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Events Surrounding The Resignation Of Margaret Thatcher Sociology Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Sociology
Wordcount: 2243 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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Margaret Thatcher’s legacy towers over modern day British Politics and History. She earned her place in the history books as the longest serving PM of the 20th century with three back to back election wins under her belt and since, emerging politicians have been said to have been ‘creations of the Thatcher era’ with both William Hague and Tony Blaire being hailed as ‘sons of Thatcherism by journalist Andrew Rawnsley.

1.1.2 Aims

This report investigates and concludes as to how the Iron Ladies resignation and downfall was reported in the UK and Welsh newspapers, and pays particular attention and focus as to how this shaped the nations views at the time and now, looking back retrospectively.

This report researches as to why Margaret Thatcher was a ‘Marmite’ politician who evoked such strong responses, in both past and present throughout society and also looks into how the events of the past and media reaction has shaped her legacy left in Britain today.

1.1.3 Method

Through both primary and secondary research, this report acts as a historical study into the events surrounding the resignation of Margaret Thatcher and the public response to it by examining how her resignation was reported in the Newspapers and other media resources at the time.

1.1.4 Results & Conclusions

Conclusions have also been obtained through oral interviews with people who were alive at the time and remember the events to obtain first hand public opinion and to analyse the impact of the transition from Thatcher to the Blaire era on people at the time. In addition to this I collected and collated public opinion about the popularity of Margaret Thatcher throughout her time as Prime Minister resulting in a conclusion as to what her legacy is in Britain today.

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2. Introduction

2.1.1 Background and Context for the Study

Many people remember where they were and what they were doing when they heard that Margaret Thatcher had stepped down as Prime Minister and what their reaction and feeling toward the news was. Margaret Thatcher always sparks a diverse, sometimes controversial opinion – whether it is an expression of fondness or one of extreme aversion which is why her legacy is highly disputed.

Media interest on the 10th anniversary of her demise from power was high, so much so that many newspapers ran opinion polls and features allowing people to comment about their reaction to her fall from power and resignation, and such polls were concrete evidence as to Mrs Thatcher’s ability to continue to evoke strong opinions even a decade after she had ceased to be Prime Minister. These polls are examined later on in the report and help to draw a conclusion of the legacy that she has left on Britain today.

This report analyses the Origins of Thatcher’s departure from number 10 and gauges public opinion on what has now become widely known as the Thatcher era and as a result of it ‘Thatcherism’.

2.2.1 Outline of aims and methodology

This study explores and discus’s the reasons that led to the seismic political moment when Margaret Thatcher’s resigned as Prime Minister on 22nd November, 1990. This historical report looks into both the media’s and public opinion, which has been examined through interviews and media archive footage, both at the time and reflective articles and discussions that have been recorded to date.

2.3.1 Primary research undertaken

I have conducted the research through both primary and secondary resources including interviews with people who were alive and remember the resignation first hand, newspaper articles, podcasts, opinion polls and internet sites.

Through formulating central questions relating to key topics I have conducted oral interviews with people who were both alive and have strong memories and opinions regarding Thatcher’s demise. I conducted the interviews this way and asked specific questions to enable me to systematically collate opinions of living people’s testimony about their own experiences.

3.1.1 Literature Review

When studying the events of November 1990, it is clear that there is no one origin to the fall of Thatcher from power. In Kevin Jeffries book, Finest and darkest Hours, he says that

‘For the Historian, the events of November 1990 present something of a mystery. A PM with a strong parliamentary majority and in good health, enjoying the considerable advantages of patronage and access to the media, was virtually impregnable’. (Jeffries, Atlantic Books, 2002)

To her supporters, she was a ground-breaking Prime Minister who positively re-shaped Britain’s economy and tamed the trade unions. In alliance with US presidents Reagan and Bush, she helped bring about the end of the Cold War. But her 11-year stint in office was also a time tainted by social unrest, industrial trouble and rising unemployment and her critics claim British society is still feeling the effect of her divisive economic policies and the culture of greed and selfishness they allegedly promoted.

Existing accounts have noted that there was no single, overriding cause of Thatcher’s downfall and that various factors played their part in November’s events.

3.1.1 Key Themes

Seeing as there is no one clear reason to her downfall and resignation, there are several key themes and topics which must be addressed when discussing Margaret Thatcher. I have investigated these within both historical and narrative fictional texts in which I have then cross referenced with my own research to enable me to come up with a balanced and well supported conclusion.

Below, I have highlighted key themes that are explored in recognized academic discussion of the resignation of Margaret Thatcher by leading authors and commentators of the field.

3.1.2 Divisions over Europe

Iconic of the Thatcher years, was the ever running saga as to whether Britain should join the Exchange Rate Mechanism (ERM).

Mrs Thatcher relentlessly rejected any steps toward stronger political links which she believed would lead to “an identikit European personality”, and weaken nationality and tradition of member states.


Therefore it is fair to say that Europe, ultimately, played a part in ending the Thatcher premiership.

3.1.3 ‘Poll Tax’

Margaret Thatcher had always been a long standing critic of the British Taxation system which is proven in her memoirs, where shy says that she ‘always disliked rates intensely’ (Jefferys, Atlantic Books, 2002).

