Britain is a society with clear class differences. Mass media and sports, party and school systems are strongly influenced by this. The social conditions and the class structure carry deep traces of the country’s early industrialization. Britain became the world’s leading industry during the 19th century, and its working class and labor movement became pattern-making. The modern labor movement started from the artisans and the skilled workers’ associations, trades unions. The first unified organization of trade unions was the Trades Union Congress (TUC), formed in 1868. Later, the unions of the unskilled workers’ unions, the general unions. Together with industry associations and civil servants’ organizations, they today constitute the four main types of organizations of the British trade union movement. During the 1980s, the British trade union movement weakened. On the one hand, the number of members decreased (to less than 10 million members), and on the other hand, Thatcher sought to limit its influence and activities through legislation. An extensive but unsuccessful strike among the miners in 1984-85 strongly polarized society.
Britain underwent a dramatic restructuring during the 1970s and 1980s. A number of industries were closed down, and the UK got a large group of long-term unemployed, not least among the low-skilled, who form the core of the growing group of poor. The share of unemployed was 10.5% in 1993, but had dropped to just over 7% in 1997. The Labor government has, among other things, promised improvements for the unemployed under 25 years. Visit AbbreviationFinder to see the definitions of GBR and acronym for United Kingdom.
The foundations of modern British social and labor market policy were laid by a number of reforms the decade before the First World War, eg. sickness and unemployment insurance. The principles of the modern welfare state were formulated during the Second World War in the so-called Beveridger Report of 1942. Over the course of a few years, the school system (1944), the various social insurance (health insurance, unemployment insurance, pension, etc.) were merged into National Insurance (1946-48) and the health care system was organized in the National Health Service (NHS) in 1948. The basis of the British health care system is a general medical system, where each household in principle chooses a general practitioner or a medical center. Treatment and medicine are free. The hospitals are state-owned. A small number of private hospitals are available.
The basic social insurance is designed as a basic protection (flat-rate system), with as a rule uniform benefits. This has meant that the civil servants and the middle class have private or contractual supplementary insurance. Welfare policy in the United Kingdom is shaped by the interaction between public basic protection and private supplementary schemes, which are indirectly and partially invisible (through tax deductions) financed by the state. The United Kingdom has a strict distinction between the government agencies that pay different forms of cash benefits and the municipal bodies (social services) that provide different forms of care, care, rehabilitation etc.
Council -owned housing has been an important part of British welfare policy. Rents have been kept low through various types of subsidies. A significant number of these homes – more than a million – were privatized during the 1980s.
The municipalities’ scope of action was limited during the 1980s, when its main own tax source, local property taxes (rates) were removed and replaced by a local, fixed household tax (the poll tax) 1989–90.
In 1992, the Conservative government chose, in the context of the Union Treaty (Maastricht Agreement), to stand outside the so-called social dimension in the EU and was not covered by EU rules and recommendations in the social and labor market policy area. In connection with its entry, the Labor government decided to participate in social cooperation.
In the May 2002 municipal elections, the extremely right-wing British National Party (GDP) won 3 seats in Burnley for the first time in 9 years. The Conservatives got 34% of the vote, Labor 33% and the Liberals 27%. Although a total of 5889 city council members were elected, BNP leader Nick Griffin characterized the result as a “triumph”. He also denied that his party exploited the racial tensions that exist in a number of cities, although he admitted that the party’s goal is to create a “white Britain”. Although municipal self-government has been eroded over the previous 20 years, it still has a number of significant responsibilities.
In July, Secretary of State Jack Straw announced that Britain is supplying spare parts for US F-16 fighter jets shipped to Israel. It was seen by activists as a further stick to the coffin into which the ethics of British foreign policy should be buried. It was also seen as support for US war preparation for Iraq.
In October 2002, in a large-scale foreign policy speech, Blair declared that Iraq could launch missiles of weapons of mass destruction at Europe in just 45 minutes. The purpose was to warm up the British population to the war against Iraq, but the population continued to be predominantly opposed to war, and 1 year later it was revealed that Blair’s claim was freely invented.
