Thatcher remade Britain: one-quarter of the population lives in poverty


The UK is a democratic country; its citizens enjoy freedom and equality. It is both one of the richest countries in the world and one of the most expensive countries to live in. You may think that a country such as this would be practically free of poverty. However, almost one-quarter of the population lives in poverty – this accounts for nearly 13 million people, including a third of all children. At the same time some of the richest people in the world live in the UK. Does this make Britain an equal society?

What is poverty?

The United Nations defines poverty as a ‘lack of capabilities to live a long, healthy and creative life, to be knowledgeable, and to enjoy a decent standard of living, dignity, self-respect, and the respect of others’.

If someone’s household income in the UK is below 60% of average household income, then they are considered to be living in poverty.

Effects of poverty in the UK

Children living in poverty are less likely to do well in their education than children who are from wealthier households.

They are also more likely to suffer from health problems, lower life expectancy and low employment prospects. 18% of children go without two or more essential items such as warm clothes and three meals a day. Just under ten million people can’t afford safe, warm housing and have to live in cold, damp conditions.

Children, women and the elderly are the worst hit by poverty. Those living in poverty often have to face humiliation and a feeling of helplessness as they are judged and seen as second-class citizens, with many people expressing the view that those in poverty are to blame for their difficulties.

Photo: Children living in poor conditions in Stetchford, Birmingham, UK


2 thoughts on “Thatcher remade Britain: one-quarter of the population lives in poverty

  1. kruitvat Post author

    8 April 2013

    Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan remade conservatism and the west

    As attorney general under Ronald Reagan and George HW Bush, I saw firsthand that Thatcher was a ‘woman for all seasons’

    The passing of Margaret Thatcher marks the end of an era in the development of the western political scene. Together with President Ronald Reagan, she helped to refashion the governmental landscape in the western world during the latter half of the 20th century by rejuvenating the conservative philosophy that each championed so fervently.

    Their joint efforts in pursuing an unflinching opposition to the collectivist philosophy, which had gained widespread allegiance in the post-second world war era, and by standing up to Soviet aggression when it counted, the United States and the United Kingdom stood shoulder to shoulder in consistently championing the rule of law, democracy, freedom and human rights.

    Heedless of doctrinaire criticism of their reform efforts at home, both leaders pursued goals of reducing tax burdens and regulatory interference in their respective economic spheres, rationalizing benefit structures through a more equitable safety net for the truly needy and tough “law and order” efforts to contain the ravages of crime in their communities.

    By their leadership, millions were inspired in the cause of freedom at home and abroad. The end of the cold war would not have come to pass without the steadfast and resolute leadership of the anti-communist nations which was provided by President Reagan and Prime Minister Thatcher. Who will ever forget the admonition “Mr Gorbachev, tear down this wall!” delivered by President Reagan in Berlin on behalf of all freedom-loving people in the world?

    It was my privilege as attorney general in President Reagan’s cabinet to work closely with Mrs Thatcher’s government on issues involving international law enforcement and the growing threat of terrorism during her final term as prime minister. Our cooperation could not have been closer, in particular in the investigation and prosecution of the Libyan terrorists responsible for the PanAm 103 bombing in Lockerbie, Scotland, which took the lives of 259 innocent persons. Similar cooperation was forthcoming in anti-narcotic and money laundering prosecutions during this same period.

    Born of humble roots, Mrs Thatcher never lost the “common touch”, which served as a polestar in her efforts to lead the British nation in the fulfilment of its historic heritage. Never hesitant to do the unconventional or to tweak the “establishment”, she left no doubt as to her goals for her nation. Leaders of today, too often attentive to the political winds and public opinion polls to guide their responses, could take a lesson from “the Iron Lady” in these times of tumult. Candor, consistency and courage were the constant hallmarks of this unique leader in the tradition of one of her most distinguished predecessors as prime minister, Winston Churchill.

    Americans could identify with this plain-spoken leader who contributed to the “special relationship” that has traditionally governed US-UK interaction. Most always, our common allegiance to the rule of law, democracy, freedom and human rights has found our two nations in tandem on key issues of the day. May it ever be so – and will be – so long as those who hold the offices so distinguished by Margaret Thatcher and her American counterparts hew faithfully to their principles and exercise the kinds of political skills that she used so deftly to implement those principles in an increasingly hostile world.