The conservative government, under Thatcher then bought in the community charge to replace the long standing tax system that dated back nearly 100 years -‘Rates’ – which resulted in every adult paying a flat rate charge.

The introduction of the Community Charge was met with great unrest and discontent for Thatcherism and opposition groups formed.

One Journalist, quoted in the Economist dubbed the system as a ‘A fatheaded, boneheaded, dunderheaded, blunderheaded, muttonheaded, knuckleheaded, chuckleheaded, puddingheaded, jobernowled wash- out of a cock-up.’ (The Economist, 3 Dec 1994) which could be seen as a representation of the peoples views at the time of it’s introduction due to the March and Riot of 1990 in opposition to the new system.

The riot was a fatal blow for not only the poll tax but also the Margaret Thatcher and before the new year, Thatcher had stepped down as Britain’s Prime Minister.

3.1.4 Thatcherite Economics

Thatcher’s market-led policies saw the sale of 20 state-owned companies including British Telecom. She did haul the country out of the economic doldrums where the UK was known as the ‘sick man of Europe’ but at what cost? Her deregulation of the banking industry ultimately led to this current recession via the ‘credit crunch’

Monetarism came to be used to describe what people thought of as ‘Thatcherism’. In simple terms, it is the recognition of the importance of money and money supply in an economy.

The belief in free markets and individual wealth creation undermined the fabric of society encouraging selfishness and an increase in inequality. Thatcherite beliefs include a support for a form of ‘trickle down economics’ the idea if the rich get richer everyone benefits.

3.1.5 Trade Unions

Strikes were a regular occurrence and crippled the country. The three-day week was introduced under Edward Heath. And Callaghan’s Labour government in 1978 oversaw the strikes of the Winter of Discontent. On election, Thatcher used the situation as an excuse to crush the unions. She simply refused to listen to the workers’ representatives. Her economic policies helped weaken the unions.


The reason in which I conducted research through

The methodology section should provide a rationale for the method of research employed and for choice of sources used, together with an explanation of any tools (e.g. questionnaires; SPSS) involved and the respective criteria of evaluation applied to these. Samples of such tools (in blank form or with consolidated data) will probably need to be included in an appendix. It is not necessary to include a narrative description of the research process, although case studies (e.g. observation sessions) need to be well documented.


As predicted, my results show the expected diversity of opinion.

The results and conclusions sections should describe, explain and discuss what the research undertaken has revealed and why it is significant. This is best achieved by comparison with the ideas of opinion leaders previously presented. These ideas will be variously supported, illustrated, qualified and challenged by what you have discovered.


With public opinion turning decisively against her, she was forced to resign from office in November 1990 after a struggle for leadership within the Conservative Party

Many United Kingdom citizens remember where they were and what they were doing when they heard that Margaret Thatcher had resigned and what their reaction was. She brings out strong responses in people. Some people credit her with rescuing the British economy from the stagnation of the 1970s and admire her committed radicalism on social issues; others see her as authoritarian, egotistical and responsible for the dismantling of the Welfare State. Britain was widely seen as the sick man of Europe in the 1970s, and some argued that it would be the first developed nation to return to the status of a developing country. In the 1990s, Britain emerged with a comparatively healthy economy, at least by previous standards.

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A clear illustration of the divisions of opinion over Thatcher’s leadership can be found in recent television polls: Thatcher appears at Number 16 in the 2002 List of “100 Greatest Britons” (sponsored by the BBC and voted for by the public), she also appears at Number 3 in the 2003 List of “100 Worst Britons” (sponsored by Channel Four and also voted for by the public), narrowly missing out on the top spot, which went to Tony Blair.


It might be appropriate to end with recommendations, suggesting how the present study could be extended or repeated in a different format, or how related fields might be explored from a similar standpoint. This section, though, cannot be used to excuse failings in the study which should have been avoided.

Transcripts or summaries of interviews, copies of original documents, tables of statistics, maps, etc. should be included in separate appendices at the end. The reader can be referred to these in the text, which may also include extracts from the same (e.g. an exchange from an interview)

Bibliography & References

Evans, EJ (2004). Thatcher and Thatcherism (Making of the Contemporary World) . London: Routledge

Holmes, M (1989). Thatcherism: Scope and Limits: Palgrave Macmillan. 1-182

Jeffery’s, K (2002). Finest and Darkest Hours: The Decisive Events in British Politics, from Churchill to Blair. London: Atlantic Books. p233-258

Marwick, A (2003). British Society Since 1945: The Penguin Social History of Britain : Penguin

Morgan, K (2002). Britain since 1945: The People’s Peace. UK: Oxford University Press.

BBC.. 1990: Thatcher quits as prime minister. Available: http://news.bbc.co.uk/onthisday/hi/dates/stories/november/22/newsid_2549000/2549189.stm. Last accessed 21 April 2010.

BBC. 1990: Tearful farewell from Iron Lady. Available: http://news.bbc.co.uk/onthisday/hi/dates/stories/november/28/newsid_2527000/2527953.stm. Last accessed 21 April 2010.

Essential Margaret Thatcher. Available: http://www.margaretthatcher.org/essential/default.asp. Last accessed 16 April 2010

BBC News. (1990). BBC News: Thatcher resigns as Prime Minister. Available: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sTDS23DY670. Last accessed 18 March 2010.


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