British Queen's speech promises more `Thatcherism'

By , Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor

Amid regal pomp and ceremony, and in sparkling sunshine, England's Queen Elizabeth II rode in the Irish State Coach to Parliament to tell her subjects her prime minister's plans for the coming year. Dismissed contemptuously as ``pure Thatcherism'' by her opponents, Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher's program, as unveiled at yesterday's state opening of Parliament, set out to be precisely that: ``pure Thatcherism.''

Since coming to power the prime minister has envisioned Britain becoming a share-owning democracy. Her game plan involved reducing the role of the state, selling public assets to private enterprise, and -- through those sales -- generating revenue to pay for the tax cuts. Such a society, moreover, would be kept secure by ensuring that the forces of law and order prevailed.

The latest speech from the throne commits Britain to move steadfastly down that road. That the news of the program comes from the Queen is English tradition; the prime minister and her advisers write the speech.

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By the end of this coming parliamentary session, some 40 percent of Britain's public sector will be back in private hands. The last big sale of public assets involved British Telecom. It was the largest sell-off of its kind in history. Next to go will be British Gas and the British Airport Authority. Naval dockyards will also be put on a more commercial basis.

The Conservatives have also made a commitment to tax cuts, but the scale has not been spelled out. There is considerable speculation here that the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Nigel Lawson, won't have quite as much money to play with in the coming year.

Unemployment is the single greatest political liability for the Conservative government. Although many analysts see a direct connection between inner-city violence and joblessness, the Thatcher government takes a somewhat different line.

The administration view is that the recent inner-city rioting, soccer hooliganism, and violence on the picket line during last spring's coal miners' strike are evidence of a broader and more general pattern of anti-social behavior that must be curbed.

For that reason the Conservatives are putting considerable stress on law and order. It's an issue readily identified with the government and which, in times of crisis, works in the Conservatives' favor. Recent polls suggest it's becoming a more potent factor on how people will vote than unemployment.

A bill will be introduced intended to curb the kind of hooligan behavior in public housing estates and at shopping malls that has terrorized people, particularly the elderly.

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