Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

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

1987 Jun 8 Mo
Margaret Thatcher

TV Interview for BBC1 Panorama

Document type: speeches
Document kind: TV Interview
Venue: No.12 Downing Street
Source: Thatcher Archive: transcript
Journalist: Sir Robin Day, BBC
Editorial comments: 1330-1430. The programme was prerecorded for broadcast that evening when MT was in Venice. Questions paraphrased for reason of copyright.
Importance ranking: Key
Word count: 7801
Themes: Autobiographical comments, British Constitution (general discussions), Executive, Conservatism, Conservative Party (history), Defence (general), Employment, Industry, General Elections, Monetary policy, Pay, Taxation, Health policy, Private health care, Labour Party & socialism, Law & order, Leadership, Religion & morality, Society, Trade union law reform, Strikes & other union action, Voluntary sector & charity, Famous statements by MT (discussions of)

Sir Robin Day

[Question paraphrased for reason of copyright:]

If you win election, you will be first British PM elected for three consecutive terms for well over hundred years. Why should British people give you prize they denied to Gladstone, Disraeli, Salisbury even Churchill?

Prime Minister

I wonder why you put the re-election of a Conservative Government so much on my name. There has been a third Conservative Government re-elected. Indeed, my first time in Parliament in 1959 was one such. We were elected in 1951, we were returned in 1955 and we were returned again in 1959. It was Conservative policies that were re-elected and I hope this Thursday it will be Conservative policies that are re-elected. The fact that I am the leader does not seem to me to be the most material thing. It is the policies that people are voting for and when it comes to decide, you have to look at those policies and consider what the alternatives are.

Sir Robin Day

[Question paraphrased for reason of copyright:]

You have stamped your image on Conservative party like no previous leader. We never heard of Macmillanism; Heathism; Churchillism. We hear of Thatcherism. What does it mean?

Prime Minister

Sir Robin DaySir Robin, it is not a name that I created in the sense of calling it an ism. Let me tell you what it stands for. It stands for sound finance and Government running the affairs of the nation in a sound financial way. It stands for honest money—not inflation. It stands for living within your means. It stands for incentives because we know full well that the growth, the economic strength of the nation comes from the efforts of its people. Its people need incentives to work as hard as [end p244] they possibly can. All that has produced economic growth.

It stands for something else. It stands for the wider and wider spread of ownership of property, of houses, of shares, of savings. It stands for being strong in defence—a reliable ally and a trusted friend. People call those things Thatcherism; they are, in fact, fundamental common sense and having faith in the enterprise and abilities of the people. It was my task to try to release those. They were always there; they have always been there in the British people, but they couldn’t flourish under Socialism. They have now been released. That’s all that Thatcherism is.

Sir Robin Day

[Question paraphrased for reason of copyright:]

If there are four or five more years of Thatcherism, do you promise or hope to achieve any of the following? Will unemployment be brought down below 2 million?

Prime Minister

I cannot promise you a specific figure. I think you must have asked me that question this time last election, possibly in this room, in 1983. I could not forecast then that there would have been by now one million more jobs created—over a million that there have in fact been. I wouldn’t give a forecast then and now unemployment is falling.

It will depend upon many things. It will depend upon world trade—that is one reason why I want to go to Venice. It will depend upon the world economy. It will also depend upon how far thousands and thousands of companies, whether in manufacturing, extraction, or service, respond to the markets of the world. Our strength, our economic strength, our standard of living depends upon our companies producing goods which people will buy at the price of the quality. They are responding magnificently at the moment. For years, I wondered if we released the controls, if we gave incentives, whether this spirit of enterprise would come back. It is back and young people are doing fantastically well. They are creating new businesses. It is happening. [end p245]

Sir Robin Day

[Question paraphrased for reason of copyright:]

If re-elected for another term will inflation be brought down to zero?

Prime Minister

It will be our aim to bring down inflation further. We shall run our financial policies in that way. I wish I could promise it will be brought down to zero—I can’t. We want it down further and we will continue to try, to endeavour in every way to get it down.

