Familiar issues in latest Thatcher government files release

Margaret Thatcher in 1986 at Bournemouth Image copyright Keystone/Getty Images
Image caption Thatcher at the height of her leadership - delivering a speech to party conference in 1986

Anyone covering 21st Century politics stumbling across the latest releases from the Thatcher government files will be hit by a strong sense of deja vu.

The way Wales is funded from Westminster is just one of the familiar issues being debated behind-the-scenes in the 1980s.

Then the main arguments were prompted by a feeling within Whitehall that what was known then as "the territorials formula" (better known today as the Barnett formula) was too generous to Scotland. Margaret Thatcher ordered a review but the formula survives to this day.

The "north-south divide" was on the agenda, although the head of Mrs Thatcher's policy unit described it as a "myth". One suggestion was that Manchester could be projected more vigorously, although no-one used the phrase "northern powerhouse".

I was surprised by the extent of opposition within Mrs Thatcher's government to the Cardiff Bay barrage, although her Welsh Secretary Nicholas Edwards (now Lord Crickhowell) insists there is a full account in his memoirs (page 48).

The newly-released files show how officials thought he pursued his project - "the Edwards barrage" - without consulting colleagues or the Treasury. There is a sense that he was trying to bounce the cabinet into supporting the barrage. Mrs Thatcher's "the scheme just hasn't been worked out enough" note reveals her fear of "an elaborate and expensive presentation".

But the barrage was (eventually) built, and opened long after Thatcher and Crickhowell had left frontline politics.