Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

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

1976 Feb 5 Th
Margaret Thatcher

TV Interview for Thames TV This Week

Document type:speeches
Document kind:TV Interview
Venue:Thames Television Euston Centre, Tottenham Court Road, central London
Source:Thatcher Archive: transcript
Journalist:Llew Gardner, Thames TV
Editorial comments:The interview was broadcast live at 2000. Copyright in the broadcast from which this transcript is taken is retained by Thames Television and the transcript is reproduced by permission of Thames Television. This interview appears to be the source of what has become a well-known political aphorism in the blogosphere: "The problem with socialism is that eventually you run out of other people's money".
Importance ranking:Major
Word count:4725
Themes:Autobiographical comments, Autobiography (marriage and children), Parliament, Conservatism, Conservatism, Conservatism, Conservative Party (organisation), Conservative Party (organisation), Conservative Party (organisation), Conservative Party (organisation), Economy (general discussions), Employment, Employment, Employment, Employment, Monetary policy, Monetary policy, Privatised and state industries, Pay, Pay, Public spending and borrowing, Public spending and borrowing, Public spending and borrowing, Taxation, Education, By-elections, General Elections, Housing, Labour Party and Socialism, Labour Party and Socialism, Labour Party and Socialism, Labour Party and Socialism, Leadership, Leadership, Leadership, Leadership, Conservative Party (leadership elections), Local government, Famous statements by MT, Famous statements by MT

Llew Gardner

Mrs Thatcher, hello and welcome to ‘This Week’. Mrs Thatcher, you've been Leader of the Conservative Party for a year now. How does the Conservative Party under Mrs Thatcher differ in style, in policy and approach from the Party led by Mr Heath ?

Mrs Margaret Thatcher

Well it's difficult for me really to judge the answer to that, because, after all I'm one of the principal people concerned. What I've tried to do is to show clearly the differences between the two Parties, and I believe they are getting steadily clearer as the days go by. To some extent, I think we've been helped by the Labour Party, which has gone further Left than it's ever gone before, so people really are beginning to realise that there's a tremendous difference between the policies a Conservative Government would pursue, and those a Labour Government is pursuing, and I've tried to put these in ordinary terms.

Llew Gardner

Without asking you to attack your former colleague, er, and the former Leader of the Party, are you in fact saying though that the Conservative Party in the past, in fact went too far to the Left, or too far on to the middle ground?

Mrs Margaret Thatcher

It would be difficult to go too far on to the middle ground, because usually, you know, that's the common sense ground which appeals to most people. Er, I think it's true to say, that the differences between Conservatives are very small indeed. Very small, compared to the enormous gulf between the Parties, and I am trying to focus attention on what I think the Labour Government is doing wrong, and there's plenty to focus attention on, and how differently we'd do it, and how different is our vision of the British way of life from theirs.[fo 1]

Llew Gardner

Well, I don't want to stay with the differences between you and the past administration too long. But, would it be fair to say, that you …   . under your leadership the Party is more dedicated to the principles of greater opportunity for the individual, and less interference by Government than it was in the past?

Mrs Margaret Thatcher

It would certainly be true to say that as the Labour Government's gone on, State interference has got greater and greater into the ordinary lives of people, and therefore it's become much, much clearer that we would have far less of that, leave much more choice with the ordinary people about how they lead their own lives, about how they spend their pay packet in their pockets, and I think you're quite right in saying that there has been much more emphasis on that.

Llew Gardner

As Leader of the Party do you see your task as one of formulating and pushing forward new ideas, and emphasis of policy, or do you see yourself as a co-ordinator of policies worked out by other people, a kind of referee?

Mrs Margaret Thatcher

Ooh, not a referee, I think perhaps more a manager of a team, and it does take quite some time, you know, to weld a team together to play effectively. I think any football manager will tell you that. Of course, you have to give some lead in policies …   .

