The decision by the Thatcher Government to abolish the British National Oil Corporation places pressure on the Organisation for Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and pushes down the official prices for the commodity. OPEC nations have two-fifths of world oil production. In order to deal with the lower oil price, the Soviet Union begins to cut back on oil deals that do not produce hard currency in return. This is necessary to maximise oil income in light of falling oil prices.
Fire sweeps through the main grandstand at Bradford Stadium in Yorkshire, UK. Fifty six people are killed and over two hundred are injured.
New polls released in London indicate that the Tories are in third place in the national party popularity stakes, and that Labour leader Neil Kinnock is four points ahead of Margaret Thatcher as preferred Prime Minister. Former Foreign Secretary Francis Pym calls for the government to return to public sector investment in order to combat the 13.5% unemployment rate.
British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher announces an unpopular overhaul of the British welfare system, estimated to cost $51 billion per annum. She cuts the numbers of those eligible for the maternity benefit, closes down the state pension fund and ends the payment for funerals given to poor families unable to afford the cost of burial. Housing benefits and youth payments are also axed.
In a by-election in Wales, the Social Democratic/Liberal Alliance wipes out a Conservative majority of nine thousand votes to claim the seat and push the government into third place. This increases pressure by Tory moderates on British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher to increase public spending. According to Opposition Leader Neil Kinnock, it is the next step to the establishment of a Labour government in Great Britain.
The approval rating of British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher falls to 34%. Analysts within political circles begin to speculate on the strength of her leadership after sixty-five Members of Parliament cross the floor to vote against her proposals for the salaries of government officials. It is estimated that up to one third of the Conservative Party is ready to defect to a new leader and Defence Secretary Michael Heseltine is named as the most likely challenger.
It is revealed that the Thatcher Government has put pressure on the British Broadcasting Corporation to cancel a planned televising of a documentary on Northern Ireland. Within the documentary is an interview with Martin McGuinness, a member of the Irish Republican Army’s (IRA) political wing, Sinn Fein. McGuinness is also alleged to be the second-in-command of the Provisional IRA.
The British Broadcasting Corporation goes off air across Britain to demonstrate the protest of its workers over censorship of program content by Home Affairs Secretary, Leon Brittan. Workers in independent television and radio join the one-day strike. Opposition Leader Neil Kinnock calls for Prime Minister Thatcher to “appoint some watchdogs of liberty that actually bark”, a remark on the behaviour of the BBC Board of Governors.
The British newspaper, The Observer, reveals that British intelligence arm, MI-5, are spying on staff members of the British Broadcasting Corporation, and collecting information, specifically about their political views. It is also revealed that the new BBC head of security is a former army intelligence officer with close links to the Thatcher government. BBC employees go on a second day of strikes this month, and threaten ongoing action to stop the Prime Minister from “attempting to turn the BBC into a political front for her government”.
Violence erupts in Birmingham in the worst domestic riots in the United Kingdom since 1981. Over a number of days before the police regain control of the city, there will be two deaths and nearly two hundred arrests. Unemployment in the region, in the wake of the miner’s strike, is at 35%. Home Secretary Douglas Hurd visits the region. He will promote to Cabinet the creation of development zones in South Yorkshire, West Yorkshire, Merseyside and the Metropolitan Boroughs of Knowsley and St Helens, but the Prime Minister will reject the idea.
Large youth protests break out in Britain and West Germany, largely driven by unemployment and race issues. The protest in Frankfurt is hijacked by the right-wing National Democratic Party. Over two nights, Brixton in southern London and Tottenham in northern London are both under a state of siege.
British Opposition Leader Neil Kinnock clashes with Arthur Scargill, president of the National Union of Mineworkers, at Labour’s annual conference, with the former warning that a victory for Labour is uncertain. Current opinion polls have the Liberal-Social Democratic Alliance at 35%, Labour at 33% and the Conservative government at 30%.
Prince Charles of Wales and his wife, Princess Diana, visit Washington on a three-day trip.
Prime Minister of Great Britain, Margaret Thatcher, and Taoiseach of Ireland, Garret FitzGerald sign the Anglo-Irish Agreement. The Agreement repeals the Government of Ireland Act of 1920 and terminates the territorial claim by Ireland after nearly fifty years. It establishes a Irish Sea Council, consisting of members from England, Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales and Ireland, as well as delegates from the Channel Islands (despite its locale) and the Isle of Man. However, the Council will be empowered only to consult and discuss, not to decide. It also establishes a power-sharing Executive Council of twelve members, with allocations offered to all parties provided they are prepared to renounce violence, and the establishment of a permanent Royal Commission on Human Rights in Northern Ireland. The success of the treaty significantly boosts the Conservative Party’s support and credibility on national security issues.
British Secretary of Defence, Michael Heseltine, resigns from Cabinet, citing Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s decision not to rescue the troubled Westland helicopter manufacturer. The so-called Westland Affair does not immediately appear to trouble the government, but Heseltine will return to haunt Thatcher in the coming years on the backbench and will force the resignation of Trade Secretary Leon Brittan.
