On the Community Charge
As part of the 1987 manifest, Thatcher implemented a tremendous unpopular tax on the people of Britain. It was known as the poll tax. It provided a single flat rate of tax on every working adult set by the local authority. It was abolished a few years later. This marked a turning point in Thatcher’s popularity and subsequent attacks from within her party.
On European Union Relations: 1983-1987
Thatcher believed that a free-market Europe was predominant even if there were signs of hidden protectionism. Thatcher wanted her country’s budget contribution sorted out quickly. There were underlying forced of federalism and bureaucracy gaining with the coalition of Socialist and Christian Democrat government in France, Spain, Italy and Germany. Britain wanted to negotiate the budget contribution per country GDP 1.3% but there were competing opinions on this matter. Thatcher believes that Franco-German deals were always being made behind Thatcher’s back. The EU is a complicated system. Each country tries to exempt its dairy or agricultural industries from free trade…Self-interest gets the better of all the members involved. There was a coordinated attack on Thatcher to ransom her 1983 budgetary rebate by offering a weaker deal with Britain on annual permanent budgetary arrangements. The EU then blocked payment of the 1983 refund when Britain refused a deal on budgetary contributions. A successful summit was needed by Kohl; the domestic situation in France and Germany influenced their efforts in the EU. Britain was not being treated fairly by France or Germany. Germany wanted special subsidies for farmers.
The enlargement of the community strengthens its value. Security for Thatcher while in Ireland was intense. The idea of bringing in Spain and Portugal would strengthen the union substantially. The costs would be high. Greece called for financial assistance and vetoed the enlargement until it received its fair dues. This was absolute nonsense. The Greeks had held the EU hostage while they had entered under similar circumstances before. The Greek government’s poor handling of their finances irritated Thatcher. Greece had to be paid in order to allow entrance. The Greek government got their bonanza. It wasn’t fair but it happened anyway.
The Falklands War highlighted the importance of EU cooperation as a military entity. Britain wanted to ride the EU tariffs. A single-market was salient in the views of Thatcher as well as the military aspect. Mitterrand and Kohl had little income compared to Schmidt and Giscard d’Estaing. Kohl was willing to subordinate German interest for French guidance since the assuaged the other smaller neighbours. Thatcher had the subtle-tariffs that existed between EU members. Open markets were her goal. Thatcher wanted national sovereignty on identity cards and policing. M Delors the president of the European Commission attacked Britain for reducing the financial leavers of the community. Thatcher doesn’t believe in Brussels federalism of social and economic policy for other countries. She was open market nothing else really. Thatcher is highly sceptical of the Franco-German bloc during this period.
Thatcher wanted to see improvements in the quality of education. Grammar and spelling were major problems for the British student. She believed a strong national curriculum would help. She also wanted to reward teachers who were graded positively and punish poorly graded teachers. Thatcher believed in measurement targets and empirical data as a valuable tool for determining success in education. Education was by no means completely reformed. The success was moderate: Thatcher wanted continued improvement. Housing was adjusted. The NHS spending increased 40% in less than a decade in office. Thatcher rejected pressure to put more money into the healthcare system. Thatcher laments the Scottish question of devolution. The Scottish Tories were very weak during her tenure. The 1987 election saw southern England vote Tory but Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland split the vote.
On Family, Arts, The Environment, Privatization
Thatcher believes the BBC produces sub par material most of the time. She believes that the arts should be promoted. But whenever the state is too involved with a project it inevitably withers away, according to Thatcher. Crime is caused by a lack of family not by poverty as socialists believe. Socialists are wrong. Family needs to be protected at all costs. The Family was disintegrating in British life during the 1980s. Father’s who abandoned their children lead to a lower standard of living. Such abandonment has horrible ramifications. Thatcher believed that climate change was an emerging concern in society. She spoke about it in a speech. She was unsure of the cause but saw that scientific facts were mounting against polluters, and was convinced that future Prime Ministers would be called on for a global effort to combat environmental damage. Thatcher strongly believed in privatization and tax cuts as a solution to Britain’s ills.
