Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

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

1985 Feb 15 Fr
Margaret Thatcher

TV Interview for CBS 60 Minutes

Document type: speeches
Document kind: TV Interview
Venue: No.10 Downing Street
Source: Thatcher Archive: COI transcript
Journalist: Dianne Sawyer, CBS
Editorial comments: 1045-1130. The interview was broadcast on 18 February.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 7561
Themes: Autobiographical comments, Autobiography (childhood), Autobiography (marriage & children), Parliament, Commonwealth (general), Conservative Party (organization), Defence (general), Defence (arms control), Higher & further education, Employment, General Elections, Monetary policy, Foreign policy (Africa), Family, Foreign policy (Americas excluding USA), Foreign policy (Asia), Foreign policy (USA), Foreign policy (USSR & successor states), Health policy, Labour Party & socialism, Leadership, Media, Northern Ireland, Society, Social security & welfare, Terrorism, Trade unions, Women, Famous statements by MT (discussions of)

Diane Sawyer, CBS

I get a first chance—an early chance—to welcome you. Everyone is very excited about the trip and the speech, they really are!

Seeing you, and the prospect of you giving a speech to a Joint Session of Congress, raises the question in my mind at least, how you would have enjoyed an American-style democracy? Would you have campaigned for President? Do you think you would have won, as President, in America?

Prime Minister

Well, as a child, I never expected even to be a Member of Parliament, let alone the Prime Minister.

I think things develop. Perhaps there are two sorts of children: one, who have their lives wholly planned out with their ambitions set, and they work towards them; then, I think there are others like us that are very interested in something, develop their interest, and then take life and its opportunities as they come; and I have been very much the latter kind. [end p1]

Diane Sawyer, CBS

Would you have enjoyed mixing it up—for two years now and more— [ as ] [note in original: “word missing? ” ] Americans do on a campaign trail?

Prime Minister

Oh, it is a very very long campaign. We are very lucky, you know. Our campaigns are under one month, and we find that plenty long enough, the pace at which we go. But I know that you have to do much more travelling about than we do.

Diane Sawyer, CBS

Which do you think is the more difficult though? Do you think you might have had a shot at becoming President of the United States in another world, another time?

Prime Minister

Well, had I been born in America, I might have! Whether I'd have made it, I don't know!

Diane Sawyer, CBS

Because people have had such an infrequent opportunity. I think, to hear about the source of your values related to your family, I have brought along a few pictures that are in a book here, and I would love for you just to take a look at some of them and tell us a little bit about what they evoke for you. This one, for instance? [end p2]

Prime Minister

That is a picture of Alfred Robertsmy father during mayoral year, which was just about the end of the War, and my Beatrice Robertsmother, Muriel Robertsmy sister and myself. Very much a typical portrait of the family at the time, taken by a very well known local photographer. That is the shot, and those of course are some of the people I knew.

Diane Sawyer, CBS

This is where you grew up?

Prime Minister

Yes. It looks a little bit different now from what it did then. It used to have a big lime tree outside and it has just been changed quite a bit.

Diane Sawyer, CBS

But I read that it was sort of austere in the sense that you had to go down to a warehouse down the road to take a bath.

Prime Minister

Oh, we did. In those days, I am afraid we just did not have anything like the facilities we take for granted now. No, not down at the end of the road. We did have, in fact, … it was on our own premises.

But you were asking about my early years. Yes, they were tremendously important to me. As you see, it was a corner grocer's shop. People came to it from all over the town and I [end p3] think children nowadays do not quite understand that kind of shop, because we tend to go to supermarkets. But the corner shop and the grocer's shop—and there was also a post office in it—was very much a kind of centre of social life, as well as being a grocer's shop, because …   .

Diane Sawyer, CBS

… political conversation.

Prime Minister

Oh very much so, because we stayed open until 8 o'clock on Friday and 9 o'clock on Saturday, and people would come in for something late in the evening and stand and talk, and they would always stand and talk about the political things of the day. I was a child and I used to listen. I used to love listening to what my elders said. It was so much more interesting than what my contemporaries said, and of course, that period of the Thirties was a fascinating period. In two ways, because you see we had all the economic problems—and you had them in the United States as well—and then it was the rise of Hitler, and I will never forget some of those conversations. But always I learned what was going on, and how to take part and how to deal with people—from that shop.

