Speech at Bethnal Green
|Document type:||public statement|
|Venue:||St Matthew’s Hall, Hereford Street, Bethnal Green|
|Source:||Bethnal Green and Hackney Gazette, 10 July 1964|
|Themes:||Autobiographical comments, Social security and welfare|
Housewives question woman Tory
Many pension posers
A small but lively attendance brought what the chairman, Mrs. M. Haye, described as a "true Tory fighting speech" from guest speaker, Mrs. Margaret Thatcher, Joint Parliamentary Secretary of the Ministry of Pensions and National Insurance, at a public meeting held at Bethnal Green.
It was the first of a number of scheduled meetings organised by the Bethnal Green and Hackney South Conservative Association, and something of a breakaway from routine for it to be held at Bethnal Green instead of at South Hackney.
Held in the afternoon in St. Matthew's Hall, Hereford-street, the meeting was attended almost entirely by housewives—obviously more interested in practical purposes than political promises.
Their shrewd questions would have delighted many an experienced heckler. They delighted Mrs. Thatcher, who said afterwards that she had thoroughly enjoyed herself.
A wife, mother and scientist as well as M.P. for Finchley, Mrs. Thatcher—"I'm a practical woman myself, who came up in the hard school"—answered all questions with a sincerity which soon won over most of her audience.
Her roughest moment came when she was comparing pension increases made under the Conservative Government with those given by the former Labour Government.
One woman, who called upon the speaker "to be fair," challenged Mrs. Thatcher: "You and others who think we are still living in an affluent society should come with me around some places in Bethnal Green and neighbouring, Shoreditch; I will show you your ‘affluent society’."
The proud ones
At one stage, Mrs. Haye, appealing for silence while the guest speaker was speaking, was asked by Mrs. Thatcher, "Please let them carry on. I like it."
Finally, when more than one woman said they would have to leave before the allotted time for questions in order to collect their children from school, Mrs. Thatcher decided to bring her speech to a quick end to answer questions there and then.
The Bethnal Green housewives promptly gave her a number of instances of deserving pension cases, or alleged unfair cuts in public assistance which she promised to look into.
Mrs. Thatcher also spoke of "The Proud Ones"—those people, usually elderly, who still regarded public assistance as "charity." Explained Mrs. Thatcher: "Anyone in need has no fear to apply; there is not even a form to be completed ... people don't even have to go to the offices, we will go to them."
A vote of thanks to Mrs. Thatcher was proposed by Mr. Stephen Stout-Kerr, the prospective Parliamentary Conservative candidate for Bethnal Green and Hackney South. Mr. Stout-Kerr described the guest speaker as being "one of the people who bring to public life a sense of dedication." She also brought this to her important work as Joint Parliamentary Secretary in the Ministry of Pensions and National Insurance, whereby both the elderly and the young were helped.
Mrs. Thatcher's speech, concluded Mr. Stout-Kerr, showed that the Conservative Party had a conscience.