British Prime Minister Thatcher's economic policies face a parliamentary motion of no confidence just when their beneficial effects are beginning to creep up on their negative ones. Could it be that her grass-roots supporters are wiser in backing these policies for the long pull than the prominent political figures, including those in her own Conservative Party, who are calling for a change of course?
Consider, for example, the question of tough deflationary control of the money supply with accompanying high interest rates - something with which the American cousins are also familiar at the moment. Here is what former Conservative Prime Minister Edward Heath cuttingly said about it: ''No one will ever convince the exponents of the singular doctrine of monetarism that it is now inadequate. The answer will always be that it has not been tried hard enough or long enough.'' In the light of recent positive developments, Mr. Heath might have to recognize the possibility that it is not just monetarist defense tactics but good sense to give a hard monetary line more time to work.
At least the Thatcher policies in sum are receiving credit for some of the better economic news beyond the critical headlines. For instance, manufacturing production figures over the summer - a rise of 2 percent - suggested that Britain was climbing up from the bottom of its recession. The trend in wages was anti-inflationary, with increases per unit of output a fraction of what they were a year before. Productivity of British workers is expected to average a 3 percent gain this year. Unions and management are displaying increased cooperation. Industrial executives are reported to rely less on government in labor relations and to have begun running more efficient operations with prospects for heightened British competitiveness in world markets. The fruits could be reduced by weakness of economies in potential buying nations. But certainly a tightened production system in Britain would be a worthy Thatcher legacy whatever the short-term ups and downs.
Right now the focus is on unemployment figures. It was these that precipitated a Labour Party call for a no-confidence vote. The seasonally adjusted ones show a rise for the 25th consecutive month, up from 11.1 percent of the labor force to 11.3 percent. Mrs. Thatcher looked to the unadjusted figures, which indicated a reduction of about 10,000, bringing the total to 2, 988,644 for the first drop since May of last year.
Almost three million people out of work in a land that for years prided itself on a policy of full employment - this blot on Mrs. Thatcher's record will need to be diminished by more than 10,000 if she is to continue making her case. Critics from inside and outside her party are ready with alternatives.
Mrs. Thatcher might examine some of these in the spirit of her recent Conservative conference words that she was not bound by dogma but only sought success for Britain. Without destroying the thrust of policies that now appear to be bringing results, she might find refinements that would broaden their benefits to more of the population.