Diane Sawyer, CBS

But you also said once that it was not a childhood in which pleasures were stressed. It was really a childhood in [end p4] which the development of character and sense of duty …   .

Prime Minister

Yes, and work and all of the other things. You know, we learned music. My

Alfred Robertsfather had to leave school at thirteen. He was, I think, perhaps the best self-educated man I have ever met. To the end of his days, I could have discussed the Gold Standard, the Fiduciary Issue, Money Supply, with him, because he was very very well read, and I think, you know, parents often want to give their children what they have missed themselves.

My father, having to leave school at thirteen and go and work, wanted to give us the very very best education and make certain that we had an educated background—and that did not finish with school. It meant that he took us to lectures on current affairs. It meant that we learned music and it meant that we entered music festivals. It meant that we took a very full part in the life of all the voluntary societies—amateur dramatics—anything—help any organisation we were in, and of course, we played quite a prominent part in the life of the Methodist Church.

Diane Sawyer, CBS

How much of a difference do you think it made—and I have seen a lot of speculation from other sources—that you were not from what we in America at least think of as the seasoned upper crust that usually assumes the upper leadership posts in the British Government? You really did come from another background—and particularly to be a Tory from your background, [end p5] from the top of the shop, the grocery store?

Prime Minister

I think that has been the impression. I do not think it is always a very true impression, because the Tory Party has always had tremendous support from the ordinary people, but always, and we should never have got into power unless we had.

But you are quite right. In my young day, I could not have thought of being a Member of Parliament, because they were paid very little—not enough to keep them—and so they either had to be sponsored by business or own a big business of their own, or be able to carry on their profession and be a Member of Parliament at the same time. I would have had no such opportunity.

On the Labour side, of course, trade unions sponsored them, but that would have been closed to me as well. But in the post-War period they began to pay Members of Parliament, so you could think of going to become a Member of Parliament, and that was where new opportunities opened up for me.

Diane Sawyer, CBS

But, of course, Americans think of it as a kind of … also a function of snobbism in part, and that you came in from a different background. [end p6]

Prime Minister

Maybe I did, but I think it would be just as well you know if you forget about snobbery. That is really rather old-fashioned.

Diane Sawyer, CBS

I would love to ask you too, if I could, about this picture. Now, tell us about this girl still and what her aspirations were!

Prime Minister

I must have been about twenty-five< or twenty-six at that time and those, of course, are when our twins were born, and that was just at our wedding.

Aspirations. I had already stood for Parliament twice—two elections—before my wedding, so I was really well set on the political way, and then I got married and I carried on with some of my own work. I was studying to become a lawyer. I had already become a scientist and had trained as a research scientist and worked as a research scientist, but I became fascinated with the law, and also politics, and so I ran all three along together. It was a very busy life, and I carried that on after I got married.

Diane Sawyer, CBS

I read once that you said that if you had not been able to afford a nanny for the children, then you would not have done it; that you would have stayed at home with the children if you had not been able to afford help. [end p7]

Prime Minister

I think the question is whether—when a woman works—her income is such that she can also afford a nanny. I was fortunate that we were able to afford it, so I was able to complete my law studies and also do quite a lot of other work.

Diane Sawyer, CBS

But you would have stayed at home with the children?

Prime Minister

You see, so much has bounced right for me. Denis ThatcherMy husband worked near London. My work was in London. Parliament is in London. And I got a seat in the House of Commons—a London seat. But just suppose he had worked a long long way away from London, his job was there and our home was there. I would have been the first to say that I do not think as a mother with very young children that I could have left them all week and go on to sit in Parliament. If we could not, all of us would have gone and taken a house in London, which we could not have done because my husband's business—if my husband's business had been away—then I do not think I would have left them during those early formative years. Those years are tremendously important for children. It is very very important that they feel the security of having their family around—not always a function of how much time you spend with them, but that you are around and you spend some time talking to them, understanding their problems, and yes I do think that that is very important. [end p8]

Diane Sawyer, CBS

I read once that your husband said—this is a quote— “My idea of Heaven is to sit in my garden on a summer evening with a bottle of bubbly and my wife in a reasonably calm frame of mind!”

Prime Minister

I've never heard that one! A calm frame of mind. Normally, you see, when you are as busy as I am, you are either dashing around at the week-end doing something in the house, or having some other children in for the children, or …   . I think it was years and years before we actually bought some chairs—garden chairs—to sit in. You were so busy either building the garden or cutting the lawns or planting the plants or weeding, there was quite a long time before we actually bought garden chairs to sit down in. That is what he recalls.

