Former British Prime Margaret Thatcher has followed President Reagan into that welfare Cadillac Heaven in the sky today. Thatcher was an arch conservative who almost inspired a rebellion among her countrymen when she imposed a ‘poll tax’, a form of per capita tax for the privilege of merely existing, regardless of means or lack thereof.
The Poll Tax Riots were a series of mass disturbances, or riots, in British towns and cities during protests against the Community Charge (commonly known as the poll tax), introduced by the Conservative government led by Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. By far the largest occurred in central London on Saturday 31 March 1990, shortly before the tax was due to come into force in England and Wales.
The disorder in London arose from a demonstration which began at 11 am. The violent confrontations between the Metropolitan Police Service and demonstrators ended up in rampaging and looting that ended at 3am the next morning. This unrest is sometimes called the Battle of Trafalgar, particularly by opponents of the Community Charge, because much of the rioting took place in Trafalgar Square.
Abandonment of the Community Charge
John Major announced in his first parliamentary speech as Prime Minister that the Community Charge was to be replaced by Council Tax, which, unlike the Community Charge, took account of ability to pay. While less harsh on lower-income earners than the Community Charge, the new tax took no account of the income earned by the taxpayer, but did take into account the value of the property on which the householder was taxed. The anti-poll tax movement believed direct action was at least partially responsible for the change in government policy.
President Reagan and Prime Minister Thatcher governed during the same period and were considered philosophically conservative twins by their contemporaries. While Reagan increased military spending in the face of the perceived threat from the USSR during the Cold War, Thatcher launched the British Navy to defend a sparsely settle group of islands in the extreme South Atlantic in the Falkland War against Argentina…a war in which Britain prevailed by recapturing the islands from Argentina’s military after sinking its capital ship, the General Belgrano.
Both politicians reviled the welfare state, believing all that was necessary for individual or national success was simply hard work along with dedication to the ideal of private property and capitalism in its most fundamental form. Each will be missed by many, but not by others. Their legacies remain controversial and incomplete.