thatcher cabinet reshuffle 1981

The files contain fascinating documents planning the moves, which were always orchestrated by a senior official despite their highly political character. Mrs Thatcher made the decision easier for him by offering him, from the outset, the retention of his seat on the Cabinet's main economic committee, the E Committee, something that Mr Atkins did not have. We are releasing this year a planning note for the reshuffle by MT's Principal Private Secretary, Clive Whitmore, which sketches two scenarios, turning on the question of whether Pym would be moved or not - presumably the most difficult question. Within three hours of his departure, Mrs Thatcher … That MT was even thinking in terms of possibly removing the Chancellor - that her relationship with him had soured to this degree, that early - is a shock. [i.e., since her visit to the Laings' home in Dunphail & to HMQ at Balmoral, 4-6 Spt] I hate "doing" reshuffles but alas they have to be done. But in November 1981 Mrs Thatcher faced a rebellion of backbench MPs too. They include a brief daily diary, in a week-to-a page A4 format volume, which appears to have been written reasonably close to events, sometimes daily, sometimes after a longer gap. Mr Patrick Jenkin, whom Mr Fowler replaces, becomes Secretary of State for Industry. Report on the first cabinet reshuffle by Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher since winning the UK General Election in 05/79. The centrepiece was a purge of the wets, Gilmour, Soames and Carlisle leaving the government, Prior being shifted to Northern Ireland, Thorneycroft leaving the … In what must be her last big effort to build a Cabinet in tune with her economic thinking, the Prime Minister yesterday dropped three Cabinet ministers, including the hostile Sir Ian Gilmour, Lord Privy Seal, and promoted several ministers and back-benchers on whose support she has relied since becoming party leader in 1975. Unavoidably perhaps he was compensated by being given a lead role in the presentation of government policy, a move strongly endorsed by the party chairman, Lord Thorneycroft, and with the backing of MT's trusted PPS, Ian Gow. The 1981 budget statement was one of the most contentious the British Treasury had ever submitted. Blair’s 2006 reshuffle. There are important fragments in the Cambridge files on the crucial 1981 budget, adding to the picture we get from official material at Kew. Some 73 per cent thought the budget unfair, 22 per cent fair (previous low 33 per cent for 1961). Whether even now she commands a majority in her own Cabinet remains in doubt. In the circumstances of 1981 it was a significant post, and also one difficult to turn down without seeming to run away from responsibility. Off she went after that, though not as fast as the Coalition in terms of radical evangelism. The 'no hope' budget delivered by Chancellor Geoffrey Howe in March marked the beginning of a six-month period which witnessed pressures in Northern Ireland, hunger strikes, urban riots and unprecedented unrest within the Conservative Party. He has caught Mrs Thatcher's eye as an active Minister of State at the Department of Trade, and replaces Lord Thorneycroft, aged 72, who wrote to the Prime Minister last month urging her to appoint a younger man. But she has found room in it for three totally loyal colleagues, each of them in their way strong politicians, with a fourth devotee as party chairman. The consensus among Conservatives last night was that the Prime Minister, while shifting the centre of gravity of the Government perceptibly to the right, has strengthened her own position so far as this was in her power. They headlined a Gallup poll for the Daily Telegraph, published 19 March, which showed the budget to be the most unpopular for 30 years. In 1981 Margaret Thatcher purged her cabinet of the so-called “wets” who objected to her plans to cut public spending. Am rapidly learning the political game - never admit to an error" (8 Jan) . Other Cabinet members' rows are highlighted in yellow. In his heart I think Jim really rather wanted to try the Northern Ireland task and like a true patriot he has risen to the occasion and I understand has received a very warm welcome". “You have to promote on merit,” Margaret Thatcher told the BBC’s Jenni Murray during an interview for Woman’s Hour in 1993, after she was challenged on the lack of women in her cabinet. A significant number of Cabinet ministers expressed their disagreement. 1981 – July 23: Thatcher confronted in a Cabinet meeting by a major rebellion by ‘wets’ opposed to her economic policies, led by Michael Heseltine. Later some of the wets kicked themselves for not having resigned over the budget, Gilmour particularly. (Nott): "I was left with an overwhelming feeling that you cannot let them go on like this: the whole thrust of the government is crippled - even subverted - by your ministers parading their consciences, frustrations, hysteria, snobberies, masculinity or ambitions before an audience". Norman St John-Stevas was deeply hurt by his dismissal, as his obituaries the week of this release reminded us. His previous small office of Paymaster General goes to Mr Cecil Parkinson, the new chairman of the Conservative Party. This proved a dangerously prominent position for a potential critic to occupy and, predictably enough, he quickly began to drift off-message from MT's point of view: within weeks she picked up on a phrase in a speech of his in Putney (1 Feb), contrasting the buoyant atmosphere in Washington at the time of Reagan's inauguration with the "different, diffident mood" in Britain. Mr Parkinson is the one complete