By Jock Bruce-Gardyne
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Extra info for Mrs Thatcher’s First Administration: The Prophets Confounded
A hard and bitter battle was in prospect. As the autumn wore on Britain's partners came gradually and painfully to realise that they were dealing with a different sort of London Government to those they had been used to. The Heath administration had exhibited occasional spasms of Gaullist nationalism (at the time of the first oil 'shock' the then Prime Minister had seriously canvassed the possibility of diverting oil supplies in the hands of continental subsidiaries of British oil companies to the UK market).
The top marginal rate of tax on income from employment was slashed from 85 per cent to 60 per cent; and the top rate of tax on income from investments from Denis Healey's confiscatory 98 per cent to 75 per cent, while the starting-point for the tax was raised from £1700 in dividends to £5000. All this was calculated to cut the revenues from income tax by £3500m in the year to April 1980, which was to be recouped in part from a jump in the standard rate of VAT from 8 per cent to 15 (and a consolidation of the higher rate at that level), together with the traditional revalorisation of excise duties to take account of inflation.
Paradoxically the pound was thereby given an extra underpinning just when British industry's distress about its strength was most vocal. No matter: to the general public the Prime Minister had signally lived up to her reputation as a doughty fighter for British national interests -whatever the British diplomats might say behind her back. 4 Hard Pounding The mood of the Tory Party faithful when they gathered for their first post-election conference in Blackpool in October 1979 was one of sobriety rather than one of celebration: the party managers had chosen the downbeat, not to say flatfooted, slogan of 'Realism and Responsibility'.