After having understood more sufficiently the changes Thatcher made in leading Britain and its people, I thought I’d break it down into simpler terms, evidencing the changes within the British people’s behavior, the people of Coventry in particular, alongside the economic changes from 1970-1990.
1970 sees the decline and closure of Coventry’s industries and heightening unemployment rates. A feeling of deflation and angst ensue, as Coventry’s world renowned industrialization and prosperity are weakened.
1979 Margaret Thatcher becomes Prime Minister.
One the one hand, the people of Britain are in celebratory and hopeful spirits as they see a chance for change in order to rebuild a flourishing economy and witness the first woman to lead Britain.
1981 the economy had been plunged into full scale recession, but the government still pursued its deflationary policies. This came just two years after Thatcher became Prime Minister and she sought to:
- Reduce inflation running at over 20% in 1979
- Reduce budget deficit.
- Increase efficiency of economy
- Reduce power of Trades Unions
Whilst in power, the Conservatives followed a policy of Monetarism, seeking to control the Money Supply in order to control inflation. This involved higher interest rates, and higher taxes. This did reduce inflation from over 20% to 5%, but at the cost of a deep recession and unemployment rising to over 3 million.
Once again, the people of Britain were feeling the strain of changing circumstances and those feelings of peace and reconciliation, the Coventry people are so famed for representing are slowly diminishing. Strikes and protests slowly become the norm for people fighting to sustain their jobs.
And so Thatcher’s leadership also caused severe problems:
* Inflation of 27%
* Powerful trades unions causing wage inflation and time lost to strikes.
Closures of factories and industries
* Unemployment increasing to a horrific 3 million
* High levels of government debt that required politically sensitive borrowing from the IMF.
Unemployment never really recovered from 1981 recession. It was the highest rate of unemployment than any previous post-war period. Even in the late 1980s, unemployment was over 2 million. A significant factor was the structural and geographical unemployment caused by industrial decline.
Coventry was once highly industrialized but due to the policies set out by the conservative party, meant the Coventry landscape was transformed and saw the closure of the majority of its factories.
1982 Thatcher sends Britain to war with the Argentinians over the Falkland Islands. 28,000 British airmen, sailors and soldiers were sent to the Falkland Islands and a total of 255 British men and women were killed. Around 2 months later the Argentines declare defeat and the British are in celebration. The success of winning the war brings the country together once more whilst pride and glee engulf its people.
1983 saw the People March for Jobs. At the time Thatcher was in power with the Tories and they were embarking on the wholesale destruction of industry and the privatisation of public assets. This forced the people of Coventry and people across Britain to stand up and take action. Following the 1981 protest march against unemployment, a second People’s March for Jobs was organised in 1983. This witnessed people acting outrageously in an attempt to save their jobs and get through to the government. A country united but not peacefully as seen before. After the increase of migrants living and working in the U.K, racism and prejudice also became acceptable. Once the city of peace, now the city of struggle and anger. Its people have turned to crime, violence and substance abuse like no other time before.
1985-1990 saw an economic boom, titled ‘Lawson boom’ and a boom in housing. During the 1980s, the government felt that they had presided over an ‘economic miracle’. They felt that the last recession had removed a lot of inefficient firms. They also felt that supply side policies, such as privatisation, had been effective in increasing the productivity of the economy and had increased the long run trend rate of growth. This belief in their own success encouraged them to believe the economy could grow at a much faster rate than previously. Taxes were largely cut which led to a rise in consumer spending and economic growth. The relatively low interest rates and the high consumer confidence also sparked a housing boom. As home ownership grew, house prices also rose, climbing 32% in the year to March 1989. Equity withdrawal rose to record levels, which helped increase consumer spending. People in Coventry were fast becoming home owners, which Thatcher much encouraged. This growth would be followed by a slump during the recession of the early 1990s, under John Major’s government. The economic growth reached 4-5% a year; however, inflation grew to 10%. This resulted in another recession in 1991-1992.
1990 Margaret Thatcher resigns as Britain slumps into another recession.
Coventry felt the heat of losing its many industries and jobs during this time. The Coventry people joined those across the nation demonstrating acts of anger, abuse and racism, an outlash at the conservative party’s changes in Britain. Before we had responded with peace and reconciliation but now Coventry was full of angst. However, due to the redevelopments in the city’s education and higher education facilities, there was hope for its people and city once more.