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Learning English - Words in the News
03 May, 2004 - Published 11:34 GMT
Thatcher's Anniversary
Margaret Thatcher celebrating in 1979

Twenty five years ago today Margaret Thatcher was elected as Britain's first woman Prime Minister. The 'Iron Lady's' eleven years in power saw big changes in the country's economic, cultural and political life. This report from Adrian Brown:

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When Margaret Thatcher came to power in May nineteen seventy nine, Britain was a very different place to today. The trades unions were a political force to be reckoned with, government was involved in everything from generating power to making cars and many people looked to the state to provide their every need. Much of that changed during her eleven years in power. She neutered the labour movement, oversaw the privatisation of large swathes of the economy, and encouraged people to take more responsibility for their own lives. Much of this was fiercely resisted but is now political orthodoxy in Britain.

But she didn't win all the arguments. The National Health Service has been spared from comprehensive privatisation and a policy of ever smaller government and lower taxes has been abandoned by her Conservative party. One thing that hasn't changed however is the argument over Britain's place in Europe. It still divides the Conservatives and could yet be the undoing of Britain's current Prime Minister Tony Blair.

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a political force to be reckoned with
having real power

made powerless

when private companies are given control and ownership of businesses that were previously controlled by the government

large swathes of
large parts of

fiercely resisted
strongly opposed

political orthodoxy
what is considered to be normal political policy

spared from comprehensive privatisation
although some parts were taken over by private companies, most remains under government control


the undoing of
the thing that will cause failure

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