Dr Andrew Edwards discusses Thatcherism and Wales on Radio Wales

In a new programme for Radio Wales, Bangor historian Dr Andrew Edwards (Dean of the College of Arts and Humanities) scrutinises the often tempestuous relationship between Margaret Thatcher and Wales.

Interest in Thatcherism and its legacy has gathered pace since the passing of the ‘Iron Lady’ in April 2013, and Dr Edwards believes the time has now arrived to examine the Thatcherite inheritance in Wales:

“Margaret Thatcher was a classic ‘marmite’ politician. Although it’s clear that no love was lost for her in the industrial heartlands of Wales - with the Miners’ Strike of 1984/85 viewed as a hammer blow to Valleys communities in particular - several aspects of her premiership are ripe for revision.

“In contrast to popular belief, Wales was not a Conservative-free zone during the 1980s: in fact, in the 1983 General Election the party increased its number of MPs to an unprecedented 14.  So, as well as addressing the virulent anti-Thatcher feelings in Wales, my programme will also be considering why her policies were popular amongst some sections of the Welsh electorate.”

Ironically, Margaret Thatcher’s ultimate legacy in Wales could be the ‘yes’ vote in the 1997 devolution referendum - something that Dr Edwards is probing in research for his monograph Thatcher’s Wales.  As Dr Edwards says:

“Whilst there’s no doubt that important steps were taken by Thatcher’s governments to enhance the status of the Welsh language, she was an avowed opponent of devolution.  However, unwittingly – as some of my interviews for the programme suggest – her role as a ‘common enemy’ for socialists and nationalists in Wales during the 1980s made devolution a far more attractive prospect for many who had voted ‘no’ in 1979.”

Dr Edwards teaches a module called Thatcher’s Britain at the School of History, Welsh History and Archaeology, and discusses aspects of Thatcherism with some of his students during the programme. Peter Davies, a PhD student, notes:

“I feel that as someone born in the 1990s, I can approach Thatcher’s reign with a more dispassionate eye. I can appreciate her strengths as leader, whilst at the same time conceding that devastation was wreaked on many Welsh communities during the 1980s.”

Prominent politicians and activists are interviewed by Dr Edwards on the programme, including: Bangor University Chancellor and former Plaid Cymru leader, Lord Dafydd Elis-Thomas; language activist Toni Schiavone; Glyn Davies, Conservative MP for Montgomeryshire; and former Labour MP for Alyn and Deeside, Barry Jones.

Thatcherism and Wales was first broadcast as part of the Histories of Wales series on Radio Wales on Thursday, 2nd January.  It is now available to ‘listen again’ on the Radio Wales website: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b03mnmbf

Publication date: 2 January 2014