In front of the headquarters of the newly-formed Council of the Irish Sea in Belfast, a peaceful protest against the Anglo-Irish Agreement becomes a violent exchange, with police being pelted with stones and injured. Troops are called in to break up the crowd of over two thousand, resulting in over thirty arrests.
British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher denies any damage from the Westland Affair. However, opinion polls tell a different story. Support for the Conservative Party government has fallen to 26%, compared to Alliance on 37% and Labor on 35%. Some pundits are already writing about the next election as being the one in which the Alliance could form government.
In an unusually hostile House of Commons, UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher is subjected to a vote of no-confidence over the Westland Affair. Eighteen Tory MP’s cross the floor to vote with the Opposition, but she wins the day. Support for the government in the latest polls has climbed one point to 27%, but it is hoped by the Cabinet that the crisis is now at an end.
A by-election in the district of Fulham delivers a terrible blow to the Thatcher government of the United Kingdom. A swing of over 14% against the Government sees the election of a Labour candidate. The final result is Labour – 44.1%; Conservative – 32.0%; Social Democrat – 22.3%; other – 2.6%
The funeral is held for the Duchess of Windsor, who died last month in her Paris home. Attended by Queen Elizabeth II, the Dowager Queen Elizabeth, the Duchess of Gloucester, the Duke of Edinburgh and the Prince and Princess of Wales, she is interred in the royal burial plot at Windsor Castle as “Wallis, Duchess of Windsor”. Her legacy will be more than $45 million to the Pasteur Institute.
British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and her Secretary of State for Northern Ireland arrive in the United States. She has been invited to speak to various Senators, and she stresses the need for approve a new extradition treaty between the United States and the United Kingdom, giving her access to IRA members hiding out in the USA. With opposition from both sides of the political divide, including Jesse Helms (R-NC), John Kerry (D-MA) and Christopher Dodd (D-CT), the “Iron Lady” stresses that Britain’s response to any attempt to water down the treaty will be seen as “the provision of sanctuary to the worst of murderous thugs” and would result in “a tremendous anger in Britain”.
The Irish police arrest Martin Cahill, a prominent Irish criminal who had been stealing from affluent Dublin neighbourhoods and donating monies to the Ulster Volunteer Force. They express concern about a meeting between UVF volunteers, Cahill and South African weapons dealers alleged to have occurred recently, and suggest to Britain that the time has come to cut the rope to Pretoria.
Following more violence during the parades in Northern Ireland, British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher announces new legislation that will give the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland wide-ranging powers to restrict or ban parades that are “actively provocative, contentious or offensive”. The bill will later be watered down so that defiance of an order by the parade participants will receive a maximum fine of ₤5000.
Queen Elizabeth II confirms that her second son, Prince Andrew, is to be appointed as the Governor General of New Zealand in 1987. The agreement has been in place since her Commonwealth visit in February, but announcement had been delayed to prevent press interference with the Prince’s duties. Prince Andrew will leave his post at NATO headquarters in Naples and will take over on 1 January from Sir David Beattie. During his time as Governor General, Prince Andrew will participate in training at Devonport Naval Base. After some popular conservative opposition to minor constitutional reform, some suspect the appointment is politically motivated.
Despite pressure from the White House, the US Senate fails to approve the new US-UK Supplementary Extradition Treaty. While it is a device for gaining access to IRA supporters in the United States, the failure of British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher to vocally support the strike on Libya and willingness to stay her hand on Libya has determined it would not be ratified.
The Times reports that leaks from Buckingham Palace, perhaps from the Prince of Wales himself, suggest that Queen Elizabeth II is “alarmed” at the policies of British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. Other comments allegedly made by Her Majesty are that the Prime Minister’s approach is “uncaring, confrontational and socially divisive”, “lacking compassion”, “undermining consensus”. While Buckingham Palace states the leaks are “totally without foundation” and say the Queen is focused on the “spectacular performances of the Commonwealth athletes in Edinburgh”. This brings further attention to the boycotted Commonwealth Games, a victim of Thatcher’s policies on South Africa.
Peter Wright, former Deputy Director of MI5, declares his intention to publish a book detailing operations. The Thatcher government launches an injunction to prevent its promotion in Great Britain and a civil suit in Australia to prevent its publication. Labour members of the House of Commons take great joy in using parliamentary privilege to record Wright’s allegations.
After days of speculation, British Foreign Secretary Sir Geoffrey Howe announces that he can no longer endorse the Cabinet position on South Africa after the European Community votes to impose bans on all new investment. As such, he formally offers his resignation to Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, and advises her of his intention to address the House of Commons at the earliest available moment. He refuses to pledge that he will not challenge her leadership.
With nearly thirteen thousand delegates at the party conference, the Liberal Party of Britain votes 665 to 612 to oppose an independent nuclear deterrent for their nation. The defeat is humiliating for party leader David Steel and Social Democratic Party leader David Owen states this is a “dangerous blow” to the unity of the Alliance. The Thatcher government is pushing for larger and faster Trident missile submarines, at a cost of nearly $12 billion. Steel condemns comments by US Defence Secretary Caspar Weinberger criticising the British Labour Party and stating that they have produced a backlash within his own party against US defence doctrine.