Llew Gardner

…   . especially the policies of substantial reserves sitting on the back benches …   .

Mrs Margaret Thatcher

Ooh, lots of reserves, there's plenty of reserve talent there, tremendous amount. Er, working out policy takes almost everyone on the back benches. Most of them are concerned in one way or another with some of the policy committees. And, of course, we have a lot of outside help as well. It's been marvellous to see the number of people who have come forward to say, ‘Well now look, we know, er, industry, we know commerce, can we help from the academic world?’ so it's a very big job, but the broad general differences, and broad general strategy are clear.[fo 2]

Llew Gardner

You know, political commentators often complain that they have difficulty setting you within the Tory's spectrum, narrow as you've already suggested that spectrum may be. Er, and I can see, having listened to you for a few moments, why they have this difficulty …   .

Mrs Margaret Thatcher

… You're having difficulty too …

Llew Gardner

… Yes, I'm having this difficulty. Is this because you really don't have any strong views about where the Party should be heading, or, is it that you see solely your task as bringing all the strings together?

Mrs Margaret Thatcher

Oh no, no. You know, we have difficulty with political commentators too. Er, I would have thought I'd given very clear leads in some of my speeches, er, there was the Conference speech, there was the speech which I did in America, which in fact, drew together a number of themes which I've been speaking about here. Perhaps I can summarise it best by saying this—Nations that have pursued equality, like the Iron Curtain countries, I think have finished up with neither equality, nor liberty. Nations, which like us, in the past have pursued liberty, as a fundamental objective, extending it to all, have finished up with liberty, human dignity, and far fewer inequalities than other people. Now, that was hailed as quite a distinctive lead at the time, since then …   .

Llew Gardner

… held a sort of Right Wing lead, in some way …   .

Mrs Margaret Thatcher

…   . Oh no, liberty is fundamental. Liberty, human dignity, a higher standard of living is fundamental. And, steadily, I think, people are beginning to realise that you don't have those things unless you have a pretty large private enterprise sector. Any Iron Curtain country has neither liberty, nor a very high standard of living. The two things go, economic and political freedom, go together. I've been right in the forefront of saying that, here, in the States, and it's very interesting to me now, to see a number of articles from people who are taking up the same theme. They are disturbed that Socialism is reducing liberty and freedom for ordinary people, and that's really what matters.[fo 3]

Llew Gardner

Well this is, I think, what I've been trying to ask you, Mrs Thatcher, that you have, it seems to me, that I presume Mr. Heath and all the people who served with him, felt all the things that you've been saying over the last year, just as much as you do, but perhaps they didn't say it. Do you see your task, that of repeating old Tory truths?

Mrs Margaret Thatcher

Fundamental truths are fundamental truths and last a very long time. It's not surprising really that you shouldn't find that number of differences between members of one Party. Because, after all, we all believe in the same way of life, and it's in getting that across that we perhaps put different emphasis on different things. I think my difficulty with political commentators is that they try to see more differences in policy, perhaps, than there are. What there may well be is a difference is style, and a difference in emphasis. I think you're struggling to find more differences than you'll find.

Llew Gardner

I'm struggling to really find a reason …   .

Mrs Margaret Thatcher

…   . You're struggling very hard …   .

Llew Gardner

No, I'm struggling really to find a reason other than the fact that he lost three elections, why you bothered to get rid of Ted Heath in your Party?

Mrs Margaret Thatcher

Three elections is quite a lot, after all, if you believe in a way of life, you try to see that that way of life is the one which prevails in Britain. Look, [ Edward Heath ] Ted had been Leader for ten years, and Prime Minister for four, that is a very great achievement, and it's not surprising that after ten years that people should want some changes. I look at his period as a period of undoubted achievement. But, inevitably there was a movement for change.

Llew Gardner

So, fundamentally, they hope you're a winner where he was a loser?[fo 4]

Mrs Margaret Thatcher

I hope I'm a winner for the Party too. We both serve the Party, it's a cause you serve, not a person …   .

