social tensions and public mood of the s - are all but absent. No postwar prime minister has inspired quite so much hatred as Thatcher. Her long premiership seemed to be accompanied by an unceasing stream of angry protest. And for a long time - probably right up until now - an expression of visceral dislike for Thatcher was a prerequisite for acceptance into any kind of progressive politics.