The first months of 1987 were dominated by election fever: no-one knew when the General Election was going to be, but it was certainly coming. The selection of the date by Margaret Thatcher's government was going to be no easy task; virtually every poll held in 1986 had suggested that the Conservatives would need to pull one out of the hat if they were to win a majority. This depended in no small part on maximising the benefit of two factors: firstly, the fact that after five years of rife unemployment, the economy was finally picking up; and secondly, the presence of what even Labour leader Neil Kinnock described as "squabbling" within the opposition ranks.
In his March budget, Chancellor Nigel Lawson was determined that the public would feel the benefits of the bullish economy in time for the election. Income tax and corporation tax were both cut by two pence in the pound, and fuel duty was eased. The £2.6bn give-away struck a chord with voters, and to cap it off, the booming economy (output, Lawson reported, was up 2.5%, giving Britain "the strongest economy we have known since the war") meant that the government's fiscal position was actually improving.
There seemed little for the Labour Party to criticise, and the Conservatives shot up in the polls from +6 to +12 overnight, their best difference over Labour since 1983. Moreover, the Prime Minister's schedule, which included high-powered talks with the USSR, looked at though it would help sustain the gains. As April turned into May, all that was left was for the General Election to be called...
Meanwhile, the Americans were tied up with the Iran-Contra affair: Reagan pleaded ignorance, but for all the posturing, it was clear that arms indeed had been sold to arms-embargoed Iran in exchange for hostages and other political favours. In Germany, conservative Helmut Kohl was reconfirmed as Chancellor, following the continuing success of his CDU-CSU-FDP alliance, whilst the French government celebrated the successful outcome of negotiations with Disney about the location of their new theme park.