On The General Election of 1987 Thatcher had suffered from the Westland affair and the attack on Libya but Britain was healing economically. The Westland affair was used to show Thatcher as intransigent and a poor listener. Thatcher agrees that she will talk over timid or inarticulate arguments. Thatcher has to interrupt men whose voices they themselves love too much. Thatcher had to show that her government would espouse an open dialogue of views.
Strategy groups were formed to develop new policies. The economy, jobs, foreign affairs, defence, agriculture and NHS were the major issues. Fortunately Labour offered an anti-American defence policy, according to Thatcher. The 1986 Conservative conference was about the “Next Move Forward”. She attacked the Labour Party for wanting to dismantle the NATO nuclear umbrella. It worked as a pre-election attack. Thatcher believes that she was transforming Britain from limited ownership to popular capitalism: giving power back to the people of Britain.
NHS was a touchstone to Conservative support of the Welfare State. Thatcher wanted to bring down waiting lists although she accepted that a new cohort of aging people would cost greatly. The big issues for the election were housing, trade unions, privatization, lower taxes and local government financing. She called for giving regular citizens the kinds of public services that the rich already enjoyed. Thatcher wanted to empower not just the rich (as is implicit in her politics) but the poor as well. The soft Tory Alliance Party was a threat as a third party to the Conservative majority.
Thatcher called the Labour manifesto an ‘iceberg’ of socialism. The Conservative weak point would always be the social services, admits Thatcher. The lengthy preparations of NHS were kept until late in the campaign when it became a significant issue. Alliance shot itself in the foot when it attacked Thatcher’s strength on National Defense exposing a unilateralist position. Neil Kinnock’s massive gaffe was that he would run for the hills and prepare for a guerrilla warfare if Soviet aggression emerged: “using the resource we had to make an occupation untenable.” Thatcher attacked his weakness here stating he should not be PM taking the issue too lightly and based on his Labour party unilateral disarmament defence policy. Kinnock in the media was portrayed with crowds always where Thatcher was shown with boardrooms or factories: Britain’s industrial/innovative future. The Labour Party was talking about white flags, guerrilla fighting while Thatcher pounced on this weakness to suggest that her defence policy was superior. This was the major focus of the 1987 campaign. Thatcher won with a reduced majority of 102 seats. Conservatives gained a third convincing majority.
On Hong Kong, Israel, South Africa
Hong Kong was set to be returned to China in 1997. Thatcher accepted this but wanted to entrench strong democratic values and economic strength to influence China’s communist government into liberalizing elsewhere. She wanted to change China when Hong Kong became part of that country. Thatcher was open about her intentions. She wanted China to recognize the economic superiority of the Western market. The US was most responsible for the establishment of Israel. Thatcher believes that Britain was build on Judaeo-Christian values. Britain stays balanced between Palestine and Jewish influence on the Arab-Israeli conflict.
South African segregation was part of a tradition that Thatcher effectively supported. She did not want to abandon SA because of the racial violence occurring there. She felt the policy reflected the hierarchical values of that society. Brian Mulroney attempted to push for the exclusion of SA from the Common Wealth, Thatcher felt he was posturing. Thatcher didn’t want to give Mulroney her negotiating hand because concessions often get pocketed if revealed inappropriately.
Thatcher supported the Strategic Defence Initiative (SDI) program which stipulated an aggressive weaponization of space. Reagan’s objective was to rid the world of nuclear weapons, according to Thatcher. Thatcher, however, disagreed (nuclear weapons are a deterrent to war in Thatcher’s estimation) but she knew that she must always remain a staunch ally of the US. Russians didn’t like the SDI proposal because they were concerned that the US shield would end the deterrence against US attack. For Thatcher and others conservatives, the SDI programme was central in the victory of the West during the Cold War. The causation is deterministic in their opinion. SDI = weakened USSR.
