Margaret Thatcher overturns the bi-partisan mixed economy when she applies a non-interventionist free market policy. Some industries collapse, causing severe unemployment. She earns voters' support during the Falklands war and credit for her part in the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the soviet bloc, but she is overthrown in a party putsch. The period ends with sterling's failure to remain on course to join a single European currency and the Conservative party suffers an historic collapse in electoral support.
Margaret Thatcher had not even been elected prime minister when she suffered a severe loss at the hands of Irish republicans. Her close confidant Airey Neave, the Conservative spokesman on N. Ireland, who was the first British officer to escape successfully from Colditz, was killed when his car was blown up by an INLA bomb at the MPs’ car park. In August, the IRA scored further massive publicity when they blew up Lord Mountbatten and members of his family whilst on holiday in Co. Sligo in the republic. On the same day, they ambushed and killed 18 British soldiers at Warrenpoint in South Armagh. These events ensured that Northern Ireland remained near the top of Thatcher’s consciousness as she took over government.
After many years of poor performance, the British economy remained uncompetitive with rivals in Europe and Asia. Inflation was about 10% and some 1.5 million people were unemployed, compared to some 1 million in 1974. Thatcher’s government aimed to control inflation and deregulate the economy with a monetarist economic policy and wide-ranging political reforms.
1979 cont. Airey Neave MP (born 1916), Conservative spokesman for Northern Ireland, is killed by an IRA car bomb in the House of Commons car park.
~ Margaret Thatcher becomes the UK’s first woman prime minister.
~ Earl Mountbatten (born 1900) and family members are blown up by an IRA bomb; 18 soldiers are killed by the IRA at Warren Point, South Armagh.
~ Exchange controls are removed and the Prices Commission is abolished – the first Thatcherite economic moves.
~ Immigration rules are tightened. Entry forbidden to husbands/ fiancés of British women born abroad.
~ Lancaster House Agreement. Southern Rhodesia leaders revoke the unilateral declaration of independence, returns to British rule and agree procedure for independence under majority rule.
~ Conservatives win the first UK elections for the European Parliament in a small turnout of voters.
~ David Attenborough (born 1926) presents Life on Earth, the first of his Life series of TV programmes.
~ The Times resumes publication after year long closure caused by a labour dispute about manning levels and new technology.
~ Margot Fonteyn’s unofficial retirement is marked by Covent Garden gala to mark her 60th birthday.
~ Sir Godfrey Hounsfield (1919-2004) shares the Nobel Prize in Medicine for work on developing CT scanning diagnostic technique.
~ St Lucia and St Vincent and the Grenadines gain independence from British rule.
~ Kiribati, formerly the Gilbert Islands gains independence from British rule.
~ Jeremy Thorpe, ex Liberal leader, is acquitted of conspiracy and incitement to murder charges.
~ Sir Anthony Blunt (1907-1983) is denounced as a Soviet spy.
~ A Bend in the River by V. S Naipaul is published.
~ Amadeus a play by Peter Shaffer is produced at the Olivier Theatre.