May 3: The Russians had already dubbed her the Iron Lady.
Now, Margaret Thatcher became Britain's first woman prime minister,
winning power in a General Election which gave the Tories 339
seats and Labour 268.
Conservative victory was inevitable. Labour had been through one
of the most damaging periods in its history, the so-called Winter
of Discontent. As unions called strike after strike, it seemed
as though the movement which had created the Labour Party was
now hell-bent on bringing it down.
Piles of rubbish built up in the streets, pickets blockaded
hospitals and in a grisly turn of events in Liverpool, dead bodies
lay unburied. These were images which would be inextricably linked
with Labour throughout the next 18 years of unbroken Conservative
Margaret Thatcher was an unknown quantity. As education secretary
she had been responsible for ending the daily allowance of milk
in primary schools, earning her the tag of Thatcher, the Milk
Snatcher. She inherited a Britain still reeling from attacks by
the IRA and an industrial scene burdened with over-manning, restrictive
practices and wildcat strikes. Could the Iron Lady really make
August 27. Even in a Britain hardened by IRA atrocities,
the murder of Lord Mountbatten in Ireland caused horror and outrage.
The 79-year-old uncle of Prince Charles was boating off Sligo
with his 14-year-old grandson and a teenage boatman who were also
killed. Three other passengers, Mountbatten's daughter and her
son and mother-in-law, were badly wounded. The IRA claimed the
killing was an "execution" but the Irish Government expressed
sorrow. The funeral of Lord Mountbatten, the last Viceroy of India,
was a poignant state occasion which did the IRA great propaganda
damage across the world.
January 8. As Vietnamese troops invaded Cambodia, the
first evidence of genocide under the Khymer Rouge regime of Pol
Pot was revealed. Hundreds of thousands of men, women and children
had been tortured and slaughtered in Cambodia's so-called "killing
fields." The fanatical Pol Pot troops were ordered to return Cambodia,
once a peaceful French colony, to "Year Zero." About one million
people - a fifth of Cambodia's population - were missing, presumed
December 24. A Soviet squad seized control of Kabul airport
and the invasion of Afghanistan was completed in a matter of days.
The rest of the world was horrified at this blatant invasion of
a neighbouring sovereign state. Moscow claimed it was supporting
the Kabul government which took power the previous year. But the
Soviet adventure quickly ran into bloody opposition as Afghan
tribesmen took to the hills for guerrilla warfare. The Russians
poured men, tanks and helicopter gunships into the war and sowed
thousands of land mines. But the guerrillas fought back ferociously
and the Russian conscripts were soon enmeshed in the USSR's own
version of Vietnam.
August 15. At Zurich, 22-year-old Sebastian Coe set yet
another record, breaking the tape in the 1,500 metres race in
3mins 32.1secs. On July 5 Coe covered 800 metres in 1min 42.33secs
at Oslo, and 12 days later ran the mile in 3mins 48.85secs, becoming
the first person since the 1960s to hold both records at the same
February 1. The Ayatollah Khomeini
returned from exile in France to become leader of Iran.
February 1. Punk rocker Sid Vicious
was found dead of a drugs overdose in his New York apartment.
March 1. With inflation raging,
West Midland health workers threatened strike action over
a claim for a nine per cent pay rise.
March 12. Maurice Bishop seized
power in Grenada for his New Jewel movement.
March 15. Union leaders reported
an "explosive" situation at GEC, Stafford following the
suicide of foreman Dick Jenkinson after he was one of 300
to be made redundant.
March 28. Prime Minister Jim Callaghan
lost a vote of confidence in the Commons and called a General
March 30. The authorities in Pennsylvania
admitted there was a problem at the stricken Three Mile
Island nuclear reactor.
May 21. Elton John became the first
rock star from the West to perform in the USSR.
August 3. West Midlands Police
mechanics were offered a cash settlement if they called
off industrial action which had put one-third of police
vehicles off the road.
August 14. Prostitutes in Wolverhampton
and Stoke-on-Trent were said to be swapping red-light areas
with each other to avoid prosecution.
November 21. Anthony Blunt, keeper
of the Queen's pictures, was revealed as a former Soviet
December 14. Hubert Vincent Spencer
was charged with the murder of 70-year-old farmer Hubert
Wilkes, less than half a mile from the scene of the earlier
Carl Bridgewater killing.