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April 9, 2013

Margaret Thatcher detonated change in UK’s business

(Continued)

LONDON —

It changed the financial services sector and the country.

“The Big Bang paved the way for the spectacular growth of the financial services industry in the U.K.,” said Iain Begg, a professor from the London School of Economics. “It went from a relatively cozy banking center doing business with the rest of the world to a major league player earning money from the rest of the world.”

Those free market policies were embraced by subsequent governments, even by the left-wing Labour Party administrations under Tony Blair and Gordon Brown.

Critics, however, say they were taken too far. For all the wealth the banks created, they were also piling on far too many risky investments. When the U.S. subprime mortgage market began freezing up in 2007 and a global credit crunch began in 2008, the British banks were caught unprepared.

Royal Bank of Scotland, Lloyds, and Northern Rock were the biggest of a series of financial groups to need billions in taxpayer money to avoid collapse.

Bankers and their huge bonuses became the subject of popular anger.

Thatcher’s influence on other parts of the economy has proved just as enduring.

She took a hard line during strikes in 1984 and 1985, facing down coal miners with riot police and crushing the power of the nation’s once powerful unions. The left demonized her as an implacably hostile union buster, with stone-cold indifference to the poor and a legacy that remains the working classes of the country to this day.

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