The SDI opened up new complications and dimensions to the American and British nuclear deterrence strategy. SDI had implications for Cold War agreements about the weaponization of space. The technological advances would be helpful. The Russians had already begun experiments with tracking systems to repel an American attack. Thatcher believed it made sense to go forward with SDI in order to deal with indirect accidental launch at the very least. The MAD deterrence was the primary reason there had not been a nuclear war according to Thatcher. She didn’t care that Russia felt the SDI reduced deterrence. She felt that it was part of scientific development; it must be carefully controlled and regimented. For Thatcher, science cannot be stopped. She even argues that the Russians will develop this system as well but if they can’t then they deserve to be destroyed.
Thatcher and Reagan agreed on the principles of SDI treaty with Russia at the Iceland Summit (Reykjavik Summit) that stated:
1) the US and Western nations would not aim for superiority but stability with Russia,
2) SDI development would have to coincide with treaties negotiated,
3) the aim is to enhance deterrence,
4) East-West should try to reduce systems on both sides. The Reykjavik, Iceland Summit was crucial in ending the Cold War.
Gorbachev became the leader of the USSR in 1985. He recognized that the USSR economy was in terrible shape and would require massive reforms. The USSR laid a trap for the US during negotiations at the Iceland Summit: they made concessions on British and French deterrents not being included in the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF). Those reductions in nuclear arms could occur on hard numbers NOT IN percentages which would disadvantage America with its larger stock-pile. Gorbachev said he would agreed that his nuclear arsenal would be halved in 5 years time. A huge concession! Gorbachev then sprang the trap: SDI must NOT continue….Reagan rejected the deal with Gorbachev since Gorbachev was making concessions he could not retrieve at its conclusion. It was obvious that Gorbachev had wilfully released the numbers on nuclear weapons as a concessions with the trap in mind ie end SDI. Even Trident would have ended had this proposal been accepted according to Thatcher. In these skillful negotiations, Reagan “had written one of the last chapters on the ‘Evil Empire’ that was the USSR which would be relegated to an ash heap in history” according to Thatcher. An INF agreement would have been given priority by Thatcher although she rejected full nuclear disarmament as impossible.
On the USSR
There are two schools of Sovietology: 1) who plays down the differences between Soviet and Western systems and who generally drawn from political analysis and systems analysis. These people looked at the Soviet Union in terms understood only by liberal democracies. These academics were optimists: confident of rationality. 2) On the other hand there were the historians who grasped that totalitarian systems are different in kind, not just degree, from liberal democracies and that approaches relevant to the one are irrelevant to the other. Thatcher clearly supported the second view. Russians treated well their political elite and foreign dignitaries while their common people starved in the streets. Britain boycotted the 1980 Olympic games although many British athletes attended regardless. The USSR is terrifying for Thatcher. In 1983, relations were more chilly: the USSR had shot down a South Korean airliner killing 269 passengers, Soviets wanted a ‘nuclear free-zone’ in Europe to divide Western powers against themselves, Reagan was announcing the Strategic Defence Initiative.
The capitalist and communist systems were incompatible. Thatcher endeavoured to understand the Soviet system of economics, justice and society. Thatcher disapproved of the handling of the Refusniks; the human rights record of the Soviet Union was appalling. She hated the destruction of the human spirit which she felt occurred in that system of government. Gorbachev was someone Thatcher actively sought out to find common ground. Andropov was the leader of the USSR at this time. Gorbachev was the most well educated. Thatcher visited Hungary, to see how their economy was liberalizing under Soviet influence. She saw some mild signs of pro-free-market progress but they were limited at best. She noted that the economic experiment was conducted under limited parameters. Andropov passed away and Thatcher attended his funeral. Chernenko became the leader.
Gorbachev visited England and Thatcher. Mrs. Gorbachev’s own family had suffered under the forced collectivization. Gorbachev denied the centralization of economic planning. He explained that decentralization into smaller business models was being implemented. Thatcher felt it was not enough. Thatcher believed that a simplistic redistribution system was not the best way to go about running a society.
