Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

Complete list of 8,000+ Thatcher statements & texts of many of them

1971 Mar 21 Su
Margaret Thatcher

TV Interview for BBC1 A Chance To Meet (questions from studio audience)

Document type:speeches
Document kind:TV Interview
Venue:Unknown
Source:BBC Television Archive: OUP transcript
Journalist:Cliff Michelmore, BBC, chairing
Editorial comments:Item listed by date of broadcast. Broadcast began at 1810.
Importance ranking:Key
Word count:6382
Themes:Autobiographical comments, Autobiography (childhood), Autobiography (marriage and children), Parliament, Conservatism, Education, Private education, Primary education, Higher and further education, Family, Leadership, Religion/Morality, Science and technology, Women

Cliff Michelmore

Good evening, this evening a chance to meet one of the few women to have become a Cabinet minister, Margaret Thatcher, Secretary of State for Education and Science. Fathers, mothers, and teachers are amongst those here tonight meeting her for the first time.

But before the questions, let’s take a look at the career of Margaret Thatcher. At forty-five, Margaret Thatcher is only the second woman in history to hold a post in a Conservative Cabinet. Her parents were neither wealthy nor highly educated. They lived in Grantham, Lincolnshire, and in 1945 her father, Alderman Alfred Roberts, became Mayor. A lifelong Methodist, he was also a considerable educational reformer, becoming chairman of the governors of the school his two daughters attended. Alfred Roberts also ran a general store and post office and the family lived for a time above the shop.

Margaret attended Kesteven and Grantham School for Girls and became the head girl. Her favourite teacher was the science mistress and she went with a scholarship to Somerville College, Oxford, to read chemistry. As an undergraduate, she was deeply involved in politics, becoming President of the University Conservative Association. Three years research into plastics followed Oxford, but at this time she was also chosen as Conservative candidate for Dartford. She failed in 1950 and 1951 to gain the seat from Labour. Shortly afterwards, she married Denis Thatcher, the director of a family chemical firm, and their twins, Carol and Mark , were born two years later. Before fighting a successful election as Conservative candidate for Finchley in 1959, the new Mrs Thatcher succeeded in becoming a barrister and building up a successful taxation practice.

Within two years of reaching the House of Commons, Mrs Thatcher was appointed to the Ministry of Pensions and National Insurance under John Boyd-Carpenter. As Opposition spokesman on taxation, she delivered an impressive budget speech in 1966, claiming to have read every Finance Bill for twenty years. Mrs Thatcher’s considerable ability combined with her fairly right-wing views made her something of a heroine figure in the Conservative party, particularly since the 1966 Party Conference:

MT

[addressing Party Conference] We are more interested in progress than in change—progress through increased personal responsibility and increased personal endeavour. That is the policy enshrined in this motion and I gladly accept it [applause].

Cliff Michelmore

With the 1970 Conservative victory, Mrs Thatcher became only the third woman ever to be Minister of Education and Science. As Minister, she’s made it clear that she feels that parental choice in children’s schooling should be preserved as much as possible. She’s regular visitor to all types of schools, on this occasion Highbury Grove comprehensive school:[fo 1]

MT

[telling chemistry class about silver sulphide on spoons] …   . you use for boiled eggs. You dip in and if they’re silver they go brown and mother has to clean them. So these days we tend to use stainless steel actually.

Cliff Michelmore

A controversial job and a controversial politician. People may criticise her opinions but few complain about her appearance. First thing every Monday, she calls at the hairdressers round the corner from her Mayfair office.

MT

[to hairdresser] There’s still a little bit sticking up there. You can see it in the reflection.

Cliff Michelmore

At weekends, Mr. and Mrs Thatcher relax in their large country home near Tunbridge Wells. Their daughter, Carol , attends St Paul’s Girls School, while their son, Mark , here on holiday from Harrow School, cleans out the swimming pool. All the ingredients for a fulfilling family life, but a quiet life is the last thing that the next few years will bring to Mrs Margaret Thatcher.

Mrs Thatcher, I was in the House of Commons when you made your maiden speech and I remember at the time the tremendous impact you made on the House. About a hundred people were in there at the time. You spoke for some thirty, thirty-five minutes without a single note. Were you aware of the impression that you made on the House with that speech?

