Margaret Thatcher's legacy: her achievements and failures

From financial deregulation to the right-to-buy scheme and the poll tax, Thatcher transformed the UK

LAST UPDATED AT 12:24 ON Tue 9 Apr 2013

MARGARET THATCHER'S three terms as Prime Minister brought enormous change to the UK. An objective assessment of her greatest achievements (and failures) isn't easy – opinions are still divided. But there is some consensus on her legacy.

The Big Bang: The Big Bang was a wave of deregulation that blew away the "fusty" world of stock broking and ushered in the UK's globally competitive financial services sector. It was a "hugely significant reform that cemented the City of London's place as Europe's biggest financial centre and led it to challenge New York for global hegemony," says The Times. "The changes allowed international banks like Goldman Sachs to step in and attracted a river of foreign business," says Fox News.

Privatisation: In her memoirs, Thatcher describes privatisation as "fundamental to improving Britain's economic performance". It also "chimed with her political ideology," says the Daily Telegraph. During her times as PM more than 50 state-run companies were sold or privatised – including dozens from the power and water industries – raising more than £50 billion for the Exchequer.

Education reform: Many people remember Thatcher as the Education Secretary who "snatched" free milk from 7 to 11 year olds. But her education legacy is more positive than that, says The Independent. Her Education Reform Act was responsible for introducing a national curriculum, setting up the Office for Standards in Education (Ofsted), bringing in regular school inspections and allowing schools to manage their own budgets. "She was responsible for many of the reforms now being built upon by the current Education Secretary, Michael Gove," says The Independent.

Helping end the Cold War: Thatcher stood shoulder-to-shoulder with President Reagan to install cruise missiles in Europe and resist Soviet expansionism. According to former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, his relationship with Thatcher "helped bring change and tear down the Iron Curtain". They first met in 1984. "In the end, we were able to achieve mutual understanding, and this contributed to a change in the atmosphere between our country and the West and to the end of the Cold War," he told Reuters yesterday.

The Right-to-Buy scheme: Thatcher's decision to allow council tenants to buy the properties they lived in at a discount was smart politics because it "converted thousands of Labour voters into Conservatives". More than 1.25 million people signed up to the scheme which added £18 billion to government coffers. On the downside, the scheme depleted the stock of social housing.

Forcing the Labour Party to the right: When Thatcher was asked to name her greatest achievement she reportedly said: "New Labour". The former PM defeated Labour at three elections and forced the party "to drag itself into the modern world" by supporting "market forces; privatisation; reform of employment laws and lower taxation for individuals and business".

The Falklands War: The 1982 war was one of the most controversial episodes of the Thatcher era. Her decision to send a task force to the South Atlantic - against the advice of many in her inner circle - earned the enduring gratitude of the islanders, who celebrate Thatcher Day every 10 January. At home, victory was marked with ticker-tape parades in London and Portsmouth. Much more importantly, it led to the landslide election victory of 1983.

Scepticism towards Europe: Thatcher initially supported membership of the European Community. Later, however, she "passionately fought and won a number of battles against what she saw as the excessive powers of Brussels," says the BBC. The Independent says she "shocked other European leaders with her handbag-swinging negotiating style". But her hostility towards Europe also sowed the seeds of her destruction. Her opposition to the Exchange Rate Mechanism (a precursor of the single currency) and other, as she saw it, threats to British sovereignty, triggered the resignations of Thatcher stalwarts Chancellor Nigel Lawson and Foreign Secretary Geoffrey Howe, and eventually led to her own downfall.

The poll tax: The Community Charge (popularly known as the poll tax) was a single flat-rate per-capita tax on every adult, introduced in Scotland in 1989 and England and Wales in 1990. Critics said the shift from a tax based on the value of a house to a tax based on the number of people living in it, discriminated against the less well off. Large numbers of people refused to pay and the tax triggered violent riots, notably the pitched battle between police and rioters in Trafalgar Square on Saturday, 31 March, 1990. The hated tax was abolished in 1993. · 

Disqus - noscript

No mention of the disasters wrought on the peoples by the same financial centres created by her neo-con liberal policy.

