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Margaret Thatcher, Compassionate Conservative - not a libertarian

By Paul Goodman

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We've postponed our Compassionate Conservatism series until next week, on the ground that Margaret Thatcher merits this site's full attention. Which doesn't suggest that it was swept aside by her governments.  Indeed, it played an impactful, though now sometimes forgotten, role in what she did.  Left-wing enemies and libertarian admirers alike unite in either ignoring her full record, or pretending that it was other than it was.  Don't take my word for it.  Have a look back at what happened.  Here are some reminders from the 1983 general election manifesto:

  • "By last year, there were 45,000 more nurses and midwives, and over 6,500 more doctors and dentists, working for the NHS than in 1978."
  • "More than many other nations, we direct our aid to the poorest countries, particularly in the Commonwealth."
  • "In each of the last two years, largely as a result of tax changes we have introduced, about a quarter of a million employees have acquired shares in the companies that employ them."
  • "This country is now spending more per child in school than ever before, even after allowing for price rises."
  • "Child benefit and one-parent benefit are to be their highest-ever level in real terms. We have also improved the family income supplement scheme to help low-paid working families."
  •  "On Merseyside, Operation Groundwork has brought together landowners, local industry and local authorities to tackle the squalor and dereliction on the edge of towns."
  • "No less than half a million council houses and flats were sold in the last Parliament to the people who live in them...This is the biggest single step towards a home-owning democracy ever taken. It is also the largest transfer of property from the State to the individual."
  • "The sale of pet animals in street markets has been banned."
  • "We have committed over £2,000m. this year to training and special measures for the unemployed."
  • "Our generous but carefully controlled aid programme is both an investment in the freedom and prosperity of the poorer countries and in a stable and expanding world economy."
  • "Unlike the last Labour government which actually cut the hospital building programme by one-third, we have committed £1,100m. to our large-scale programme for building new hospitals."
  • "Supplementary benefits, too, have been raised ahead of prices. To encourage thrift, instead of penalising it, the Government has also raised the amount of savings people can keep without losing any supplementary benefit."
  • "The Christmas Bonus, which Labour failed to pay in 1975 and 1976, will continue to be paid every year in accordance with the law we passed in 1979."
  • "Expenditure on cash benefits to the disabled is 21 per cent higher than under Labour, even after allowing for rising prices."
  • "We have introduced - and extended - a widows' bereavement allowance. We have kept the war widows' pension ahead of prices and removed it from tax altogether."


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