Sir Robin Day

[Question paraphrased for reason of copyright:]

Will standard rate income tax be cut to 20 per cent?

Prime Minister

Sir Robin, I think you are asking me to try to tie any future Government up in promises that it couldn’t be sure to deliver. You know I will never do that. It isn’t my Party’s way. Yes, I do want income tax further down, that will depend on how successful our companies and businesses are. The more wealth they produce, the more income tax can come down and, of course, also the more resources we will have to put to social services.

We shall endeavour to get income tax further down and, just as in the last eight years, we got it down from 33p—the basic rate in the pound—to 27p; just as we got the top rate down from 83 per cent. on earnings to 60 per cent. On earnings, so we shall strive to get it down by running the economy in such a way that we get this fundamental partnership between Government doing good housekeeping and people responding with using their talents and abilities to create more wealth.

Sir Robin Day

[Question paraphrased for reason of copyright:]

Can you promise anything about increase in crime? Will it have been slowed if not halted in 4-5 years?

Prime Minister

I can promise you that we shall continue to increase the numbers of police. They will have more numbers; they’ll have the equipment. We have given them [end p246] rather more powers and we will continue to strive to do every single thing we can to get more co-operation with the public, because people can do so much to make their homes more secure. They can do so much to keep a watch in their neighbourhood and many of those neighbourhood watch schemes—29,000 of them—are working quite brilliantly.

But, in the end, let’s face it, Government isn’t a dictator—we are a free country. Everyone has freedom of choice and everyone has personal responsibility for their actions. Yes, there is a good neighbour in everyone. What we have to do is to have a legal system such that those who take the course of crime have strong sentences—we have that—the right framework of law—we are doing that—a police force which co-operates with the public. All of that we shall do.

I wish, perhaps above all, to want to wave a magic wand and get crime down. In an ideal world I wish there were no crime, but man is given freedom of choice and, I am afraid the same thing that gives us power to do good is that same freedom that gives some the power to do evil. We have to deter that, and we do.

Sir Robin Day

[Question paraphrased for reason of copyright:]

Your reply to view —not just held by political opponents—that you are autocratic, domineering, intolerant of dissent?

Prime Minister

Well, they should come to some of our Cabinet meetings and listen to the very, very vigorous discussions that we have, and have always had. Yes, because we do believe in coming to our conclusion by very vigorous discussion. Good heavens, you know, you have seen some of it—not in Cabinet meetings, but I have never been unwilling to get involved in the clash of debate and argument, and I am not now. It is because we have that that I believe that we thoroughly thrash out our problems. I think what you are accusing me of is … (inaudible). [end p247]

Sir Robin Day

[Question paraphrased for reason of copyright:]

Am not accusing, rather inviting you to answer criticisms frequently made of you, Prime Minister.

Prime Minister

I don’t see how one can be accused of being arrogant when one has, in fact, tried throughout the whole of the eight years I have been in office to give more power back to the people. We have abolished many controls because Government ought not to have had them.

Sir Robin Day

[Question paraphrased for reason of copyright:]

This is a personal question.

Prime Minister

Ask me no personal questions. I am afraid, I must leave other people to judge. I don’t think oneself is perhaps the best judge of one’s qualities.

Yes, when I believe in things very strongly—and I do believe in things very strongly—then I bend everything to getting that policy through. I go to the House; I explain it; sometimes in a combative way. Yes, I decide, with others, the way we are going. Then I bend every single effort to getting that through, overcoming all obstacles. It isn’t arrogance, in my view.

Sir Robin Day

[Question paraphrased for reason of copyright:]

You mentioned Cabinet meetings, which I haven’t attended, but Francis Pym did and was sacked by you. He said any dissent, even admittance of doubt, is treachery and treason. He said after nine years as party leader and five as Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher still asks people the question: “Are you one of us?”.