Llew Gardner

Do you believe in consensus politics, er, within the Conservative Party, do you believe that really we talked about the middle ground, the middle ground is the place you have to be?

Mrs Margaret Thatcher

I'm never quite sure what you mean be consensus politics. I believe that what most people want in their lives, is what the Conservative Party wants to have for them. I believe that our policies are fundamentally common sense policies. Just let's take taxation for an example. Wherever I go I hear enormous resentment about the amount which people are paying out of their own pay packet in tax. And, this goes right across the income ranges. Socialism started by saying it was going to tax the rich, very rapidly it was taxing the middle income groups. Now, it's taxing people quite highly with incomes way below average and pensioners with incomes way below average. You look at the figure on the beginning of a pay slip, sometimes it can look quite high, look along the slip to the other end, and see how many deductions you've had off, those deductions have increased enormously under Socialism …   .

Llew Gardner

… this takes us into the …   . sorry … please do …

Mrs Margaret Thatcher

… because they've put it … can-can I just finish, because it's an important point? Public expenditure, which they always boast about, is financed out of the pay packet in our pockets. People are saying that they really think too much is being taken out of the pay packet for someone to spend on their behalf, and they'd rather be left with more, and it's now well-known that Socialist Governments put up taxes and Conservative Governments take them down. It's part of our fundamental belief giving the people more choice to spend their own money in their own way.[fo 5]

Llew Gardner

And that takes us right into the economic debate. Er, I won't take up your point on taxes straight away, I think I'll …

Mrs. Margaret Thatcher

Quite crucial.

Llew Gardner

The Prime Minister … The Prime Minister and the Chancellor have both said, er, recently, the Prime Minister said, "We are winning through". He said that on Monday, and that suggests that the Government policies have proved effective, and that inflation is being brought under control. Do you accept the Government's analysis of the situation?

Mrs. Margaret Thatcher

No, not wholly. Er, in the last election …   .

Llew Gardner

Partly?

Mrs. Margaret Thatcher

… one moment. In the last election, you remember, Mr. Healey said that the rate of inflation then was eight point four per cent, and he fought the election on that, and the [ Harold Wilson ] Prime Minister fought on that, and having got unemployment down. Now, I've never seen such a bad economic record over this last year, as has been put up by the present Government. No one could have made a worse hash of it than they have. You've had inflation not at eight point four per cent, but at twenty-five per cent. You've had the highest rate of unemployment that we've ever had in the post war period. On top of that, you've got production, on which we all depend for our standard of living, is below what it was in 1970. Now you expect me to be satisfied with that? It is a terrible record; unequalled I believe in the western world, in the combination which you've had, of high inflation and high unemployment.

Llew Gardner

You don't accept that they are getting on top of the problem?

Mrs. Margaret Thatcher

They said they were getting on top of the problem last September. I hope they are getting on top of the problem for Britain's sake. What I suspect is happening is that we have certainly got welcome improvements, in that the rate of inflation appears now not to be twenty-five per cent, but what I regard, and Conservatives regard it as much too high a rate of twelve to fifteen per cent. You see, we're coming down to[fo 6] what other countries had as their peak. So I hope we're coming down, and I hope for a time we're going to stay down. Unemployment, I'm afraid, will rise for a time. Er, and it's very tragic because it's not only the unemployment figures, but you've got to remember that each one probably has a family as well, and so it effects far more people than just the figures that we hear about.

Llew Gardner

Do you accept then that the Government's six pound pay limit, that the voluntary policy has worked?

Mrs. Margaret Thatcher

The six pound pay limit certainly has worked. But don't forget that we fought a 1974 election on saying really that pay couldn't go on going up as it was. The important thing … you must never look at pay on its own, what you've got to look at is pay in relation to the amount produced. It's when those two get badly out of line that you get inflation. And now obviously, we've got very much higher pay, but we're producing less than we were in 1970, so it's the relationship that you've got to watch. Don't look at pay separately. Once you start to cut off a man's pay from the fruits of his labour, he will inevitably feel enormous resentment. If he's going to work harder, of course he deserves more pay, and he doesn't want it all taken away in tax. But there are two sides of the equation you've got to look at.

