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Eight signs we’re heading back to the 1980s

Oct 27, 2010

With public spending getting a hammering, dole queues heading back towards three million, and synthesizers back in the charts, those of us that remember the 1980s could be forgiven for thinking we’ve woken up in a time warp.

Heck, thanks to Chile we’ve even had miners in the news—again.

But although that’s nothing to do with British economic, social and cultural realities, there’s plenty that is. Brace yourselves: we’ve spotted eight signs the Thatcher decade is coming back for a re-run…

1. Unemployment could reach three million

1983: By the end of Mrs Thatcher’s first term in government, British unemployment stood at 3.6 million.

Now: Unemployment had already reached around 2.5 million before this year’s Con/Lib coalition came to power. Now George Osborne’s spending review will create estimated public sector job cuts of 490,000. It’s been estimated a further 500,000 could go in the private sector as a knock-on effect. Can you see the mathematics here?

2. We’re on the verge of a VAT shock

1981: Mrs Thatcher defied economic wisdom by raising taxes mid-recession—specifically, VAT from 8% to 15%

Now: Indirect taxation is once again on the rise, even though our budgets are already taking a beating across the board. From 1st January 2011 there’ll be 2.5% more to pay on everything from carpets to car repairs, as VAT takes a further hike to 20%.

3. Privatisation set to return to claim our postal service

1984-1989: Mrs Thatcher’s second wave of privatisations encompassed most of the “big ones” — British Telecom, British Gas, British Airways, British Steel—but culminated in the unpopular sale of the Regional Water Authorities in November 1989

Now: After a 20-year hiatus, could Royal Mail, which escaped the flurry of privatisations in the 1980s, be the next state possession to be auctioned off to private investors? A 2009 Commons bill to part-privatise the service was shelved due to the recession, but now Vince Cable is putting the finishing touches to the Postal Services Bill, designed to pave the way for the Royal Mail’s privatisation.

4. Housing budget faces colossal cuts

1980s: Public spending on housing dropped a staggering 67 per cent in real terms throughout the decade

Now: In George Osborne’s comprehensive spending review, funding for social housing is to be cut by more than 60 per cent, with new tenants having to pay higher rents. That could pave the way for number 5…

5. More power to private landlords

1988: the new Housing Act paved the way for a first boom in buy-to-let

Now: Those drastic cuts in the social housing budget should be sure to keep one group happy: would-be landlords, for whom the gradual return of buy-to-let mortgages is coming at the right time to spark a second boom in property for renting out.

6. Rising tensions with Russia

1980-84 : Until the emergence of Gorbachev and perestroika, Mrs Thatcher’s distrust of the Kremlin meant that Anglo-Soviet relations endured a five-year low

Now: Although locked in economic partnership, the UK and Russia are seeing less than eye-to-eye on international affairs. We won’t let them have political exile Boris Berezovsky, they won’t let us have Andrei Lugovoi (the man accused of poisoning Aleksandr Litvinenko in a London restaurant), and diplomatic disagreements like this keep threatening to magnify the cracks in a relationship that straddles a geopolitical divide.

7. Synth-pop reigns supreme

1981: The Human League, Eurythmics, Soft Cell, Heaven 17, Tubeway Army, Depeche Mode, The Thompson Twins, Yazoo.

Now: Phoenix, Ladyhawke, La Roux, Hot Chip, Robyn, Little Boots, Tesla Boy and Owl City. (And that’s not counting all the R&B stars who have suddenly gone all synth).

8. A chubby-cheeked chancellor.

1983: Nigel Lawson appointed as Mrs Thatcher’s chancellor and, seemingly, chief cake and chocolate eater.

Now: Sorry George—sorry Nigel, too—but regardless of slimmer days before or after office, the similarity between your chubby countenances surrounded by clumps of coal-coloured hair are only contributing to the sense of déja-vu.

8 Responses to “Eight signs we’re heading back to the 1980s”

  1. jd Says:
    Oct 28, 2010 at 7:57 am

    I read the above comments and am sick to the teeth of the left wing supporters saying we are going back to the 80′s. We have had to suffer years of New Labour and then Brown and his stupid ideas of spending everything (look at what happened to our gold reserves). We are now suffering as a result of gross overspending of money we didn’t have. Belive me I am have no love of the Conservatives but they are trying to dig us out of a hole left by the Labour government, so my recommendation is to stop living in the past, try accurate reporting of the current facts and face up to the reality of a very poor situation caused by the previous government.

  2. TK Says:
    Oct 28, 2010 at 8:47 am

    Completely agree with jd’s comments

  3. Andy Says:
    Oct 28, 2010 at 8:50 am

    I thought the point of the article was to draw attention to similarities between the 80′s and the coming decade. jd seems to be suggesting that the current coalition government (not actually all Tories – although hard to tell the difference really) are having to sort out the mess left by years of economic mismanagement by a deluded Labour administration. Wasn’t that exactly what the 80′s were all about! Amongst other things of course. I just hope I don’t have to start wearing eye-liner again to the pub!

  4. watching-the watchers Says:
    Oct 28, 2010 at 10:49 am

    No its not a return to the 80′s – well i hope not -music was crap so was the fashion.
    WHAT IT IS. Is a return to the UNDOING of Tax and Spend that has to happen after the removal of any Labour govenment.
    They introduced more stealth taxes than any other govenment in History, and borrowed more money than any govenment since the 2ndWorldWar.
    Its a bitter pill granted, but its better than putting it off untill we are paying more than half our GDP in interest – That was Browns solution. When everyone will hasve to pay even more taxes just to cover the payments.
    Abolishion of “boom and bust” was just an rabbit-out-of-the-hat trick with a hidden credit card, – that road leads only to bankruptsy.

  5. MikeJ Says:
    Oct 28, 2010 at 11:49 am

    I think those that are criticising the article obviously have extrememly short memories. Thatcher and her cronies crucified anyone who was not of the class that they received their support from, the usual rich, big business and the banks. And talking of banks the Tories will not be forcing them to lend more, it would mean less in the way of bonuses and backhanders to the Tory party.

  6. Jeff Says:
    Oct 28, 2010 at 7:36 pm

    Agree with all the comments in relation to the Labour government. They have allowed many people into the country over their regeime, given many handouts and needless to say, most likely for a tick in the right box when the time comes. They would have bankrupt this nation, while still having the audasity to try and give money away to every other country in the world. I don’t really like politicians “full stop” but the tories are making bold moves quickly and at least the moves are focused around things which we know have annoyed most of us for a long time. Some of the right moves are being made but the banks still are not being hit hard enough, considering we own a few of them, not withstanding that it we hit the ones we don’t own too much they will be trading from Cherbourg, Luxemburg or Switzerland two days later.

  7. Jeff Says:
    Oct 28, 2010 at 7:40 pm

    Its a vicous circle 1980s. Labour spend all the
    money and give it away. Just prior to bankruptcy the Tories move in and get us back to normal through spending cuts. Next cycle 2030 – 2040 ?

  8. David Says:
    Nov 2, 2010 at 10:25 am

    did we have three day working weeks in the 80′s?

    What always amused me was everyone overseas thaought thach was good, just like Obama is liked overseas.

    I am not saying obama and thach are the same,Thach is much more like Mussolini, but again Hitler did good things ( VW car and new roads ) why is it we only remember the bad things politics do to us?

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