Blair continued his unconditional support for Bush’s war policy until the attack on Iraq in March 2003 – despite France and Germany refusing to join such a war, and despite the United States suffering blatant defeat in trying to adopt a UN resolution to legitimize the war on attacks. Nor did the British people succeed in persuading Blair. Autumn and winter saw the largest anti-war demonstrations since the Vietnam War, and by the outbreak of the war, a large majority of the British continued to oppose war. At the same time, several ministers chose to protest Blair’s and Bush’s war. That included Robin Cook and Minister of Development Claire Short.
Blair’s position did not improve over the summer as the United States was unable to find the alleged weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. And in July, the BBC could reveal that the British government had distorted information from the British intelligence about Iraq’s military capabilities. After severe pressure, the BBC had to reveal that the information came from Defense Ministry expert on chemical weapons, David Kelly, who in his reports had denied that Iraq had chemical weapons. The government claimed the opposite. Kelly committed suicide – or was killed. The incidents ultimately forced the British government to set up an investigative commission. The Hutton commission and later the Butler report did not directly say the government and Blair had lied, but the indications were clear enough and Blair’s spin doctor, Alistair Campbell had to step down.
The circumstances of the war and the lies of the British government caused Blair and Labor’s popularity to plummet. When opinion polls also revealed a massive majority of the British population against the new EU constitution, Blair felt compelled to declare that the constitution would be sent to a referendum in 2005. A vote made redundant by the French and Dutch no.
Local elections immediately following the Butler Report in July 2004 gave Labor a staggering defeat, including lost Leicester South, which had otherwise been a safe working bastion for over 50 years. It was taken over by the liberals. At Labour’s national meeting in late September, Blair was forced to admit that the allegation that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction in 2003 had been false. At the same time, he announced that he was running for a third and final term as the party’s prime minister.
In late October, a study by researchers at the Department of Public Health at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg Institute at the University of Baltimore was published in the prestigious British medical journal The Lancet. The study found that the war against Iraq, the destruction of the country’s infrastructure and the ensuing violence had cost 100,000 Iraqis life – predominantly women and children. Secretary of State Jack Straw declared that the government would investigate the researchers’ conclusions.
Following the May 2005 parliamentary elections, the Labor Party began its 3rd reign, with just 36% of those voting behind it being the weakest backing any British government had had. The Conservatives progressed significantly in many parts of London, and less in the rest of the country, but the biggest victor of the election was the Liberal Democrats who gained 22% of the vote and went to 62 seats in the House of Commons. Even those Labor leaders who had rejected in advance that the Iraq war would have an impact on the outcome subsequently had to admit that the war was a major cause of Labor’s decline.
On July 7, 56 were killed and around 700 injured when 4 bombs were blasted in a bus and in London’s subway. Three of the four suspected suicide bombers were British nationals of Pakistani origin. Two weeks later, another bombing attempt was made with four new bombs, but this time the bombers failed to detonate the bombs. The terror campaign clearly revealed the structural weakness of the British and European “counter-terrorism”, because the bombers were self-organized and unrelated to terrorist groups abroad.
After the terrorist attack, it became fatal to be a foreigner in Britain. The British police were ordered to shoot anyone suspicious, and it cost a Brazilian electrician life. In mid-July, he was executed by British police in the subway because he was busy and therefore according to. police behaved suspiciously.
In November, Blair had to recoup his first serious defeat in parliament since his inception in 1997, when a new terror legislation was voted down by 322 votes against 291. The legislation included a heavily debated proposal to jail suspects for up to 90 days without traveling charge. Since then, far-reaching legislation was passed in Denmark. In the UK, more than 80 Labor members voted against the Prime Minister’s proposal to erode the rule of law, and this put the minister in a delicate situation where rumors of his resignation even circulated. Although Blair had already stated that he would not run for a 4th term, the requirement to replace him with successor Gordon Brown became ever stronger. Finance Minister Brown was the architect of the Labor government’s economic “wonder.”
At least 1,200 gay weddings were scheduled for December 5, the date when gays were granted the same marital rights as heterosexuals. The new legislation gives gays the right to register a partnership, although they do not yet have the right to be ordained in the church.
Blair had to take note of his first parliamentary defeat in November since he took office in 1997. It happened when the lower house rejected his proposal for a so-called security tax. The Prime Minister subsequently declared that he did not intend to run for the next election in 2010. The initially so popular Prime Minister had lost most of his popularity on the unpopular war on Iraq.