This year is significant for the Conservative Party's fourth-term general election triumph; "Black Wednesday" (16 September); the suspension of the UK's participation in the European Exchange Rate Mechanism; and an annus horribilis for the Royal Family...
The UK was entering its third year of a recession when elections were called. The Labour government was struggling with high unemployment, falling output, and rising inflation. In addition, it had to cope with the fallout from the "cash-for-questions" affair, which saw two ministers resign and one go to jail. Finally, in January 1992, it was revealed that some £100 million ($160 million) of taxpayers' money had been spent on the party's general election campaign. Critics said this was a blatant attempt by Margaret Thatcher to win back votes lost to the opposition Labour Party after it became known as the party of greed.
These were not good times for Britain's conservative prime minister. Within months, she would be ousted from office by her own party, leaving John Major without a mandate to govern. Yet even during this difficult period, he did not suffer any major scandals or public protests like many other leaders have done before or since. This may be because Britain has a long tradition of loyalism toward its monarchs and conservatism in politics, so people didn't feel the need to protest against the status quo.
The term "Black Wednesday" relates to September 16, 1992, when the pound sterling plummeted, forcing Britain to exit from the European Exchange Rate Mechanism (ERM). The United Kingdom was driven out of the ERM because it was unable to keep the value of the pound from dropping below the ERM's lower limit.
The British government had been negotiating with European Union (EU) member states about possible measures that would allow it to continue trading within the ERM. On August 31, 1992, Prime Minister John Major announced at a press conference that an agreement had been reached with France, Germany, and Italy to stay within the ERM through December 4, 1992. However, just over one week later on September 15, 1992, the French finance minister announced that his country would not be part of any further negotiations regarding continued membership in the ERM. An agreement could not be reached with France, and so Britain was forced out of the ERM.
The decision by France to withdraw itself from further negotiations on continued membership in the ERM caused major problems for the British government. Without France's support, there was no way for Britain to remain within the ERM. Also, France's decision to leave the mechanism meant that there were no more countries willing to protect Britain if it were to become too expensive for its customers to trade with.
Events. Ronald Kidd and Sylvia Crowther-Smith establish the National Council for Civil Liberties on January 1. On January 21, ten thousand people gathered in Birmingham for a demonstration organized by Oswald Mosley's British Union of Fascists. The 1934 Betting and Lotteries Act was approved on March 27, 1934. This act made it possible to ban gambling in England and Wales. The Gambling Act 1935 followed in April, making gambling illegal throughout the Commonwealth.
In May, a royal commission chaired by Lord Hewart investigated claims that the BBC had a left-wing bias. The result was a report called "The Hawke Report" after its author, Sir John Hawke. It recommended reducing costs at the BBC by 10,000 pounds ($15,500).
In June, members of the Communist Party conducted a series of strikes to protest against government repression of workers' rights. Some strikers were fired upon when they took to the streets. One man was killed and several others were injured. Police arrested more than seven hundred people during these protests.
In July, the British government issued an export license for the manufacture of armaments to Japan. The decision caused outrage in Parliament where many members protested against the action taken by the government. However, no official sanctions were imposed at the time.
In August, the British Empire held its first national census in over fifteen years.
The events of 1945 in the United Kingdom This year marks the end of World War II and the Labour Party's sweeping general election win.
Britain had emerged from the war with its economy devastated by years of fighting and occupation, and its population reduced by millions. In the summer of 1945, nearly a million people were homeless and more than 2 million people were unemployed.
In an attempt to provide stability after decades of monarchy, a new prime minister is appointed: Clement Attlee, who has been leader of the Labour Party since 1943. The election also saw the end of Winston Churchill's political career: he lost his seat in Parliament.
Attlee's first act as prime minister is to call a new election. Because most military bases have now been returned to Britain, there is no need for another vote on joining the European Union. But many people still feel that only a strong government can protect them from future threats to peace - so Attlee calls a second election for October 1945. This time, the Conservatives are expected to do well because they will have more time to campaign before voters go to the polls.
But when the votes are counted, it is clear that the Conservatives did not make any headway against Labour. In fact, they lost several seats!
The economy, like most other developed nations, was in recession at the time of Major's tenure. The 1992 election was one of the most dramatic in the United Kingdom since the conclusion of World War II because it surprised opinion surveys. The Conservative government led by Prime Minister John Major had been expected to win easily, but instead it lost its majority in Parliament.
The recession began in 1990, just a year after Britain's entry into the EEC. An oil shock caused by political instability in Iraq sent prices soaring across the globe, especially in Britain, which was dependent on foreign energy supplies. The British economy then fell victim to European integration: When France and Germany decided to expand themselves by adding new countries to their economic unions, the United Kingdom didn't have any say in the matter. The Thatcher government had agreed to let in France's Luxembourgish partner country, so that was that. Then Germany started talking about adding states from the former Eastern Bloc, and once again the United Kingdom wasn't invited to the party. As you can see, Europe has always wanted us out, so they can run their economies as they see fit.
Major's government was also plagued by inefficiency and corruption allegations. There were reports of sleazy dealing within the ministry of defense, where friends of certain members of parliament were given important positions over others who were more qualified.