Diane Sawyer, CBS

This is rough for him. I mean, he has been an object of fun in some of the newspapers around. He has handled it with great dignity.

Prime Minister

I regret that bitterly. I hope that he has not, because he has been absolutely marvellous. It is not an easy job to do, and he has been a tower of strength. He of course has his own tremendous personality and, of course, he would be the first to admit that he is not the world's most relaxed person either, so we both suit one another! [end p9]

Diane Sawyer, CBS

One last question, if I could, along these lines. I am a little confused about what you are really saying about being a woman in a leadership position, because I read at times that you said that leadership is really a genderless issue and a genderless exercise, and yet at the same time. I have heard you say things such as “If you want something said, ask a man, if you want something done, ask a woman” , and that you are pleased and proud of the way women have a special ability to cope.

Is there a difference in being a woman? Is there something that makes it different?

Prime Minister

Well, I cannot tell you the difference between a woman prime minister and a man prime minister, because I have only ever been a woman prime minister, and therefore I do not notice. But I do think this about women in general: they are very practical; they do always have to cope. Come what may, they cope. They have to, and I think therefore they do take a very practical attitude, and I have noticed over the years something else. I noticed it from university on. A woman with the same amount of ability as a man will have much less self-confidence than a man; much less self-confidence about getting up and speaking, doing public speaking; much less self-confidence about giving their views. I think it is gradually changing, but whether in the United States or here, we have far too few women coming into public life and I think that that still is a factor. They get on with doing the practical work, but do not find it so easy to get up and give their views or to come into debating and discussion. Don't you find that? [end p10]

Diane Sawyer, CBS

You have made almost a kind of royal crusade of a new kind of enterprise for Britain and the United Kingdom, for a new kind of push for technology and for a place in the world's enterprise economy.

When you look back and think that it was really Great Britain that led the world into the Industrial Revolution in the beginning, what happened? Why was it not sustained? Why did the United States—if you think so—have a kind of determination about profit and productivity but Great Britain yielded?

Prime Minister

I think many people who went to freedom and went to get on by virtue of their own ability, went to the States. They got there. They had the experience of pioneering. You have a lot of land, a lot of resources, and you took with you, both from Britain and from Europe, yes, a sense of enterprise, a sense of self-reliance, and your whole country was born out of that, and the American Constitution is one of the best-drafted documents I have ever seen. It has got it all there.

Diane Sawyer, CBS

But what was happening back here?

Prime Minister

You learn some of it. You do not learn it from us. You were part of us. You did not borrow anything from us. You took it with you. That is the difference. When we went [end p11] and taught other peoples in the world to do some of the things which we had learned, they borrowed it from us. They borrowed some of democracy and justice from us. It is just as much a part of you as it is a part of us. You have a much bigger country, massive resources, tremendous self-reliance.

Now, we still I believe have that in us, and it is my job to revive it, and that is why …

Diane Sawyer, CBS

But why was it suppressed?

Prime Minister

Why was it? I think what happened, we reached, really, a fantastic zenith during war-time. What Britain did in war-time, when the whole of Europe collapsed, and we stood alone, really was fantastic, because there was no logic to it. If you looked at it logically, then we could not have stood alone.

Of course, we had a very great empire. Never forget the part they played in the War. They came from Australia. New Zealand, yes they were Dominions, but they came with a loyalty; and Canada; they came from Africa, they came from India—what is now Pakistan—and so on; and they suffered grievously in the Far East too. But we did stand alone and then, of course, we almost sacrificed everything in that War. All our overseas assets were used up and of course, then we had the marvellous Marshall Plan and America was wonderful. And then we had socialism and it bit very deep into Britain. Not only on the [end p12] part of socialist governments; it bit deep throughout society. Somehow they began to think, well we had had a depression in the Thirties, was it that the socialist and communist doctrine in fact had something to offer? We now know it has nothing, absolutely nothing, because you have been able to see a free enterprise system in practice in the United States alongside a communist system in practice—no comparing theories, in practice—and that communism can do nothing either for prosperity or for the dignity of man.

But in Britain, we tried this socialist experiment and many things were nationalised. Regulations shot up. Taxation shot up, and somehow people began to look to the State for their standard of living, to the State to solve their problems, rather than solving themselves. My job has been to turn that around.

