by Mark Chillingworth

Thatcher created UK plc yet we are still playing catch-up

May 01, 20132 mins
IT Leadership

April’s CIO editorial was written in the shadow of the death of one of Great Britain’s most transformative Prime Ministers. Whether the transformations led by Margaret Thatcher were good or bad is a matter of opinion: the fact that she transformed this country is without doubt.

In the onslaught of media coverage one of the best critiques of her premiership was that Thatcher was good at deconstructing institutions that needed to be challenged. Watching the online responses to her death by CIOs I interpret that many of you believe she gave entrepreneurship back to the UK, although arguably only to certain industry sectors.

Financial services, media, retail, sales and communications and professional services have flourished in a post-Thatcher Britain. But the very sectors she is most famous for challenging – manufacturing, mining and the public sector-  have lived, largely, without the same innovative entrepreneurship. The vacuum that has followed her policies are still haunting our political parties, governments and institutions to this day. The IT strategies of major government bodies have the scent of catch-up to them as Whitehall CIOs try to recover from under-investment, poor sourcing and a lack of clarity as to the role of the state post-Thatcher.

Thatcher is also blamed for Britain’s demise as a manufacturing competitor, yet the rot was already gangrenous. I have seen and heard of the damage the trade union movement had to our industries. Poor products, poor customer service, non-existent export strategies, no collaboration and outdated attitudes did not stem from Mrs T or her government, but the unions have done the better PR job in laying the blame at Thatcher’s feet. As for the demise of the UK manufacturing sector, critics choose to ignore the recent successes of our specialist automotive, aerospace and energy manufacturers.

In leading a needed transformation, none of us must forget to embrace the positives from old industries or methods, to enable re-invention, to embrace existing and new communities no matter their language or location, and to accept challenges to our doctrines with good grace.