surprise. Photograph by John Mannine [caption to large photo; omitted]. The first came in the unusual month of January, giving it something of an emergency flavour. John Biffen was moved to Trade from the Chief Secretaryship (where his semi-public criticism of economic policy had cost him the confidence of the Chancellor, as shown by papers released here last year). policies, Mr Prior, by at first defying Mrs Thatcher to move him and then deciding to fall in with her plans, must for the moment have become a diminished force. They were swiftly dubbed the ‘wets’, and rather than securing any changes in policy were effectively marginalised by a Cabinet reshuffle in September 1981. Thorneycroft's admission that he was suffering from "rising damp" came shortly after that (11 Feb). Thatcher battled cabinet 'wets' over Howe austerity plans National Archives releases papers detailing row over 1981-1982 spending round that ended with purge of opponents in reshuffle … MT's notes on the batting order include a reference to the hunger strikes. In episode 2, Thatcher’s cabinet balks at her proposed “wholesale configuration of the state and its institutions”, telling her she is being “too rash, too reckless… . MT defended the budget in an improvised speech the day after (11 Mar), discarding her previously prepared text. She takes on the same job, as Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture, that she held from 1972-74. Ideally the dismissed should not bump into their smiling successors, or give impromptu doorstep press conferences on the rebound. Mr Lawson's resignation forced a cabinet reshuffle only four months after the Prime Minister had put a new team in place. This would be the episode whose climactic scene is . The letter 'E' at the top of the "Batting Order" probably refers to a concession she made to Prior, that in going to Northern Ireland he could stay on the cabinet's Economic Strategy committee, which was known as E Committee. "J.P. has been taken to task by Whitelaw for being disloyal and holding a pistol to PM's head. For one thing, as the Walters diary records (14 Spt), Prior's public rejection of the move had cost him the support of Willie Whitelaw, a key adviser in Thatcher reshuffles. Judith Dawson reports back on possible ministerial changes in Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s cabinet reshuffle, notably the move of Employment Secretary James Prior to Northern Ireland, following his non-confrontational approach to the trade unions and despite his threat to resign. Predictably perhaps Ian Gilmour spoke out publicly against his dismissal, in Downing Street itself where he commented memorably: "It does no harm to throw the occasional man overboard, but it does not do much good if you are steering full speed ahead for the rocks. Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher fired three Cabinet critics of her Conservative government's hard-line monetarist economic policies Monday. Mrs Peggy Fenner, MP for Rochester and Chatham, is brought into the Administration for the first time having, like Mr Nicholas Scott, last held office under Mr Edward Heath. July 1981 Mrs Thatcher attacks Mr Begin and says Israel’s response to … The image below comes from the September 1981 reshuffle, headed by MT "Batting order", a rare but apt use of a cricketing analogy on her part: note the tight timings, which mattered a good deal, because it proved surprisingly difficult to manage the simple business of getting people in and out the famous front door at No.10 with minimum risk of, or opportunity for, embarrassment. All were adamant that it was his duty to serve in Northern Ireland, and that he would not forgive himself if he failed to accept the challenge. a Margaret Thatcher cabinet reshuffle in 1981. Lord Gowrie, his Minister of State at the Department of Employment, goes with him; and Mr Nicholas Scott, a Liberal Conservative, who held junior office at the Department of Employment briefly in 1974, also goes to the Northern Ireland Office as Under-Secretary of State. . Why? term cronies of the Prime Minister. One year after winning an historic third term in power, Tony Blair underwent … In one of the most controversial Cabinet reshuffles of modern times, in 1981… A very full file on the mechanics of the Cabinet reshuffle of September 1985. He was replaced by Leon Brittan, a very able lawyer and protégé of Willie Whitelaw from the Home Office. For three or four hours, Mr Prior deliberated. Frightened of calls for relaxation or sops to the wets. Unlike Lord Thorneycroft, Mr Parkinson, as a senior Minister, will attend all Cabinet meetings and receive all Cabinet papers, without formally being a member of the Cabinet. Released this year are the documents MT had in front of her when meeting ministers, the discreet "Batting order" on a slip of paper drawn up by Clive Whitmore (already referred to, image above) plus detailed notes of the changes on sheets of A4. And later he notes: "She is very uncertain of herself. Later, on 23 Feb, Walters recounts her warning Howe "that he must get the PSBR down or 'you are for the chop'". The fact that he has the Prime Minister's total confidence, which his predecessor never enjoyed, ensures that his promotion will be loudly criticized by trade union general secretaries. The centrepiece was a purge of the wets, Gilmour, Soames and Carlisle leaving the government, Prior being shifted to Northern Ireland, Thorneycroft leaving the party chairmanship. Mrs Thatcher having observed Sir Ian Gilmour's response to dismissal may reflect that Mr Prior on the back benches would have had an even higher nuisance value. Pym also got in on the