Economic Theory

A tribute to Sir Alan Walters

I first met Alan at LSE when I was an MSc student. I was delighted by his clear, amusing and succinct exposition of microeconomics – it was vintage Alan as I later discovered, straight to the jugular of the argument, no pomposity, absolute clarity. Later he agreed to supervise my PhD and he helped me hugely to get started in the world of economics.

When he came to Number 10 in 1980/81, I was fortunate to be able to help him with macro modelling. His style of bureaucracy was an education; memos of crystal clarity and brevity, simplifying complex issues for policy action. It was no wonder Margaret Thatcher relied so greatly on him for economic issues, the dominant ones she faced for much of her period in office.

During that crucial time from 1981-1983 the basics of the Thatcher Revolution were laid – for the control of inflation, for the reduction of unemployment, for the raising of productivity by introducing competition into labour and product markets, not least by privatisation.

Later on Alan was always available to Mrs Thatcher for advice and supported the good things that continued to be done by her team. The ERM episode was a tragedy, about which he repeatedly warned; sadly key colleagues of Mrs Thatcher did not see it and caused a road wreck.

His reappearance in 1989 in Downing Street threatened their gathering conspiracy. The shenanigans that followed achieved their objective of isolating and weakening Mrs Thatcher. Such is politics.

But Alan did his best to keep her show on the road. He remained to the end a great teacher and a loyal friend to her, as to me and so many others.

Shadow Monetary Policy Committee

Patrick Minford has been the Professor of Economics at Cardiff Business School, Cardiff University from October 1997. Between 1967 and 1976 he held economic positions in: the Ministry of Finance, Malawi; Directors' staff, Courtaulds Limited; HM Treasury; HM Treasury's Delegation to Washington, DC; Manchester University; and the National Institute for Economic and Social Research. From 1976-1997, he was a Professor of economics at Liverpool University. Patrick Minford was also a member of the Monopolies and Mergers Commission between 1990 and 1996 and one of HM Treasury's Panel of Forecasters (the 'Six Wise Men') between January 1993 and December 1996. He was awarded a CBE for services to economics in 1996 and is the author of: books, articles and journalism on exchange rates, unemployment, housing and macroeconomics. Patrick Minford currently directs the Julian Hodge Institute of Applied Macroeconomics at Cardiff University Business School.