European Countries

United Kingdom since World Wars

After the war, as far as domestic politics is concerned, power was alternately divided between the Conservative Party and the Labor Party. Under the impulse of the latter, fundamental functions and services were nationalized, such as the Bank of England (1946), coal mines (1946), civil aviation (1946), telegraphs and radio (1946), railways and canals (1947), road transport (1947), electricity (1947), gas (1948), iron and steel production (1949). The Conservative Party, to which the National Health Service Act), created in 1946 by Labor, largely respected these initiatives. Starting from the end of the 1950s (coinciding with the loss of the colonial empire), the country experienced an unstoppable process of economic decline that led to devaluations of the pound, inflationary phenomena and an increase in unemployment. From the 1960s onwards, the problem of Ulster was added to the economic crisis, with its terrible corollary of attacks and deaths. After the contested British accession to the EEC (January 1973), repeatedly questioned, and after the failures of the so-called “social pact”, in 1977, there was a partial economic improvement, thanks above all to the exploitation of the North Sea oil fields. The socio-economic problems and tensions, however, remained extremely worrying and the 1979 elections brought the Conservatives to the government, who with Prime Minister M. Thatcher embarked on a policy of rigid neoliberal inspiration, with heavy cuts in social spending and a revival of the private initiative. In the international field, the serious crisis opened by the Argentine occupation of the Falkland Islands (1982) was faced, which with the rapid military reconquest of the archipelago consolidated the popularity of the Tories, whose primacy was reconfirmed in the elections of June 1983. In the second half of the 1980s, however, the consensus of the conservatives was decreasing, following the reduction of the structures and guarantees of the welfare state, already at the origin of certain disorders. Furthermore, the persistent economic difficulties (inflation and growing balance of payments deficit) and in part also the isolationist attitude within the European Community contributed greatly to erode the popularity of the government. Meanwhile, the age-old Irish crisis seemed to reach a solution with an agreement between London and Dublin (1985) for the protection of the interests of the Catholic population of Northern Ireland: after the Irish signature of the European Convention on the Suppression of Terrorism (December 1987) and a revision of the agreement, in 1990 the first meeting of a permanent Consultative Assembly (convened every six months) with equal composition was reached.

In 1990, the imposition of a socially unequal municipal tax (called poll tax) gave way to new protests against the government, which was also criticized at the same time by some members of the conservative majority for Thatcher’s European policy and for the entry of the pound into the European Monetary System. Hence, divisions within the Conservative Party also emerged, Thatcher resigned as prime minister at the end of the year and the new party president J. Major assumed the office of prime minister. The latter, having also won the early elections of the House of Commons in 1992, found himself facing the severe economic recession that had now hit the whole country and the intensification of the terrorist actions of the IRA. A. Reynolds, in 1994, the unilateral decision to suspend all armed activity by the IRA favored the initiation of secret contacts between the British government and the political arm of the organization, Sinn Fein, causing a certain stir in public opinion and strong grievances in the Protestant community of Northern Ireland. In 1995, peace talks officially began between the British government and Sinn Fein, but the peace process for Ulster, on which Major played virtually all his cards, soon stalled due to the IRA’s refusal to accept the preliminary ruling of the delivery of arms, necessary to start direct negotiations. Despite the succession of attempts to revive the negotiations, the separatists maintained their position and only in February 1996 announced the end of the ceasefire, but soon after they resumed armed activity. Therefore, T. Blair, whose moderate ideas supported a new model of New Labor, opposing the policy of the Tories on their own ground of liberalizing the economy. Therefore, the decline of the Conservatives was matched by the advance of Labor who, over the years, won all the partial supplementary consultations, eroding Major’s already weak parliamentary majority to the point of canceling it. In the 1997 politics, Tony Blair with his New Labor won the elections, taking over the leadership of the country and engaging in the search for a peace solution in Northern Ireland.