MT

No, I had no idea at the time. I was just very relieved when it was over. I’d spent a tremendous lot of time preparing the Bill, and I remember I’d sat up the night before, until between four and five o’clock in the morning, trying to get the order of the points right. I didn’t have it written out completely, but I thought by the time I started I knew the subject pretty well. It was just a tremendous feeling of relief as I sat down. I had no idea of the impact until the next day. Then I just thought that the papers were short of something else to print.

Cliff Michelmore

But you appeared to be totally without nerves.

MT

I’m never totally without nerves. I’m normally as frightened as a kitten. It’s just that somehow you manage to control it.

Cliff Michelmore

Ah, well, I hope that you’re going to control it and not be as frightened as a kitten tonight, because ...

MT

I’m trying hard.[fo 2]

Cliff Michelmore

[laughing] Well, we too, then, will try hard. Let’s begin with one of our questioners, Mrs Jones.

Mrs Jones

Did you always give this impression of confidence even when you were at school? Was it your home background or the influence of your school that helped you most to achieve your present success?

MT

Well, it’s always very difficult to answer questions about oneself, like that wretched little film one’s just seen. You know, forty-five years in three minutes is frightening to anyone. At school, I think I was always a reasonably competent talker. You know, if you had a visiting lecturer at the school, someone had to ask the questions. If you had a debate, someone had to make up a speech. And I was always reasonably good at that, but then I got it, I think, from my [ Alfred Roberts] father, and if ever there was a tricky vote of thanks to do, you know, in the local Rotary Club or in the local Town Hall, he always did it. And we always talked about things at home. This, I think, is something which you don’t always get these days. I remember we read a book about John Buchan, and I remember a phrase from that, er, to the effect that something was much more solid in the days when books were good solid food, before the snack bar of modern journalism had staled the palate. And we were always expected to read things seriously and talk about them seriously.

Mrs Jones

What did you enjoy most at school and what were you particularly good at?

MT

I think I enjoyed ... I enjoyed the work most undoubtedly. I was never very good at games. I did like the chemistry very much but then I also enjoyed the history and the English. And I was taught by a wonderful French teacher. It’s always rather interesting to me now. She was the aunt of the great Sir Alec Clegg, who is the Chief Education Officer now for West Riding. And quite different from Sir Alec Clegg, you know, old Miss Clegg was very much the grande dame, and we had to learn our French verbs and we did, because we wouldn’t have let her down. I think I enjoyed nearly all the work, but I wasn’t really very good at games, although I think I was in the hockey team for some time, but I didn’t really enjoy it very much.

Mrs Jones

How important do you consider the home environment in a child’s educational background?

MT

I think of supreme importance. I didn’t realise it really until I came fully into education, because you never realise the value of what you’ve got. You’re always looking at what you haven’t got, and I think this happens to all of us. And it first struck me when a teacher from a very bad area said to me, “We can’t teach children[fo 3] about God is a father here—‘God is a loving father’—because probably they come form homes where father is drunk or beats mother up or is unkind to them.” And that was the first time it had ever really struck me that some children have parents who are very unkind and therefore completely lack the very basis of what most children need, which is a secure and loving background. It’s very important.

Mrs Jones

How do you think ... do you think that true educational opportunity is possible if there is such inequality in the backgrounds?

MT

It’s very difficulty to get equality of opportunity under those circumstances, because some children do start with such a handicap. I don’t think you can ever completely make up for that handicap. There just is no substitute for a good home background. And therefore you have to do the very best you can. That, of course, is why we do try to put more into areas where there are children in deprived homes than we do into other areas.

Mrs Jones

To what extent do you think the state can can attempt to supplement a [unintelligible word]?

MT

Well, very inadequately. Although with young children, you know, you get some extraordinary things happening. You find that before they come to school no-one’s ever really talked to them or really taken a personal interest in them. And, of course, you can help there by getting them into a nursery school at a comparatively early age, and it does make quite a difference to them.

Mrs Jones

May I ask you now about the time you spent at university? Did you go up to Oxford with the expectation of doing more than reading for a degree in natural sciences, and, in retrospect, what would you say were the aspects which were of most value to you?

