Author: Qin Jialu
Supervisor: Professor Shi Tongyun
June 21, 2014
Pursuing Her Democracy, Leaving the Poor Behind
---On Thatcher’s Privatization of Council Housing: Right to Buy
Thatcher’s policies revolving around privatization are a controversial gift to British people, among which the RTB policy, whose ultimate goal is to privatize council housing, has continuously been held in debate about its effect on British society. This paper explores the relationship between the ideology Mrs. Thatcher believed and the effects of her policy which was guided by this ideology through the analysis of RTB policy in Britain. This paper firstly introduces “Thatcher’s democracy” characterized by individualism that acted as the agent of all her privatization policies, then studies the detailed terms contained in the RTB policy, which to a great extent facilitated the sale of council housing, and lastly evaluates the legacy left by the RTB policy to the poor in terms of the insufficient supply, the worsening of the homelessness problem and the reduced quality of council houses. Through the analysis, this paper comes to the conclusion that the RTB policy is too radical to regard as a successful housing policy concerning the harsh situation left to the poor which can be attributive to its initial deviation from the rationale of a housing policy.
Keywords: Thatcherism, Housing policy, Right to buy, Radical reform, Poor people
A. British New Right
B. Democracy characterized by individualism
C. Property-Owning Democracy
III. Main issues included in the policy of Right to Buy (RTB) A. Tenants eligible to buy council housing
B. Discount for tenants who buy their rented houses
C. Rules of mortgage
IV. The impacts of the RTB policy on the poor people
A. Homeless people
1. Insufficient supply
2. Increased rents
3. Decreased subsidises
B. Council tenants
1. Poor quality
2. Identity stigma
“Waste of money!” This doesn’t sound like something nice to chant about the cost of someone’s funeral, especially when the person is a prior leader of a country who is supposed to receive respect for the service he/she has provided for the people. However, that is exactly what happened when Mrs. Thatcher’s coffin passed an intersection where around three hundred demonstrators gathered to show their opposition against her policies of privatization (Marsden). The opponents accused the government of using tax payers’ money to pay for Thatcher’s funeral cost which amounted to as high as ten million pounds. They argued that the cost of Thatcher’s funeral should also be “privatized” since they, as tax payers, had been suffering from the cut of government’ public expense following Thatcher’s privatization policies (Palmer, Vicky and Andy). Right to Buy, a privatization policy of council housing, was among the first policies involved in Thatcher’s privatization reforms. Up until 1980s when it was Thatcher’s term of office, council housing had been playing an important role in Britain in meeting the demand for housing since the early 1900s. After WWI, the existing council houses were not sufficient to settle down the masses who had fought for their country, so the first council housing program emerged as the time required: “homes fit for heroes”. From 1914 to 1971, the share of public rented sector in British housing tenure maintained a steady rise. However, the enormous number of council houses and the high level of government subsidies to housing rent constituted a heavy burden on British financial budget. Actually, in 1976, British government had to borrow money from IMF (International Monetary Fund) to keep their domestic economy running (Liu 123). In the context of British depressed economy came Mrs. Thatcher. The iron lady, as soon as she came into charge in 1979, began radical...
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