Also, of course, with a socialist government in, they were very very much in cahoots with the trade unions and sometimes the trade unions, with enormous powers and going more and more left wing the whole time, people felt almost ran the country.

Diane Sawyer, CBS

But you know, there are people who write …

Prime Minister

I have to turn that round.

Diane Sawyer, CBS

… that that is the price you pay for a rigid class structure they did not have in the United States. [end p13]

Prime Minister

Forget the class structure. There is far less of it. You will find that my Party comes from all people, all backgrounds. We have an attitude to life. I think that you put far too much on class. The characteristics of British society has been how easy it has been for a very long time to climb from the bottom to the top. I am here, and I am not the first! I am not the first! You are obsessed with this. Just forget it! I do not care who you are, where you come from, what your family is, what your background was. What I bother about as a Prime Minister of Britain is what each and every person has to give by virtue of being themselves and what they have to contribute, and that is the approach. We would not have anything like the support we have. We have it from all backgrounds, except that I think that people who support us have a certain approach to life. Yes it is: they are prepared to take responsibility for their families; they are prepared to be self-reliant; they are prepared to do things in voluntary societies. All of these things. They are prepared to do things to help themselves and to help others, but forget about the class—right out of date!

Diane Sawyer, CBS

The pound is at an all-time low against the US dollar. How much of that is the fault of the United States, whether it be interest rates, refusing to intervene in the dollar or the indirect effect of the deficit? [end p14]

Prime Minister

I think it is a phenomenon that is very very difficult to analyse correctly. We do not know quite why. There are certain obvious things.

The United States, this enormous country with a wholly free enterprise, strong economy, is the world's safe haven for its savings. It has never had socialism; it is never going to have. It has got Canada to the north. It is not attacked anywhere on its borders, and Mexico to the south. So it is safe. It is safe in freedom; it is safe in justice; it is safe in free enterprise. It is a thrusting, driving, strong economy. So therefore, it should naturally attract quite a lot of the world's savings and does. Indeed, if you look at it from that viewpoint, you are quite surprised that you needed to have quite high interest rates to attract extra money. That is one thing.

Now, secondly, at one time—three or four years ago—you were lending an enormous amount, really rather more than you should have done, to countries who could not afford to borrow it. They thought inflation was going to continue; they thought, in fact, that the oil price was going to go on rising. America and, to some extent other countries, lent them too much; they borrowed too much. Now that is being paid back or the debt is being rescheduled. You are not lending anything out, so you have got money surging into the United States and the banks lending nothing out. That is a classic case of having a strong dollar and weaker other currencies, because you see, do not think that it is weak economies here in Europe or in Japan. The yen is at all all-time low against the dollar. Japan [end p15] has a very strong economy.

Diane Sawyer, CBS

But you think the dollar is unfairly high?

Prime Minister

I think the currencies in Europe are undervalued, but a lot of people who move money around the world are young people—they have been gambling on the dollar staying high for a long time—and it will end. I have lived through a period when the dollar has been low and the pound high, and now I see the dollar high and other currencies low.

I think what I am concerned about and I see the same concern in the United States, because at the moment you have got a budget deficit, a trade deficit and you are soon going to have a capital deficit, and that also has its effect, and I think that many many people in the States and we are worried that when a change comes—and it will—it will be a very sharp change and sharp changes can be very brutal in their effect.

Diane Sawyer, CBS

You think the deficit is irresponsible, the US deficit?

Prime Minister

Irresponsible, no, because after all, Ronald Reaganthe President—even before the election—was saying, I remember his speech to Congress very well, let us have a down-payment, and now people are saying let us start to deal with the deficit, so they are beginning to [end p16] realise that too, and also the very very high dollar must be having quite a very difficult effect on some of your industries and the danger is that they will then turn to protectionism which, of course, would be terrible for the rest of the world and I am sure the President will resist it.

No, I think that the President's speech and the determination of Congress to take steps to deal with the deficit, I support that.

Diane Sawyer, CBS

Does it worry you if the defence budget is cut?

Prime Minister

The United States has really done its duty both by its own people and by the rest of the world in its defence policy. We also in Britain have had, ever since I have been in, a 3%; rise in the defence budget each year, so we have done our part.

Diane Sawyer, CBS

So the US defence budget could be cut and you would not be too anxious?