Former Thatcher minister Michael Heseltine refuses to discourage speculation about a potential challenge for the leadership of the British Conservative Party against Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. He states that he is seeking the advice of his colleagues and has no announcements at this stage.
Former British minister, Sir Geoffrey Howe, addresses the House of Commons and criticises the government’s direction on European and foreign affairs, particularly relating to Thatcher’s refusal to give ground on South Africa. Less than an hour later, colleague and former minister Michael Heseltine announces his intention to challenge Margaret Thatcher’s leadership of the Conservative Party, and thus leadership of the Government.
British Chancellor of the Exchequer, Nigel Lawson, who is being credited with the emergence of the recent downward trend in unemployment, gives a public speech in which he considers the benefit to Great Britain of implementing operational independence over monetary policy. Most analysts in the market applaud the move, but it is known that Thatcher opposes such a move. It appears as though Lawson may be testing the waters for change.
With growing confidence over the stability of the Soviet food situation, the Politburo votes to purchase its last 3.85 million tonnes from the United States and will sign a three-year deal with Canada for 15 million tonnes from January, 1987 to December, 1989. It is predicted that, by that time, the Soviet Union will be a net exporter of food once again.
KGB Chairman Viktor Chebrikov confirms the restructure of the KGB, cutting down on the Border Guards Directorate by nearly fifty thousand, moving the Operations & Technology Directorate and Fourth Directorate under military control and merging other directorates. While the military will not receive additional funding to assist with the new responsibilities, the KGB will get another pay rise and increase in allocation in this year’s budget.
Former British Foreign Secretary Sir Brian Howe advises Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher that, after eleven years as party leader and seven years as Prime Minister, it is time for her to depart. She refuses to resign, criticising Howe for his lack of loyalty to her.
British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher is returned on the first ballot as leader of the Conservative Party, winning 62% of the caucus vote. Michael Heseltine, despite taking a large portion of the vote, states that the Prime Minister has failed to win sufficient support in the vote and that she will continue to face challenges until she is removed. The Prime Minister states that she will fight on and win.
British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher announces her intention to step down as Prime Minister and leader of the UK Conservative Party as polls continue to suggest that she is on her way to defeat in the 1987 election. Both former Foreign Minister Sir Brian Howe and Chancellor of the Exchequer, Nigel Lawson, put forth their names as potential candidates.
The British Conservative Party elects Nigel Lawson as its new leader. His first act is to terminate diplomatic relations with Syria over the Hindawi Affair. His actions are followed by Canada, where External Affairs Minister Joe Clark. Syria responds by giving British and Canadian diplomats one week to leave and closes its airspace, ports and waters to their ships and planes.
Queen Elizabeth II finally departs on a delayed trip to the crown colony of Hong Kong. It is widely expected that this may be the Queen’s last trip to Hong Kong, with agreement that the territory will return to Chinese sovereignty in 1997.
British Prime Minister Nigel Lawson asks Conservative Party deputy chairman and best-selling author, Jeffrey Archer, to resign over allegations that he was involved with a prostitute. Archer denies any wrongdoing but tenders his resignation to the new resident in Downing Street. It is widely expected that the embarrassment will have no long-term effect on Tory support due to the perception of Archer as a Thatcher favourite. Thatcher has confirmed that she will retire from the House of Commons at the next British general election.
Prince Andrew, the second son of Queen Elizabeth II, has arrived in New Zealand in preparation for his tenure as Governor General of that country. Photos are taken of the Prince with a laughing female in uniform on an airfield and it is turned into another speculative headline, but Fleet Street is kept away from the base by New Zealand troops.
British Prime Minister Nigel Lawson announces his intention to open negotiations with the Argentine government to conclude an end to hostilities and resume diplomatic relations. It will not include, he states, any discussion over the sovereignty of the Falkland Islands, but may lift prohibitions on Argentine ships in British waters. “They will not win at the bargaining table what they lost in battle,” he warns.
Buckingham Palace refuses to confirm claims that King George V was euthanised by the royal doctor on the instructions of his wife, Queen Mary, and his eldest son, the future King Edward VIII. The story, sourced from a biography about the late royal doctor, causes uproar in Great Britain, where euthanasia is illegal. The Palace states that the events were long ago and all involved were already deceased. The story had also been in 1936 that the King’s last words had been “How stands the Empire?” But in truth, his final words had been “God damn you”, said to nobody in particular.
Former British Prime Minister and Tory stalwart, the Earl of Stockton, who had ruled from 1957 to1963 as Harold MacMillan, passes away in Sussex.
British Prime Minister Nigel Lawson announces that the official lending rate of the Bank of England will be raised 150 basis points, once again climbing over 11%. He also states that the United Kingdom will re-visit the issue of the European Exchange Rate Mechanism following the upcoming general election, but warns that he wants regulations restricting currency movement loosened.
British Prime Minister Nigel Lawson congratulates West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl on a second term, and admits that the victory by conservatives in Bonn encourage him to believe that the Tories can recover before they are forced to face a general election.
UK Prime Minister Nigel Lawson announces that, from next year, the British will begin operational testing on their own space shuttle, with expectations that the UK will put its first man in space through its own space program by 1991. The name of the test shuttle will be Argus. While Lawson had opposed the program as Chancellor of the Exchequer, he supports the plan as Prime Minister.
