Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

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1983 Jun 9 Th
Margaret Thatcher

Interview for Carol Thatcher’s Diary of an Election

Document type: speeches
Document kind: Interview
Venue: No.10 Downing Street
Source: Carol Thatcher Diary of an Election (1983), pp132-38
Journalist: Carol Thatcher
Editorial comments: 0810-0820?
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 2283
Themes: Autobiographical comments, Conservative Party (history), Economy (general discussions), General Elections, Energy, Environment, Leadership, Media

Carol

What are your feelings at this stage in the campaign?

Margaret Thatcher

We've worked extremely hard all the time—I think that must help. It is always possible that the polls are wrong. It happened in 1970, and there was a last-minute change in 1974 which the polls didn't detect. But I'm encouraged that the polls have been steady, and I think that means that we shall almost certainly win. I shall be very surprised if we don't. Nevertheless, as you heard me say a few moments ago: ‘Now look, we might have to move out of here later today and, if we do, we must be ready.’

Carol

Are you nervous?

Margaret Thatcher

No, I'm not nervous. I'll just take whatever comes now. We've done our best and a bit more.

Carol

You've been out in front in this race, according to newspapers, and according to almost everyone from the word go. Has that in any way made it an easier campaign for you?

Margaret Thatcher

No, it hasn't, because I always was prepared for a substantial move in the polls, and I thought that there would be more movement possibly than there has been. Last time we had the same scare campaign, and it did temporarily cause a movement in the polls in the middle of the campaign, which was very unnerving. So, I was prepared for something similar this time, but we did in fact warn people that we should get a scare campaign, and this made it that little bit easier to fight it. But when you start with a big lead it looks simply dreadful if you lose it, because it looks as if it's the way you fought the campaign or something like that. It just means that there's more to live up to.

Carol

And you have to be more wary of banana skins, in a way. [end p1]

Margaret Thatcher

That's right.

Carol

What are the events and issues that stick in your mind after this three-week campaign?

Margaret Thatcher

Defence, jobs as part of the economy, putting the facts on our record on the welfare state and home ownership. Home ownership is tremendously important and people in council estates have had the opportunity to buy for the first time.

Carol

Has it bothered you that the campaign, from your point of view, has been conducted either in a media scrum, or with hecklers and demonstrators in quite a lot of places. Is that a strain?

Margaret Thatcher

Hecklers and demonstrators help. They make a campaign much, much more lively. So we're always pleased when we get hecklers and demonstrators. Not just colossal shouting, but so long as you have a loudspeaker that can get over it, it's all right. Your own people then love it—they have something to cheer against and to cheer for.

Carol

What, as Britain's first woman Prime Minister, have you brought to the job?

Margaret Thatcher

I'm not the person to answer that question.

Carol

O.K. How's it changed you?

Margaret Thatcher

I'm not the person to answer that question either. But as I've got to know the job, I have become more and more a square peg in a square hole. As far as I'm concerned, it seems to me that the job and me fit together rather well.

Carol

How, after four years, when all your predecessors have looked positively knackered and exhausted can you look younger and prettier when you go on television?

Margaret Thatcher

Because the job suits me. I've always been used to working hard—as you know—desperately hard. We always had to. But quite apart from that, I like it and it does suit me, and I like doing the work more than almost anything else.

Carol

Do you think the job of Prime Minister is one that actually needs two terms to get into? Do you look on this one as a running-in period? [end p2]

Margaret Thatcher

No, I wouldn't say a running-in period because many, many people only have one term. I do think that the cumulative experience of one period is immensely valuable to you in a second term, particularly on the international scene. Also, again, you've been through many parliamentary traumas and you know how to cope with those. Indeed, at the end of one term, you've still got a tremendous number of ideas as to what you'd like to do with your second term. And you have a much more accurate assessment of how many of those ideas you're likely to be able to get through, and how many to start on their way with a view to getting them through eventually.

Carol

Do you ever find the limitations and restrictions on normal things you can do too much to bear?

Margaret Thatcher

Not too much to bear. No, one just has to get used to it. You know that if I go shopping, it's not a quiet operation.

Carol

No, that's for sure. Do you think that if you win the election with a landslide or a big majority you can actually claim that you're the new style of Conservatism, appealing to a whole slice of the electorate who'd never have thought of voting Conservative before?

Margaret Thatcher

Conservatism has been in power for a very long time in the general post-war period. We were getting rid of the class idea altogether in British politics during Harold Macmillan 's time, and that was when I first stood for Parliament. I always thought that we could get rid of it through home ownership. I think it was Labour who brought back the whole idea in 1964 with their very very class-ridden policies, and I hope now that we can get rid of it again, totally, for ever.

Carol

But haven't you been struck, just going round the country this time, by the warmth and strength of support that you've had from a totally different range of people?

Margaret Thatcher

As I say, in this campaign more than any other, we've stressed that in our Party we come from all walks of life, which we do. But that is traditional Conservatism, and it's the Labour Party who has always tried to bring class back into it. Conservatism is an [end p3] attitude of mind towards the politics of the country, the problems of the country and our role in trying to solve those problems.

Carol

A lot of previous Prime Ministers are quite happy just to stand up and read out a speech which has been presented to them by a speech-writer. You have a very different speech-making philosophy, don't you? It's very much your speech.

