Wednesday 18 May 2022 01:28 PM Life in Britain in 1982... the last time inflation hit historic 9% high trends now

Wednesday 18 May 2022 01:28 PM Life in Britain in 1982... the last time inflation hit historic 9% high trends now
Wednesday 18 May 2022 01:28 PM Life in Britain in 1982... the last time inflation hit historic 9% high trends now

Wednesday 18 May 2022 01:28 PM Life in Britain in 1982... the last time inflation hit historic 9% high trends now

It was the year of the Falklands War, when Bucks Fizz were topping the charts and Del Boy and Rodney's wheeler-dealer antics kept Britons glued to their televisions. 

But 1982 was also the year that inflation was at 9.1 per cent, a level that would remain unmatched until today's headline figure of 9 per cent. 

The Bank of England even expects that the rate will climb further to  a peak of 10.25 per cent in the final quarter of this year, sparking the biggest squeeze in incomes in decades. 

Britain's Prime Minister in the 1980s, Margaret Thatcher, had swept into office in 1979 just after the industrial unrest of the 'Winter of Discontent', which had been marked by widespread strikes and rampant pay demands from greedy trade union bosses.

The high levels of inflation during Mrs Thatcher's early years in office were a by-product of the economic chaos of the 1970s.

In 1975, inflation had peaked at more than 25 per cent, causing the prices of ordinary goods to rise rapidly. 

Mrs Thatcher was elected on a mandate that included a promise to tame inflation. That 9.1 per cent figure of 1982 - which came in March - was in fact far lower than the spring 1980 level. Then, it reached the equivalent by today's standards of nearly 18 per cent. 

Her method of getting inflation under control - hiking interest rates to an excruciating 17 per cent - was successful, with levels plummeting to below five per cent in the mid-1980s, but it came at the cost of pushing unemployment to beyond 4 million.

The PM's government, which included the tough-talking Employment Secretary Norman Tebbit and Chancellor Geoffrey Howe, also introduced curbs on public spending which, although effective in further pushing down inflation, also caused further social unrest. 

The last time the level of inflation went beyond nine per cent, in March 1982, Margaret Thatcher was in her fourth year as Prime Minister. Above: The then PM on a visit to China in 1982

The last time the level of inflation went beyond nine per cent, in March 1982, Margaret Thatcher was in her fourth year as Prime Minister. Above: The then PM on a visit to China in 1982

Only Fools And Horses were popular on British TV, along with other shows such as This Is Your Life and Coronation Street. Above: Nicholas Lyndhurst as Rodney, David Jason (centre) as Del Boy and Lennard Pearce as Grandad

Only Fools And Horses were popular on British TV, along with other shows such as This Is Your Life and Coronation Street. Above: Nicholas Lyndhurst as Rodney, David Jason (centre) as Del Boy and Lennard Pearce as Grandad 

Bucks Fizz topped the charts twice with their singles The Land of Make Believe and My Camera Never Lies. Above: The band performing in 1982

Bucks Fizz topped the charts twice with their singles The Land of Make Believe and My Camera Never Lies. Above: The band performing in 1982

The legacy of the high inflation of the early 1980s stretched as far back as a decade previously, when surging oil prices, an international energy crisis and strikes and wage demands by unions had caused economic turmoil. 

The social historian Dominic Sandbrook has documented how the unrest of the 1970s peaked with the 1979 Winter of Discontent, when bin bags heaped high in London's Leicester Square after refuse workers went on strike. 

In October 1973, the OPEC cartel - which was dominated by Arab producers - raised the price of oil by 17 per cent in retaliation for the West's support of Israel in the Yom Kippur War. 

The move prompted inflation to tear through the economy and led to the the Prime Minister Edward Heath declaring a three-day week, as strikes by coal miners led to a drastic shortage of energy. 

When Heath was turfed out of office after calling an election in which he asked 'Who governs Britain?', his Labour successor Harold Wilson was then faced with an even worse situation.. 

By the spring of 1975, prices in the UK were rising five times faster than in Europe. 

Sandbrook highlights how, in just a year, the price of sugar went up by 184 per cent, carrots by 137 per cent and electricity by 66 per cent. 

But, terrified of further crippling strikes that had already brought the country to a halt, ministers were still agreeing to huge pay increases for workers, a factor that contributed further to inflation.

Mrs Thatcher's popularity levels - which had been dangerously low - were boosted by Britain's victory over Argentina in the Falklands War

Mrs Thatcher's popularity levels - which had been dangerously low - were boosted by Britain's victory over Argentina in the Falklands War

Mrs Thatcher was elected on a mandate that included a promise to tame inflation. The PM's government included the tough-talking Employment Secretary Norman Tebbit and Chancellor Geoffrey Howe

Mrs Thatcher was elected on a mandate that included a promise to tame inflation. The PM's government included the tough-talking Employment Secretary Norman Tebbit and Chancellor Geoffrey Howe

Whilst Wilson and his successor Callaghan brought inflation down to single figures in 1978 by persuading the unions to accept reduced pay deals, the situation worsened once again late that year, when lorry drivers went on strike to demand higher wages. 

The Winter of Discontent saw ports, petrol stations and supermarkets paralysed as supply chains ground to a halt.

With Callaghan hamstrung by an apparent inability to get the situation under control, Mrs Thatcher won the 1979 election on the back of a programme that promised to fix the situation. 

Mrs Thatcher's economic programme also included a shift from centralised, state-controlled institutions to privatisation and economic reform. 

Big British names that were privatised included British Telecom and airline British Airways. 

But her policies led to brutal divisions in the country, as they boosted the service sector and home ownership but led to the decline of manufacturing and industries such as coal mining and steel making. 

In 1982, the year of the 9.1 per cent inflation figure, NHS staff went on strike over pay in September. With nurses campaigning for a 12 per cent pay rise, the three-day strike shook the health service

In 1982, the year of the 9.1 per cent inflation figure, NHS

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