The Legacy of Thatcherism & new labour immigration policy

Date of Publication


Document Type

Bachelor's Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts in International Studies Major in American Studies


College of Liberal Arts


International Studies


Awarded as best thesis, 2007


After discussing all this data, it time now to see whether the objectives written at the beginning of this paper had been achieved. First, has the paper truly determined what the problems of Britain were on Thatcher's installation as Prime Minister and why they needed to be solved? It is clearly apparent that unemployment, economic stagnation, and labor unrest were seriously afflicting Britain. At this point the Labour government was unable to deal with the crisis. The time was ripe for a change in leadership that would enable the government to reform the public sector, deregulate the private sector, and to reinvigorate trade and industrial production in Britain. Margaret Thatcher stepped into this niche and transformed Britain by tackling each problem with stubborn determination as will be shown later.

Second, has this paper presented the ideology and policies that anchor Thatcherism? In explaining the theory's bias for privatization, deregulation, the reduction of the power of the labor unions, the rationalization of tax for the individual, managerializing and politicizing the civil service, Athleticism, and open markets, the study has provided a detailed explanation of the liberal core of Thatcherism as well as the effects and ramifications of the implementation of these policies. The reforming zeal of Thatcher is visible in her attacks on the traditional elite of British society and reveals that her government intended to leave a permanent impact on British society.

Third, how successful was Thatcherist economic policy? With the exception of unemployment, Thatcher was successful in reforming the public and private sectors. In the public sector, privatization of non-performing government owned corporations, managerialism, and reducing public spending all continued as permanent fixtures of British governance. In the private sector, the unions power was reduced, and inflation rates were brought down. The British economy expanded, and many businesses grew enough to need migrants to fill vacancies native Brits no longer wanted, as well as in the high-tech IT sector and in services. The lone failure was unemployment as this did not meet targets during her tenure as Prime Minister. However, the continuation of Thatcherist economic policy later helped reduce unemployment to 4.8% just before the 10 candidate countries acceded to the EU.

Fourth, how was Thatcherist policy engrained in British political culture? The institutionalization of Thatcherism in British political culture was so pervasive that New Labour had little choice but to perpetuate these policies to maintain economic progress or risk being voted out at the next elections. Tony Blair personally witnessed the transformation that Thatcherism wrought on Britain and eventually adopted liberalism as the new philosophy of choice of New Labour. Essentially, the core beliefs of Thatcherism were wrapped in the 2communitarian cloak3 of New Labour, but was really the same political animal. This convergence of political beliefs has left many questioning whether Labour is really pro-labor at all. The economic decisions taken by the Thatcher regime became institutionalized to a point where New Labour accepted them as tradition, and molded its new policies around what the Conservatives had already left behind. The brilliance of Thatcherism was that it capitalized on Britain’s centuries-old liberal tradition in politics and economics and injected a fresh strain of populism which the British electorate readily accepted, and this is why it remained popular for so long. The path dependence of these institutions created feedback effects which no political actor in Britain could afford to ignore, and this is why Thatcherism has become engrained in political culture. Due to this, the researchers can claim conclusively that this objective has been answered.

Fifth, why did Britain take a different approach to intra-EU migration compared to its neighbors in 2004? One must understand that Thatcher inherited a Britain that was experiencing high unemployment, high inflation, highly powerful labor unions and this created innumerable problems for Britain. If Thatcher had chosen to open the doors to migration during her tenure, when unemployment was at its peak, she risked higher unemployment rates and greater stagnation of the labor market, which would result in the failure of her attempt to reinvigorate the sector. Also, the Thatcher government was afraid that if it was the only one to open its doors to Iberian immigration, it would experience a flood of immigrants from these countries. Though this contradicted her free trade policy, her government maintained this strict policy because they were attempting to sell the idea that the common market was an extension of Thatcherism into the EC. What happened instead was that many Iberian migrants in Britain returned to their home countries and a lot of Brits joined them there. This experience helped shape the Blair governments expectations for the 2004 accession. Later events proved this expectation wrong, but the Labour Party had full reason to believe that immigration from these countries would not prove a problem as many analysts expected a repetition of events in the Iberian accession. Other analysts believed that the gap in cultural differences between Britain and Eastern Europe would make the UK a less attractive destination for migrants. Blair's government relied on institutions in the form of past lessons from the Thatcher era to choose a policy that was different from its neighbors in Europe. Given all these reasons, it is clear that this paper has answered why Britain chose to be different in 2004.

Sixth, were interest groups influential with political parties during the Thatcher and Blair eras? With the first case, the answer is yes. In essence, these actors left an imprint on society during the Thatcher era, with the business sector being the more influential of the two. However, by the time the Blair era was discussing migration policy, neither the TUC nor the CBI were consulted directly by the Labour Party. Instead, Labour consolidated a policy that it assumed represented the interests of the British nation and implemented it on the peoples behalf. While the two actors were surprised at this decision, they accepted the decision as being beneficial for their self-interest. In essence, Labour had relied on the past arguments and decisions of the Thatcher era as its basis for implementing migration policy. So, while it is fair to say that interest groups were influential during the Thatcher era, the same cannot be said for the Blair era where the government relied on past decisions as a guide.

Lastly, was the legacy of Thatcherism the real reason behind New Labours change in political orientation? Given all the data of how Thatcherism was successful in its goals of economic reform, and how all parties including Labour found that not implementing similar policies would entail a cost impossible to ignore, Thatcherism had engrained itself in British political culture and influenced the decision making of all major political actors in Britain. The lessons the Thatcher government left behind helped the Labour Party decide on an open door immigration policy and was also clearly influenced by liberal principles that Thatcher herself had espoused. With all these facts, there is no doubt that Thatcherism was a decisive force in transforming the Labour Party's political orientation.

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Shelf Location

Archives, The Learning Commons, 12F Henry Sy Sr. Hall

Physical Description

1 computer optical disc 4 3/4 in.

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