The Making of Thatcherism: 1974–1979

  • Dennis Kavanagh


During the period from March 1974 to May 1979 the Conservative Party experienced the familiar dilemmas of opposition: a leadership crisis, factionalism and striking out in a new direction while trying to mollify supporters of the previous regime. These problems took on an extra dimension because it was the first time in the Party’s history that a party leader, Edward Heath, had been ousted in a competitive election. He also took his defeat badly and for a time seemed to regard his successor, Margaret Thatcher, as a usurper. Yet, as a result of the May 1979 general election Margaret Thatcher began her term as the longest and most dominant peacetime Prime Minister in the twentieth century. The Party made the biggest post-war election swing between the two parties and remained in office for the next 18 years. It proved to be a significant turning point in the modern party system and in the political agenda. Since 1979 there have been no more incomes policies or social contracts with the unions, Keynesian demand management has been abandoned and trade union power, which helped to destroy two governments in the 1970s, has been tamed.


Trade Union Industrial Relation Opinion Poll Party Leader Labour Government 
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© Dennis Kavanagh 2005

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  • Dennis Kavanagh

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