UK. Liberal Democrat Paddy Ashdown announced in January
that he plans to step down this summer from the post of
leader of the Liberal Democratic Party. Ashdown was elected
in 1988, when the party was named The Social and Liberal
Democrats, and resigned after 11 successful years as party
leader. He created a new Liberal Democratic profile and won
many new voters even though the party is the third largest
party in the UK, with little influence in the British
bipartisan system. According to
Countryaah official website, Paddy Ashdown was succeeded by
39-year-old Charles Kennedy.
In January, the counting of an 800-year-old institution
also began. The Labor government presented a model for how
the upper house, the House of Lords, should be modernized
and announced the abolition of the British nobility's
ancient inheritance right to representation in the upper
house. 92 inheritance lords may remain for a further time in
an interim chamber, pending a commission to submit its
proposal for a definitive reform of the House of Lords. The
24 bishops of the Church of England are allowed to remain in
the upper house, as are the 12 lords.
A report on the police investigation into the murder of
Black teenager Stephen Lawrence in London in April 1993
caused major headlines in February. The so-called Macpherson
report, which is based on interviews with 88 witnesses,
found that police investigators made serious mistakes during
the murder investigation due to professional incompetence,
institutionalized racism and poor leadership within the
The Labor government decided that the investigator Sir
William MacPherson's 70 proposals for measures to eradicate
racism in the police system should also be applied to the
state administration, immigration authorities and the
general public health service in the UK.
On February 23, Prime Minister Tony Blair presented a
plan for how the British pound may eventually be replaced by
the European currency. However, Blair argued that the new
plan only meant a slightly higher pace in Britain's approach
to the EU, not a new European policy. A government decision
on accession to the euro still requires approval in a
referendum. The new plan, "The Changeover Plan", describes
the practical adjustment that must be made in order for the
UK to be able to quickly join after a referendum.
Three new terrorist attacks put Britain on alert in
April. Three large nail bombs first exploded in black
Brixton, then on the Muslim street Brick Lane and finally in
a gay pub in Soho's entertainment district. Three people
were killed and a total of more than 100 people were
injured, several very seriously, before any suspects were
Two historic elections took place on May 5 in Scotland
and Wales. Scots and Welshmen then elected members to the
new local parliaments who began to work after the elections.
The last Scottish Parliament was dissolved in 1707 when
Scotland and England formed the Union. The last Parliament
assembled in Wales was 1495. The Labor Party won great
successes in the elections to the two newly formed
parliaments, but failed to win a majority. Labor formed a
coalition government with the Liberal Democratic Party in
Scotland, but chose to form a minority government in Wales.
On the same day, the Conservative Party won success in
the municipal elections and managed to win back many
municipal constituencies. The European elections were also
unexpectedly a great success for the Tory Party, which
became the largest British party in the European Parliament.
A serious conflict broke out between the UK and France in
the fall when the French refused to lift the import ban on
British beef despite the EU's declaration that the mad cow
disease was eradicated from British farms. The conflict
became increasingly bitter during the autumn and was not
resolved by the end of the year.
The United Kingdom also clashed with the other EU
countries in November when the Labor government refused to
accept the EU's decision to impose a 20% tax on capital
The 1969 Northern Ireland conflict is tapered
In 1969, the conflict in Northern Ireland
intensified. The clashes between Catholics and Protestants
cost several killed and wounded. The Catholic minority
demanded equal political rights, redevelopment of its
residential neighborhoods, the construction of new housing,
schools and the introduction of a social system. The
Northern Ireland local government's response was to send
armed police against the demonstrating Catholics. London now
intervened directly and sent the military to Ulster to
separate the warring parties. In 71, Northern Irish Prime
Minister Brian Faulkner set up "preventive detention camps"
where Catholics who were merely suspicious were sent. The
protests against this measure ended up costing 25 killed. On
January 30, 72, the Catholics conducted a peaceful
demonstration against the camps and the repressive measures
by the authorities. Yet the British soldiers opened fire,
killed 13 and wounded hundreds more. The massacre that
became known as Bloody Sunday was the start
of armed resistance in the area. The Irish Republican
Army (IRA, the Irish Republican Army) that had
otherwise led a sleepy life was reactivated and immediately
committed a series of revenge killings.
In March 73, a referendum was held in Northern Ireland to
decide whether the area should continue to be part of the UK
or whether it should be joined with Ireland. The vote was
characterized by a very low voter turnout - below 60 - and
among the Protestants the overwhelming majority voted to
remain in the UK.
The 1970s were marked by ever deeper social and economic
crisis, and the Conservative government led by Edward Heath
was confronted by three extensive strikes in state-owned
enterprises of central importance to the economy: the ports,
coal mines and railways. The strikes forced 74 Heath to step
down, and in the subsequent election Labor
won. Two years earlier, by a referendum, the British people
had voted to apply for membership in the Community. The
country now embarked on a gradual integration into Europe
and a search for new markets for the products of its weak
In 1975, Parliament passed a new divorce law. The same
year, the feminists had conducted a comprehensive and
successful national campaign for abortion.
In 79, the Labor government, under James Callaghan,
conducted referenda in Wales and Scotland on local autonomy,
but it was both voted down. After a series of strikes
and rising popular discontent, the Conservatives with
Margaret Thatcher at the head of the May elections won the
parliamentary election. The new government used drastic
means to reduce inflation, to reduce the state's role in the
economy and to base its economic policy on monetarism.
In 81, a number of IRA political prisoners conducted
seven hunger strikes as part of a campaign to be recognized
as political prisoners, but the government refused to
negotiate and allowed 12 hunger striking prisoners to die.
At the beginning of 82, dissatisfaction with Thatcher's
reactionary politics was widespread. In April, therefore,
she took advantage of Argentina's occupation of Port Stanley
in the Falkland Islands - Islas Malvinas - in the
South Atlantic. She dispatched the Royal Navy with aircraft
carriers and nuclear submarines. After 45 days of war, the
British had recaptured the islands, and Thatcher rushed to
make choices to take advantage of its greater popularity.
In October 83, Britain withdrew its troops from
Belice. The following year, in accordance with
agreements of the First Opium War, the country signed an
agreement with China on the return of Hong Kong to
mainland China in December 97.
1984 Miners' strike
Under the Thatcher governments, the trade union movement
was very hard hit by her politics. This was partly due to
the loss of members within traditional industries in
liquidation and partly to Thatcher's policy of combating the
labor movement. In this context, the 1984-85 mining
strike played a key role. After a one-year strike with
violent clashes, the miners suffered a staggering defeat
when the government decided to close the coal mines with a
stroke of pen.
In 87, Thatcher was elected prime minister for the third
time in a row. She continued her radical liberalization of
the economy, privatization of state-owned enterprises,
budget reforms and open war on the trade union movement.
Foreign policy was her line of confrontation with the EC and
alliances with the United States.
After several years of limited growth, the economic
situation deteriorated in the middle of 89 again. At the
same time, the government decided to introduce a new tax -
poll tax - to be paid by anyone who is on
the electoral rolls regardless of their income otherwise.
The proposal triggered very extensive public protest
In February 90, Britain and Argentina resumed diplomatic
relations, and their representatives met in Madrid to
discuss the future of the Malvinas.