Prime Minister

Look, I think you are insulting many in my Cabinet. The Cabinet is made up of people of a wide variety of views within the party, a wide variety of people geographically and of a number of different age groups. I don’t think any of them would say that they weren’t invited, from time to time, to give their views. There are twenty. [end p248] Frequently, we go round the Cabinet table—“What are your views?”. If you are saying that every single person in that Cabinet is a yes man, then I think you are delivering a totally unjustifiable insult. Yes, I do put my views combatively; I hold them combatively; I am in politics because I want to get them put into practice. Putting them into practice has given economic strength, strong defence, a strong standard of living—better than ever before—and a better standard of care, but it isn’t easy.

Sir Robin Day

[Question paraphrased for reason of copyright:]

Very significant, many have commented on, fact that many Tory Cabinet Ministers you have sacked have been in the tradition of Toryism known as one nation Toryism, started by Disraeli followed on by Butler, Macmillan, and others. Under Thatcherism—your critics say—the nation is not one nation but a divided nation.

Prime Minister

Let me answer that very deeply because I feel very strongly about it. The greatest division this nation has ever seen were the conflicts of trade unions towards the end of a Labour Government—terrible conflicts. That trade union movement then was under the diktat of trade union bosses, some of whom are still there. They used their power against their members. They made them come out on strike when they didn’t want to. They loved secondary picketing. They went and demonstrated outside companies where there was no dispute whatsoever, and sometimes closed them down. They were acting as they were later in the coal strike, before my whole trade union laws were through of this Government. They were out to use their power to hold the nation to ransom, to stop power from getting to the whole of manufacturing industry to damage people’s jobs, to stop power from getting to every house in the country, power, heat and light to every housewife, every child, every school, every pensioner. You want division; you want conflict; you want hatred. There it was. It was that which Thatcherism—if you call it that—tried to stop. Not by arrogance, but by [end p249] giving power to the ordinary, decent, honourable, trade union member who didn’t want to go on strike. By giving power to him over the Scargills of this world.

That is one conflict. That has gone. Another one. I believe passionately that people have a right, by their own efforts, to benefit their own families, so we have taken down taxation. It doesn’t matter to me who you are or what your background is. If you want to use your own efforts to work harder—yes, I am with you all the way, whether it is unskilled effort or whether it is skilled, we have taken the income tax down.

The third thing. All my predecessors—yes, I agree, Disraeli; yes, Harold Macmillan—I would say I am right in their tradition. It was Disraeli ’s one nation. We have had an increase in home ownership—the heart of the family under this Government.

Sir Robin Day

[Question paraphrased for reason of copyright:]

Can I ask another question, Prime Minister?

Prime Minister

You asked me the most fundamental question.

Sir Robin Day

[Question paraphrased for reason of copyright:]

We are not having a party political broadc* we are having an interview so I have to ask some questions occasionally.

Prime Minister

You asked, what I know you call the gut question. Right. It’s gone for the jugular. Let me finish it.

More home ownership; far more share ownership; far more savings in building society accounts. This is what is building one nation—as every earner becomes a shareholder, as more and more people own their homes. No. We are getting rid of the divisions. We are replacing conflict with co-operation. We are building one nation through wider property-owning democracy.

Please go ahead—I am sorry, but it was a pretty fundamental question. [end p250]

Sir Robin Day

[Question paraphrased for reason of copyright:]

The next one equally so. Do you not see a nation divided deeply now—despite all your attacks on what happened in 1978 and 1979 under the Labour Government—between north and south; between prosperous suburbs and inner cities; between employed and unemployed; between the poverty stricken millions and the whizz kids of the Big Bang in the City?

Prime Minister

I do not see a nation divided in anything like the terms which you say, or even divided in that way. Yes, there are some parts all over the country which were reliant on industries like coal, like steel, like heavy engineering, like shipbuilding. When modern methods came in, when new technology came in, when other countries began to build ships, build steel, yes, those industries have suffered. Where they are, they have suffered greatly. Take Consett—yes, it was closed down. Take Shotton—yes, it was closed down. In Shotton, which I visited the other day, new industries are springing up.