Llew Gardner

There are of course, those within your party who are not that keen on any form of incomes policy. If Mr. Healey decides to continue with some form of incomes policy after July, will you support him in the House?

Mrs. Margaret Thatcher

What we said was perfectly plain during the debate. I spelt it out, other members of my Party spelt it out. Incomes policy is not enough. What incomes policy can do is to reduce the levels of unemployment that you'd otherwise have, and that's extremely important. It cannot of itself control inflation. You can't, if you're trying to control inflation, go on putting public expenditure up and up, beyond the taxpayer's capacity to pay; because that's a factor which will lead to inflation. What I fear Mr. Healey's had, is an incomes policy trying to cope at one end with the problem—bring it down, while at the other end he's had public expenditure going up and up which, in fact, has stoked up inflation. And in[fo 7] the long term you've got to get the whole of the economic sector right.

Llew Gardner

Have a look at … Have a look at public expenditure in a moment. If he continues with an incomes policy after July, will you support it?

Mrs. Margaret Thatcher

Well, I think we'd need to know what kind of incomes policy it's going to be. You remember this came up when the six pound limit came up. We did not oppose an incomes policy. I did not think that a straight six pound policy was the right one to bring in. It will cause enormous problems in the future, because it's already squashed differentials. And, you know, you have a lot of different unions, because each of them is looking after different skills. You have tremendous problems already, because sometimes one group in a firm would have got an increase under the old pay code, and some others would have had only the six pound limit. So you've got differential problems. And we'll have to have a look to see what kind of incomes policy Mr. Healey and his Government is proposing.

Llew Gardner

You've talked about public expenditure. Can you cut public expenditure, and at the same time cut unemployment?

Mrs. Margaret Thatcher

Jobs really come in the productive sector of the economy. The real jobs are where people are producing goods or services which other people will buy. Now, dependent on those people producing those goods, are a lot of others in the public sector. Now if you run up the public sector, you can only do it by draining money out of industry and commerce. But that's where the jobs are. And one of the reasons why you have to cut public expenditure is to get the money back—one of the reasons why you have to cut public expenditure is to get money back out of the public sector, into industry and commerce, so that they, in fact, can invest, and improve, and expand; because that's where the secure jobs are. It's very complicated.

Llew Gardner

Is the answer to my question, yes?

Mrs. Margaret Thatcher

And I hope the point is clear.

Llew Gardner

Is the answer to my question, yes, that you can cut public expenditure, and cut unemployment?[fo 8]

Mrs. Margaret Thatcher

Unless you cut public expenditure, you will not in the longer run have lower unemployment; you may have difficulties in the short run. We were saying this a year ago. Because they ran up inflation and didn't deal with it then, they've now got higher unemployment than they need have had. They've delayed solving the fundamental problem.

Llew Gardner

All right. When did you start …   . decide to start beating them with unemployment? Er, because Sir Geoffrey Howe said quite recently that, "The Tory Party would never use the weapon of unemployment as a stick to beat the Government." You now seem to be, er, have changed your mind on that?

Mrs. Margaret Thatcher

The facts are, Mr. Gardner , that the Conservative Party has never had the level of unemployment which the Labour Government has created now. Never.

Llew Gardner

Do you believe that you can cure inflation without a considerable amount of unemployment?

Mrs. Margaret Thatcher

I believe that we should not have had the present level of inflation but for a Labour Government. It went up to twenty-five per cent partly because of their disastrous policies between elections, and since the second election …

Llew Gardner

Can you cure …   .