MT

No, I don’t think I expected there to be anything like the number of other opportunities that there were for meeting people and mixing with all kinds of people and with all kinds of levels of society. I went there, really, to work above all, but there is in Oxford and Cambridge particularly opportunity for everything. There’s a club connected with every single thing you can think of, whether it’s drama, literature, science, astronomy, almost everything, and I know I entered very fully into these. And perhaps there one got quite a taste for politics, because one met a number of the leading politicians who came down regularly and talked to us. Two or three times a week. There weren’t quite as many universities as there are now. These days, you know, politicians have to dash around to about forty-four universities who are constantly expecting you to speak to them. In those days, there were fewer, and I suppose those of us who were at Oxford and Cambridge benefitted from this. I can remember Peter Thorneycroft coming down. He was a young politician then, which[fo 4] shows you how long ago it is, and he went ... came to our meeting and then he went round some of the rooms in Christ Church afterwards, and I remember him saying, “My goodness, you’re lucky to have this opportunity. I wish I’d had it.” And there, you see, was a person of great distinction who hadn’t had the sort of chance that we were enjoying there, namely the chance of a university education.

Cliff Michelmore

Do you enjoy going to universities now and speaking with students or do you find that a terrible strain?

MT

Provided there is freedom of speech, I thoroughly enjoy it. It’s always stimulating. You take a slightly different technique, I think. You make a slightly shorter speech, because you know there will be more questions. There’s never any difficulty with getting them to ask questions. Sometimes, you know, with an audience, an ordinary audience, you make your speech, the chairman calls for questions, and there’s a horrible hush. Nothing happens. And you have to stimulate one or two and then they all come tumbling out, but never at universities. There’s no hush.

Cliff Michelmore

There are a lot come tumbling out now. Mrs Newgee at the back.

Mrs Newgee

Do you think you’d gone as far as you could with chemistry?

MT

Er, no. There was a very curious thing, I think, developing when I was there among chemists. A number of us felt that perhaps we were more interested in people than things. Of course, you can also be interested in people and ... and operate through your science, because much of science ultimately is to the benefit of people. But sometimes you could feel that it was rather remote from mixing with people and listening to their problems, and a number of us felt we would rather be doing that.

Mrs Newgee

But you turned from chemistry to the tax bar, and that’s not really people either.

MT

Oh, let me assure you it is, very much so [laughter]. They come with there problems, and especially with married women, you know, who work. Oh, yes, yes it is. But some people think that ... that the sciences and the law are very different. This isn’t so at all. In both, you need to find your facts, whether it be in chemistry or in law, and in both you need to apply laws to them. Er, in the law, of course, it’s legislation. In chemistry, it’s the laws of nature which you learn. And in both you need a great element of imagination. In your sciences you’ve got to look forward, to hypothesise about things you don’t know, and that really is where the inspiration comes in. What shall we research upon next? Why do we choose one thing instead of another? And in law and in Parliamentary work, you’ve got to try to discover where[fo 5] the present laws are inadequate and how you can alter them fairly to try to make them more equitable as between people.

Cliff Michelmore

And now Mr Harold ... Howard Marritt at the front.

Mr. Marritt

I wonder, Mrs Thatcher, if we can move quite naturally when you were talking about principles to the principles that you were given at home. You talked and paid tribute to your home. Did your parents have a religious influence or a Christian ...?

MT

Oh, very strong indeed. I used to go to the service, Sunday School at ten o’clock on Sunday, followed by morning service at eleven, followed by afternoon Sunday School at two-thirty, followed by evening service at six o’clock. And this was my natural Sunday life, and then always we’d taken home some people after church for supper and talk. I think perhaps it was a bit too much, you know. When you’ve been four times on Sundays, you do tend perhaps to react against it rather sharply, because I can remember asking one evening if I could go out for a walk with a friend on a Sunday evening and that wasn’t allowed. So, it certainly was quite a rigorous routine. And it had the effect, in a way, of marking one out from ones fellows, which is very difficult for a child, you know. One of the most difficult things for a child is to be made conspicuous among the child’s friends.

Mr. Marritt

Would you say this has continued or have you changed at all? Would you still regard yourself as a religious person?