Yes, there are more of them in the north, but there are a fantastic number of highly prosperous areas, businesses, people in the north, and they are growing. I visited many of them. There are also parts in the south where—heaven knows, some of us have experience of it, a particular industry closes down.

But, Sir Robin, you cannot stop change; you cannot stop technological change. You cannot stop Third World countries from building up their own industries and therefore not getting goods from us. We are doing as much as we can to alleviate that. Take Corby as an example.

Sir Robin Day

[Question paraphrased for reason of copyright:]

No, I don’t want to take Corby. I want to follow up you denying we are a divided country.

Prime Minister

I do not see the divisions in the way in which you depict them. [end p251]

Sir Robin Day

[Question paraphrased for reason of copyright:]

You expressed great concern about City salaries: “It causes me great concern. I understand the resentment”. Last year you said: “If I feel strongly about what they are taking in the City, compared to what Cabinet Ministers are taking, then look at how the people who are struggling to get work feel”. You understand there is a resentment at the disparities.

Prime Minister

Of course. We live daily by the City—not just on the fringes. We lose some of our best people to the City. Yes, we do. I know what happens. People come in and say that they are getting those salaries, why shouldn’t we? I know full well that there is no way in which a Government can just hand out money like that.

Equally, I have to remember this. The City is becoming the foremost financial investment centre of the world—the foremost—more foremost than New York, better than Tokyo, because it is cosmopolitan. The City, in fact, earns for everyone in the United Kingdom for our balance of payments a net £7.5 billion a year. Without that, we wouldn’t be in surplus, as we are. It must go on gathering strength.

One of the troubles you know is that the City has to compete with salaries with other people who take them away. I think part of it was the transition the City went through—Big Bang—when I think there was a lot of the so-called competition for getting the best people. Yes, I do find some of the salaries there—I feel just exactly as you said. That makes me know how other people feel. But it’s not Cabinet Ministers, we choose to come into politics, and they must take the salaries and they are very good.

Sir Robin Day

[Question paraphrased for reason of copyright:]

If economy so strong under Thatcherism, as we are continually told during this campaign, why still 3 million unemployed? [end p252]

Prime Minister

I’ll give you a number of reasons—please give me time. First, when we took over, there was a massive amount of overmanning and hidden unemployment. That was one of the troubles with our industry. There was a massive amount of restrictive practices. Those had to go. Secondly, we have had, in common with the rest of Europe, which also suffers from unemployment, a great technological revolution. We can and are producing a lot more, with fewer people employed in certain manufacturing industries. We can’t resist that change; we have to accept it, but we have, in fact, to have an economic policy that tries to create more businesses and more jobs. Thirdly, we have gone through a period of ten years, during which there have been far more school-leavers than people retiring. So, the population of working age has been getting bigger for ten years. Therefore, a million new jobs did not reduce it on the unemployment register. But equally, when we came into power, the spirit of enterprise had gone; it was shackled. It is now returning and the new jobs are being created and unemployment is coming down. Unemployment is going down faster in this country while it is still rising in Germany and France, so I think we have got the answer.

One further point. There is no Government in the free world which can guarantee everyone a job. I want to make that absolutely clear. Yes, you could guarantee everyone a job—in a Soviet society by total direction of labour. You do what you are told to do and you don’t have a chance of anything else. You go where you are told to go and you don’t have a chance to go anywhere else. You haven’t got any human rights and so on and so forth. It’s in that society you can guarantee everyone a job. It wouldn’t be the sort of society worth living in. We are going about it the right way. We have got inflation down; we have got enterprise up; we are getting jobs up; we are getting unemployment down. I hope very much that that will go on. Jobs come from successful business.

Sir Robin Day

[Question paraphrased for reason of copyright:]

Question put to you and other politicians, specifically to you, by the Bishops of the Church of England. I quote: [end p253]

“What do you consider to be an acceptable level of unemployment?”