The Church of England holds a General Synod, during which the Bishops report positively on the concept of priesthood for women. With this endorsement, the third house of the Synod finally joins the laity and the clergy in removing past prohibitions over the complaints of biblical literalists and Anglo-catholics.
The results of a parliamentary by-election in the Labour-held seat of Greenwich shake both the government and opposition of Great Britain. The SDP-Liberal Alliance win a stunning 56% of the vote to Labour’s 37%, while the Conservative Party candidate is humiliated with a mere five percent. A surging Alliance threatens parliamentary gridlock after the next election and denial of a majority to any government.
The English Channel ferry, the Herald of Free Enterprise, capsizes while attempting to cross in rough seas. Fortunately, two Soviet Navy ships, including the helicopter carrier Moskva, are in the area and the overwhelming majority of those on board are rescued. Prime Minister Nigel Lawson praises the heroism of the Soviet Navy and the captain is later awarded the George Cross. 51 people are killed in the disaster.
Charles and Diana, the Prince and Princess of Wales, become the first members of the British royal family to visit the Soviet Union since 1917. They arrive for a Kremlin ceremony to honour Russian sailors involved in the rescue of the passengers of the Herald of Free Enterprise. President Andrei Gromyko is given an invitation to a state dinner at Buckingham Palace, but the major story of the day is the way in which the Princess wins over the state media and the crowds in Red Square.
The British Chancellor of the Exchequer, Ken Clarke, announces that income taxes in the upcoming Budget will fall by nearly ten percent and the government’s budget deficit will be halved. Opposition Leader Neil Kinnock states that the measures are electoral bribery, but Clarke states that the program will boost consumer spending and manufacturing, as well as reducing unemployment. After a positive response, it is suggested that the Government will move up its planned election from October to June. Polls are showing the Tories have bounced back to 36%, one point ahead of Labour, while the Alliance is showing 27% support.
Following a shoot out on the streets of Belfast, there is speculation of a feud within the Irish Republican Army, driven by shortages in its weapons inventory and disagreements over whether to engage with the British government. There are also suggestions that the recent failure of Sinn Fein to win a seat in the Irish parliament may be contributing to the group’s instability.
A meeting between British Opposition Leader Neil Kinnock and US President Ronald Reagan is described as “frosty”. The President stated that the Labour Party’s position on nuclear weapons has undercut US diplomatic negotiations with the Soviets.
British police note the suicide of Dr Harold Shipman with a dose of combined meperidine and phenelzine. Given the background of the Greater Manchester doctor, it is assumed that he used his medical knowledge to concoct a lethal combination. However, there will be speculation over the next decade that the doctor may have been murdered by the family of one of his deceased victims. 7 April
British Prime Minister Nigel Lawson announces a reshuffle, moving Douglas Hurd into the position of Foreign Minister, while Deputy Prime Minister Sir Geoffrey Howe takes over the job of Chancellor of the Exchequer. As it moves Michael Heseltine into the Home Secretary portfolio, it is seen as a way of putting a thick barrier between the Prime Minister and his chief political rival within the Tories.
British Prime Minister Nigel Lawson ends a five-day trip to the Soviet Union and states that he was “fascinated and invigorated”. He expresses anger when the tabloids of Fleet Street, not on him, but on Soviet First Lady Raisa Gorbachev, claiming that she is vain and extravagant, given to Western shopping sprees. Douglas Hurd gives a great impression in his new role.
Taking a positive spin on recent local elections, British Prime Minister Nigel Lawson visits Buckingham Palace and asks Queen Elizabeth II to dissolve the Parliament. An election is scheduled for 11 June. BBC polling projects that the Tories will be returned with a narrow majority of between twenty and thirty seats. The Prime Minister retires to Downing Street with his party chairman Norman Tebbit and Deputy Prime Minister Geoffrey Howe.
An IRA attack on a Belfast police station ends in a serious setback for the terrorist group, after pre-warned police evacuate the building and call in the British SAS. All nine of the masked IRA commandos are killed. Tom King, Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, states that “terrorism is losing ground”.
The British Labour Party confirms that, for the first time since 1929, there will be non-white members in the House of Commons after the next election. Candidates for safe Labour seats include immigrants from Ghana, Guyana and the West Indies. Given race riots in recent years, the Labour Party is at pains to state that these candidates are not radicals. Neil Kinnock, the British Opposition Leader, states that more important is that the country under the Tories has become “a joyless and divided country, economically and socially disabled, afflicted with Dickensian misery”. He points that unemployment has risen substantially since the Conservatives took office. He pledges large investment in public works and would cancel “unnecessary military expenditure”, a reference to nuclear disarmament.
Prime Minister Nigel Lawson of Great Britain holds his campaign launch, boasting that he leads the fasting growing economy in Western Europe. He states that the nation has a “revival of spirit and a restoration of reputation” as a result of Tory rule. Only two weeks ago, the Conservative Party had led Labour by ten points in the poll, but, as the campaign proceeds, this margin has fallen to six points and Conservative polling shows that the Prime Minister is respected, but not liked.
