There's no slowing down for Margaret Thatcher dynamo
In her usual rigorous style, Margaret Thatcher is taking only one week of vacation -- instead of three or four like most of her parliamentary colleagues. The Prime Minister's advisers say she will use the brief summer break to ponder how she can maintain the momentum of radical Conservative Party government. So far, after 15 hectic months of Tory rule, her reputation for determined, dynamic leadership remains undimmed.
Sixty new acts of Parliament now are on the statute book. They show that Thatcher rule in such fields as the running of industry, the apportionment of taxes, the battle to bring down inflation, is drastically different from Briton's previous experience since World War II.
Three-quarters of the Conservative manifesto on which Mrs. Thatcher successfully fought last year's general election has already been transmuted into law. The bulk of the rest will be legislated when members of Parliament return from sunny climes to the granite cloisters of Westminster.
Observers say the country has seen nothing like the Thatcher drive to bring about change since Britain's first postwar Labour goverment under Clement Attlee set out to achieve a welfare society.
But beneath the surface of vigorous legislative activity, future problems are starting to make their presence felt. This was especially the case in the closing weeks of this past parliamentary session.
Unemployment statistics are still climbing, with leading economists and industrialists predicting well over 2 million out of work by next year.
As MPs were consulting continental road maps and telling their children about the seasde delights in store for them, their attention was rudely dragged back to serious matters by treasury figures showing that the country's level of borrowing was five percentage points ahead of official predictions.
Inflation, though showing a slight tendency to drop back, is unlikely to fall below 18 percent in coming months. This increases the likelihood that trade unions will use the winter to organize stoppages aimed at raising wages to meet the higher cost of living.
Even more significant perhaps, were the divisions that began opening up in Mrs. Thatcher's Cabinet between broadly, the "Thatcher faithful," subscribing to monetarist economic theories, and the "rest," who believe those theories are too rigorous and too far removed from political reality.
Last week she was forced to agree to hefty pay rises for schoolteachers after her own Cabinet ministers insisted that she had no right to block the increases. Mrs. Thatcher also was obliged to abandon a plan to sell profitable goverment-owned shipyards to private industry.
These dents in the Thatcher record of getting her own way were accompanied by a climbdown on part of her government's plan to sell council houses to tenants. She found she could not get Parliament to agree to the sale of council homes occupied by old people.
By wide consent, however, the setback of the final phase of the parliamentary session were comparatively minor. Even the split in the Cabinet is regarded as containable -- so long as monetarist theories do not lead Brittain into a serious economic collapse.
Mrs. Thatcher's own personality has been confirmed as the most consistent element in her approach to government. She may back away from time to time, and she may occasionally bow to the advice of those who disagree with her.
But she does not retreat, and she never admits total defeat.