Thatcherism and its geographical legacies: the new map of socio-spatial inequality in the Divided Kingdom



The 1979 election heralded a political sea change in the UK, as Thatcherite ‘Two Nation’ politics regarded inequality as evidence of a vibrant capitalism. As a result, inter-regional inequalities were exacerbated as the effects of deindustrialisation, capacity reductions and job losses fell most heavily in the ‘North’. The lifting of restrictions on capital export precipitated the overseas relocation of private sector manufacturing, with job losses concentrated in the ‘North’. Cuts to nationalised industries were also concentrated in the ‘North’. Meanwhile the ‘South’ benefitted because of the primacy given to banking and financial services in economic policy priorities and the spatially selective concentration of Government spending on R&D and infrastructure. However, there were also widening intraregional inequalities within both ‘North’ and ‘South’, not least because of housing policies. Crucially, post-Thatcher the neoliberal emphases on private sector growth and commodification were adopted by New Labour and Conservative–Liberal coalition governments so that socio-spatial inequality became more deeply embedded in a Divided Kingdom.