Nigel Lawson, who died this week, was a towering figure in Margaret Thatcher’s political revolution as much as the iconic prime minister herself. Together, they articulated an approach to politics that emphasized individualism, property ownership and the free market over the corporatism of the past. Their political platform was encapsulated in Thatcher’s famous maxim: “There is no alternative.”
Without Lawson, Thatcher’s economic program would never have achieved its dramatic successes. As a junior Treasury minister in 1979, he spearheaded the deregulation of mortgage lending and the scrapping of foreign exchange controls, setting the stage for the extensive privatization and tax reforms of the 1980s. He then moved on to head the energy department and built up a stockpile of coal in anticipation of a miners’ strike, helping break the back of union power and ushering in an anti-union environment.
In 1983 Lawson took the post of Chancellor of the Exchequer and imposed sweeping budget cuts, drastically reduced government borrowing, and implemented a new monetary and fiscal policy. Although his tenure ended in 1989 when he resigned amid differences with Thatcher’s part-time economic adviser, his legacy was already firmly established. Subsequent leaders from both Labour and Conservative parties have generally followed the economic direction established by the Thatcher-Lawson duo.
Lawson himself remained a staunch Briton, advocating for Brexit and the country’s independence from the Europe. His combative nature and nuanced but firm positions on economics and politics will not be forgotten. This week, the nation pays its respects to the architect of Margaret Thatcher’s revolution: Nigel Lawson.