British Prime Minister Nigel Lawson states that economic prosperity will vanish if Labour wins the upcoming election. The slick advertising campaign run by Neil Kinnock has produced opinion polls in which the Labour Party appears to be marginally ahead of the Tories, but most pollsters predict that the Conservatives will win a narrow victory, despite their inability to make ground on the issues. With the campaign into its final days, the Liberal/SDP Alliance unites to rule out any future coalition with either of the major parties.
Late on election night, UK Prime Minister Nigel Lawson admits that the Tory government has lost its majority, losing a massive one hundred thirty seats. The four largest parties in the new House of Commons are: Conservative, 302 seats; Labour, 241 seats; Liberal-SDP Alliance, 82 seats. As it becomes clear during the evening that no party can command a majority in the House of Commons, Liberal leader David Steel suggests that the Alliance will be forced to reconsider its position on coalition in order to prevent another general election, while SDP leader David Owen continues to hold the position put forward prior to the election.
After days of talks, the leader of Britain’s Liberal Party, David Steel, announces the collapse of the Alliance over the question of a coalition with one of the major parties. He is joined by a number of members from the SDP, who resist the demands of their leader, David Owen, and defect to join the Liberal Party.
Neil Kinnock is invited to Buckingham Palace to receive his commission as the 51st Prime Minister of Great Britain. David Steel will become Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary. The two have created a coalition between Labour and Liberal, strengthening ties which had previously existed between 1977 and 1979.
British Prime Minister Neil Kinnock calls a National Economic Summit to determine a plan to reduce unemployment by one million people in two years. He commits to creating six hundred thousand jobs over the next twelve months, but warns that he expects private investors to provide half that number. In return, he pledges to reduce employer contributions to the National Insurance scheme in some depressed areas. He also creates a Senior Benefit, paid to those who would otherwise not qualify for welfare, in order to lure some workers to retire early. Kinnock explains that it could “create” a further 150,000 jobs through an accounting change, because “unemployed” would fall by that number while “retired” would rise by the same amount.
Former Conservative Party deputy chairman, Jeffrey Archer, is awarded $800,000 by a British court for slander. The payout to the noted author is made by two tabloids which had alleged his involvement with a prostitute and then claimed he had paid her money to remain silent.
Members of the British Social Democratic Party vote overwhelmingly to accept a merger with the Liberal Party, leaving their leader David Owen no choice but to resign and sit as an independent in the House of Commons. In doing so, they strengthen the majority of Prime Minister Neil Kinnock.
A mid-morning shooting on a picnic ground in Wiltshire, England in front of a mother and two children leaves them traumatised. The witness claim the victim, Michael Ryan, attempted to abduct them at gunpoint, a fact borne out by the two shotguns, a pistol and two semi-automatic rifles found in his car.
British Prime Minister Neil Kinnock rejects an extradition request by Israel for the nuclear technician Mordechai Vanunu. Joined at a press conference by Foreign Secretary David Steel, he states that the government is “obligated” to stand by the guarantees of safety extended by the previous government to Vanunu.
British Opposition Leader Nigel Lawson holds a party conference in Brighton to discuss the election defeat in June. Dispirited delegates agree to a formal reappraisal of the party’s direction, but the leadership deny that there is any panic. The planned review brings a lash of criticism from strong supporters of former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, who state that the party is abandoning tradition to court “grumbling leftists”.
UK Prime Minister Neil Kinnock announces the suspension of the facelift of Belfast established by Margaret Thatcher in 1982, stating that terrorist factions have been found to be siphoning off millions of dollars from the reconstruction. Senior police state that contractors are being forced to pay security money to prevent damage to their equipment and the well-being of their workers. One hundred thirty people have been arrested in a recent police sting in which a bogus security and construction company was found to be a front for the Irish National Liberation Army.
British Prime Minister Neil Kinnock successfully passes a new Industrial Relations Act, allowing for the restoration of the power of trade unions, protection against unfair dismissal and establishing a new Workers Rights Commission to negotiate between labour and capital. Industry groups express concern at the willingness of the government to turn back recent productivity gains.
Southern England and northern Brittany are struck by a cyclonic storm, the likes of which have not been recorded in nearly three hundred years. Later called the Great Storm of 1987, twenty-two people are killed and costs to the insurance industry exceed £2 billion.
Over thirty people are killed and sixty injured as fire sweeps through London’s Kings Cross railway station. The fire is believed to have started in an escalator shaft serving the Piccadilly Line. The rail system does not return to normal until March 1989.
The Christies auction house in London announces that it has sold a Bugatti Royale Type 41 for $9.8 million, the highest price ever paid for a car.
British Prime Minister Neil Kinnock announces the introduction of new tax reforms. The wealthiest 5% of the country will not only be deprived of tax cuts instituted by the previous government, but some will be hit with a new wealth tax on those with assets (value minus deductible debts, excluding the principal residence) exceeding £650,000. Opposition Leader Nigel Lawson states that the tax will cause capital flight, brain drain and a net loss of tax revenue, but Kinnock states that it is vital for ensuring the budget stability. Chancellor of the Exchequer, John Smith, goes further, highlighting the need for discipline to prepare Britain for European Exchange Rate Mechanism entry.
Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher is elevated to the House of Lords as the Baroness of Kesteven and receives the Order of Merit. Prime Minister Neil Kinnock has been saving the honour until today, which is Margaret Thatcher Day in the Falklands. He notes that, after Herbert Asquith, she was the second longest serving Prime Minister of the 20th century; however, he jokes that he might overtake her in the middle of the next decade.
British Attorney General John Morris is at the centre of a controversy as the law lords set aside the judgement against the Birmingham Four and order their release. He recently also decided that charges would not be laid against Northern Ireland Constabulary alleged to have been involved in assassinations. He also stands by the verdict of the law lords in overturning the convictions of the Birmingham Four.
British Prime Minister Neil Kinnock comes under attack within his own caucus as maverick former Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone claiming that Downing Street has failed to embrace the “anti-NATO, anti-nuclear movement” which is “sweeping” across Western Europe. Kinnock blast Livingstone, stating that British Government policy will not be set by the “loony left”.
It is confirmed by simple majority referenda that the British Government will commence devolution of the nation, with elected assemblies for Scotland and Northern Ireland. It emerges eventually that this policy was the key to the Labour-Liberal coalition. It also begins the process of fulfilling Britain’s promise to Ireland under the Anglo-Irish Agreement. Home Secretary Paddy Ashdown pledges that the process may take up to eighteen months.
Britons wonder if they are turning back the clock when the trade unions flex their muscle once again. Transport workers, autoworkers, teachers, firemen and nurses all go out on strike, demanding pay increases after eight years of growth without wage rises.
The Taoiseach of Ireland, Charles Haughey, establishes an independent investigation into British judicial and security procedures in Northern Ireland. British Foreign Minister David Steel denies that the British government feels under any pressure to resolve the Irish demand for a new declaration. 10 March
Charles, Prince of Wales, is killed in a skiing accident in Switzerland, attempting to save his equerry, Major Hugh Lindsay, who is resuscitated on site. The Prince Andrew resigns as Governor General of New Zealand and returns home. The former Princess of Wales, now Dowager Princess, also returns with her sons, William, Prince of Wales, aged five and Prince Henry, aged three, now heir apparent and second-in-line to the throne respectively. The body will lie in state at St James Palace.
Charles, Prince of Wales, is laid to rest in Westminster Abbey in a service attended by King Juan Carlos of Spain, Crown Prince Akihito of Japan, US First Lady Barbara Bush, US Secretary of State James Baker, Admiral William Crowe, King Hussein of Jordan, French First Lady Francois Fabius and all former British Prime Ministers. The Prince is proclaimed as having been a “man of courage” for saving the life of his equerry and a “man of vision” for his view of the monarchy in a moving eulogy by Prime Minister Neil Kinnock.
Buckingham Palace confirms that the court is in mourning for the next three months and insists that the Fleet Street press leave the Dowager Princess of Wales and her two sons alone. For the most part, the ferocity of the British journalists is temporarily neutered, as they mourn the end of what is perceived as a fairytale marriage of only six years.
A former member of the Royal Ulster Constabulary goes on an armed rampage in a shopping centre, killing two and seriously injuring six people, before he is shot dead by British soldiers. Prime Minister Neil Kinnock calls the murders “an act of appalling savagery” and uses the action to justify the continued presence of British troops in the province.
Buckingham Palace blasts tabloids for daring to suggest that the marriage of the Prince and Princess of Wales had been in trouble before his premature death six weeks ago. British Prime Minister Neil Kinnock launches a vitriolic attack, stating that The Sun is a “national disgrace” and that Rupert Murdoch is “not a suitable person” to own The Times. He announces plans to develop new standards for “harmful or offensive” material, with large fines attached for breaching standards.
There is a showdown in the House of Commons over the Kinnock government’s new welfare reforms. Opposition Leader Nigel Lawson states particular concern about the introduction of a statutory national minimum wage, arguing it will reverse the trend of growing employment just when unemployment numbers are falling toward a ten-year low. He argues the coalition government has taken advantage of sound economic planning by the Tories.
The first of Canada’s Trafalgar-class submarines is laid down in Vickers Shipbuilding in Cumbia, UK. To be named the Victoria, it will begin the replacement of the relatively ancient Oberon class from 1992, with plans to commission four vessels before 1996.
British Prime Minister Neil Kinnock finally bites the bullet and announces the cancellation of the $5 billion purchase of Trident missiles from the United States. He also pledges to decommission the Polaris missile system, which is now verging on obsolete, and remove all US missiles based in the UK. However, he insists that NATO remains the cornerstone of British defence policy and that the United States will maintain bases in Great Britain.
British Chancellor of the Exchequer, John Smith, announces that, to control volatility in the value of the pound, the United Kingdom will immediately join the European Monetary System. However, he criticises the system for its low margins of movement, suggesting they could be further widened to discourage speculation from destroying the system. He further calls for an early monetary union, with creation of a common currency by 1992 and the phase out of national currencies by 1997.
