Thatcherism pp 59-70 | Cite as

The Scope of Thatcherism and Privatisation

  • Martin Holmes


Privatisation, or denationalisation as it was once called, has been central to Thatcherism. The rolling back of the Socialist state and encouragement of the free-market are encapsulated in the privatisation programme. The increased size of the private sector in relation to the public sector seemed a distant dream for most Conservatives before 1979 — according to the socialist ratchet argument of Sir Keith Joseph1 — and therefore the extent of privatisation, according to Thatcherite ideology, has been a triumph. No less than 40 per cent of the industries nationalised in 1945–79 have been privatised. At the same time, bus and coach routes have been de-regulated, contracting out to private tender has become a feature of Conservative-run local government, private pensions, health care and education have flourished and professional restrictive practices, such as the solicitors’ conveyancing monopoly, have been eroded. Six freeports have been established and enterprise zones expanded. Over 1 million council houses have been sold to tenants. This process, as John Biffen has remarked with some irony, is a permanent and fundamental transfer of wealth and power in favour of the private sector. Individual share owners stood at 2 million in 1979 and had subsequently grown to 9.2 million by 1987, for the first time outnumbering trade unionists, many of whom had bought shares in privatised companies.


Supervisory Board Labour Party Privatisation Process Privatisation Programme British Telecom 
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Notes and References

  1. 1.
    See M. Holmes, The First Thatcher Government, 1979–83: contemporary conservatism and economic change (Brighton: Wheatsheaf, 1985) pp. 8–10.Google Scholar
  2. 6.
    C. Veljanovski, Selling the State (London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1987)Google Scholar
  3. and J. Kay et al.Privatisation and Regulation — the UK experience (Oxford: OUP, 1986).Google Scholar
  4. 9.
    K. Dowd, Economic affairs, 7 (3) (1987) p.26.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. 10.
    M. Heseltine Where There’s a Will (London: Hutchinson, 1987) p. 65.Google Scholar
  6. 12.
    S. Finer, in Thatcherism: personality and politics, ed. Kenneth Minogue and Michael Biddiss (London: Macmillan, 1987) p. 131.Google Scholar
  7. 15.
    G. Thompson, The Conservative’s Economic Policy (London: Croom Helm, 1986) p. 201.Google Scholar
  8. 17.
    C. Veljonovski, Economic Affairs, 7 (3) (1987) p. 21.Google Scholar
  9. 20.
    M. Edwardes, Back from the Brink (London: Pan 1983) p. 233.Google Scholar
  10. 25.
    P. Jenkins, Mrs. Thatchers’s Revolution: the ending of the socialist era (London: Jonathan Cape, 1987), p. 176.Google Scholar
  11. 27.
    L. Copeland, Economic Affairs, 6 (6) (1986), p. 15.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. 28.
    D. Kavanagh, Thatcherism and British Politics: The end of Consensus? (Oxford: OUP, 1987) p. 221.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Martin Holmes 1989

Authors and Affiliations

  • Martin Holmes
    • 1
  1. 1.Mansfield CollegeOxfordUK

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