DECADE OF PROSPERITY
Margaret Thatcher replaced Edward Heath as leader of the Conservative Party. The succeeding four years
were scarred by an alarming level of industrial disturbance under the Labour government of James
Feminists were, briefly, jubilant; it seemed they had only to grasp the opportunity furnished by Mrs
Thatcher's victory. The stage was set for a realignment in social attitudes and traditional perceptions. Yet
the impetus of Thatcherism proved to be a false dawn. By temperament and inclination, Mrs Thatcher was
Women were now known to outnumber men by 25.83 million to 23.9 million, but the start of the 1980s found only 23
women MPs in Parliament (and just one in the Cabinet), no female judges, admirals or generals, hardly any
directors of large companies and not many stockbrokers, bankers and senior accountants.
Though outwardly more demonstrative and influential, women were unable to storm the male-dominated
citadels that really mattered. Under Mrs Thatcher it was the young men who mainly prospered.
The 1980s began as violently as the previous decade had been at its close. Unemployment rose dramatically
and the inner cities of England (London, Liverpool, Manchester, Bristol) erupted in rioting. Over the
preceding 30 years indictable crime multiplied by a factor of five. Divorce was commonplace, especially
among manual workers and the unemployed.
The silicon chip shrank to an electronic marvel called the microchip and launched the second Industrial
Revolution. Industrial systems were virtually robotised, more people lost their jobs, and the computer
dominated the movement of money.
Yuppies (especially the City variety) took their careers seriously. They didn't drink in working hours, or
indulge themselves with expense account lunches; they took up jogging, and popularised "designer" trainers.
Women as well as men, they brandished their prosperity and German BMW cars like offensive weapons.
Yuppies set the keynote of a buoyant, inherently acquisitive and selfish decade. Mrs Thatcher cooly stripped the trade
unions of the vestiges of their power and defeated the militant miners' leader, Arthur Scargill, as easily a--"
the press barons and their new technology destroyed the print unions in the Fleet Street ...As inflation rates fell, so
unemployment increased to over 3 million in 1982.
Yet the British people were judged to be better fed, on a wider selection of food, than at any previous time: freezer
shopping opened up all sorts of possibilities to imaginative shoppers; 90 of houses now had a fridge, most of them with
freezing capacity, or separate freezers.
Health foods were fashionable, linked to strident calls for conformity by single issue faddists. But health generally
improved and life expectancy extended. Road accidents dropped and latest figures showed that 38% of men and 33% of
women smoked cigarettes, compared with 52% and 41% a decade earlier. AIDS appeared, and so did "mad cow
Two thirds of the British people now bought their own homes; nine out of ten households owned a television set, a
fridge and a vacuum cleaner; 75% had a telephone. Central heating in some form was the rule rather than the exception.
It was, in many ways, a more sophisticated nation, with 62% of its people regularly travelling abroad.
Price rises over the previous decade were felt keenly in the Littlewoods catalogues but, as always, the home shopping
service provided not merely a more convenient but also a cheaper altermative. Once again, leisure and personal
entertainment featured largely in the contents lists.
The Littlewoods Catalogue of this decade featured:
A set of golf clubs now cost £242 and an exercise bike £39.99.
An electric toothbrush for £22.99
A facial sauna from the catalogue for £13.99.
A half-size snooker table cost £115 and the latest computer games started at £23.99
The view this months offers from from the Littlewoods catalogue and website click this link.
There was even an electronic chess set for £39.99 and an electric organ at £69.95. Personal stereos were introduced and
quickly became the accessory of the decade.