Margaret Thatcher (prime minister 1979–1990) was and continues to be a hugely divisive figure in Britain. Her influence on British politics has long outlived her, with the Conservative Party becoming steadily more Thatcherite than it was under her leadership, especially on economic issues. Policies that support privatization, curbs on trade unions and employment rights (to promote further labour market flexibility), the reduction in welfare provision, the replacement of collectivism with individualism, and the marketization of public services, including the NHS and education, to render them more business-like are all Thatcherism in practice, and still continue today. However, the radical modernization of Britain that started under Thatcher’s leadership in the 1980s created the conditions that have led to the polarization of British society today. A process that was profoundly unconservative in its values and approach; destabilising institutions which Conservatives once deemed sacrosanct, replacing continuity and stability with constant change and competition, and reducing human relations to "the cash nexus".
Peter Dorey offers a lively analysis of how Thatcherism became an ideology for politics to conjure with, its relationship with its eponymous leader and with the Conservative Party, as well as the long-term implications for the British people.
Pete Dorey is Professor of British Politics at Cardiff University. He has published widely on British Conservatism and the Conservative Party. His recent co-authored books include Exploring British Politics 5th Edition (2021), Choosing Party Leaders: Britain's Conservatives and Labour Compared (2020), The British Coalition Government, 2010–2015: A Marriage of Inconvenience (2016) and The Political Rhetoric and Oratory of Margaret Thatcher (2016).