Mrs. Margaret Thatcher

…   . if they had not …   . One moment, Mr. Gardner. Just let's apportion the blame. If they had not run inflation up to unprecedented levels, and if they'd listened to some economic advice before that, we should have had prices not as high as they have been, and we should have unemployment a lot lower. Unless they get it right now, we shall have more unemployment in the future than we need have.

Llew Gardner

Can you cure inflation without a considerable degree of unemployment?

Mrs. Margaret Thatcher

Curing inflation depends upon a number of things. It depends upon the equation of getting your production and your wages right, and therefore, indirectly, your money supply right. It depends upon not having too much public expenditure. Er, and those, I think, are two of the fundamental[fo 9] things—the money supply is all right. Difficult with incomes in relation to production.

Llew Gardner

But there's no easy way, is there, Mrs. Thatcher?

Mrs. Margaret Thatcher

No.[fo 10]

Llew Gardner

There's no way that isn't painful for the people, is there?

Mrs. Margaret Thatcher

No. But, you see, it would have been a lot less painful if they'd done it right at the start. This I find difficult to get across to you, Mr. Gardner. When we left office in February 1974, the level of inflation that we regarded as intolerably high was about fourteen or fifteen per cent. That's what they've now got down to, having taken it right up and down. We need never have gone up to the level to which they've taken it. Now, we were fighting on a policy of trying to deal with inflation then. They did not deal with it. We had cut expenditure then. Tony Barber had had very severe cuts. So really he'd got it all going right for them, and then they went in the wrong way. And the troubles we're having now are their troubles, due to their policies, and they really must tackle them fundamentally to get themselves out of it.

Llew Gardner

Unfortunately, they're our problems as well. Er, however Mrs …

Mrs. Margaret Thatcher

Unfortunately, yes …

Llew Gardner

However, Mrs. …

Mrs. Margaret Thatcher

I agree, because the people pay.

Llew Gardner

However, Mrs. Thatcher, may …   . may …   . may I ask you. I understand that the …   . some of the cuts you'd make in public expenditure are the fields of er, food subsidies and housing subsidies. Are there other places you would cut?

Mrs. Margaret Thatcher

Look, I think you're tackling public expenditure from the wrong end, if I might say so. Why don't you look at it as any housewife has to look at it? She has to look at her expenditure every week or every month, according to what she can afford to spend, and if she overspends[fo 11] one week or month, she's got to economise the next. Now governments really ought to look at it from the viewpoint of "What can we afford to spend?" They've already put up taxes, and yet the taxes they collect are not enough for the tremendous amount they're spending. They're having to borrow to a greater extent than ever before, and future generations will have to repay. Now, if anyone tells me that a Chancellor of the [ Denis Healey ] Exchequer can put up public expenditure in two years by—and it's a tremendous figure—twenty thousand million pounds, and he doesn't know where to get it down by about three thousand million pounds, then he ought never to have been in charge of the nation's finances … never!

Llew Gardner

Do you know where to get …   . do you know where to get it down?

Mrs. Margaret Thatcher

When I see the full public expenditure figures, we shall have more idea in detail. In the meantime, we have said some of the things which are indicated, and we must also stop spending enormous sums on nationalising everything he can lay hands on, because that doesn't help public expenditure either. It merely adds to the bills we have to pay in future years, and if he'd stop that, we should be very much better off than we are today—and have very much lower expenditure.

Llew Gardner

Mrs. Thatcher, turning to the Tory Party in opposition, you've made a number of declarations of war on the present Labour Government. When's the war going to start?

Mrs. Margaret Thatcher

We battle almost daily. Unfortunately, the Labour Party in Parliament has a majority of forty over the Conservative Party. So the Conservative Party alone can never beat them. They've an overall majority of one over all the other parties together, so we're …

Llew Gardner

Well, not at the moment, but er, in theory.