Prime Minister

There isn’t an acceptable level of unemployment. The Church Commissioners know this full well and so do the Bishops. The Church Commissioners do a lot of investment. I saw an excellent investment of theirs the other day in the north country. It happened to create a lot of jobs. It was the biggest shopping centre in Europe: Gateshead. They know full well. They, too, have had problems with redundancies—they have had problems with redundant churches. They know full well there is no such thing as an acceptable level of unemployment. You do everything you possibly can to get industry, manufacturing and services in a fit condition. Everything that Government can do. Then you enter into a partnership with people in industry, whether it is managers or employees, of tax incentives, the right trade union law, the right framework. The new jobs are being created and you don’t stop there. Because in this technological world, there are going to be more and more jobs for the skilled and fewer jobs for the unskilled. So, you have the biggest training problem, the biggest training scheme we have ever had. And we are tackling that. We are tackling it vigorously. Half Europe comes to see how we are doing it because we are leading in that sphere. The Bishops have had problems in the church. They know that.

Sir Robin Day

[Question paraphrased for reason of copyright:]

Coming to what might be called the jewel in your crown.

Prime Minister

I haven’t got a crown to have a jewel in.

Sir Robin Day

[Question paraphrased for reason of copyright:]

Speaking metaphorically, referring to your record in cutting inflation which we are reminded in advertisements this weekend is the lowest for nearly twenty years. Isn’t [end p254] it still regrettable that our inflation rate is still above the average of our industrial competitors—higher than US, Germany, Japan. We are not really properly competitive yet?

Prime Minister

We are getting very, very competitive indeed. Germany has always had a very, very different view from us, and you know why. Germany actually suffered from rampant, galloping, hyper-inflation between the wars. It destroyed all what were called the middle classes of Germany. It destroyed all the people who saved. That is he was [sic], as Lenin said, if you want to destroy a society, you debauch its currency. Germany has always known that if ever you get a Government that spends, spends, spends, and spends again, the value of the money will be worthless, if it is spending by printing money. Germany has always gone about reducing her unemployment, although even she has a lot at the moment, never by saying you spend money you haven’t got, but by saying it is effort and the right goods and services.

Neither Japan nor the United States spend as big a proportion of their national income as we do.

Sir Robin Day

[Question paraphrased for reason of copyright:]

Are wages here running too high?

Prime Minister

Yes, wages here are still running too high in proportion to what we produce, although the CBI did say, and I think they have some reason to say it, that unit wage costs are not rising now as fast as our competitors. You know what that means that, at last, the fantastic investment they have put in is increasing productivity. It means, of course, that we still have a problem with unemployment. But, the CBI did say recently—and it is good news as far as competing is concerned—that our unit wage costs are rising more slowly. But we have had one thing in this country that I think others didn’t have. During the period of prices and incomes policy, people got used, almost as a right, to an annual increase, regardless of whether it had been earned, and we are still suffering from that. Really, you ought to have to earn your increases if you are to keep the value of your money absolutely steady. [end p255]

Sir Robin Day

[Question paraphrased for reason of copyright:]

You explained other day you used private medical care so that you could go to the hospital on the day you wanted, at the time you wanted, and with a doctor you wanted. That, to you, you said, is absolutely vital. Many may have understood your argument, but did you not at the same time open yourself to the charge—politically and to a lot of ordinary people—of being insensitive to needs of less fortunate ordinary people?

Prime Minister

I hope not. I was not intending that at all. People did not criticise Labour Cabinet Ministers if they used private health service. I think that they would have criticised me had I done what some other people have done and said, “Look, I’m very important; I’m in politics and I simply must come in at the time I want and I must have a room on the National Health Service.” You know, had I done that, you would have criticised me too. But along with five million other people—of whom I know that many are in the media—I have paid my way for private health—five million of us. But I have done something else, Sir Robin—I have seen to it that we have the best Health Service that we have ever had.

