From Maggie to May: Forty Years of (De)Industrialisation Strategy

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Upon becoming Prime Minister, Theresa May installed industrial strategy as one of the principal planks of her economic policy. May’s embrace of industrial strategy, with its tacit acceptance of a positive role for the state in steering and coordinating economic activity, initially appears to be a decisive break with an era dating back to Margaret Thatcher in which government intervention was regarded as heresy. Whilst there are doubtless novel features, this article argues that continuity is the overriding theme of May’s industrial strategy . First, despite their reluctance to confess it, like every UK government over the past 40 years May is proposing to intervene selectively to ‘pick winners’. Moreover, the strategy envisages extending assistance to industries in receipt of substantial government resources since the 1970s. Likewise, the backing anticipated for industries identified in May’s strategy is dwarfed by those that are not, most notably the financial services sector. Far from radically rebalancing the structure of the UK economy May’s strategy seems destined to entrench the deindustrialisation with which its governments have grappled for almost a century.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)631-639
JournalThe Political Quarterly
Issue number4
Early online date26 Sep 2018
Publication statusPublished - 20 Nov 2018

Bibliographical note

This is the peer reviewed version of the following article: Silverwood, J & Woodward, R 2018, 'From Maggie to May: Forty Years of (De)Industrialisation Strategy' The Political Quarterly, vol. (In-Press), pp. (In-Press), which has been published in final form at
This article may be used for non-commercial purposes in accordance with Wiley Terms and Conditions for Self-Archiving.


  • Industrial Strategy
  • Industrial policy
  • Margaret Thatcher
  • Theresa May

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    • 1 Participation in conference

    Austerity and its Alternatives: Impediments to Change and Ways to Overcome Them

    Richard Woodward (Speaker), James Silverwood (Contributor)
    23 Mar 201824 Mar 2018

    Activity: Participating in or organising an eventParticipation in conference

    Research Output

    • 1 Citations
    • 4 Web publication/site
    • 2 Chapter

    Prisoner of the Past: UK Industrial Strategy from Empire to Brexit

    Silverwood, J. & Woodward, R., 13 Jan 2020, (Submitted) The Political Economy of Industrial Strategy in the UK : From Productivity Problems to Development Dilemmas.

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

    What Happens Next? Coronavirus, Brexit and Industrial Strategy

    Silverwood, J., 29 Apr 2020

    Research output: Practice-Based and Non-textual ResearchWeb publication/site

    Open Access
  • Still 'picking winners': The political history of UK industrial strategy

    Silverwood, J. & Woodward, R., 5 Nov 2018, What We Really Mean When We Talk About Industrial Strategy. Berry, C. (ed.). Manchester: Future Economies, p. 189-192 4 p.

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

    Open Access
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