Margaret Thatcher was a member of the Conservative party and became the first female British prime minister who took office in the year 1979 until 1990. She was the only British prime minister of the 20th century to win 3 consecutive terms. Thatcher was recognised with administering a period of great change in Britain; from ‘privatising nationalised industries to allowing council tenants AA1 to buy their homes and reining in the power of the unions.’ (BBC News, 2013) which was deemed quite controversial by British citizens. This was where she developed the well-known name, ‘Iron Lady’ for personal and political toughness; this will be further discussed throughout the essay, focusing mainly on her hostility towards the European Social Policy.
Before we can consider European AA2 Social Policy, one must define and understand what is meant by social policy. ‘Social policy is identified closely with the collective provision of social services: education, health care and personal social services, social security and perhaps housing’ (Hantrais, (2007, as cited in Kleinman and Piachaud, 1993). However, there are many ways to define and interpret this term, which can affect how one will decipher the role the European Union has in social policy. ‘The broader the definition, the more the EU can be defined as being actively involved’ (Hantrais, (2007, as cited in Leibfried and Pierson, 1995). With this definition, we can start to understand how Margaret Thatcher’s resilience to the EU social policy came about.
Considering this, the main argument this essay will be using is her hostility towards the EU social approach, and this was because the European Union would undo her policies and this point will be illustrated through understanding several of her views and the changes she made with trade unions and privatisation…AA3
In addition, further exploration on key changes that the Thatcher government made which has influenced the UK till this day and discover Thatcher’s general attitude towards Europe and other European countries’ view on social policy such as Germany, to appreciate and conclude Thatcher’s approach.
The essay begins AA4 by discussing the history and development of the European social policy to give an insight on what it is about and to justify Thatcher’s viewpoint. Closely following with Thatcher’s politics (Thatcherism), starting with privatisation, trade unions and how they influenced her attitude towards the social policy. The question has been interpreted into understanding the importance the EU had during Thatcher’s years.
Beginning with the history context of the Social Policy, per the Lisbon Treaty the EU Social Policy has its objectives, the promotion of: employment, improved living & working conditions, proper social protection, dialogue between management & labour, the development of human resources with a view to lasting high employment & the combating of exclusion. As stated in the Lisbon Treaty the Union & the member states will have in mind fundamental social rights such as those set out in the European Social Charter signed in Turin on 18th October 1961.
When the Treaty of Rome was signed in 1957, the six founding members were primarily focused on creating a common market. There was little concern given to social policy issues
However, it did come to be recognised that in order for the common market to work, workers had to be able to move freely
The intent of the founding countries was to deal with the economic problems that existed after the end of the Second World War. Social policy was also not included in the original Treaty of Rome as the French & the Germans had very different views on the role, structures & cultural importance of social policy and their views at that time were conflicting. Yet, the Treaty of Rome did say that if some measure of the social policy was required to achieve an economic objective, then the Council could act, which however required unanimity among member states. Because of this requirement for unanimity, social policy was gridlocked for several years.
Developing European Social Policy
The BritishAA5 outlook on social policy was identified as ‘the effectiveness and efficiency of service provision, who provides the services, and to whom service providers are accountable.’ (Kleinman, 2002) AA6 Whereas, in Europe social policy has been ‘identified more with institutions and relations pertaining to the labour market, and in particular with the rights of workers and the framework for agreements between employers, unions and government’ (Kleinman, 2002). Still, social policy as an expansive definition is concerned about the welfare of workers and all members of society including non-citizens. This includes unemployment, social protection, health services, education, working conditions to name a few. In the 1980s, the idea was put forward by several European governments which was, that the European communities should expand social polices beyond a single market and should consider a separate social policy. The European social policy was initially known as a social charter which is a statement of intent, that was either attached or included in the treaties. Per Linda Hantrais, the treaty forming the European Economic Community (EEC) was created in Rome in 1957 and that the major political philosophy was market driven. However, the six original EEC member states recognised the need for social development to ensure equal terms amongst themselves and years on ‘the social dimension was a component of European integration and a necessary complement to economic policy’. The social element was becoming more accepted across many treaties as they were amended and the Agreement on Social Policy was incorporated in the main body (Linda Hantrais, 2007). Mark Kleinman AA7 supports this claim by confirming that social policy was a minor consideration and since then the social dimension to Europe has become increasingly important. What we discover here is that, the social element is not being classed as insignificant but relevant and is being used to retain support from workers and citizens, to stress the social side of the European integration project. ‘Social aspects of the Treaty were directed mainly towards ensuring the achievement of the economic goals of the European Economic Community.’ (Mark Kleinman)