Sir Robin Day

[Question paraphrased for reason of copyright:]

I want to ask you about that, because——

Prime Minister

The best Health Service that we have ever had. Also, may I say something else? I pay three times. You accuse me of many things. may I now say something, in my own defence—I very rarely do. Yes, I pay my whack in taxes to the Health Service.

We all do, whether we use it or not. I pay … to go to a doctor. I also forego 20 per cent. of my salary. It falls back into the Treasury.

So I hope that no one will ever accuse me of being thoughtless about the needs of other people.

Sir Robin Day

[Question paraphrased for reason of copyright:]

Is not it a fact, Prime Minister, attested by BMA, other medical bodies, by Royal College of Nursing, that the NHS is falling steadily behind in attempts to keep up with growing demand on it? [end p256]

Prime Minister

There will be increasing demand. Of course, if we get medical science advances, we get new operations, we get new treatment. Every new treatment does mean a new waiting list. As we get a population, which is growing older—we are growing older and part of that [sic] are growing older—of course, there will be an increasing demand. It was in 1977 that Sir Alex Merrison, who did a study, who did a study of this under the Labour Government, said that we have no difficulty in believing that the entire national income could be spent on the National Health Service. Of course, it cannot be. But it has never had as much more spent on it over a period of years than this Government has spent on it. Everyone has to live within a budget. It does not matter whether you run a business, a home or run a Health Service.

But, today we are in No. 12 Downing Street. The day I walked in two doors down to No. 10, the taxpayer could afford, under a Labour Government, to spend £8 billion on the Health Service—£8 billion. Today, after eight years of a Conservative Government, the taxpayer is spending £21 billion on the Health Service. That is far more—I want to get this over most strongly. A Health Service means a great deal to me; it must to almost anyone. We never know what might happen to us. We might be permanently ill. It means a great deal to me, and it means a great deal to you that people can go there and that we have more doctors and nurses and more cases after eight years of the Government I have been privileged to lead then ever before.

Sir Robin Day

[Question paraphrased for reason of copyright:]

Quotation I want to put you from Sir George Godber, formerly Chief Medical Officer, not a political critic.

Prime Minister

A very good Sir George GodberChief Medical Officer—and I remember him well.

Sir Robin Day

[Question paraphrased for reason of copyright:]

Awarded every conceivable professional honour. He says—quote: [end p257]

“Ministers endlessly relating a few selective statistics will not convince us that the NHS is safe in their hands.”

Prime Minister

Well, I am very sorry that he said that. Nevertheless, we cannot ignore the tremendous extra resources that have been put in, the extra number of hospitals that have gone up, the extra nurses. The ordinary taxpayer pays. But I sometimes do feel that every single case—one million people are employed in the Health Service—of difficulty is brought to us.

May I remind you of what actually happened under the alternative Government—under Labour? These are headlines, which eventually I took out—what happened to the Health Service under the Labour Government. This is February 1979—“Target for today sick children”. This is also under a Labour Government: “Have mercy on my son”. “A bone marrow Mother’s Plea.” There is another Daily Mirror one: “Mum Died from 999 No Go Row”. This is another one: “Cancer Ward Sent Home” under a Labour Government. This is another one: “Hospital Chaos Spreads”. This is another one: “999 Ambulance Men Stop at Midnight. 999 Strike”. Another one: “Troops on Ambulance Standby”. Another one: “Don’t let the children suffer”.

Sir Robin Day

[Question paraphrased for reason of copyright:]

The expert I quoted, Prime Minister, said—and he would not deny, I presume, your criticism of those events—that without extra resources from central Government the future of the NHS looks grim.