act, "rather deftly" briefing the lobby in favour of an annual pre-budget cabinet discussion of economic policy, also carefully noted by Ingham. Mr Prior's main concern, expressed often and publicly, was that by going to Belfast he would be removed from the main area of economic discussion in the Government. There is some material on the second 1981 reshuffle, which took place on Monday 14 September 1981. Soames was said to have complained to friends … "Unfortunately I shall be away as I am taking a brief rest after these rather traumatic events in order to recover and be able to do my work" [THCR 6/2/4/17 f3]. ", "After such a long stint in one area of policy it is obviously a wrench to leave it, but this is a new challenge and I am delighted to have such a strong and experienced ministerial team with me.". But he is anxious to do what is best for the country and after Employment he sees Northern Ireland as an immense challenge. Decision made easier by Mrs Thatcher. That neatly summed her view of the politics of it all. The Prime Minister promised further discussion in the autumn. The big question, of course, was whether Prior would agree to move to Northern Ireland? Prior had allowed it to be publicly known that he didn't want the job, but it is striking that there is no sign of a Plan B in case he refused, such as leaving Atkins in Belfast. . That is what the Government is now doing.". As it is, she has avoided a potentially disastrous gulf between the left and right wings of the party. And on BBC television's Newsnight Mr Tebbit, a former airline pilot, said he was "a hawk, but not a kamikaze". Office Name Date Prime Minister … Some Ministers have pestered the Government for more public spending. To hold two reshuffles in a single year was itself a symptom of party divisions. Keith Joseph moved from Industry to Education. And when the time came to pay the bill - they had scarpered (couldn't be found)". Relations became very strained around the time of the 1981 budget leading to a reshuffle in which Thatcher brought in more of her natural supporters, such as Nigel Lawson, Norman Tebbit and Cecil Parkinson, dismissing or marginalising some of the wets. 1981 was memorable for two significant shuffles of the cabinet pack as MT visibly struggled to maintain control of government and party, the second proving a decisive moment. All Rights Reserved. All Rights Reserved. Pym was promoted, in a small way, swapping the Chancellorship of the Duchy of Lancaster for the more senior Lord Presidency of the Council, though in substance his job remained the same, Leadership of the House of Commons and coordinator of presentation. Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, making a comprehensive shuffle of her Cabinet, served notice today that she is not contemplating any significant … Changes include sacking of Leader of the House Norman St John-Stevas and replacement by Francis Pym. But in November 1981 Mrs Thatcher faced a rebellion of backbench MPs too. It does no harm to throw the occasional man overboard, but it does not do much good if you are steering full speed ahead for the rocks. Labor Party leader Neil Kinnock described the reshuffle, Britain’s biggest Cabinet shake-up since 1962, as a shambles, and opposition members said Hurd’s position had been undermined. Later in the month, he declined an invitation to meet her when she visited Cambridge, a sad little letter carefully brought to her notice. He went in early, by a back door, and was urged by the Prime Minister, in 45 minutes of discussion, to accept the Northern Ireland post. The main drama of yesterday's calls at Downing Street concerned Mr James Prior. Sir Ian, who had read in recent weeks enough inspired forecasts of his fate to write his resignation letter some weeks ago, said that his dismissal was perfectly natural and not unwelcome. reshuffle (2): september 1981 There is some material on the second 1981 reshuffle, which took place on Monday 14 September 1981. It is simply something different which he intends to go at with all his customary hard work and enthusiasm. Only 24 per cent thought Howe was going a good job, well below the previous low, achieved by Selwyn Lloyd in 1961, the year before his removal in the "Night of the Long Knives". Their most prominent leader, Jim Prior, who was threatening to resign if he was moved from the Department of Employment, capitulated and was moved to the more onerous task of Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (Gamble, 1981). Prior was plainly treated with special care: she gave him time to consult colleagues and family before making a final decision; in all they met three times during the day, including an evening drink. In truth she seems to have been confident he would take it. If any Conservative is more convinced, it is probably Mr Jock Bruce-Gardyne, whose appointment as Minister of State at the Treasury is one of five or six further moves to be announced. Among other changes, Mr David Howell is moved from Energy to be Secretary of State for Transport, a downward move although not so represented, and Mr Norman Fowler moves up from Transport to be Secretary of State for Health and Social Security. The budget of that year was also a crucial one, long remembered with or without admiration, according to taste. Of the four new Ministers, two, Mr William Shelton, who becomes Under-Secretary at Education, and Mr Iain Sproat, Under-Secretary at Trade, were described yesterday as long. The other two new members of the Cabinet, apart from Mr Tebbit, are Lady Young, who takes Lord Soames's place as Leader of the House of Lords and Minister in charge of the Civil Service, and Mr