Margaret Thatcher's triumph in the May 3rd general elections in Britain has raised a few hopes around the world that Britain may indeed rebound a bit from the rather horrible mess it has been in since the Labour Party came to power in 1974.

On the continent, the feeling in many quarters is that Britain may play a more positive role again in the Common Market. In the words of the German television network ZDF, "the new government will not make Brussels responsible for every British illness."

To the beleaguered governments of southern Africa, who have smarted for years under the pro-guerrilla posturing of former Foreign Secretary David Owen, the Thatcher victory also brings hope of some even-handed relief. The new black majority government of Zimbabwe Rhodesia feels its chances of having economic sanctions lifted have definitely improved. But, of course, even the Conservatives now in power in London will think twice before openly alienating most of black Africa on this issue. Certainly nothing will happen on this score until after the upcoming Commonwealth ministers' conference to be held — unfortunately for Rhodesia's sake — in neighboring Lusaka, Zambia. Mrs. Thatcher will be under intense pressure to keep the sanctions on.

South Africa hopes that if negotiations to secure a U.N. approved independence in Namibia (South West Africa) break down, the Thatcher government will nevertheless block any attempt to impose trade sanctions against Pretoria.

At home, Mrs. Thatcher will of course be limited by many factors, including the strike-at-any-notice trade unions, in quickly carrying our much needed economic reforms. After all, Britain has gone a long way down, for a long time, in the wrong direction. In an article entitled "Thatcher's Strategy: Half Steam Ahead," Business Week, in its May 21, 1979 issue said this:

"Even Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher's most enthusiastic supporters harbor no illusions that the task confronting Britain's new Conservative government will be an easy one. Her mandate, while strong enough to allow her a full five-year term, was no landslide...The vote was not so much a mandate for the Conservatives as a repudiation of the Laborites.

"Thatcher believes that time is on her side, and therefore, a deliberate pace is called for. She intends to attack Britain's basic economic problems — low investment and low productivity — in the same gradualist way. Thatcher and her advisors see a reduction in personal income taxes, the highlight of her first budget, as a direct incentive to small businessmen to plow back profits."

In another part of the Commonwealth, election day is drawing near. On May 22, Canadians will troop to the polls in one of that nation's most critical elections ever.

The race at this time is too close to call. The latest poll puts incumbent Liberal Party Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau ahead by one percentage point — 39% to 38% — over Progressive Conservative challenger Joe Clark, with Edward Broadbent of the New Democratic Party third at 16%.

Mr. Trudeau — who bridges in his own bloodstream the cultural dichotomy of Canada — has continually stressed his value in keeping the nation unified against the separatist challenge of the Parti Quebecois provincial government in Quebec. The Progressive Conservatives, on the other hand, have made Canada's sluggish economy the main issue. Mr. Clark blames Trudeau for Canada's 88C dollar and high unemployment. He claims, moreover, that Canada is overdue for a change from the highly personalized, rather autocratic style of the Trudeau leadership. Eleven years is enough, Clark maintains.

Will there be a change on May 22? A recent poll showed that while Canadians may want a change at the top, they still question the leadership abilities of the unsung "average man" Clark. The poll showed that Canadians believe, by more than 2 to 1, that Trudeau would still make a better Prime Minister than Clark.

As much as Canadians may feel that the pocketbook issue of the national economy is the main issue in the campaign, the unity question, as stressed by Mr. Trudeau, is still the most critical one the nation faces. A prosperous Canada would be impossible were the country to be balkanized.

Roger Lemeliu, the publisher of the influential Montreal French-language daily, La Presse, said in a May 2 speech that the separatist Parti Quebecois government in Quebec was succeeding in its attempt to propagandize people in the province against Canadian federalism. He said that the PQ had succeeded to some extent in turning economic uncertainty into blackmail designed to weaken the federal government and induce other provinces to let Quebec separate.

"When we [in Quebec] hear prosperous provinces declare that they want to talk about economic performance and are fed up with the talk about Canadian unity, we feel discouraged and abandoned to say the least. I tell you, there can be no long-term prosperity or guarantee of freedom in Canada without unity. Unity is the keystone. Unity is fundamental."

Gene Hogberg, News Bureau

Back To Top

Pastor General's ReportMay 14, 1979Vol 3 No. 17