Lady Thatcher: Mythbuster

Former Prime Minister Lady Thatcher was a controversial figure who transformed Britain. Her critics would say for the worse, which is a different question. Her critics may also say one of the six myths below…

  1. Lady Thatcher hated grammar schools: Although Lady Thatcher closed more grammar schools than any other Education Secretary, the belief that she hated them is totally fallacious. In fact, she stated in 1966 that “[The Conservatives] believe that grammar schools should continue to be a vital part of education” later reinforcing her support in 1977 by stating – “People from my sort of background needed grammar schools to compete with children from privileged homes like Shirley Williams and Anthony Wedgwood Benn.” Her decision to close them, came down to public opinion, as she noted that at the time of major closures, grammar schools were “wildly unpopular”.
  2. Lady Thatcher destroyed British manufacturing: It’s hard to even imagine how this myth started, given it is just so ridiculous! Whilst it is true that as a portion of the economy manufacturing did decline, manufacturing output was 7.5 percent higher when Lady Thatcher left office. It’s proportional decline was the result of an explosion in finance and services.
  3. Lady Thatcher destroyed the steel industry: Many people believe that the privatisation of the UK steel industry in 1988 signalled Lady Thatchers destruction of the steel industry. This is incorrect, Lady Thatcher was a great champion of the British steel industry, resisting privatisation for as long as possible. So much so, that in 1980 she gave state aid of £450 million to the industry.
  4. Lady Thatcher destroyed the coal mining industry: This is one of the most interesting myths to bust. Vastly more miners lost their jobs through the 1960’s under Labour Prime Minister Harold Wilson, than under the Prime Ministership of Lady Thatcher. Between 1960 and 1970, roughly 316,000 coal miners lost their jobs, compared to 173,200 under Lady Thatcher. Productivity also increased under Lady Thatcher with roughly 1,477 tonnes of coal being extracted per coal miner, per year, when she left office, compared with just 524 tonnes per coal miner, per year, before she became Prime Minister.
  5. Lady Thatcher’s policies hurt the poor: This myth is one of the most prevalent, but is again based on a false premise. When Lady Thatcher left office the consumption levels of the poorest Britons were about 25 percent above their 1979 level. Not only this, but home ownership amongst Britons resident in council housing increased by 1,000,000 during Lady Thatcher’s premiership, thanks to her ‘Right to Buy’ scheme.
  6. Lady Thatcher was unpopular: Many people, especially opponents of Lady Thatcher believe that she was unpopular, this however, could not be further from the truth. When first elected as Prime Minister in 1979, Lady Thatcher won 43.9 percent of the vote, 42.4 percent in 1983, and 42.2 percent in 1987. These are all substantial victories, and in comparison, the 2015 election resulted in David Cameron winning just 36.1 percent. She still remains popular, with Lady Thatcher being voted the Number 1 UK Prime Minister in History.

As you can see, there have been many myths about Lady Thatcher over the years, but they are totally unfounded, with no truth behind them.

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