A historical account of a diagram that helped to provide the intellectual foundation for Margaret Thatcher’s political revolution.
When Thatcher was elected the leader of the United Kingdom’s Conservative Party in 1976, the country was mired in economic malaise and political disillusionment. That same year, Sir John Hoskyns, a successful businessman with no previous political experience, mapped out what he thought were the principal causes of the nation’s economic dysfunction—a graphic display that came to be known as the “wiring diagram.” The following year, he converted this into an electoral and political strategy titled the “Stepping Stones” report, which became the philosophical fulcrum of Thatcher’s successful election campaign in 1979 as well as a blueprint for her subsequent approach to governance. At the heart of the plan was an opposition to entrenched union power, protected by the Labour Party, which demanded low unemployment and high wages via government programs. This squeezed a government already pinched by declining productivity in the private sector, causing accumulating debt and higher taxes—strategies that, in Hoskyns’ view, only compounded the original problem. Clouse (Six Nine, Two Ten, 2016, etc.) begins by sketching out the historical context for Hoskyns’ contribution to Thatcher’s success, including an account of the domestic political scene as well as the theoretical fight between free-market economists and the dominant Keynesians of the time. Clouse’s exposition is impressively meticulous and lucid throughout this book, rendering Hoskyns’ complex vision accessible to patient readers. He takes them on a tour of the wiring diagram in its entirety, clearly explaining each of the cells that represent economic causes and effects of underperformance. Further, he carefully limns the differences between the wiring diagram and the political report it birthed as well as the real differences between Thatcher’s and Hoskyns’ views. Finally, he displays a firm grasp of the historical import of Hoskyns’ sketch: “It presented basic truths that were turned into policies, and those policies improved the lives of millions of ordinary people.”
An astute discussion of a significant but often neglected component of British history.