Margaret
Thatcher was the most divisive and polarising politic leader of the
last century. This is an incomplete list of why many of us fall on the
side that does not regard her with anything other than odium…

1. She supported the retention of capital punishment
2. She destroyed the country's manufacturing industry
3. She voted against the relaxation of divorce laws
4. She abolished free milk for schoolchildren ("Margaret Thatcher, Milk Snatcher")
5. She supported more freedom for business (and look how that turned out)
6. She gained support from the National Front in the 1979 election by pandering to the fears of immigration

7. She gerrymandered local authorities by forcing through council house
sales, at the same time preventing councils from spending the money
they got for selling houses on building new houses (spending on social
housing dropped by 67% in her premiership)
8. She was responsible
for 3.6 million unemployed - the highest figure and the highest
proportion of the workforce in history and three times the previous
government. Massaging of the figures means that the figure was closer
to 5 million
9. She ignored intelligence about Argentinian
preparations for the invasion of the Falkland Islands and scrapped the
only Royal Navy presence in the islands
10. The poll tax
11.
She presided over the closure of 150 coal mines; we are now crippled by
the cost of energy, having to import expensive coal from abroad
12. She compared her "fight" against the miners to the Falklands War

13. She privatised state monopolies and created the corporate greed
culture that we've been railing against for the last 5 years
14. She introduced the gradual privatisation of the NHS
15. She introduced financial deregulation in a way that turned city institutions into avaricious money pits
16. She pioneered the unfailing adoration and unquestioning support of the USA
17. She allowed the US to place nuclear missiles on UK soil, under US control
18. Section 28
19. She opposed anti-apartheid sanctions against South Africa and described Nelson Mandela as "that grubby little terrorist"
20. She support the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia and sent the SAS to train their soldiers
21. She allowed the US to bomb Libya in 1986, against the wishes of more than 2/3 of the population
22. She opposed the reunification of Germany
23. She invented Quangos
24. She increased VAT from 8% to 17.5%
25. She had the lowest approval rating of any post-war Prime Minister
26. Her post-PM job? Consultant to Philip Morris tobacco at $250,000 a year, plus $50,000 per speech
27. The Al Yamamah contract
28. She opposed the indictment of Chile's General Pinochet
29. Social unrest under her leadership was higher than at any time since the General Strike
30. She presided over interest rates increasing to 15%
31. BSE
32. She presided over 2 million manufacturing job losses in the 79-81 recession
33. She opposed the inclusion of Eire in the Northern Ireland peace process
34. She supported sanctions-busting arms deals with South Africa
35. Cecil Parkinson, Alan Clark, David Mellor, Jeffrey Archer, Jonathan Aitkin
36. Crime rates doubled under Thatcher

37. Black Wednesday – Britain withdraws from the ERM and the pound is
devalued. Cost to Britain - £3.5 billion; profit for George Soros - £1
billion
38. Poverty doubled while she opposed a minimum wage
39.
She privatised public services, claiming at the time it would increase
public ownership. Most are now owned either by foreign governments
(EDF) or major investment houses. The profits don’t now accrue to the
taxpayer, but to foreign or institutional shareholders.
40. She cut 75% of funding to museums, galleries and other sources of education
41. In the Thatcher years the top 10% of earners received almost 50% of the tax remissions
42. 21.9% inflation

Most people recognise the massive changes that evolved during the
1980s. However, to ascribe the positive changes to one person, as
though they never would have happened in her absence, is laughable.

". Critics said the shift from a tax based on the value of a house to a tax based on the number of people living in it, discriminated against the less well off. It meant that large households were not being subsidised by single people.

Approx. 75 % of local services are centrally funded. Why was it so wrong to ask people to pay their way on the other 25%? Why was it unfair to ask people to pay for what they took? Why was it wrong to say to people who voted in high spending authorities that they had to pay for their own choices?

Just a few of points.

Manufacturing output reached an all time high in 2007/8..in real value added terms.

The poll tax was a fair tax.

We need a death penalty to deter would be murderers. It will not deter all, just one would make it worthwhile. Murderers kill people..every one we stop is a whole human life saved.

In the Thatcher years, the top earners paid most of the taxes to fund others.

Why should Eire be involved in the NI peace process? It is foreign country.

Twunt!

...some very passionate comments here! Goes to show how divisive Mrs Thatcher had been. BUT - she stood for higher standards in education (anathema to many of today's "teachers"), she stood up for her country (anathema to Guardian readers and other "liberal" thinking individuals), she stood up to her Cabinet over the Falklands crisis, she stood up to the non-elected and undemocratic European "elites", she was instrumental in the collapse of the Soviet Union while avoiding a world war, she fought the unions to a stand still and, in so doing, took back our country from those ultra-Left, non democratic and violent organisations.