Mrs. Margaret Thatcher

Well yes, yes … at the moment … an overall majority of one. So if we're to bring them down, all the other parties have to join with us er, on a combined vote, and we all have to be there. As a matter of fact there's slightly more than one, because there are two independents who[fo 12] normally vote Labour. So until we've won a few by-elections, we can't, even acting together, bring them down. So we shall go into battle in the next by-elections. We won one, as you know.

Llew Gardner

And yet, you know, don't you find it a bit odd … I know, I mean I talk to Conservatives in the country …   . they find it odd that a government with no real majority, or a majority of one as you say … facing huge problems, er, unpopular apparently in the country, according to the opinion polls, yet it manages to act in the House. If all the world was seen to have a huge built-in majority and was the safest government that's ever been … is that just a matter of Mr. Wilson 's general confidence and isn't that a reflection on the Opposition?

Mrs. Margaret Thatcher

No. Er, I think you've got it wrong. Er, I tried to spell out a moment ago, they in fact have a majority. The majority is bigger than it looks, because it's a majority of forty over us. So in fact they … if ever we manage to get a vote within forty, it means that other parties have combined with us. If the other parties vote with them, they can have a majority of seventy, so they've got a majority, and so long as they keep that they can get through what they like. The moment we try …   . we topple them on one or two by-elections, then they will have lost their overall majority, and that can have quite far-reaching consequences. So it's just a plain straight question of arithmetic at the moment.

Llew Gardner

But are there …?

Mrs. Margaret Thatcher

So you need to look at the answer. You just look at the arithmetic.

Llew Gardner

There are those nasty critics, of course, who suggest that you don't really want to bring them down at the moment. Life is a bit too difficult in the country, and that … leave them to sort the mess out and then come in with the attack later … say next year.[fo 13]

Mrs. Margaret Thatcher

I would much prefer to bring them down as soon as possible. I think they've made the biggest financial mess that any government's ever made in this country for a very long time, and Socialist governments traditionally do make a financial mess. They always run out of other people's money. It's quite a characteristic of them. They then start to nationalise everything, and people just do not like more and more nationalisation, and they're now trying to control everything by other means. They're progressively reducing the choice available to ordinary people. Look at the trouble now we're having with choice of schools. Of course parents want a say in the kind of education their children have. Look at the William Tyndall School—an example where the parents finally rebelled. Of course they did. These schools are financed by taxpayers' money, but the choice to parents is being reduced.

Look at the large numbers of people who live on council estates. Many of them would like to buy their own homes. Oh, but that's not approved of by a Socialist government …   . oh no! But that's absurd. Why shouldn't they? Well over thirty per cent of our houses are council houses. Why shouldn't those people purchase their own homes if they can?

Llew Gardner

Mrs … Mrs. Thatcher, I hesitate to interrupt you, but we're in the last minute almost.

Mrs. Margaret Thatcher

It's gone very quickly.

Llew Gardner

Er, you said in a recent interview that 1967–1976 would be a good year to become Prime Minister. Can you imagine being Prime Minister of a team that doesn't have such distinguished figures as Edward Heath and Peter Walker in its ranks?

Mrs. Margaret Thatcher

Let's win the election first. Then I'll choose my team, and it'll be a jolly good team, and it'll put Britain on the right road.

Llew Gardner

You wouldn't rule out Mr. Walker and Mr. Heath in that team?[fo 14]

Mrs. Margaret Thatcher

I shall win first, and then, if I'm still leader of the party, which I hope and assume will be so, I shall choose my own team.

Llew Gardner

If you win you probably will still be leader. Er, a number of nicknames you've had er, since coming into politics … ‘Milk-snatcher’, ‘Hoarder’, now ‘The Iron Maiden’. Which one of all those do you prefer?

Mrs. Margaret Thatcher

I think that perhaps in firmness with which one will deal with policies, perhaps ‘The Iron Maiden’ is right, but, um, it's an Iron Maiden who has a family, and that's very important.

Llew Gardner

Mrs. Thatcher, thank you very much indeed. Good night to you.