The long history of political rivalry in Great Britain has always been between the Conservative and Labour Parties. National leaders who were representative of both come and go in the same way as the popularity of both parties rise and fall over decades.
Labor Party’s Tony Blair was able to bring back the party into the limelight where it was previously before 1970s. Its close rival party, the Conservatives has enjoyed the prestige during the seventies when the Labour Party made countless mistakes, or shall we say unsound decisions on labor issues and policies.
CNN News called that particular labor issue as the party’s “tailspin” which includes Labor-spending policies, which brought Britain to an economic situation where it shamefully needs to seek for the assistance of the World Bank through a bailout loan (Blystone, Richard). A year called “Winter of Discontent” which ran from 1978 to 1979 turned the popularity of the Labour Party upside down. The worst thing that could ever happen as a consequence of the yearlong discontent was to lose the seat in the next election.
The Labour Party was losing support as more and more people go to the streets and join rallies. That year, there were about 4.6 million workers to go on strike causing the British economy around 29 million workdays. Part of the protests against the Labour government was to let their garbage remain uncollected in the streets which indicate that no one would want to go out work during those days.
In 1980, the Labour Party’s fear of losing the election came as had never been expected after rumblings of discontent with William Hague’s leadership. Margaret Thatcher of the Conservative Party beat the Labour’s representative in the national elections. It was also important to mention that the Conservative Party won a majority of 33 seats in the Parliament. After Thatcher’s victory, the Labour Party did not have any chance of winning over the Conservatives for 18 years.
Thatcher was the first woman in the British political party who work hand in hand with John Powell to bring the Conservative Party into a strong political party after losing in the 1974 elections. Conservatives have also undergone erratic relationships within the party, members come and go and move to and from other parties especially on cases where there are major disagreements in its member. With Powell and Thatcher, things got better this time. Their strategy to bring back the popularity of the Conservatives was to take the opportunity to win the hearts and trust of the people during the “Winter of Discontent”.
They made use of the media to make people believe that the government should not in any way have an involvement in the social and economic matters. “Thatcher constructed a new social base of support for her party that came less from the traditional conservatives’ backers, the upper classes and landed gentry, than from the middle classes and skilled workers who felt increasingly discontent and unrepresented by the traditional policies and orientations of the two major political parties” (Rasmussen, et.al. 1995).
Thatcher’s gained popularity through the Conservative Party enabled her to win the 1979 elections first, because of the discontent of the people on labor issues the year before the elections. Second, it might have been because the people wanted another leader outside the Labour government since the latter was not able to make labour concerns a priority in running their government. Lastly, the British have known Thatcher as directly opposed to the labour ideas of the Labour government and of course a campaign have promised the people to have such labor disputes a priority in the next elections which they won.
Thatcher was a witty leader in his own right. She won the 1983 elections after having it scheduled at the time when victory over Falkland Islands against Argentina was still fresh. Timely with the British economic growth, Thatcher still swept the 1987 elections which let her stay in power until 1990. But Thatcher failed to bring the Conservatives back in power in the 1990 elections. Although Thatcher was undoubtedly popular at that time, and that Thatcher was known for her sound leadership in dealing with the internal conflicts within her own party, John Major brought her down this time.
There were issues which attributed Thatcher’s lost of support from her own party because of her hesitation to support European integration. In this regard, Thatcher compromised her political position when she directly opposed to the general opinion of the British people towards the integration.
One more thing was the Thatcher’s poll tax which taxed registered voters to replace property taxes collected by local councils and which was widely viewed as regressive by taxing the lower income strata more heavily than the upper classes. With the leadership of John Major, the issue of poll tax was little by little eradicated.