This book brings into focus the major figures of the political scene – Churchill, Eden, Wilson, Heath, Callaghan, Thatcher and Major – and the aims and achievements of the post-war governments, as well as the changing fortunes of Britain in relation to the rest of the world.
Until 1963, the authors argue, Britain was still considered a world power. As a result, foreign policy was often given high priority by British leaders, and Britain’s world role affected many aspects of its domestic policy and had important consequences for other states. From 1963 to 1979, however, set-backs and failures marked its policies, with the result that the very fabric of political life – the party system, the voting system and political institutions – came under attack and British governments lost authority, both at home and abroad.
The Thatcher years have seen a continuation, for the most part, of Britain’s decline. The authors assess the period of Thatcher’s rule and the events leading to her downfall in a new chapter, which also examines the government of John Major and the state of the opposition parties in the face of the longest recession in post-war British history.