MT

I would still regard myself as a religious person, although very, very, much, er, very much less perfect than I would wish to be. I measure myself by my imperfections.

Mr. Marritt

And has anything else about Christianity influenced you in this at all? In university, you mentioned societies and so on. Did you come into contact with many other religious views?

MT

I don’t think I was ever deflected from the fundamental beliefs. Not really deflected. One is constantly questioning and, if you’re in the sciences, naturally you do question, but I think on every occasion, really, the result was to enlarge ones ideas of God and not to reduce them in any way. Although the ... the background at home that I had was very rigorous, you know. You were always taught to stand alone if need be and stand up for ones own principles. And this might ultimately have had an effect throughout ones life.

Mr. Marritt

[fo 6]What about school ... school religious education? Did this have any effect or was it so bad that it could have no effect at all?

MT

Oh dear, Mr. Marritt, it was before the 1944 Education Act. Religious instruction was not compulsory in those days, as you know this came in the 1944 Education Act, but it was done as a matter of course. I don’t know that that had a particular effect on me, because there was such a strong religious home background. Er, you had a rather wonderful headmistress who founded the school. I can just remember one lesson, her saying to us—and I thought it was rather wonderful for a headteacher to pupils—she said, “I’m not sure that I set a lot of store by obedience as such. You know, I want you to obey the right things, but because you want to obey them.” And I thought that was really rather wonderful from a headmistress to very young pupils, because she left, I think, when I was about thirteen, so she must have put a great deal of trust in us at a much earlier stage.

Mr Marritt

As you know, Mrs Thatcher, religious education, like all education, is becoming much more related to the pupil and therefore more open and accepting the pupil as a person. What do you see the function of religious education as in school today?

MT

Well, can I take you up on one thing? I think people tend to think that education and treating the child as a person is a new thing. I don’t think it is a new thing. It’s the best and the oldest tradition of education, and I’m sure that the good teachers always used it. What do I think is the true function of religious education today? I’ve often thought of this. I obviously had to think of it especially. If you think about the work of the Church and Parliament, the only place in which Parliament takes any responsibility for teaching moral standards or standards and values is really in that section of the 1944 Education Act which requires some religious instruction. That’s the only place, and yet our society really is founded, and any democratic society is founded on personal responsibility and self-discipline. When that comes under attack or when it’s under many other influences, I feel that that time will be the last time to reduce that responsibility that Parliament takes. And I think the function of religious education is to try to give the best standards that we know and hand them over to the children. They may reject them, but I think we do have a duty to teach the very best we know.

Cliff Michelmore

In this respect, I wonder if we could now take a question from Mrs Malin, which really follows quite naturally on here. Mrs Malin.

Mrs Malin

Do you agree with sex education in schools and do you think that it is likely to encourage permissiveness in the younger generation?

MT

[fo 7]Well now, you put it really rather beautifully, because in fact I have no power over the curriculum taught in schools except, in a way, some power to see that religious education is taught. But beyond that, what is taught and the way it is taught has nothing to do with the Minister, and in fact when it was decided to teach sex education in schools on the BBC programmes for example, the Department’s view as such was not taken. I think it’s a thing which needs handling with very great care. It’s not a subject that is the same as any other. In fact it’s quite different and the sensitivities are quite different. And I should be very disturbed if local education authorities and headteachers didn’t take parents views into account on this. As you know, it’s local education authorities who have power over the curriculum, and not a Minister. I shouldn’t like to create any new law about it, because I think you can do most things by persuasion, without having to pass laws about [unintelligible word] subjects like this. But I think the whole subject needs handling with extreme care and you need to watch the reaction of the children very carefully.

Cliff Michelmore

Can we take it on from there? Do you think at the moment it is being handled with great care? Presumably implicit in your question about does it encourage permissiveness ...

MT

I don’t know. I don’t think any of us know, because there are a number of different views about it. I fear it might unless at the same time you have another very, very strong standard of values being taught. But I think the trouble is that you probably tend to teach the sex without the whole background of love and family life, which is really essential to the full understanding of it. And I’m not sure whether young children can fully understand it.

Cliff Michelmore

Now, let’s move on to quite a different aspect of your life. A former headmaster we have here, Mr. Webb.