On 10 April 1998, thanks to US mediation, together with Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern and the delegates of eight Northern Irish parties, including the unionist D. Trimble, for the Protestants, and Gerry Adams, the leader of Sinn Fein, Blair signed a settlement for Northern Ireland. The agreement sanctioned, albeit under the sovereignty of the United Kingdom, the self-government of Northern Ireland and the creation of a joint Council of Ministers of Belfast and Dublin for cooperation between the two parties and the release of political prisoners after the deposition of arms by paramilitary groups. According to Softwareleverage, the agreement was approved by a very large majority in the referendum held in May of the same year, at the end of 1999 the first mixed autonomous government, made up of five Catholic and five Protestant ministers, was established in Belfast. The disarmament process, in 2001, of the IRA, sanctioned by the Belfast agreement which allowed the Assembly of the Ulster to continue its experience of self-government, consolidated the pacification of the region. Blair’s policy also favored the administrative autonomy of Wales and Scotland (in the first elections for the Scottish Parliament and the Welsh Assembly, held in May 1999, the Labor Party was affirmed) and the reform of the Welfare. After his first mandate, Blair, with a determined electoral campaign based on the improvement of public services and on a constructive participation in the reform of the European Union, won the political consultations of 2001, retaining the absolute majority of New Labor in the House of Commons and inflicting a second heavy defeat on the more cautious conservatives. As far as foreign policy is concerned, the Blair government supported all the initiatives of the United States (military operations against Iraq and Yugoslavia, 1999) and especially after the serious attacks of 11 September 2001 in New York and Washington, which had caused the deaths of thousands of people, Blair offered unconditional support to the president GW Bush in the fight against terrorism, initiating a series of diplomatic talks aimed at forming a network of alliances against Islamic fundamentalism, and providing substantial military support to the US military in the attack on Afghanistan. Less commitment, however, the Labor leader showed towards Europe, even refusing to enter the euro area Meanwhile, in Northern Ireland, at the end of October of that year, the disarmament process of the IRA began, sanctioned by the Belfast agreement of April 1998, which allowed the Ulster Assembly to continue its experience. of self-government. In the international crisis that opened in 2002 between the United States and Iraq, Blair sided with the former, sending contingents of troops to the Gulf; this caused serious lacerations within the European Union, in which France and Germany sided in favor of a diplomatic solution to the crisis. On March 20, 2003, Britain, alongside the United States and Australia, entered the war against Iraq.

In November 2003 they took place in Ulster elections for the renewal of Parliament; convened with the hope of giving new impetus to the peace process, however, they saw the affirmation of the two most intransigent parties: the Democratic Unionist Party for Protestants, and Sinn Fein for Catholics. Politically, the disputes over the war and the failure to find weapons of mass destruction on Iraqi territory have damaged Prime Minister Tony Blair and the Labor Party. In the June 2004 administrative elections, Blair’s party suffered a crushing defeat, overtaken by both the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats. The political elections of May 2005 saw the Labor victory for the third consecutive time, even if the polemics following the Iraqi conflict caused them to lose a lot of support. In June, the government decided to suspend the consultative referendum on the new European Constitution, following the negative outcome of the referendums in France and the Netherlands. In July, a series of terrorist attacks hit some underground stations in central London. In September 2006, the Labor Party congress was held in which Blair, pressured by negative polls and the party’s growing opposition to his foreign policy, announced his intention to withdraw. In March 2007, legislative elections were held in Northern Ireland which saw the victory of the Democratic Union Party, in front of the Republicans of Sinn Fein. The next day a historic agreement was reached between Ian Pasley, Protestant leader of the Democratic Unionist Party, and Gerry Adams, the main figure of the Catholic Sinn Fein party; the two politicians decided to start a power-sharing government. In June 2007, Blair left his post as prime minister a G. Brown who was immediately faced with a series of problems. The country’s economic situation worsened and confidence in the Labor leadership was dropping (2008 local elections). In 2008 a plan for the progressive withdrawal of British troops in Iraq was announced, but the engagement in Afghanistan increased (2009). In March 2010, the Northern Ireland Regional Assembly approved a landmark agreement for the transfer of police and justice powers from London to Belfast. The political elections won by the conservatives led by David Cameron took place in May (306 seats), followed by Labor (258 seats) and Liberal Democrats (57 seats). Soon after, Cameron became the new prime minister, with a government politically supported by Nick Clegg’s liberals. In December, the government’s decision to raise tuition fees sparked violent student protests. In February 2012 the celebrations began for the sixty years of reign of Queen Elizabeth II, who took the throne in 1952, while in July the XXX edition of the Olympic Games was held in London. In September 2014, the referendum on the independence of Scotland was held, which was won by the unionist coalition. In May 2015, the political elections won by the conservatives took place.

United Kingdom since World Wars