Prime Minister

I am not going to tell Congress what they must do. I would not like it if they told me what to do, but I support very much the approaches that Ronald Reaganthe President is taking. As you know. I am his greatest fan! [end p17]

Diane Sawyer, CBS

Your approach to the economy here—your, some people say it is strong, some people say intractable, approach to the economy here …

Prime Minister

What is the difference?

Diane Sawyer, CBS

… has really cost you a price and we were taking a look at a poll that I know you must have seen out just recently in which 21%;, only 21%; of the people in this poll, said they thought you understood the problems facing Britain today. 34%; of them, only 34%;, thought you were good in a crisis.

Do you think this is a result of style? Do you think it is a result of bad press reporting? How does something like this happen, these kinds of figures, this kind of reaction?

Prime Minister

I do not really take much notice of polls between elections. There is only one poll I am interested in and that is whether they are going to return me. Whether they have sufficient confidence in the way I have handled things to return the government I lead to office, which they did, with a very large majority. Yes, we do have difficulties. We have difficulties in unemployment and that is one difference between, I think, the United States and Japan and Europe. We have had far more difficulties in unemployment. In my country we have had a lot of disguised unemployment [end p18] for a long time, because we had severe overmanning and very low productivity, and the consequence of getting profits rising and high productivity and much healthier industry and a new generation of technology has been that we have a great problem with solving unemployment and it is what we were talking about before: we have not quite yet got to that enterprise culture when we have as many small businesses starting as you do, and that is the secret to solving the unemployment problem.

But I do not know, I shall never get besotted with polls. I do not. There is only one that I am interested in and that is the one when it comes to a general election and, yes, I do know that I have to do things, but it is not the job of a politician to do only those things which you think will be popular, because that will be catastrophic often for your country, and I think people have a very considerable respect—certainly when it comes to an election—for a politician who does the things which have to be done, because they know they have to be done.

Diane Sawyer, CBS

But as you know, a lot of people have turned it back on you and your style when they say that you do not feel a healthy sense of compassion and they say—I think it was Edward Heath, your predecessor in your party, who said that people are not motivated by being hectored and lectured and by the refrain of cut, cut, cut. [end p19]

Prime Minister

How quite absurd! Those people who talk most about compassion are often those people who define compassion as getting the State to spend more on their particular interest.

I hear a great deal about compassion from my opponents, the Labour Party. It is the Labour Party that has supported every strike; supported the miners' strike through thick and thin; and the miners' strike, the objective was to stop the supply of power to industry so that it could bring industry and people to a dead stop, so they would not have had jobs or a future, and to stop the supply of fuel to houses so they would have stopped it to the housewife and to old people. They are the people who talk about compassion. We do not talk so much about it, but we just quietly get on with the job.

And let me deal with this thing about cut, cut, cut. We have kept our pledges to the retirement pensioners in full. In fact, they have the best value pension that they have ever had. We have kept more than our pledges to a National Health Service. In fact, the supplies to it are some 20%; up even after you have taken account of inflation than they were when I came in. There are more doctors, there are more nurses, there are lower waiting lists. So they do the talking—I take the action!

Diane Sawyer, CBS

But as you know. Ronald Reagan 's personality has proven to be a kind of buffer for him when times get hard. Do you envy that? Do you find … [end p20]

Prime Minister

No. I think Ronald Reaganhe is marvellous. As I told you, I am his greatest fan. We each have our own style. You cannot change it! I have not the slightest intention of changing mine! After all, it has not done me so badly so far!

Diane Sawyer, CBS

I read a quote once—I am full of quotes today—I read a quote once where your father said: “Margaret is 99.5%; perfect—the half percent that could be a little bit warmer!”

Prime Minister

I am not quite sure where you heard these quotes from at all. That is the first time I have ever heard that. I do not think you will find my family ever said that I was cold and I think it is quite an advertisement for anyone that they have such a close family life as we have.

Diane Sawyer, CBS

Do you like television as a medium? There has been much discussion this political season in the United States about the effects of television on personalities and people and I read once that you said you think that television interviews often take the life's blood out of real people.

Prime Minister

Well, they do. They are flat. I mean, that when I go about people find me very different from television. I do not [end p21] know why, because I never watch myself on television, and it is highly selective. You know, you ask a few questions. It is so selective. But it has brought a great deal of richness to life, a great deal of knowledge to life, but I am always nervous of it, of course, very nervous.

