Conservative Government 1987-1990 - Election


The Tories were elected for a third successive term in June 1987, with a majority of 102 seats. It enabled prime minister Margaret Thatcher to become the longest serving prime minister of the 20th century, as Britain's economic recovery continued.

With the battle against inflation and strikes long won, an economic boom was in its early stages. Unemployment had fallen below 3,000,000 during the spring of 1987, and the tax cuts by chancellor Nigel Lawson sent the economy into overdrive. By early 1988, unemployment was below 2,500,000. A year later, it fell below 2,000,000. By the end of 1989, it was down to 1,600,000. A house price boom saw the average house price in Britain double between 1986 and 1989.

However, this led to interest rates being doubled during 1988 and were increased further during 1989 and 1990 as inflation increased.

As early as September 1988, economists were warning that the economic boom would soon be over and that 1989 could see a recession set in. However, the economy continued to defy the odds and it continued to grow throughout 1989 and unemployment remained in freefall, despite several other world leaders - namely the United States of America - entering recession that year.

By the end of the 1980s employment was booming above all in the financial and retail sectors - particularly on new commercial developments that were built on old industrial sites, such as the Merry Hill Shopping Centre in the West Midlands, where some 6,000 retail jobs were created between 1984 and 1989 on an old steelworks site which had shed just over 1,200 jobs when it closed in 1982.

However, Tory popularity took a nosedive with the commencement of the unpopular Poll tax (Community Charge) in 1989. By the end of that year, in spite of the economy remaining strong, many opinion polls were showing a double-digit Labour lead and this was largely blamed on the Tory poll tax. Sir Anthony Meyer, a 69-year-old back-bencher, challenged Mrs Thatcher's leadership in December; his challenge was seen off by Thatcher but 60 of her own MP's failed to vote for her.

The poll tax saga continued throughout 1990, culminating in riots across London in early spring. Labour continued to benefit from the situation as their lead in the opinion polls widened. The new Liberal Democrats, after a weak start, were starting to gain ground in the opinion polls, seizing the safe Eastbourne seat in an October by-election.

The threat of recession finally became reality in October 1990, when it was confirmed that the economy had detracted during the third quarter of the year. Unemployment, which had fallen to 1,600,000, had started to creep up again. Inflation, which the first Thatcher government had famously conquered by 1983, was heading back towards double digits.

Read more about this topic:  Conservative Government 1987-1990

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