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10-08-2015, 22:24

Great Britain: Move to the Left

In Great Britain, Conservative Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher dominated politics in the 1980s. The Labour Party, beset by divisions between moderate and radical wings, offered little effective opposition. Only in 1990 did Labour’s fortunes seem to revive when Thatcher’s government attempted to replace local property taxes with a flat-rate tax payable by every adult to his or her local authority. Although Thatcher argued that this would make local government more responsive to popular needs, many argued that this was nothing more than a poll tax that would enable the rich to pay the same rate as the poor. After antitax riots broke out, Thatcher’s once legendary popularity plummeted to an all-time low. At the end of November, a revolt within her own party caused Thatcher to resign as prime minister. Her replacement was John Major, whose Conservative Party won a narrow victory in the general elections held in April 1992. But Major’s lackluster leadership failed to capture the imagination of many Britons, and in new elections in May 1997, the Labour Party won a landslide victory. The new prime minister, Tony Blair, was a moderate whose youth and energy immediately instilled a new vigor on the political scene. Adopting centrist policies reminiscent of those followed by President Bill Clinton in the United States (see Chapter 10), his party dominated the political arena into the new century.