Mr. Webb

My work has obviously made me interested in the careers that young people take up. Why in fact did you enter politics and was there anything in your education, apart from perhaps Oxford, which encouraged you?

MT

I don’t quite know why I entered politics any more than a musician knows why he takes up music, or an actor why he goes into theatre, or someone into television. The answer is that it is a kind of fascination. I don’t know why it’s there. In a way, it’s a part of me, and I almost couldn’t escape from it. Every time I’ve left it, and I did leave it for a time to practice law, I’ve had to come back to it.

Mr. Webb

When you started out on this path, were you aware as a woman of the probable difficulties in a man’s world?[fo 8]

MT

No, I don’t think I really had very much idea. I knew what I wanted to do and I just set about doing it. And I confess that I have been lucky. Things, in a way, have bounced really very well. I’ve been where the opportunities are or I’ve taken advantage of them. I’m not quite sure which.

Mr. Webb

Was it particularly difficult for a woman to get adopted as candidate and get in?

MT

Well, in theory, yes, but in practice it can’t have been, because I was adopted when I was twenty-three and, when I look back, I’m absolutely shattered that I was adopted when I was twenty-three by a local association. I don’t know why. This is one of the very strange things. I was adopted certainly for a seat which I was unlikely to win, but I enjoyed fighting it. I learned a great deal, which I’ve never forgotten.

Mr. Webb

Did you find as you got into Parliament that the bias that we imagine is there disappeared quite quickly?

Cliff Michelmore

Bias against women?

Mr. Webb

The bias against women.

MT

I’m not quite sure that it’s a true bias against women. I think the real ...

Cliff Michelmore

Well, discrimination perhaps.

MT

No, no. Discrimination is a much worse word, I think, than bias. I think the real trouble is that there aren’t quite enough of us, and therefore each individual is conspicuous. That is to say, when I make a maiden speech, people come in and hear and to listen, you see, because I think one is slightly different. And the same thing, I think, when Bernadette Devlin made a maiden speech. If you’re slightly different, people come in to listen to you, but because you’re different you are conspicuous and therefore your mistakes are noticed and you’re a little bit frightened about this. You can’t write your mistakes down to experience in quite the same way as a man can.

Cliff Michelmore

Wouldn’t you take Mr. Webb’s point that it is much more difficult for a woman to get adopted than it is for a man? Sheer evidence this is true surely?

MT

[fo 9]

I think on sheer evidence, it is true, but on my own personal background, I was adopted at twenty-three, so it can’t be that difficult.

Mr. Webb

Well, many ...

MT

I know a number of awfully good men who’ve not yet been adopted. I mean, I can give a list to any constitutency that really is looking for one.

Mr. Webb

Well, many young sixth formers do feel that there is a discrimination. We as teachers do our best. We look for latent talent and we develop it. Do you think we are right, because we are educating so many of them to a very high standard and yet there is tremendous wastage possibly in industry. Is there anything you can do about this to help them?

MT

Ooh, my goodness, that’s a difficult one. Tremendous wastage. I think this is a question with a lot of different thoughts in it. If you’re looking for your higher education system to educate each and every person for a specific vocation, we can’t do it. Because you don’t know quite what the demand will be in about ten years time. And, of course, if you are looking for the demand in ten years time, you have to start building now. I think education has another purpose, as well as that. It is, I think, we try to teach people to make more reasonable ... to have a more highly trained mind and I hope more adaptable, so that they can cope with whatever comes up. And I’m not sure that those hopes are always fulfilled. Sometimes I think one of the results, you know, of education is to make people able to question all sorts of beliefs and views and criticise them without going onto the later stage of finding their own beliefs and putting them into practice.

Cliff Michelmore

Can we take a question from Mrs Drury which talks about possible ambitions you might have had.

Mrs Drury

Mrs Thatcher, with all the problems that a teacher today has to face, would you personally be attracted to the profession?