On the Westland Affair
This is really about Michael Heseltine’s conflict with Thatcher. Heseltine’s personal ambitions were distorting his priorities. The small helicopter company became the core of this conflict. Westland’s central concern was over whether private sector shareholders and directors almost wholly dependent on government contracts should be free to decide its future without government intervention. Thatcher believed it was an abuse of power to utilize government authority to bend the rules. Heseltine favoured a European solution with four international companies. Meanwhile Thatcher supported an American bid with Sikorsky. After Heseltine attempted to have minutes read into a meeting where Westland was not to be discussed, claiming that Thatcher had promised a meeting but did not allow it. Heseltine was forced to obey Cabinet collective responsibility over Westland when Thatcher wanted to move forward. Thatcher controlled cabinet with an iron fist. The result was the Sikorsky won the bid and Heseltine resigned from cabinet in 1986. He stormed out of Downing Street and had a 22minute statement prepared within an hour of his resignation: a premeditated attack. This affair was widely reported in the media.
On the US Raid of Libya
Yvonne Fletcher’s death in London was connected with Gaddafi’s Libyan terrorist regime. The Rome and Vienna airport attacks by a Palestinian group – Abu Nidal – hardened western resolve. Libya was harbouring, abiding and aiding terrorists in their morally repugnant objectives. Thatcher was asked by Reagan to support the bombing of the Libyan government to send a message about supporting international terrorism. Thatcher feared that American action may signal a new cycle of revenge in a country with over 5,000 British nationals. Reagan knew that bombing wouldn’t end terrorism in the region but what a message it might sent, according to Thatcher. Reagan needed to inflict a cost on Libya. Thatcher supported the attack of specific terrorist related sites. The Labour Party wanted Thatcher to disavow use of British airbases. The bombing killed Gaddafi’s adopted daughter and some civilians. Public opinion of the bombing was negative: it did not achieve its target of destroying the Gaddafi regime’s terrorist reign. Thatcher defended it as a success because 1) it had harmed Libyan terrorism, 2) strengthened US-British relations, 3) strong decisive action is rewarded by the British public. Libya retaliated with more terrorism then before.
On the Ireland Republican Army October 12, 1984: the Brighton Bomb was the closest to home for Thatcher. Preparing for a speech for the Conservative Party conference in the Grand Hotel, Thatcher was fortunate to be in her hotel room’s bathroom at the time of explosion. She escaped unscathed. Two MPs were killed among others, however. The Grand Hotel was badly damaged in the bombing. Some of the injuries were serious as well. Thatcher was extremely angry. The conference had not been cancelled as a sign of firmness in the face of terrorism. The ruthlessness of the attack had an emotional response from Thatcher: one of hate.
Terrorism is the calculated use of violence – and the threat of it – to achieve political ends. In the case of the IRA those ends are the coercion of the majority of the people of Northern Ireland. Their violence was not meaningless. Terrorists exist in both the Catholic and Protestant communities. Personal risk is made in the service of her country. The IRA is the core of the terrorist problem; their counterparts on the Protestant side would probably disappear if the IRA could be beaten, according to Thatcher. The IRA has plenty of support in areas of Northern Ireland. The ethno-cultural conflict between who should control NI has continued since 1922 when the Republic was created. Even in the Irish constitution, NI (Ulster = Protestant Ireland) is seen as part of Ireland.
Thatcher is a Unionist/Protestants and Methodist. The Conservatives have been committed to preserving the union. Ulster is a controversial word since it denotes Protestantism. Distrust and hatred have mounted far beneath the political surface of this conflict. The Conservative’s 1979 manifesto was to oppose the nationalist minority who are prepared to believe that majority rule would secure their right whether it took the form of an assembly in Belfast, or more powerful local government.
Nationalists/Catholics demand some sort of ‘power-sharing’ so that both sides can participate in the executive functions and a role for the Republic in Northern Ireland: Thatcher believes neither proposal is acceptable. North Ireland’s legal system along with Ireland is based on Common Law model of Stormont. Majority rule ended in 1974 when the NI government was integrated into the UK. Enoch believed that terrorists thrived on uncertainty about Ulster’s constitutional position: full integration would end that. Thatcher felt that devolution was superior; it would strengthen the union.