    Britain’s only female prime minister, Mrs Thatcher was not deterred by any “glass ceiling” that might have inhibited those of lesser character. She asked no special privileges because of her gender and received none. Her pre-eminence, she realized, might well have been discounted had she insisted otherwise. Her conduct in office, the principles by which she governed and the worldwide acclaim which she earned were much greater testaments to this remarkable woman and others like her than any preferential treatment that might be sought or tendered on account of gender.

    Sir Thomas More has been acclaimed historically as “a man for all seasons”. Might we well similarly designate Margaret Thatcher “a woman for all seasons” on the basis of her leadership and devotion to the common good throughout her years of public service? This is a designation that even her sharpest critics would have difficulty in opposing.

    A woman for all seasons, indeed.

  2. kruitvat Post author

    Thatcher – Reagan:
    “This great friendship … between our two nations … is stronger than it’s ever been.”

    8 April 2013

    Thatcher in the US: prime minister and Reagan ‘had almost identical beliefs’

    Things were cool between Jimmy Carter and the prime minister, but Thatcher had nothing but warmth for Ronald Reagan

    Margaret Thatcher’s first trip to the White House as prime minister was in 1979 when Jimmy Carter was president. In her speech, the lack of warmth between the two was obvious.

    Although Thatcher made a point of stressing that the history of the US and the UK would forever be “inextricably intertwined,” she continued with the sniffy joke that “George Washington was a British subject until well after his 40th birthday”.

    1981: state visit to US

    Things were much sunnier in 1981, when Thatcher returned on a state visit to celebrate her good friend Ronald Reagan’s presidential victory. A large military band played before the speeches began. Their joint message to the world was that they were inseparable.

    “When we talked in London just over two years ago when neither of us were in office, I was impressed by the similar challenges our countries faced and by your determination to meet those challenges,” Reagan said. “So long as our adversaries continue to arm themselves at a pace far beyond the needs of defense so the free world must do whatever is necessary to safeguard its own security.”

    Some of Reagan’s remarks take on extra heft with the benefit of hindsight. For example, this:

    “The Soviet invasion in Afghanistan was a brutal invasion. You, prime minister, took a lead in rallying world opinion against it and for that we commend you.”

    1982: Reagan visits the UK

    The following year, when Reagan and his defence secretary Al Haig went to Downing Street, the president took the opportunity to remind the world that:

    “This great friendship … between our two nations … is stronger than it’s ever been.”

    The special relationship had its hiccups. But it was in both leaders’ interests to portray themselves as united even when gone from office. By the time Thatcher gave an 83rd birthday toast to Reagan on February 3, 1994, she was practically singing hymns to him. (Important to note: this took place at a fundraiser.)

    “You reached beyond partisanship to principles, beyond our own selves to our very souls. You reached for and touched, as Lincoln had said so long before you, the better angels of our nature.”

    1997: visit to Washington

    Thatcher was less poetic but more credible in 1997, when she unveiled the portrait painting A Shared Vision at the Cannon House office building in Washington. Then she used the moment to describe her connection with Reagan.

    “Fate decided that Ronnie should be in charge of the great United States when I was in charge politically in Britain.

    “We had almost identical beliefs. From very different backgrounds, very different circumstances, we had come to this passionate belief that the world is not created by governments, it is created by the creativity of man. The task of government is to create a framework in which the talents of man can flourish.”

    1985 and 1989: at the UN

    In addition to her visits to Washington, Thatcher made two significant speeches in New York at the United Nations. The first was at the 40th general assembly in 1985.

    There she quoted Winston Churchill – who had been present at its creation in 1945 – and reminded the world that the UN should be a “force for action, not a mere frothing of words”.

    Again, she made a speech which looks apposite in hindsight:

    “Nor has the UN shown the capacity to deal effectively with terrorism. The terrorist is callously prepared to kill, cripple and wound to get his own way. He speaks the language of human rights even as he extinguishes them by his deeds … There are countries represented among us which harbor and train terrorists.”

    Four years later, at her next speech to the UN, she tackled the subject of climate change. This speech was made 23 years ago. In it, she reminded the world:

    “We are seeing a vast increase in the amount of carbon dioxide reaching the atmosphere. The annual increase is 3bn tonnes: and half the carbon emitted since the Industrial Revolution still remains in the atmosphere.

    “At the same time as this is happening, we are seeing the destruction on a vast scale of tropical forests which are uniquely able to remove carbon dioxide from the air.

    “Every year an area of forest equal to the whole surface of the United Kingdom is destroyed. At present rates of clearance we shall, by the year 2000, have removed 65% of forests in the humid tropical zones.

    “The consequences of this become clearer when one remembers that tropical forests fix more than ten times as much carbon as do forests in the temperate zones.”


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