Thatcher’s legacy felt in British economy

Some paid price for UK’s revival

NEWSTEAD, England — This is the bust-town Margaret Thatcher built. On a quest to slash waste, Thatcher, as prime minister, moved to shrink the unprofitable state coal industry in Britain — sparking a violent, countrywide miners strike that forever bored the year 1984 into the national consciousness.

When the dust cleared, she had broken the back of once untouchable unions and paved the way for a diverse and globalized energy sector.

In the decades since, communities like Newstead have paid the price.


All that is left of the mine that closed here in 1987 is a graffiti-covered pump station. No new large employer ever came to Newstead, leading to a rise in joblessness and a loss of community self-esteem.

Get Today's Headlines in your inbox:
The day's top stories delivered every morning.
Thank you for signing up! Sign up for more newsletters here

In a part of central England that has the feel of the American rust belt, some longtime residents have moved away or gone on welfare.

‘‘We hate her, we do,’’ said Brian Walker, 84, who lost his last steady job when the Newstead Mine closed. ‘‘Destroyed our lives, that woman did.’’

Thatcher, a fierce Conservative and one of the most towering figures of the 20th century, died April 8 at age 87 after a long struggle with dementia. Britain buried her last week, but what this country of 62 million cannot seem to bury is the intense divide over her legacy.

Nothing appears to polarize Britons more than Thatcher’s economic legacy, and the way one woman’s will effectively reshaped the modern British state in ways still reverberating today.


In the 1980s, Thatcher supported the regeneration of abandoned docklands on Canary Wharf in London into a wholly new financial district that today looks like a mini-Manhattan. Its glistening majesty was given its shine by her government’s ‘‘Big Bang’’ — the name for a massive deregulation of British financial markets that catapulted London into a global banking capital rivaled only by New York.

But for better or worse, the declining role of the state in the British economy since Thatcher’s day has also been the chief driver in income inequity, which has surged in Britain since her election in 1979.