She left a bitter legacy among the mining communities - but what choice did she have? Arthur Scargill cynically exploited the miners and shamelessly used them as his "cannon - fodder" in his idealogical battle with Mrs Thatcher - which he lost.

It should be remembered that a great many of the violent protesters during those dark days of the miners' strikes were not miners at all - they had never been near a coal face or down a coal mine - they simply fancied a "bash at Maggie" and hijacked the situation for their own political ends.

For those bitter individuals who claim to have kept a "bottle of champagne" in their 'fridge to celebrate this day - shame on them - however, I am reliably informed that champagne does not keep for very long in a 'fridge- so, perhaps, Maggie has the last laugh after all.

What IS for sure is that there is NO ONE in Government today who can hold a candle to Mrs Thatcher - she was a one-off.

...straight from the pages of the Guardian! Lots of lots of "statistics" to "prove" a point - very little real fact or verification of these claims and an unquestioning assumption that all of the above "facts" were bad things.

I don't look at her through
rose tinted spesc: but just a few points:

Labour got us into TWO wars, not 1

Labour repealed none of Thatcher’s union
laws

Labour lied and manipulated figures in a
way that made the Tories look amateur

Re the EU, the whole thing is collapsing
anyway, so she was ahead of her time

I think that your's is a balanced and fair analysis/synopsis of Mrs Thatcher's legacy and achievements. Thank you.

One should not speak ill of the dead and really we should wish that the lady would rest in peace, but so many people detested her and with good reason. I found myself unable to listen to her harsh voice on radio or watch her being interviewed on television, it was so bad for my blood pressure! She did introduce some good policies, but even those were done with such venom and spitefulness, that it alienated many who would ordinarily have supported them. One thing she did achieve- make it virtually impossible for another woman to become Prime minister of Britain for the foreseeable future.

Trent, I can only say WOW and thanks for reminding me of all the reasons I disliked the lady so. I lived in Britain through those times. Thanks again for the memories!

She befriended and defended Pinochet. Bram Davies

...and Pinochet befriended and defended Britain during the Falklands War - at considerable political risk to himself!

And just where will the money come from for this funeral fiasco , why is a woman who damaged so much in the UK being celebrated as a great person ? Where did all the Billions £'s go that she robbed the nation of? It took the LABOUR Party many years to put right the damage she and the tory party did to our country

You say to ascribe positive changes down to one person is laughable, surely that works the same for the negatives?

...just WHAT world are you living in?!! "It took the LABOUR (????!!!!) party many years to "put right the damage" etc. Those are the drivels of a truly deserving candidate for the loony bin - after two wars brought about because Blair was trailing on the apron strings of the US, perpetual decline in education standards, an unprecedented economic disaster due, in great part, to the lunacy of the last Labour Chancellor (quote Liam Byrne on the Labour party leaving office after the last election - "there is no money left!").

Just WHAT does it take to make some people sit up and realise that this country simply cannot afford any more of Labour??!! - for God's sake, they are bad enough in opposition although, thankfully, now rather more transparent in their naked quest for a return to office, at any cost, to "finish the job"! Finish the country off, more like. Might I suggest that you go and lie down in a darkened room?

The Big Bang sowed the greed is good philosophy which directly led to the financial meltdown of 2008 and the destruction of the last if any reputation for probity held by British Banks for centuries. There used to be a saying 'Solid as the Bank of England'- not any more.

Privatisation - Raised 50 billion and took out of the hands of the people who owned them (us), companies who are now controlled by foreign multinationals who don't have our best interests at heart - See inability to build sorely needed power plants beacuse a French company says - Non!

Educational Reform - Tosh, in fact Michael Gove is trying, rightly in my view, to get British educational standards, which were world class prior to her chnages, back there by reverting to ideas that predate Thatcher and her 'reforms'.

The Right to Buy scheme - caused the biggest increase in homelessness in the UK since the Victorian period and its repercussions are still being seen in out of reach house prices, the bedroom tax etc etc. Wouldn't have been so bad if she had allowed the councils to use the money they got from selling council houses to build more but that went against her ideology. Inevitable consequences were insufficient housing for the people of Britain...