Union negotiations had the disadvantage of naturally discouraging a return to work: few would risk going back if a settlement seemed to be in the offing. Pit closures were assessed to see if it was possible to not close ‘any based on being beneficially developed’. Such a scenario would be a victory for Scargill. A sign of the militants’ frustration was an increase in violence against working miners and their families. There was a ‘Miner’s Wives Back to Work’ Campaign. There were legal battles against the NUM by two Yorkshire miners. There were fines placed on Scargill. The NUM visited Libya and made a personal appeal to Colonel Gaddafi for his support. Gaddafi made a donation to the NUM. There was an offer of a Christmas bonus. People began to return to work in November and December. Some miners were killed by the union. Thatcher makes no mention of police brutality.
NUM funds were being transferred abroad. The NUM board of trustees underwent legal action. In February the resumption of talks slowed the returning of workers. The NUM leadership were trying to evade the misery they had caused. Large numbers of miners began to head back to work. The strike finally had ended. British coal industry was not immune to economic forces, which applied elsewhere in both the public and private sectors. In spite of heavy investment, British coal has proved unable to compete on world markets and as a result the British cola industry. Marxists want to defy the laws of the land and the laws of economics…they failed as usual, according to Thatcher.
On Neil Kinnock
Became Labour Party Leader in October of 1983. He was a gifted orator but he was verbose, failed to master facts and technical arguments and lacked intellectual clarity. He used speeches designed to hide his Leftist union agenda.
On Mr. Scargill’s Insurrection: Miner’s Strike 1984-85
The Labour Party’s local government and trade union would change. They accepted change. Mr. Scargill was publicly claiming that he did not recognize the Tory government as legitimate. He was prepared to lead those who might harm anyone who got in the way of the Left, including fellow miners and there families, the police, the courts, the rule of law and Parliament itself.
Coal mining was a special case in Britain because of the dependency of British industry on coal. During World War I there were 3 million coal miners. The industry diminished until finally the Labour government nationalized it. The industry continued to in decline and by the 1970s the coal mining industry had come to symbolize everything that was wrong with Britain, according to Thatcher. Scargill won the union presidency in 1981. Thatcher was preparing for a strike when she advised industries to stock up on coal between 1981-83. The NUM leadership distorted information constantly. Pits had to be closed as they were no longer economically viable but the NUM would not wear it. Scargill denied the economic case for closure. When asked if there was any level of loses he would tolerate: his reply was ‘as far as I am concerned, the loss is without limit’. The NUM propaganda talked of a hit list of coal mine closures from the government. A strike was finally agitated by Scargill.
The Yorkshire colliery of Cortonwood was closed triggering the strike on March 1st, 1984. Scargill bypassed the union constitution because it demanded a 55% majority for a national strike. He instead attempted to trigger strikes from each and every mine. Picket lines would travel around to intimidate others into joining the strike action. The flying pickets descended across the country. There was violent intimidation of pickling crossers. They needed to be protected using the rule of law. Mass picketing continued. The Yorkshire mine decided not to strike: this was a turning point. Thatcher sought to minimize the impact of the strike on industry to prevent the strike spreading by sympathy action and to keep coal stocks moving by road and rail. Britain has no national police force and financing the extra policy costs under a tripartite system was not easy. Mob violence can only be defeated if the police have the complete moral and practical support of government. The judiciary and government had to remain at arms length to maintain the principle of democracy in cases. Thatcher felt that men of violence went unpunished. The power industry was running low on coal. Scargill wanted a resolution. On principle, Thatcher needed to prevent the success of the union. This was paramount.
As the strike pushed on, union members began to lose faith in Scargill’s claims that the power stations would have to shut down within the first month. There was a general escalation of violence at this point. The violence at Orgreave was notable. Public sentiment back to see that nationalised industries were failing to follow the laws provided. Thatcher wanted to close more mines based on economic grounds but couldn’t noting that moderate miners would be pushed back into supporting strike action. Closing uneconomic mines was not happening. A dock strike occurred in July of 1984. More and more people were beginning to return to work in need of money.
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