Margaret Thatcher

Oh yes, it's got to be my ideas. Not every bit of the draft is mine but, as you know, I go through it all. First we do the ideas, then they go away and draft, then that draft's usually torn up, then we do another one, and then I literally spend hours and hours going through that. We change it and change it, and some speeches we'd still be changing now, if we hadn't delivered them already.

Carol

Are there a lot of hurdles in making a really successful speech, in terms of it reading well, the performance, the audience and the hall?

Margaret Thatcher

Yes, there are. Then, often when you get there you feel you'd like to start all over again. Actually, if it weren't for television and the necessity of press releases, you would make much better speeches, because you'd make your own notes and go and deliver the speech. I do many like that, and those are the best ones really.

Carol

So you think your speech at Fleetwood, when you spoke from your notes, was probably better than one or two of the others?

Margaret Thatcher

No, the ones that I sometimes do on the hustings, and the ones when I am called upon to speak, as at Racal when I opened their new place, because then I have to depend totally on my ideas. There's often quite a clear structure to those speeches, when I think up three points quickly and stick to those.

Carol

Which do you think have been the most influential forms of communication in this election: television speeches, your own walkabouts?

Margaret Thatcher

They're complementary—you've got to do speeches and rallies. Television, I think, is the [end p4] most powerful form of communication that there is, and herein lies its own dangers, because you often don't get into a thing sufficiently deeply. There are many issues we haven't really gone into in this campaign in any depth.

Carol

Like which?

Margaret Thatcher

We haven't done any environment, although we've spent quite a lot of time considering what we should put in our Manifesto. We haven't done the varying philosophies of the two parties on government. Energy has not come into the campaign in any great way.

Carol

When you called this election, did you think that it was going to be a different campaign to the one which in fact it has turned out to be?

Margaret Thatcher

I think it's different fighting it as a Prime Minister, from what it was as a Leader of the Opposition.

Carol

How would you make the comparison?

Margaret Thatcher

First, as far as press conferences and radio and television appearances are concerned, I've had four years of answering questions in the House, twice a week. The knowledge gained is cumulative and therefore I'm not easily stumped by obscure questions, because the chances are that someone in the House has already asked them.

Carol

So it's been very good training for getting back on the campaign? But a number of your predecessors in Number Ten have actually found, after a spell as Prime Minister in the corridors of power, that it's been quite hard to get back and to adapt to the hustings. You don't appear to have found that at all.

Margaret Thatcher

No, not in any way. No difficulty.

Carol

A lot of people say it's been a hell of a job and a hell of a four years. Why on earth do you want another four years?

Margaret Thatcher

Because it's the job I most want to do in the world and I think I've got something still to give to it.

Carol

You've been a record-breaker already: you're the first scientific Prime Minister, the first woman Prime Minister, and you brought the Callaghan Government [end p5] down in fairly historical circumstances. This time, you'll be the first Conservative Prime Minister since Lord Salisbury to win a second consecutive term. What does being a record-breaker mean to you? Is it important?

Margaret Thatcher

The importance lies not in breaking records, but in doing the job when one gets more than one term. And I think you particularly notice it when you're dealing with statesmen in other countries. You see Helmut Schmidt was there for quite a long time; Giscard was there for seven years—which I don't think is long enough; but a lot of the people you're dealing with on the other side of the world are there for twenty years. Gromyko has been the Soviet Foreign Secretary ever since I've been in politics. Therefore, I think that from the viewpoint of dealing with potential adversaries or of being involved on the international scene, the cumulative experience is very important. Mrs Gandhi too has been there a long time, and I think it helps in the forum of a Commonwealth Conference or of an Economic Summit if you've been there for quite a time. You must have some sheet anchors in world democratic politics, because there are quite a lot in world communist politics with their totally controlled systems.

Carol

If you win today, have you any other ambitions?

Margaret Thatcher

Well, this is the zenith of my ambitions.

Carol

It's about 8.20 a.m. now. This time tomorrow morning, what do you hope the result will be?

Margaret Thatcher

We may not know, because I think most of the seats will be counted, but there are about eighty that are not counted till tomorrow morning. A number of those are redistributed. So, we still may not know. Obviously I hope to be substantially ahead. Last time you remember, the count was not started till 9.00 p.m. We didn't know the overall result until about 2.15 in the afternoon. We've got to go over the halfway number to be certain.

Carol

You've been fighting elections for thirty years and have a very good gut reaction about results. What does it tell you about this one? [end p6]

Margaret Thatcher

Well, I shall be surprised if we lose. But I don't say that because of the polls. I say that because of the immense response we've had as we've gone round. Also, because of the extreme nature of the Labour Manifesto, it's just not right for this country. I think people prefer the firm style of Government we've had, and the determination to go in a particular direction. I think they know it's right, that the direction we're going in is right, and again their gut feeling is that it's right to continue.

Carol

Are you proud of your first four years?

Margaret Thatcher

I could wish that we hadn't embarked on those first four years at the beginning of a world recession—that wasn't our fault and we weren't to know it. It would have been a tremendous lot easier to do the changes we had to make had we not had a recession. But the actual existence of a world recession made it even more important to do them, otherwise we would have had very little chance of coming out with much hope for Britain.

Carol

Good luck. I must let you go. You look fantastic. See you later.