Thursday 30 April 2009

Thatcherism still divides

This has been a long season of Thatcherism retrospectives building up to the 30th anniversary of the 1979 election. The new issue of Prospect contains a very interesting piece by David Willetts, about which I may well post separately, along with a fascinating poll

Today, just as when she left office, the iron lady splits Britain pretty much down the middle, with 40 per cent of those questioned feeling she made Britain a better place to live, set against 41 per cent who thought she made it worse. Only 6 per cent thought she had made no difference at all.

That Thatcherism did not quite change the souls and values of the British people was a continual theme of British Social Attitudes surveys during her time and after.

And, thirty years on, it is interesting that Prospect and YouGov find that 46% believe she was right to lower the top rate from 60p to 40p (as late as 1988 as has been widely forgotten) while 37% oppose that; and even her policy of curbing the unions is supported only by a plurality of 48% to 37%. Among the least popular Thatcher legacies is privatisation, with 28% for and 58% again.

Yet it is surely to Thatcher's credit as an ideological politician that she was so often willing and able to take calculated risks in moving ahead of public opinion and to seek to change the political weather by doing so.

My own take on Thatcherism and its legacy - and how British politics remains 'In Maggie's Shadow' is shortly to be published in the ippr's public policy review journal. Next Left will do more to address how Thatcherism influences contemporary politics over the next few days.

1 comment:

Calix said...

I think there's a difference between how the public perceive Thatcherism and how the political classes perceive it (not in Scotland or Wales I hasten to add). I suspect that the public are more critical of Thatcherism, or at least divided, whereas the political classes have embraced it by and large, albeit with rounded edges.

However, retrospective assessments of Thatcherism and its legacy are being rapidly re-written in the current economic climate, just as the political 'givens' are.