Government and Institutions

Book review: The Politics of the Thatcher Revolution by Geoffrey K. Fry

This is the best non-partisan short book on “Thatcherism” and the 1979-1990 era to have appeared to date. It is wide ranging, all encompassing, massively referenced with a great Bibliography and very fair. It digs out a lot of facts, gives useful insights and accords credit where credit is due as in (surprisingly to some) to Peter Walker and Michael Heseltine for the right to buy local authority housing granted to sitting tenants early in the first Thatcher term.

I particularly enjoyed the many quotations provided by Alan Clark, Nicholas Ridley and Jock Bruce-Gardyne – all sadly gone now. And I was struck at how often Nigel Lawson appeared, second only to Mrs Thatcher herself by my count.

The author (the blurb claims he “broadly predicted the Thatcher Revolution” but is neither pro- nor anti- just “dispassionate”) is Emeritus Professor of British Government and Administration at the University of Leeds and his scholarship and presentation skills do much to restore at least some faith in “political studies” as a discipline following the dreadful treatment of Lady Thatcher in a recent issue of Political Studies Review.

Indeed the contrast at all levels and on all fronts could not be clearer as Fry is a sober, scholarly, balanced and painstakingly accurate Professor who deserves our respect and wins our thanks.

If I have one quibble – other than the “artistic” interpretation of the cover’s Union Jack – it is with the smallish typeface and the Germanic paragraphs which combine to make for some hard going. I just do not like paragraphs that run for three whole pages! Phew! And I think Geoffrey Howe suspended exchange controls and that Nigel Lawson abolished them in the 1987 Finance Act.

But this will not stop me from looking out for the first two parts of this trilogy, namely The Politics of Crisis which covers 1931 to 1945 and The Politics of Decline which takes the story from that volume to this one.

The Politics of the Thatcher Revolution: An Interpretation of British Politics, 1979-1990, by Geoffrey K. Fry, Palgrave MacMillan.