Thatcherism – the medicine we needed?

Those who never question the conventional wisdom – ie, 90% of “journalists” (I am an ex-print hack and TV news producer and feel qualified to comment) – swallow the line that:

  • Britain’s trade unions needed taming because they were out of control
  • The destruction of UK manufacturing in the early 1980s was necessary medicine
  • Britain emerged leaner and fitter
  • Our economic health today was determined by monetarist policies between 1979 and 1981

In fact, such was the scale of corporate collapse in the first two years of the Thatcher’s administration that monetarism was all but abandoned in the early 1980s and many Tories thought they would be a one term government. It’s strange to look back at the areas of the economy hardest hit by Thatcher between 1979 and 1981 – because they’re exactly the same types of firms that Cameron would now like to encourage!

Over the first six months of 1980, a total of 3,160 firms called in the receivers. If you look at the list – as I’m doing now – there were loads of Midlands, medium sized manufacturers – especially in the automotive sector. And so many of the companies made products that in those days we assumed could be British but now would always think had to be imported.

Sadly, for those of us with memories of our childhoods, the toy industry was decimated in this period with Meccano closing down (makers of Dinky Toys), the failure of Dunbee-Combex-Marx (makers of Hornby trains, Scalextric cars and Sindy dolls) and huge redundancies at Lesney (maker of Matchbox toys).

Still, one area thrived – private receivers. Insolvency proceedings had been overseen by the government owned Official Receiver but Thatcher decided the City could do a far better job. And so through public policy, she helped build up the likes of Deloittes, Peat Marwick, Cork Gully and Coopers Lybrand – as they then were. Many of these firms have since merged to create mega-accountancy operations.

Britain in decline
Britain in decline

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