The electronics landscape in the U.K. is freewheeling and fragmented thanks to Baroness Margaret Thatcher, former prime minister, who died today.
Baroness Thatcher was the first woman to be appointed prime minister of
Britain and as such she was initially welcomed by many as a reflection
of, and an encouragement for, female equality. However, her strident
right-wing and traditionalist views also alienated many. Baroness
Thatcher also took Britain to war against Argentina in 1982 in defense
of the Falkland Islands. This also polarized
opinion both for and against her.
However, it is through her economic
policies that she has had the longest lasting influence on the business
climate in the United Kingdom. One of the famous quotes
associated with Baroness Thatcher is: "There is no such thing as
society." The context was that in Thatcher's opinion too many people
would lay the blame for whatever misfortunes befell them on "society" and often
in the form of a lack of financial support from the state. Thatcher's
position was that people must take responsibility for themselves.
And her system of beliefs also applied at the company level. While European
institutions and national governments across continental Europe were
actively supporting national champion electronics companies such as
Siemens, Philips and SGS-Thomson Thatcher's government provided little or
no support and expected companies to succeed on their own merits -- or
Many of the electronics companies that existed in
Thatcher's time in power -- the likes of GEC, Marconi, Ferranti, Racal,
and GEC-Plessey Semiconductor were left over from a post-war era when
the electronics sector was driven by military and industrial markets.
Most of these companies do not exist now - or at least not in the same form -- and
it is perhaps significant that the U.K.'s most successful electronics
companies today are intellectual property licensors; ARM Holdings plc
(Cambridge, England) formed in 1990, and Imagination Technologies Group
plc (Kings Langley, England) formed as VideoLogic Ltd. in 1985.
Thatcher and her decade in power swept aside 30 years of state
intervention that had persisted since the rebuilding of post-war Britain
in the 1950s. Some would say it allowed an essential cutting-away of the
dead wood to let younger enterprises flourish. Others would say that her
legacy has been a series of administrations in the U.K. -- formed by
both the Conservative and Labour parties -- that have not done enough to
redistribute wealth from the rich to the poor, or enough to support U.K.
companies fighting against well-backed overseas competitors.
whatever the political leanings of observers, most are agreed that Baroness
Thatcher was a political heavyweight of the 20th century -- one to rival
Britain's war-time leader Sir Winston Churchill -- and a leader who will be
remembered long after many other politicians have been forgotten.