Greater Britain

Cameron's Thatcher Moment

Cameron distorted Getty
David Cameron needs to tackle real economic problems.
  • Why it matters

    Why it matters

    • Britain’s new government must keep the country open to secure economic growth.
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  • Facts

    Facts

    • Britain’s gross domestic product grew by 2.6 percent in 2014.
    • Unemployment sank to under 6 percent, and 77 percent of 15- to 64-year-olds are gainfully employed.
    • Britain’s share of world trade in goods in only half as high as it was 20 years ago.
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    Audio

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Great Britain, is not that large. The Economist magazine describes it as “a middle-sized island with an oversized influence.”

In the past this influence related to foreign policy and empire. These days it tends to apply more to economic activity. It has been shaped by powerful ideas: Margaret Thatcher whipped the island into shape with a radical cure of free enterprise, and later Tony Blair developed a modern social democratic economic policy.

There is no such big idea now.  When David Cameron won his first election in 2010, the financial crisis had battered the country, strained its previously stable government finances and revealed structural problems. Mr. Cameron’s solution was to basically copy Germany and promise to revive industry, raise exports and consolidate the budget.

The economic accomplishments of his first term in office are considerable. In 2014, gross domestic product grew by 2.6 percent. Unemployment sank to under 6 percent, and 77 percent of 15- to 64-year-olds are gainfully employed — a record. The government got rid of around 900,000 public-service jobs. But in return, 2.5 million jobs were created in the private sector. The budget deficit has been cut by nearly half.

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