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Margaret Thatcher Biography

Updated on March 4, 2013

Margaret thatcher was known as the enemy of the trade unions. It was during the winter of discontent (1978-79), that the unions wielded their strength in numbers to strike for better working conditions, against the then conservative prime minister Edward Heath. There was a large number of unions with a large number of strike actions, in many industries.

Union Strikes and the NUM

The post office unions striked, as well as the miners. The uk workforce had an 80% union participation.The miners union was called the NUM. The national Union of Mineworkers. The NUM was considered the strongest union group in Britain. Desperate to improve conditions for their industry, they brought Britain to its knees with their consistent strikes. Starving Britain of its energy, and causing fear that the lights would go out in the country. Supported at first by most people in the country, due to the large amount of jobs that had been created in the mining industry, the strikes and the NUM was eventually considered an annoyance by most of the population, since everyone was badly affected by the large number of strikes.

Margaret Thatchers Legislation

Margaret Thatcher called the unions the "British Disease" and "the enemy within" and fought hard to reduce the power of the unions. She introduced legislation which included strike ballots. Strike Ballots required the unions to first ballot their union members before any strike action could take place. This become law. Margaret Thatchers conservative government also made it illegal for closed shop union joining. This was when somebody would be forced to join a unions before they could be employed in a particular trade. Although the unions claimed they where being purposely destroyed, Margaret Thatcher did believe there was a place in society for unions, but she even more strongly believed in the rights of the individual worker.

The Miners Strike (1984-1985)

With all the action that Margaret Thatcher was taking against the power of the unions, the NUM dug their heels in, and began a year long strike. The government had already resorted to infiltrating the miners groups with MI5. Police where also used to keep some of the pits open, with huge clashes including the battle of Orgreave.

However, it was the outspoken spokesman for the NUM, Arthur Scargill, who became the nemesis of Margaret Thatcher. It was ultimately the laws that Margaret Thatcher had introduced, and the mistake of Arthur Scargill calling for a strike without a ballot that dropped the NUM credibility through the floor.

Nottinghamshire miners where against the strike, yet where willing to support a strike with a ballot. Since there was none, they continued working. Breaking the back of the NUM power. Margaret thatcher had finally beaten the unions. There was a backup plan if it hadn't worked, as plans had already been developed to run down Britain's internal coal supplies, and rely on imported energy. It was this part implemented Thatcherite plan that closed the doors on the once prosperous British mining industry.

Margaret Thatcher and the Welfare State

Margaret Thatcher had inherited the welfare state. For too long it was felt by her, and the conservative government that people had become so heavily dependant on the welfare state, creating a crippling spiral of government debt that forced interest rates higher and higher, as international purchasers of government bonds demanded strict action.

The solution was obvious, the worlds largest Eeconomy, America, had become an economic powerhouse, and Margaret Thatcher as Prime Minister was determined to learn why. In one simple word, it was privatisation

Privatisation gave rise to the greed and power which famously personified the 1980's. Business, money and power become the buzzwords of the city of London.,along with the increase in risk taking. It was the ideas that Margaret Thatcher had introduced, that finally gave the people of Britain the confidence to want a piece of the action, and own their own wealth. Every eeconomy requires a hungry consuming and creating middle class, to drive forward the growth of the economy, and Thatchers policies, modelled on the American free market system had created exactly that.

Policy changes to the welfare state mentality

Margaret Thatchers background of setbacks, in achieving a prominent position in Westminster, and going on to become the first woman prime minister of Britain had reinforced her idea that destiny was not a matter of fate, but the choice of the individual. Selling this particular idea and changing the minds of many people who had lived all their lives in poverty, or had grown up through a difficult background, was Margaret Thatchers biggest challenge.

There was a large percentage of British society that just were not ready to give up the idea of their dependency welfare state. Never less, the Iron Lady pressed on, giving people the chance to buy their own council homes. Own their own shares in newly privatised industries such as British Telecom and British Airway. The top rate of tax was reduced from 83% to 40% encouraging huge amounts of enterprise, and entrepreneurs to associate Britain as open for business.

Margaret Thatcher and Woman's Own Magazine

The speech was actually part of an interview that the Prime minister gave at the time to the magazine woman's own, in 1987. Although the quote is first considered to be sharp and critical, the phrase can actually be traced back to a longer speech by Margaret thatcher, in which she outlined our own importance of personal responsibility. Ten years after Mrs Thatcher first came to power, she conveyed her idea of this personal morality, and social justice in the interview by summarising it with the now infamous quote.

Margaret Thatcher Misunderstood

At the time, Margaret Thatchers iron will and grip on the country was felt to be to tough. She had beaten the unions, and tried to reduce a large part of the populations dependency on the welfare state, and tried to help the British people increase their personal wealth with a can do philosophy, which had served her well in her own journey to become the first female prime minister.

It was this kind of cold harsh reality language that left the people of Britain with a bad taste in their mouth. Although never intended to be interpreted as brutally as this, it was. In her own memoirs Margaret Thatcher even wrote that the phrase had been “distorted beyond recognition” and her real meaning was that “society was not an abstraction, but a living structure of individuals, families, neighbours and voluntary associations”. David Cameron as Conservative prime minister has reintroduced this idea of personal power, and named it "The big society"

Margaret Thatcher Visits China

Margaret Thatcher visited for the first time as Conservative prime minister in 1977, but it wasn't until 1982 that she visited China again to discuss lease agreements with the Chinese government.

The prime ministers visit to Beijing was not a recreational visit. Both Britain and China had important business to discuss. The new territories of China had been administered by Britain as part of a lease agreement dating back to 1898 when the British and Chinese governments had signed the second convention of Peking, which had been a step forward in returning the surrounding islands of China back into full Chinese control, after they had been defeated by Britain in the Opium Wars of 1839-1842.

This was the history of Margaret Thatchers visit to China, and along with a team of negotiators gave respect to China, allowing them to formally re-take the sovereignty of all of Hong Kong to be left with Beijing. The Chinese drove a hard bargain, although it was considered fair for them to want what was regionally theirs. Britain's negotiating team along with Margaret Thatcher did not view it like this. They wanted a concession, and that was that Britain would continue to administrate the new territories, after the 99 year lease had expired.

Margaret Thatcher, although backing down from the original plan of negotiation, and after 3 years of bitter negotiations with the Chinese government, Britain in the eyes of the Chinese was finally seen as law abiding and worthwhile nation to do business with.

It was finally on the Prime Minsters 3rd visit to China on December 19, 1984 that the Sino-British joint declaration was signed with the Chinese Prime Minister Zhao Ziyang, giving complete control of the regions back to the Republic of China. There had been an important concession for Britain though. China where obligated to continue running the country with the 2 separate systems of communism, and capitalism, which had so thrived in Hong Kong.


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    • Elias Zanetti profile image

      Elias Zanetti 

      6 years ago from Athens, Greece

      A very interesting insight! And an interesting political figure, as well! Voted up and useful! Cheers!

    • Cassie Smith profile image

      Cassie Smith 

      6 years ago from U.S.

      I dont' think any modern British political figure has her guts or focus. All the leftists hate her because she took them down several notches but Britain was better off because of most of her policies and it was lucky that she stopped Britain from becoming a pointless country.


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