Diane Sawyer, CBS

You have said that you want to stand for a third term.

Prime Minister

But of course! I'm so sorry. In the United States you cannot, because you have two four-year terms. We could stand for a third term and I hope to stand for a third term.

Diane Sawyer, CBS

I read once too that you said that a woman is in her prime between the ages of fifty and fifty-seven. Do you want to amend that now?

Prime Minister

I have never heard that either! Isn't that astonishing! I cannot think when I said that, if I ever said it.

Diane Sawyer, CBS

Oh really? I have got it down for 1975. I thought that was curious too.

Prime Minister

Goodness me! We will have to amend that, because I am sixty this year! [end p22]

Diane Sawyer, CBS

That is right. I think it can be an extended observation.

Prime Minister

I will extend it. One is always young to oneself and one's contemporaries you know.

Diane Sawyer, CBS

Are there times when you just want to pack it in?

Prime Minister

No. No, no, no. No, I don't. I never want to pack it in. Of course, I will have to one day. Of course I will have to, but I do not want to pack it in for quite a time yet. I still think, maybe you don't like her style, but I still think a firm hand is needed.

Diane Sawyer, CBS

If you packed it in tomorrow …

Prime Minister

No, I am not going to pack it in.

Diane Sawyer, CBS

No, I just say … theoretically.

Prime Minister

… come to the United States. [end p23]

Diane Sawyer, CBS

What would your proudest achievement be?

Prime Minister

I can never answer that question. It is very difficult but now I will have to try to find an answer.

I think we did turn round Britain to find again that spirit which made her great. It is still there and we are reviving it and whenever I travel abroad people still find us just a little bit different and they are right to do so. Quite right to do so.

Diane Sawyer, CBS

But doesn't it occasionally … I mean, doesn't it occasionally just become enormously difficult? We, for instance, hear you in Question Time with Parliament and it seems to us in the United States like a kind of institutionalised rudeness. Does it take guts to go in and do that twice a week or do you enjoy doing that?

Prime Minister

No, it is just part of life. It is a thing which very very few Prime Ministers have to do. Twice a week I have to go before Parliament and answer questions and have not a clue what those questions will be mostly.

Diane Sawyer, CBS

Do you like the confrontational quality? [end p24]

Prime Minister

Like it? I just sometimes wish that they were more interested in the answers. The purpose of the questions is not to find the answers, but to try to trip you up, and I do not know of any other prime minister in the world which does the combination of things that we do, but you know, it is very useful, because in doing the briefing for it, which I do twice a week, you find out pretty nearly everything that is going on and it often enables you to take action very quickly, and also, people know that they cannot get you down, and that is quite a good thing, quite a good thing!

Diane Sawyer, CBS

Did it wound you when Oxford University decided not to give you an honorary degree as they had done other Oxford-educated prime ministers, saying that you had been bad for education?

Prime Minister

Well, I am afraid that their arguments were not very good because as some of the newspapers pointed out, in fact, the resources for education in fact had been increased and the number in higher education is at an all-time record, etc., but those are the statistics and I am afraid their case in logic was not a very good one. But when the Council of the University asked for my name to go forward I knew that I would probably meet this opposition, because that is the way the socialists work. We Conservatives at University would never have dreamed of opposing Harold Wilson as a Labour Prime Minister for an honorary degree … [end p25]

Diane Sawyer, CBS

…   . but this was a faculty vote wasn't it … not socialists?

Prime Minister

Yes, it is a political vote. It is a political vote. So I was not surprised. I think other people were perhaps more surprised than I was. I was not surprised. Their arguments were not terribly good, but I was most certainly not surprised. But when the Council asked me to let my name go forward, yes. I said yes, of course, and it was indicated that there might be a vote. Well so what?

Diane Sawyer, CBS

Did it wound you?

Prime Minister

No, it did not wound me, because I know Oxford.

Diane Sawyer, CBS

Once you said this to the Soviet Union … I wanted to ask you about it … you said that the Russians are bent on world dominance; that they know they are a super power only in one sense, the military sense; they are a failure in human and economic terms. [end p26]

Prime Minister

Well that is what I really rather indicated earlier when I said now that we have seen communism in practice for so many years, as distinct from in writing in the books, we have seen the kind of society which it creates. It gives neither dignity to man nor does it bring prosperity. When they turn round to help other people, other countries, they do not help them with civil aid as the United States does and we do—they help them with armaments.

