Why The Drum would not have existed if it wasn’t for Margaret Thatcher

By Gordon Young, Editor

April 9, 2013 | 3 min read

If it wasn’t for Margaret Thatcher the website you are currently looking at would not exist. The 40 odd people I can see as I write these words would not be here. Initiatives such as the Chip Shop Awards, DADIs and The Drum Design Awards would never have happened.

The Drum 'would not exist' without Margaret Thatcher

This business, which I helped found, first emerged in 1984 when the country was in the grip of the miners’ strike. But it was not only in coal, where the unions' influence was felt. They controlled my industry in a way which is impossible to imagine now.

In fact we launched what was to become The Drum magazine, to replace another title, which had effectively been closed down by union action. It had attempted to implement a redundancy to secure its future. Powerful unions decreed the person be reinstated or the title would be blacklisted by those in its supply chain. It complied only to close a few months later.

Thanks to Thatcher’s reforms, by the time we appeared on the scene such power was on the wane. But we still had to tread carefully. I was advised that I too should join a union, to ensure that compositors and printers would agree to work on our title.

But imagine my concern when at my first meeting I found that we were already on the union agenda. Some were unhappy that we had run a piece in support of free newspapers, which many saw as a threat to paid-fors. Not long before plans to set up a free title in Clydebank were scuppered by union action.

Not only were new concepts viewed with disdain, but so was new technology. There were still newspapers which used hot metal when we first appeared. Really, compositors sat with molten buckets of lead at their feet. Just imagine how these people would deem the internet if even photo-composition was such an anathema?

Meanwhile, like a brooding giant, a printing works sat silent in a Glasgow industrial estate as a result of this Luddite tendency.

It was the Scottish home of News International, which had lain dormant for years because of union opposition. But in 1985, it burst into life as NI made the move to Wapping.

Made possible by Thatcher’s new laws, the move was historic. It saw control of the company move from unions back to its management. But the ripples have continued to reverberate.

It would not have been possible to start The Drum in the pre-Thatcher era. But so too would it have been impossible to create the vibrant, dynamic and successful ecosystem which is today’s UK media and marketing scene.


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