How was life in the UK in 1982 – the last time inflation was this high?

It is the biggest jump in Consumer Prices Index inflation since February 1982, when CPI reached 10.4%.

Ted Hennessey
Wednesday 17 August 2022 10:24 BST
Margaret Thatcher (PA)
Margaret Thatcher (PA)

Consumer Prices Index (CPI) inflation reached 10.1% last month.

It is the biggest jump in the cost of living since February 1982, when CPI reached 10.4%, according to estimates.

Here is what was happening in the country in 1982:

– Economy

The unemployment rate stood at 10.4%, the highest it had been for 50 years, with three million (one in eight) people out of work.

The basic rate of income tax was 30%, while the standard rate of VAT was 15%.

(PA Graphics)

– Politics

Margaret Thatcher’s priorities in the early 1980s included tackling inflation, aiming to reduce the amount of money in circulation by cutting spending and raising indirect taxes.

Inflation did start to come down, but not before the UK economy spent the whole of 1980 and early 1981 in recession – hindering support for the Conservative Party.

Mrs Thatcher had been almost three years into her first term as prime minister, but her party was averaging around 31% in the opinion polls, putting it behind Labour (32%) and the Alliance (34%) – a recently formed pact between the Liberal and Social Democratic (SDP) parties.

– Business

Large shops had to be closed on Sundays by law, with many shutting for half a day on Wednesdays.

The UK’s gas, electricity, coal and water industries were all public-owned, along with Royal Mail, British Rail, British Airways, British Steel, BP, Rolls-Royce and British Leyland (later known as the Rover Group).

Marinas and Princesses manufactured at British Leyland’s Longbridge plant (PA)

The entire telephone system was also run by British Telecom, which was in public hands, though a licence would later be granted to Mercury Communications to operate the country’s first ever privately run network.

– Strikes

NHS staff went on a three-day strike over pay in September, with nurses campaigning for a 12% pay rise.

In June, miners in South Wales downed tools in support of health service workers.

– War

In April, the Argentine invasion of the Falkland Islands took place, overpowering 80 Royal Marines and local volunteers.

Over a few months, the British forces would fight back and regain control of the territory.

The conflict cost 255 British lives, while about 650 Argentines died.

– Royal 

In 1982 the Duke of Cambridge was born, while the Duke of York saw frontline action in the Falklands War.

The Prince and Princess of Wales showing off their son, Prince William, to the media for the first time (Tim Ockenden/PA)

Andrew, the Queen’s second son, flew missions as a Sea King helicopter pilot.

Michael Fagan broke into Buckingham Palace and got inside the Queen’s private chambers while she was still in bed.

The unemployed father of four, 31, spent around 10 minutes talking to the Queen after he climbed over the palace walls and up a drainpipe.

– Culture

There were just four UK-wide radio stations and three television channels, with Channel 4 launching later in the year.

Four million were still watching black and white television, despite colour sets being in around 14 million households.

TV programmes This Is Your Life and Coronation Street – both on ITV – were attracting audiences of around 17 million.

Only Fools And Horses was still in its infancy, having first aired the year before.

Come On Eileen by Dexys Midnight Runners was among the popular songs that year, while Barbra Streisand and Tight Fit would top the charts in March.

Among the top grossing films in the UK were E.T. The Extra Terrestrial, Annie and Rocky 3.

– Sport

England manager Ron Greenwood during a training session with the England team during the 1982 World Cup Finals (PA)

England’s football team was preparing for the World Cup in June, managed by Ron Greenwood, who would be replaced by Bobby Robson after the tournament.

Bryan Robson, Peter Shilton, Glenn Hoddle and Kevin Keegan were in the squad.

Liverpool were the team to beat domestically, winning the English Football League, while Aston Villa would go on to win the European Cup final.

That year would also see the oldest jockey to win the Grand National, with 48-year-old Dick Saunders riding Grittar to victory.

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