Ethiopia is a typical example. A communist country with communist leaders. The Soviet Union sell them armaments and armaments and armaments with which to prosecute a civil war. Did not turn round and say: “Feed your people!”

After the United States left Viet Nam, a communist country then, turned round and attacked Cambodia. Did not say “Let us turn round and look after the wellbeing of the people!” Oh no, it was the West who had to go in and say: “Look, you are selling armaments to them; we will give them food! We will help them!”

You find that the world over. Three out of four dollars that the United States spends on Central America goes to civil programmes, goes to helping with food, goes to help them to pull themselves up—not so the Soviets. Oh no, take your measure of them. We have to deal with them. [end p27]

Diane Sawyer, CBS

That is why people were sort of perplexed when they heard you say of Mr. Gorbachev, “I like Mr. Gorbachev!”

Prime Minister

I liked him as a personality. I can do business with him, because I accept certain things. Communism is going to stay in the Soviet Union and its satellites for a long time. It is the most rigid doctrine I have ever come across. It has not built in the means to adapt. It is very different from Chinese communism. They have built in the means to adapt their society. The Soviet communism has not. But the fact is it is going to stay there for a very long time and the government of the Soviet Union and the governments of the Western World have one thing in common—we neither of us wish ever to see a war breaking out or a conflict developing and it is in both our interests to see that it does not. In our interest, because democracies and lovers of freedom do not pursue their aims by war. They like, they love peace. We are defensive organisations. They—they are prepared to pursue their aims by military means, and we have to see that we are strong enough to stop them, but I do believe this: that there is a generation in power in the Kremlin who remembers the terrors and horrors of the last War and they would be very slow to embark on another major war. We have got to use that. I believe President Reagan understands that and it is this common interest in no conflict that means we have to negotiate. So you have to negotiate on armaments; get the numbers down and, you know, you do negotiate better when you [end p28] have more contacts and understand the personalities you are dealing with.

So, yes, we did get on. We did not have what I call the minuets of diplomacy. You know, the set pieces. We sat down and talked—rather as I am talking to you—Now, let us talk about the things that really matter, and Mikhail Gorbachevhe was prepared to talk. And so yes, we have to do business, and I can do business and I am glad he came!

Diane Sawyer, CBS

But it does seem there is a difference between you and Ronald Reagan on one issue at least, namely, you have said, after Grenada, that you simply do not think countries should go in and liberate other people's countries. I think he would probably argue—and certainly those who support him would argue—that you are really saying by that that you do not believe that an oppressed people should ever be rescued by military force.

Prime Minister

No, certainly one is not saying that. Do you think we would have carried on in war-time, when the whole of Europe had collapsed, if we thought that?

Diane Sawyer, CBS

… Grenada …

Prime Minister

You have to be very very careful before you use military force. To anyone who dares compare Afghanistan and Grenada. I [end p29] would be the first to say do not be so absurd. The United States went in, did what she had to do, and then came out. I had something very very important to do at that time; that was to get Cruise missiles sited in Britain. I was doing it against a background that they were saying to me: “the President of the United States would not consult you about their use” and I was saying: “Yes, of course Ronald Reaganhe will and that is part of the understanding between us!” Along comes Grenada, which I thought could have been dealt with by other means, and then I am told “Well, he did not consult you over that; why should he consult you over Cruise?” and there was one really big issue in world context to get solved during that time and that was to get Cruise sited and I was pilloried for not being consulted. It did not bother me, because I have every sympathy with anyone in charge who if they are going to embark on a military operation, keeps it as tightly to themselves as they possibly can, because that is to your armed forces' best advantage. Nevertheless, I did carry out my role and we were the first to do it, and if I had not, an awful lot would have collapsed.

I thought Grenada could have been dealt with by different means. The President took a different view. Maybe in his sphere he was right, in mine I was right. But he went in and then came out. My goodness me, I wish to goodness that the Russians would do the same in Afghanistan! [end p30]

Diane Sawyer, CBS

In the United States, Americans are seeing on television in the evening “The Jewel and the Crown” and they go into the movie theatre and they see “Passage to India” . Are you nostalgic for the days when the sun never set on the British Empire?