MT

Well, I have done a small amount of teaching during my university vacations when I had to teach boys science, boys who were hoping, some of them, to do ‘O’ levels. I enjoyed it enormously. I found the degree of concentration one had to put into the lessons as great as that ... the concentration in any other occupation I’ve ever followed. And sometimes you had to put such a lot in in order to get some response out, or the right response you wanted. I think it certainly is a fascinating ... one of the most worthwhile occupations, but I’m sometimes rather perturbed that children tend to[fo 10] think of it as the last job they’ll do and not necessarily as their first choice in going to university. But good teaching is very exacting indeed.

Cliff Michelmore

You can tell the teachers among our audience by the ones who nodded [laughter]. Every teacher there nodded when you said that. Mrs Smith.

Mrs Smith

Mrs Thatcher, you have an enormously responsible public position, but you’re also a wife and a mother. In which role do you find, shall we say, most satisfaction?

MT

Oh, both. Both. One of the problems, I think, of modern politics, er, and modern journalists, is that people are always polarising questions. You know, saying either/or. And in fact life isn’t lived in either/or terms, but mostly somewhere in between, er, and you can really carry on a career and cope with a family provided you have the understanding of your family where ... er, and the understanding of people with whom you work.

Mrs Smith

Well, you are very fortunate, because obviously you must have enough help in the house. Now, many women who have to go out to work of necessity cannot afford this help, and many women cannot pursue a career because they say, “We cannot let our family suffer in any way.” Do you feel that your children have suffered at all from the fact that you haven’t been there as much as some other mothers?

MT

No, I don’t think they have suffered from that. I should be very unhappy if I thought they had. I agree with you that there has always got to be someone there. It may be that you can afford to have someone in to look after them. It may be that you’ve a good aunt or a good granny who can do it for you. It may be that you can choose one of those occupations, like teaching, which does enable you to come home at the same time as the children come home to school [sic], or enables you to have similar holidays to the school holidays. Law is another of these, and to some extent, parliamentary work is another. Or you can have part-time work. But when I’m asked this question, I always think of the position of the widow or deserted wife. Now she has to turn to both with an occupation and looking after her family. But very, very few people would say that because a widow has to do a job as well as look after her children, very few people would say she was a bad mother. They’d often say she was a very, very good mother indeed. And I don’t think being good or bad really depends upon whether you have a career or not. It does depend upon how you manage to organise your life and get everything fitted in together and, if there’s any friction at home, you can’t possibly do it. That must be quite understood.

Mrs Smith

You mentioned nursery schools earlier on. Now, do you think, if there were more nursery schools, the provision of these schools would help many mothers who of[fo 11] necessity have to work and also those mothers who would dearly love to pursue their career?

MT

I’m not sure that is the best or even a very good reason for wanting more nursery schools. You see, nursery schools on the whole will only take children for three or so hours a day, either morning or afternoon. It’s the day nurseries that take them for longer, but day nurseries, of course, is minding children and not teaching them. I would be very unhappy if people ... if I thought people wanted nursery schools just to enable them to go out and do work. Er, I think the reason for having a nursery school is quite different. It’s to stimulate a child’s imagination earlier than it would otherwise be stimulated and to get them among other children. But it would be day nurseries, I think, that you’re thinking of, if a wife had to go out to work or wanted to.

Mrs Smith

Of course, she would leave the child much earlier than the age of three if there were day nurseries for her.

MT

Er, I certainly, I think, would far rather at an early stage have someone coming into the home to look after the child or rely on a relative.

Mrs Smith

Do you feel, Mrs Thatcher, there are some responsibilities of a mother which she cannot ideally delegate to other people?

MT

Oh, yes, there certainly are. No one can substitute really. Ultimately, there are things your child wants to tell you and there are things you desperately want to learn from the child. Er, and sometimes you feel perhaps that you miss some of the pleasures. I quite agree that there is a relationship there that no one else can imitate. It isn’t one which necessarily depends upon the amount of time you spend with the child. Some people spend quite a lot of time with a child but yet not a lot of interest in the child. They are two quite different things.

Cliff Michelmore

Now Roger Bishop who’s in the middle there.

Mr. Bishop

Something like 90 per cent of children go to state schools, Mr. Thatcher. In fact you choose to send you children to private schools. Could you tell us why it is that you don’t consider state schools to be good enough for your own children?

MT

Now, that’s a loaded question, isn’t it? Er, state schools are perfectly good enough for my children. That’s a real loaded question. That’s the sort we get in politics and always looking forward ...[fo 12]

Cliff Michelmore

Do you ...

