In 1978, West German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt declared: “England is no longer a developed country.” Just as Spain had, in its decline from Empire, ceased to be part of the developed world, and Argentina followed in the mid-twentieth century, many expected that Britain would go the same way.
Following the 1967 devaluation, we were bailed out by the International Monetary Fund in 1968 and again in 1976. As the government lost control of spending, the deficit and inflation, and Parliament’s credibility plummeted, folk naturally turned to alternative sources of political authority in the form of the trade unions. Politically-motivated union action brought down Edward Heath’s government, which after the Three Day Week sought a General Election on the question: “Who governs Britain?” The despairing electorate answered: “Not you.” James Callaghan fared little better, brought low by the unions in the Winter of Discontent. The dead were not buried; the rubbish not collected. Even bread rationing was briefly introduced in November 1978. Britain was the “sick man of Europe”.
When Margaret Thatcher came to power, the country was widely considered ungovernable. Though in her General Election victory address Thatcher declared “where there is