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April 9, 2013

Margaret Thatcher detonated change in UK’s business

LONDON — It went beyond the Big Bang.

Margaret Thatcher transformed the British economy over little more than a decade in office. She introduced free-market policies that helped the country throw off its postwar malaise and shook up the cozy world of banks and brokers with a flurry of deregulation — which came to be known as the “Big Bang” — that made London one of the world’s pre-eminent financial centers.

But while Thatcher ushered in an era of unprecedented economic growth, her legacy on economic issues remains divisive. Some argue her policies also sowed the seeds for the 2008 financial crisis. Meanwhile, the economy is on the verge of another recession and she is still reviled by unions who say she ignored the needs of workers and the poor.

“To supporters, she changed Britain from a nation in long-term industrial decline to an energetic, dynamic economy. To opponents, she entrenched inequalities between the regions and classes and placed the free market above all other concerns,” Richard Carr, a political historian at Anglia Ruskin University, said in statement.

When Thatcher arrived at 10 Downing Street in May 1979, Britain’s first female prime minister set about smashing the existing economic order. Along with her conservative soulmate, President Ronald Reagan, she rejected the way economic policy had been conducted since the end of World War II in favor of a focus on free market ideology that is accepted by most of the world today.

The woman who said she learned to be careful with money by watching her green-grocer father sought to reduce the government’s footprint in the economy, diminished labor unions’ powers and overhauled London’s financial center.

In 1986, just a year before the movie “Wall Street” coined the phrase “greed is good,” Thatcher pushed through a flurry of reforms, the so-called Big Bang, which broke up the “boys’ club” culture that dominated the City of London. The changes allowed international banks like Goldman Sachs to step in and attracted a river of foreign business.

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