Whatever the motives, there is little doubt that the third Thatcher administration saw the environment leap to the highest reaches of the British public policy agenda. In the summer of 1989, Britain and the British seemed to have gone green. People were talking about buying green products in the supermarket, seeking out organic food, looking for local recycling schemes, converting their cars to run on unleaded petrol and worrying about how their way of life was contributing to global warming and destruction of the tropical rain forests. Phrases like

"ozone-friendly", "chemical-free", "biodegradable", "not tested on animals" and "environmentally friendly" began to pepper the products on supermarket shelves. Environmental groups were awash with new membership applications, requests for information, and money. The Greens signed up hundreds of new members every month, and in June 1989 surprised everyone with a 15 per cent share of the vote in the European elections. Mrs Thatcher appointed a new and more sympathetic environment secretary, and chaired a cabinet committee set up to produce the white paper on the environment. In public opinion polls, the environment repeatedly came out as one of the two or three most prominent issues on people's minds.