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Martha Kearney and guests discover what the government really felt about soaring unemployment, urban riots and a royal wedding as they review secret Cabinet papers from 1981.

It was the year of the Royal Wedding, urban riots and soaring unemployment. Leading economists despaired of the government's handling of the economy, while spending cuts were considered too deep, and relations with European allies fragile. This was 1981.

Martha Kearney reviews newly-released government papers from 1981 with guests including former Ministers, government advisers and leading opponents. There are fascinating insights to be gleaned from Margaret Thatcher's personal files, containing secret memos, letters from Ministers and foreign leaders, often furiously annotated with her immediate response. Minutes of Cabinet meetings reveal divisions between departments over the government's handling of key policies.

This was the year in which Mrs Thatcher visited the newly instated Ronald Reagan, ten IRA prisoners died on hunger strike in Northern Ireland, and trouble flared in British cities, with looting and rioting in Brixton, Moss Side and Toxteth. Martha and guests will look beyond the headlines to see how key government decisions were made, and where tensions between Ministers lay.

Producer: Deborah Dudgeon
A Wingspan and Whistledown co-production for BBC Radio 4.

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1 hour

Last on

New Year's Day 2012 22:00