Nigel Lawson. (Douglas-Home was on good terms with MT: when she went to see Anyone for Denis in May - more on which below - she asked that he be seated in the same row.) Until her final years, Thatcher had a genius of knowing when she had the space to be assertive and when she needed to be more cautious. Norman St John-Stevas was dropped altogether, to be replaced by Francis Pym, John Nott succeeding him at Defence. a Margaret Thatcher cabinet reshuffle in 1981. Sir Ian Gilmour published a blistering statement, saying he had been dismissed because he disagreed with the Government's economic policy, and making plain his intention to campaign in the party and the country for a change of course. Mr Lawson, former Financial Secretary to the Treasury, becomes Secretary of State for Energy. Mr Carlisle, in his resignation letter, promised loyal support to the Conservative Party. Other ministers fumed silently, or almost silently. A note on 16 Jul by Derek Howe, MT's Political Secretary, shows that backbenchers had anticipated - and were hoping for - changes very much on the lines finally carried out, though Whitelaw was also a target of their criticism. Sack the lot of them !” This would be the episode whose climactic scene is . Copyright © Margaret Thatcher Foundation 2021. He feels these might prove to be just the qualities that are needed to deal with Northern Ireland, let us hope so." Later on the radio he warned that many people still in the Cabinet shared his criticisms of policy. Mr Humphrey Atkins moves from the Northern Ireland Office to take Sir Ian Gilmour's post of Lord Privy Seal, the number two position at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. At the end of March Lord Carrington wrote her an angry letter - described by MT's Principal Private Secretary as 'really very silly' - complaining that he had been let down by an Ingham briefing, contrasting this shabby treatment with his own restraint in having gone out of his way "to avoid seeing the press or of giving any indication about differences on the budget or anything else". MT genuined disliked causing personal pain and certainly understood that Stevas would take it badly. Former Thatcher minister Lord Prior who was sidelined by Iron Lady in brutal 1981 ‘wets’ reshuffle dies Jim Prior was moved to Northern Ireland Secretary from … Mr Prior also secured the help of two valued colleagues. It must have been an exhausting day all round. He urged particularly that Pym be moved from leadership of the House of Commons, "very important". Tebbit replaced Prior at Employment, Lawson joined the cabinet as Energy Secretary, Parkinson became chairman with a cabinet seat. She pulled back at the eleventh hour from some of the middle-order changes - e.g., not sacking Sally Oppenheim, leaving the Welsh Office team in place - but otherwise everything went as intended. On 18 Aug MT received some striking advice on this question from Charles Douglas-Home (then foreign editor of The Times), reporting private chats with Whitelaw, Prior, Pym, "J.N." At the same time, the weightiest Cabinet critic of Treasury. Mr Norman Tebbit was promoted to the sensitive post of Secretary of State for Employ- ment, which Mr James Prior was so reluctant to leave. Lord Soames's brief letter hid his disappointment. A clash between the Church of England and Downing Street over proposals to exclude the Prime Minister from the unveiling of the Falklands Memorial in the crypt of St Paul’s Cathedral. Yet this high-level soap so smoothly builds each climactic moment that even a less emotionally attached viewer will find that this season is one success after another. The promotions that caught the eye of Conservative MPs last night were those of Mr Nigel Lawson and Mr Norman Tebbit, two of the three backbench MPs who were particularly close to Mrs Thatcher in her early days as leader of the party in opposition. Lord Soames, former Lord President of the Council, after an exceptionally long, varied, and distinguished political career, resigned at Mrs Margaret Thatcher's request, and so did Mr Mark Carlisle, Secretary of State for Education and Science, who goes to the back benches. His predecessor there, Sir Keith Joseph, becomes Secretary of State for Education and Science. This reshaped and reinvigorated her Government, despatched deadbeats and disloyal colleagues while promoting supporters! To large photo ; omitted ] on Howe chairman of the House of Commons, he... At this stage, Walters was something of an emergency flavour pestered the for. Reshuffle of September 1981 whether even now she commands a majority in her successful. 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Damp '' came shortly after that ( 11 Feb ) conciliatory abilities and powers... Concerned mr James Prior animatedly telling reporters nothing at all in Downing Street prepared text reshuffle of September.. Being released in tandem with the Thatcher papers bide her time and right wings the... Joseph, becomes Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, let us hope.. Very unlikely Pym would have made it very hard to accept budget of that year was also a one... Big question, of course, was whether Prior would agree to move to Northern Ireland on same... Same time, the new chairman of the Party ; omitted ] the job, begins: `` jim obviously. Had scarpered ( could n't be found ) '' of a sceptic MT... Taken by mr Nicholas Ridley who, like mr Lawson, is a man with great conciliatory abilities persuasive... Had risen to levels not seen since the 1930s and public finances in. Very full file on the same time, the so-called `` purge of few... 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