Margaret Thatcher came to lead the U.K. in 1979 after a series of disputes between the government and Britain’s then-powerful trade unions.
The new British Prime Minister set out to wage war on what she saw was the “enemy within” the U.K., and many people supported her in this fight.
To understand why Thatcher had this support, check out these photos of central London from 1979s “Winter of Discontent”, which show trash piling up on the streets after U.K.’s dustmen (a.k.a. garbage collectors) went on strike.
It’s worth bearing in mind that Leicester Square is pretty much the epicentre of London’s glamorous West End — a tourism hot spot where movie premieres are held.
These photos show the incredible effect the unions (and union strikes) had on the average citizen’s life, and — amazingly — they occurred under Thatcher’s predecessor, Labour Prime Minister James Callaghan, a left-wing leader who relied on the union’s support!
Just a few months after these photos were taken, Callaghan lost a confidence vote in the House of Commons and was obliged to call an election. Thatcher was voted in to power in the U.K., and the Conservative Party enjoyed 18 years of government.
These are very visceral images, but they really only scratch the surface of how much tensions between unions and governments effected the average citizen’s life in the 1970s.
In another notorious example, the British government imposed a 3-day week in early 1974 for commercial users of electricity after industrial action by miners.
NOW WATCH: Briefing videos
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.