British Prime Minister Neil Kinnock and Taoiseach Charles Haughey sign a declaration, upholding the right of the Irish people to remain in union with Great Britain or unite with Ireland, “in accordance with the democratic consent of the people of Northern Ireland” and as the result of a “process of negotiations”. It rejects the “use or support of force” as a tool of diplomacy. The agreement opens the way for the extradition of Patrick McVeigh, who will be convicted of four IRA bombings in London between 1981 and 1983.
Following a week long rampage through four cities, over three hundred British citizens are detained by West German officials for violence and looting following England’s defeat in the European soccer championship. British Prime Minister Neil Kinnock states that the hooligans are a “disgrace to civilised society”. He suggests that Britain may not send a team to the 1990 World Cup in Rome and announces that he will impose travel restrictions on convicted hooligans.
British Prime Minister Neil Kinnock announces a major archaeological research study at famous Neolithic site, Stonehenge, with five years of funding given to Sheffield University.
Battling against perceptions of low credibility, former British Prime Minister Nigel Lawson retires from leadership of Conservative Party. His last speech as leader condemns an anti-gay faction within the Conservative Party attempting to reverse gay rights because they “promote homosexuality”. He also criticises the Tory Reform Group, arguing that they are threatening party unity. He is replaced as Opposition Leader by former Defence Minister Michael Heseltine, who wins a ballot against Douglas Hurd. He will resign from the House of Commons at the next election and, like his predecessor Margaret Thatcher, will be “kicked upstairs” to the House of Lords.
Princess Diana of Wales visits the United States with her two sons, William, aged six and Henry, who is nearly four. She is warmly embraced by US crowds who turn out to welcome the British heir apparent. In addition to attending a number of charity functions, including an AIDS fundraiser, she takes the two princes to Disneyland and Seaworld, both in California.
Media in Britain are advised that a major announcement will be forthcoming from the Irish Republican Army in the coming days. Prime Minister Neil Kinnock, recently returned from Africa, states that he hopes that their “desperate and futile effort at destroying the peace process has come to an end”.
The IRA announces an official ceasefire in their conflict with the United Kingdom, stating that the recent agreement between Ireland and Britain is sufficient to allow them to lay down arms. They issue the proviso that they will terminate the peace at any moment if the Ulster loyalists make any attacks against Catholic targets.
British Prime Minister Neil Kinnock announces that he will begin to “draw down” on troops in Northern Ireland, where over ten thousand members of the British Army have been stationed. He refuses to be drawn immediately on numbers, stating he is conducting a full review of the government’s options and “nothing can be ruled in or out at this stage”. Former Prime Minister Edward Heath is asked to chair a commission to investigate the next step in Northern Irish affairs, with Heath’s appointment seen as an attempt to wedge Unionist opposition.
British Prime Minister Neil Kinnock states that the loyalist paramilitaries in Ulster are “playing a dangerous game” and “threatening the people of Ireland with another cavalcade of coffins”. He calls on the paramilitaries to follow the lead of the Irish Republican Army and to commit their members to a ceasefire so that “our peoples may take another step, together, towards peace”. Kinnock also announces that the renovation of Belfast, suspended some time ago, will once again be funded.
Citing budgetary savings from reduced commitments to Northern Ireland, British Home Secretary Paddy Ashdown announces a significant increase in police funding across the United Kingdom. The size of the various police services in the UK will rise by close to 4% and London’s Metropolitan Police Service will grow by close to 1300 officers.
The Ulster militias release a joint statement, advising that they will comply with the ceasefire agreement proposed by the Irish Republican Army. For the first time since the beginning of the Troubles, the situation in Northern Ireland appears to be headed toward a resolution. British Prime Minister Neil Kinnock gives a jubilant speech to the House of Commons, expressing hope that a comprehensive peace deal may be possible.
British Prime Minister Neil Kinnock and Irish Taoiseach Charles Haughey are awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for their contribution to peace in Northern Ireland through their efforts to achieve an understanding between London and Dublin. Kinnock will use his speech to praise the progress of his predecessors, Margaret Thatcher and Nigel Lawson, stating they “laid the foundations of peace”, while Haughey will bestow similar praise on Garret Fitzgerald.
British Chancellor of the Exchequer, John Smith, has a heart attack, and remains in intensive care for the next three days. Chief Secretary to the Treasurer Gordon Brown is named as Acting Chancellor and will hold the position for three months before Smith returns to Westminster.
The British Labour Party holds its annual conference at Blackpool and endorses the decision by Prime Minister Neil Kinnock to scrap the country’s nuclear arsenal. The weapons are scheduled to be decommissioned over the next five years at the rate of three per month. Opposition Leader Michael Heseltine states that the schedule means that, come the 1992 election, Britain will still have eighty nuclear warheads and that this would enable a successor Tory government to “save British sovereignty from the unilateralists”.
Having allowed foreign companies to buy stock in British Petroleum during last year’s stock market crash, it is today announced that Gazprom, the Soviet national oil company, has taken a $1.25 billion stake (4.95% of the company’s shares). While legislation allows the British Monopolies and Mergers Commission to force companies to divest investments which are against “public interest”, Acting Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown states that he will fly to Leningrad to discuss the reasoning behind the investment with his Soviet counterpart. Soviet Treasury Minister Nikolai Slyunkov defends the purchase, stating that the British can hardly demand the Soviet release a stake which is half the size of Kuwait’s and a quarter of the size of OPEC members collectively.
