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57 minutes
First broadcast:
Thursday 30 December 2010

On the day that previously secret government files from 1980 are released to the public, Martha Kearney and guests discuss what they reveal about government thinking at the time.

It was a year of government cutbacks, high unemployment and economic gloom. The newly-released papers highlight the astonishing resonance with today.

Martha and guests will examine the Prime Minister's personal papers, complete with handwritten notes in the margins, and memos from trusted aides; transcripts of conversations between Margaret Thatcher and other world leaders; and vivid accounts of arguments in cabinet that show what individual Ministers were really thinking.

As well as shedding light on what we know happened, the papers also reveal what didn't happen, as we hear accounts of policies or actions that were considered but later abandoned.

It was the year that Polish workers won trade union rights, while in the UK steel workers went on strike. The government failed to secure a boycott of the Olympic games in Moscow, and Zimbabwe elected a new leader: Robert Mugabe.

War broke out between Iran and Iraq and a group of American hostages in Tehran remained in captivity. President Jimmy Carter lost out to Ronald Reagan in the American elections and Michael Foot became leader of the Labour Party.

These are just some of the stories that dominated 1980. This programme will reveal the issues that dominated the minds of Ministers at the time.

Producer: Deborah Dudgeon
A Whistledown Production for BBC Radio 4.


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