Prime Minister

No. I am not nostalgic for that kind of power in any way. I am really rather proud that India, having been part of our history, and we in a way united India; we took democracy there. They borrowed it from us. The United States did not borrow it—she is part of us and we are part of her—but India, we lend them the very best of law; we lent them the very best of democracy; and I think we should be very very proud that India is still a democracy; the largest democracy in the world. Although she has massive problems to deal with, we should be very proud of that and we should do everything we can to help her, because she has shown that even with a people who have problems of poverty to deal with, that they go the democratic way, because they believe that it will not only deal eventually with their poverty—and of course their fantastic industry, tremendous computers, very good on atomic energy—but it gives their people dignity. Never forget what India means to the world. This large democracy 700 or 800 million.

Diane Sawyer, CBS

But the moral of those dramas in a lot of ways is that the British were very arch in their colonial phase; that they were prejudiced in their colonial phase too and that that also [end p31] sowed the seeds of some terrible reactions.

Prime Minister

We made a mistake with the United States and the United States took its independence. Quite right. But after that, you tell me any other empire in the world which has voluntarily relinquished power and brought each and every territory to its own independence. Indeed, that has caused some problems, because when so many of the small islands were part of a large empire then their defence was assured. Since those empires have been fragmented, you have a lot of small independent nations unable to defend themselves and they are the prey to subversion and the end of empire did mean problems. They are prey to other people who would subvert—you have seen it—and manipulate their policies. But tell me another empire in the world that relinquished power as we did, voluntarily, and still has a Commonwealth. And we shall have our Commonwealth Conference in the Bahamas next in October.

Diane Sawyer, CBS

Last October—October of 1984—terrorists tried to kill you. The IRA claimed responsibility. Do you believe that those in the United States who support Irish relief funds and who send money into Northern Ireland are supporting terrorism?

Prime Minister

Oh yes, they are! Those who send money to NORAID are supporting the supply of guns and ammunition with which to kill [end p32] British soldiers, British policemen, innocent British citizens, not only in Northern Ireland, and also to damage and injure sometimes some Americans who are over here.

After I went round the hospitals after the Harrods' bomb, one of the first persons I saw was an American who had been injured. Oh yes, that is what they are doing.

Diane Sawyer, CBS

Is President Reagan going to help you prevent that?

Prime Minister

Ronald ReaganThe President and the Friends of Ireland in Congress and Garret FitzGerald, the Taoiseach of the Republic, have been superb, each and every one of them, in totally and utterly condemning terrorism and utterly condemning the IRA, because the IRA is out for a rule of the gun; it is out against democracy; it is often run by Marxist Leninists and Garret FitzGerald, the Taoiseach, will say as firmly as I do they are not only trying to change the situation in Northern Ireland against the wish of the people, but they are against democracy in the Republic, and people who contribute to NORAID are contributing to terrorism and to terrorists who are trying to overturn democracy not only in Northern Ireland but in the Republic of Ireland too. I think your Friends of Ireland in Congress have been marvellous about totally condemning terrorism and so has the President. If you believe in democracy, you cannot believe in terrorism. Every single person in Northern Ireland has the right to vote either for local councils or to the Parliament in Westminster or to their [end p33] Assembly. They have all the same civil rights. You cannot believe in the ballot and then resort to the bullet!

Diane Sawyer, CBS

Does it haunt you, that day? This is the last question.

Prime Minister

Yes, to some extent, because I lost some very very dear friends that day and the things that you thought could not happen did happen and we can never get those friends back. But having said that, we were so determined that it would not make any difference to the way in which we carried on and we showed our determination and I went into the Conference immediately the following morning, 9.30 a.m. Ironically enough we were discussing Northern Ireland as I walked on to the platform. There were not many people in the hall, because the security to get in was enormous, but the applause that broke out was terrific and at our mass meeting in the afternoon every seat was full; 6,000 people came to say: “You will not have any effect on us! We shall carry on!” That was their message, and it was marvellous that the gun could not stop British democracy. It would never win.

Diane Sawyer, CBS

You said you realised that they did not intend for you to see another day.

Prime Minister

Look! Every person in politics in the Western world takes that risk and you just carry on and we do not really think of [end p34] it. We are deeply grateful to those who protect us. One day it may happen. My goodness me, the gunman is not going to stop us from carrying out the business of democracy—ever! He will fail and people must help him to fail by cutting off the money and supplies of armaments he needs!

Diane Sawyer, CBS

Prime Minister, thank you!