Eight signs we’re heading back to the 1980s
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.