Britain experienced two stunning developments in the late 1970s. Post-war Keynesianism and big government fell out of favor, and, for the first time, British voters chose a female prime minister. When Margaret Thatcher became leader of the Conservative Party in 1975, she was the first leader to oppose the consensus views of both the Labour Party and centrist Tories who, in varying degrees, accepted Keynesianism and state ownership of industry. The author argues that with her faith in monetarism, Thatcher paved the way for a significant realignment of the Conservative Party and British politics. With her traditional conservatism stretching back to her childhood years and her receptiveness to free-market arguments that revealed the economic shortcomings of Keynesianism and socialism, she developed a strong case against government management of the economy. The author explains that Thatcher’s fight for economic change had both dramatic and subtle stages. In the end, the issue of inflation altered British economics and politics and Thatcher was there to take advantage of the moment and score a victory over “socialism.”
Eric R. Crouse is professor of History and Global Studies at Tyndale University, Toronto, Canada.
Chapter 1: The Rise of Thatcher
Chapter 2: A New Direction
Chapter 3: Thatcher as Leader
Chapter 4: Labour and Inflation
Chapter 5: Thatcher in Mid-Stream
Chapter 6: The Winter of Discontent