Her ideas were that make those at the top rich and the money would trickle down. Any one who has the slightes knowledge of history knows that this is nonsense. Oh she made a few at the top rich beyond their wildest dreams and impoverished those lower down. Her idealogue means those same impoverished are having to bail out those at the top

Good things, Falklands - yes but had that happened a year or so later when her actual ideas about the armed forces and British shipping had reached fruition we wouldn't have been able to lift a finger to stop them.

So I'm sorry there will not be a tear shed by me at her passing, she damaged the UK and its people beyond all recognition, turned us from a generally compassionate society trying to do the right thing into a conglomerate of people mostly out for the main chance and to hell with your neighbour....

I hope she doesn't rest easily for eternity...

Because socialists want something for nothing. They love to take and never to give. For all socialists go on about spending money, it's amazing how most of them are so tight-fisted that they won't even buy their mates a pint down at the pub!

I assume your are taking the whizz.

The Labour party (Blair/Brown) didn't cause the global problems of 2008 but they left the UK in a poor position to clean up.

Were you alive during the "loony-left" years pre 1979? we were in real trouble..the sick man of Europe.

Robin - there is a great deal of truth in what you state - indeed, the Falklands (in which campaign I was very closely involved, being ex-military) was an unnecessarily close - run affair - thanks in large measure to that dithering idiot of a Defence Secretary of the time, John Knott (hardly a martial figure!)

We, in the Army, watched aghast at the decimation of our Armed Forces - not the least folly, in our collective view being the scrapping of the Royal Navy's Fairey Gannets which, at that time, would have provided an invaluable airborne early warning system; it is without any doubt that we lost significantly more surface vessels than would have been the case had we retained that capability.

Dwelling on the Falklands a little longer - it is also true to say that Britain demonstrated to the Argentinian Junta a diminished interest in our territories in the South Atlantic - notably, by the very unwise withdrawal of the Antarctic Survey Ship, HMS Endurance - that vessel had been aggressively "buzzed" by an Argentinian Hercules C 130 transport only days before the Argentinian seizure of South Georgia by Argentinian "Special" (not VERY special) Forces, in the guise of "scrap metal merchants"

Despite all of these very blatantly obvious warning signs, Mrs Thatcher's Government chose, almost too late, to ignore them and to ignore the warnings of her senior military advisors, to our considerable cost, it transpired; her redemption was partly of her own doing (she was determined that the Falklands should remain British) and partly due to the peerless performance of her (inadequately equipped) armed forces. We, in the military, were less than impressed when "Maggie" took the salute at the victory parade in London after the successful outcome of that conflict; if any one were to take that salute it should have been our Royal Family but they were - and still are - above the vulgarity of that sort of spectacle.

I personally believe that the Falklands helped Mrs Thatcher win her second term in office - however, it has to be said (as, indeed, I think that you are saying) that she achieved enormous change in our country and in our society - not particularly ably helped by some of her ministers of the day.

Of course, not everyone gained either materially, politically or idealogically from Mrs Thatcher's changes but - thinking back to that strutting little champagne socialist, Arthur Scargill and the unprepossessing Luddite, "Red Robbo" - I think that with her hard - fought and hard-won victories over them and their ilk, Mrs Thatcher ended the day with rather more plusses than minuses on her scoresheet and the country drew back from the brink of lunacy and anarchy...

There are reforms which even I must give credit to her, such as in education and with council tenants, but she did many things which even the staunchest of right wingers and facsists know put Britian in shit. Many can argue about privatisation being good and that or the poll tax is fair but for god's sake be human for a minute and realise how this affected the working class of Britian and not the posh twats. I bet you a good 95% still hate her as much as when she was alive anx for good reason. We all know both parties have failed Britain for quite a while, and the sooner we stop following them about their campaign lies, the better.

i dont think you really know what socialism is. what describing is communism. socialism believes in FAIR distribution for the amount of work put in, communism is the EQUAL distribution.

This article blatantly make her bad qualities look minuscule!

Just three words. Damn the Witch!

The falklands war should not be seen as one of her successes. If she had not reduced the naval presence in the South Atlantic then Argentina would have got the message and not invaded. Instead we had an expensive war bot in terms of lives lost and finances.

so when u say achievements and faliures, u mean just note her achievements... i think that is pretty poor from a newspaper that is meant to represent a variety of views

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