by Prof. Gordon L. Bowen, Ph.D.
Margaret Thatcher PM 1979-90background-born Oct. 13, 1925
-father was a shopkeeper, grocer
-family was middle class
-attended Somerville College, Oxford University
-worked as research chemist
-married 1951, 2 children (twins)political career-elected Conservative MP for Barnet 1959, then for Finchley 1964-92
-Parlia. Secy for Pensions and Nat'l. Insurance, 1961-64
-elected Conservative Leader, 1975
-elected British Prime Minister, 1979
-Led Conservatives to 3 straight election victories: 1979, 1983, 1987
-Nov. 1990: Resigned as Conservative Leader and Prime Minister after losing support of Conservative caucus, Cabinetdomestic policy achievements-continued legal abortion laws, NHS
-dismantled much of British welfare system
-cut powers of local govenments
-sold nationalized industries to private corporations
-cut maximum income tax rates from 83% to 40%
-helped "grow" the middle class:
home ownership to 67% of households (up from 50%)
stock ownership to 20% (up from 7%)
reinforced alliance with the U.S.A.
John Major PM 1990-97background-born March 29, 1943 in Merton, London
-father was a trapeze artist, vaudeville manager
-family lived in multiracial poor area of Brixton
-attended school only until age 15
-never attended university
-worked as laborer, unemployment dole
-trained as accountant, worked in banks
-in late 1960s, worked in Nigeria: "hated racism"
-married 1970, 2 childrenpolitical career-2 unsuccessful runs for Parliament in 1974
-elected Conservative MP for Huntingdon, 1979
-by 1988 had biggest Conservative majority of any MP
-1986: Parlia. Secy for Health and Social Security
-1987-July 1989: second to Chancellor of Exchequer
-Foreign Secretary, July-Oct. 1989
-Chancellor of Exchequer, Oct. 1989-Nov. 1990
-Thatcher's choice, he is selected Conservative Leader and British Prime Minister, Nov. 1990, upon her resignation
-Led Conservatives to 4th straight election victory, April 1992 (336 to 271)
-July 1995: Resigned as Conservative Leader; reelected to the post
-In election of May 1997, is defeated in worst Conservative loss since 1832; resigned as Conservative Leader: William Hague made successor (June 1997; Hague also resigned after Conservatives' second straight landslide loss to Labour in 2001)
for more about Major and his career, follow this link to BBC's biography of him.
Tony Blair PM 1997-2007background-born in Edinburgh, Scotland on May 6, 1953, of English parentspolitical career
-father was an attorney
-attended Durham Choristers, frequently referred to as the "Eton of Scotland"
-studied law at Oxford
-speaks fluent French
-married 1980 to the former Cherie Booth, who now is a Queen's Counsel (the top level of experienced barristers, or courtroom attorneys)
-She and all 5 children are Roman Catholic; he was Anglican, but converted to Catholicism while in office.-1982: stood for Labour in a by-election for a seat in Beaconsfield; lost.
-1983: won election in Sedgefield
-re-elected 1987, 1992, 1997, 2001, 2005 as Labour MP for Sedgefield
-1994: elected Labour Party Leader ; re-named the party "New Labour."
-May 2, 1997: led Labour (43.1 percent of popular vote, 418 seats) to landslide victory over Conservatives (30.2 percent of popular vote, 165 seats), garnering a huge majority; became Prime Minister
-June 2001: re-elected with only slight decline in Parliamentary support (Labour 413, Conservatives 166), despite polling somewhat reduced levels of overall public support (40.8 percent for Labour versus 31.8 percent for the Conservatives).
-May 2005: re-elected for third term, despite a five percent decline of public support for his party. Labour won 356 seats; Conservatives won 197; Liberal Democrats won 62. (Complete election results from BBC are available: follow this link). Levels of public support for Labour candidates overall, however, fell in this election to 35.2 percent. Conservative candidates won support of 32.3 percent of voters, up slightly from 2001.Policy achievementsImplemented Third Way program, moving Labour toward political center.
Devolution:-Concluded agreement on status of No. Ireland, includes Sinn Fein.; restarted self-government there, but progress stalled 2000-04. Final peace agreement achieved (apparently) in Summer 2005, with the assistance of negotiator (former Primer Minister) John Major.Foreign Affairs:
-Established first Scottish Parliament since 1707; grants it power of taxation.
-Established Welsh assembly.
- Led NATO into victorious war against Yugoslavia (1999); supported and joined U.S. in air raids on Iraq (1998).
- Gave early, strong, and continuing support to war on terrorism after Sept. 11, 2001 attack on the U.S. Supported U.S. invasion and overthrow of government of Afghanistan (2001-02). Continued to stay aligned with U.S. in the war on terror despite a difficult security situation inside Britain, as emphasized by a series of bombings of London subways and buses (2005). Embraced substantially enhanced legal measures to stem extremist activities and speech by resident aliens who support Islamic extremists, including deportation of agitators and revocation of naturalized citizens' citizenship.
- Backed U.S. in decision to go to war with Iraq in 2003 despite strong opposition within his Labour Party. By vote of 412-149, he persuaded the House of Commons to authorize the war (March 18, 2003). In the closest of a series of votes on this important question, 138 of the 413 Labour Members of Parliament voted against Blair on this question; 245 Labour MPs voted in favor of Blair's position.
- Continued to support U.S. war efforts in Iraq, 2003-2005, by refusing to withdraw British troops despite war reverses and strong pressure from Labour's left wing.
- Resigned as Prime Minister on June 27, 2007, yielding office to his Labour Party and Cabinet peer Gordon Brown.
This web page last modified August 25, 2005 .
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