MT

Just because you do one thing, you know, it’s assumed that you don’t think they’re good enough for your children. I, particularly as a minister, believe implicitly in independent education. And, for this reason, as a minister I never, never, never want to be in a position where the state has a complete monopoly of education, because I think it would put too many potential powers in the hands of a minister. And therefore I always want quite a strong rival. First, it can be a pacemaker. Secondly, there’s always something else to go to for people who are thoroughly dissatisfied with the state, provided I admit that they can afford it or that they can get scholarships there. But there is an alternative by which you can measure the state’s performance. So I do happen to think that a strong independent system is a real safeguard for all our children, including those in the maintained system as well. All right, you’ll say I’ve avoided the question. I can see a certain amount of scepticism on your face. Yes, I knew it, I knew it! Er, it so happens that my husband did go ... have an independent schooling. I didn’t, as you know. And we automatically, I think, thought that our son would follow in his footsteps. As events turned out, he didn’t go to the same school but went to another one and I ... I am bound to say I don’t think we ever really thought, against that background, of sending [ Mark Thatcher] Mark to a state school, although I hope that one or other of them will, er, partake of the state system, to which I am a very considerable contributor by way of tax and I’m sure we all are, in the higher education system. When it came to [ Carol Thatcher] Carol, with twins I think you have something very special. You must treat them both the same. I wouldn’t for the world have any thought that a girl got less than a boy from her parents. So, you see, they both had to have the same. Now, are you still sceptical? Well, just let’s say he’s still sceptical.

Mr. Bishop

I’ll speak to you about it afterwards! [laughter]

MT

Oh, dear! Oh, dear!

Cliff Michelmore

Now, Mr. Cauliffe wants to talk to you now.

Mr. Cauliffe

Now, we heard why you went into politics, but I wonder why as a Conservative?

MT

Because I think we really were very independent as a family. Because I believe implicitly that you can never make people good by law, but only from something inside them. And I had ... it had always struck me that a lot of politics on the other side of the fence is concerned in regulating relationships between people. And ultimately, if they’re to be right between people, I think they’ve got to be right within the person themselves. And therefore I’ve always felt—as I think I said in that little speech of which there was a flash before we started—personal[fo 13] responsibility matters tremendously. Indeed, I think two things matter. Personal responsibility for your own actions and responsiveness to the needs of others. And you’ve got to get the balance right. But to me, I think, it was the necessity of individual choice which put me into Conservative politics.

Mr. Cauliffe

I rather gathered from your background left-wing propensities. I wonder if, even for a time, you were left-wing.

MT

No, there were no left-wing propensities in my background. None at all. All right, I didn’t start with many of the monetary advantages, but from ... from the very beginning my whole upbringing was: “You must be independent. You know, you must take responsibility for your own actions. Certainly you must help others, but you are very slow to, er, expect things to be done for you.” No left-wing tendencies in the background at all.

Mr. Cauliffe

Are you optimistic or pessimistic about the future of society?

MT

I basically am an optimist. I always have been. And again, I remember again from my early days, just about the time of Dunkirk, I remember our local bank manager saying to my father, when things really were at their very worst, “Surely in the end right must prevail.” And we always held to that. But, of course, it only prevails through the actions usually of a minority.

Mr. Cauliffe

Women in politics generally, it seems to me, are confined if you like to the roles of art and education. Have you any ambition to play a more important role? Perhaps that of Prime Minister?

MT

A more important role than education, Mr. Cauliffe? [audience laughter] Oh, come, come! But I know ...

Cliff Michelmore

I suppose there might be. I’m going to ask you to answer if you can, because ...

MT

Yes, I know you are, yes. I don’t think that in my lifetime there will be a woman Prime Minister. I’m always a realist. I don’t think there will be. I agree that women are especially interested in education and the welfare subjects. This is possibly the centre of their life; it is not the boundary of our abilities. I’m delighted to have someone in the audience who thinks a woman could be Prime Minister or Chancellor of the Exchequer [audience laughter].

Cliff Michelmore

[fo 14]Well, our thanks to Mrs Thatcher and to all who came along to meet her.