British Foreign Secretary David Steel announces that, under an agreement with the European Community, his nation will move to the metric system from January, 1992. The key exception will be continued use of the pint as the measurement for serving ale.
The London Stock Exchange begins its own investigation into investment bank Drexel Burnham Lambert, suggesting it may have used a network of front companies to hide the size, and risk, of purchases it has made with borrowed money.
The communion of Anglicanism gets its first female bishop, with the appointment of Barbara Harris as Episopalian Bishop of Massachusetts by an overwhelming vote. The emerging hope of Roman Cathoic and Anglican reunion goes on to the backburner, while London’s troublesome Bishop Graham Leonard warns that the tolerance of Archbishop Runcie of Canterbury will “profoundly divide” the global Anglican community.
The British government announces that British Rail’s Mark 1 railway carriages will be phased out and completely replaced with new Mark 4 carriages. British Prime Minister Neil Kinnock justifies the expenditure, stating that it will create new jobs and that the budget was already headed into surplus and national debt continues to shrink relative to GDP.
British Deputy Prime Minister David Steel welcomes the Electoral Reform Act, which end the FPTP voting system in the United Kingdom and gives British voters a single transferable vote within an open list. This is an identical process to the one which elects the European Parliament. The Act is known to be the key to the Labour-Liberal coalition. It is criticised as anti-democratic by some, as it states that a party must gain at least 100,000 votes nationally to qualify for a seat in the Commons.
British Prime Minister Neil Kinnock announces legislation to create a democratically-elected Scottish Assembly with a wide range of powers over health, housing, education and industry. He will also broadly expand the Welsh Development Agency to help livestock farmers.
British Chancellor of the Exchequer, John Smith, puts forward a Bank of England proposal for reforms to the European Exchange Rate Mechanism, hoping it will allow for a fall in British interest rates. He acknowledges that it will place downward pressure on the pound and that, in all probability, it will fall from its current value at 2.95 deutschemarks. (It will settle around 2.40 once EERM II is implemented). He tells the British people the economy is “cooling safely after the Tory overstimulus”. He wins immediate support from the Dutch and Danish governments.
British tabloids reveal that a married former Miss India, hired as a researcher to a Tory MP, is a high class call girl who has been having affairs with three Opposition members of the House of Commons. Pamella Bordes goes into hiding, but makes clear that she will sell her story. Prime Minister Neil Kinnock declares the whole matter “interesting and amusing” but admits that it has “no political implications”.
Queen Elizabeth II announces that she will accept an invitation to visit the Soviet Commonwealth after Prime Minister Neil Kinnock states that Britain is developing “deep and friendly” relations with its traditional foe. It will mark the first visit by a British monarch to the USSR and a sign of forgiveness for the horrors visited on her Romanov relatives by the Bolsheviks in 1917.
Hillsborough Stadium in Sheffield becomes the location for a disastrous human crush after police lose control of crowds supporting Liverpool Football Club. Eighty-two people are killed in one of the worst ever international football accidents and it leads to the conversion of many UK football stadiums to improve safety for fans.
Attending a national memorial service for the victims of the Hillsborough Stadium disaster, British Prime Minister Neil Kinnock states it has been “a tragic day for sport, for football and for the nation as a whole”. He recalls the 1985 Bradford fire and promises a full and independent investigation into the tragedy.
British Secretary of Defence Gerald Kaufman states that the United Kingdom will not be proceeding with funding a new short-range nuclear missile, despite allegations by the Opposition. He states that consultations took place with the Americans earlier in the year on the development of more Lance missiles, but it was agreed that both countries had greater budgetary priorities.
UK Energy Minister Tony Blair confirms that the British nuclear arsenal will not be completely decommissioned prior to the next general election. He argues that accelerating the decommissioning in order to meet political deadlines could add costs to the process and suggests a slow phase out with the final weapon being destroyed in 1998. The British Government will adopt his report.
London reports the discovery of a Roman era bath and the foundations of the Rose Theatre of 1587. The Princess of Wales, Prince Edward and Lord Laurence Olivier all appeal for a stop to development in the area, with Buckingham Palace declaring their loss would be equivalent to rainforest destruction. It motivates the Kinnock government to declare a hold on a seven-storey office complex at the baths site and admit that costs of compensation could be tens of millions of pounds.
British Prime Minister Neil Kinnock expresses concern about a new “traffic control system” installed by a British firm in Beijing after evidence is produced that the Chinese are using it to observe foreigners and to record material which, heavily edited, can fill the less-than-honest news coverage of China Central Television. He calls on China to refrain from “wall-to-wall surveillance” which “came to typify the worst elements of Communism”.
In European Parliament elections in Britain, the governing Labour Party takes over 42% of the vote, while the Tories garner a mere 31%. This is despite 14% interest rates and 7.3% inflation. It indicates that the anti-European rhetoric of the Conservative Party is backfiring. Prime Minister Neil Kinnock states that it will allow the European Community to proceed with talks on a social charter to protect worker rights and to press ahead on discussions for a single European currency.