Prime Minister

There have been extra resources—from £8 billion. That was a general family of four paid £11 a week when I came into No 10 towards the Health Service—every week whether they used it or not—through taxes. Now they are paying £27/£28 a week, even a family of four, in taxes to the Health Service. That is a very considerable increase in resources. Resources do not come from Government; they come from the taxpayer. In addition to the Health Service, they are also having to spend £55 a week—as a family of four—on social security. In addition to that, they are having to spend £23 every week in taxes to education. Money comes from [end p258] the taxpayer. It is my firm contention that, because of the economic strength and because of the higher growth that we have created, we have been able to increase the money to the Health Service, to social security, in that way. Destroy that economic strength and the Health Service would get far fewer resources—some of the hospitals we have built, the hospitals cancelled by the Labour Government, when it got into economic crisis. So, yes, I would challenge anyone. No Government has put as many resources into the Health Service as has happened under mine. Yes, there will still be more needed. There are plans steadily to increase it. It will go on demanding more. But it is the taxpayer who pays, and we have in fact given priority to Health Service, along with defence and law and order. My record will stand comparison with almost anyone else.

Sir Robin Day

[Question paraphrased for reason of copyright:]

Does it surprise or upset you when you see or hear yourself described as a “hard woman”, “uncaring”, and “out of touch” with feelings ordinary people?

Prime Minister

It is usually a charge levelled at me by the Left and, often, from ordinary Labour members, who have that record on health, who have the record in coal strikes that I described, who brought this country low during their time in office—so low that no one would lend them a penny piece in borrowed money; no one would come into sterling; no one in charge of pension funds or insurance funds would put a penny piece into gilts. It should have been spelt “guilt” under a Labour Government. They levelled that charge at me to take away from our excellent record. They cannot level that charge at me and have it stick, whether in terms of our record in Government. I certainly hope that they would not level it at me personally because, as you know, both Denis ThatcherDenis and I spend a great deal of time working for our own favourite causes—my own, the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children and I sometimes wish that instead of giving up 20 per cent. of my salary, I could just let them have it. And Denis for Sports Aid Foundation, the Lord’s Taverners. Yes, we all work for these causes. It is a ruse to take away attention from their record in Government, which was a disgrace, from what they want to do on defence and from what they want to do on trade unions. [end p259]

Sir Robin Day

[Question paraphrased for reason of copyright:]

Prime Minister, may we now turn to defence?

Prime Minister

Please may I say the charge is cruel? It is intended to be. It is intended to upset me. It would, but for one thing: I look at the people who make it and know what they are up to.

Sir Robin Day

[Question paraphrased for reason of copyright:]

Enoch Powell made it clear today that people should vote Labour in his opinion or, at least, against you, because he said: “faith”—which is your faith—“in the nuclear deterrent is a palpable and pernicious delusion.”

Prime Minister

Well, you know Enoch PowellEnoch has been saying that for twenty years. As you know, you won’t change Enoch. He turned against us when we went into the Common market and, as you know, he was a Conservative Member and within a few weeks of an election he just turned round and told the people who worked with him loyally for years that he was not going to stand, and urged people to vote Labour. It must have hurt them deeply.

It is very strange. May I say this for Enoch, having said that against him? He is a remarkable politician, quite a remarkable person, a fantastic brain. I disagree with his judgment on many things, including that. But I have somehow always thought that politics would have been the poorer if we had not had people like Enoch in it. I say this again for him: I would always trust Enoch; he never hides his opinion and he is a totally honourable person, although he says things against me. I disagree with him fundamentally on this and I would rather take Winston ChurchillWinston’s view. I look at the people who are against us. I look at the possible adversaries. I look at the terrorist. Who may one day get a nuclear device. I know that we must keep the nuclear deterrent. [end p260]

Sir Robin Day

[Question paraphrased for reason of copyright:]

Let me quote what this remarkable man with tremendous brain, Mr Powell, said:

“It almost defies belief that grown men and women should seriously propose so crazy a scenario: Russia invades … Germany—or Northern Norway perhaps—and the United States declines to commit suicide. So Britain fires a nuclear salvo at Moscow and Leningrad.” —

He asked the question:

“How barmy do you have to be to believe that, or to believe that the Kremlin believes that?”

Prime Minister

Yes, but you see, so many of Enoch PowellEnoch’s arguments stem from the starting place he chose. The starting place he chose is not the right one. This has always been one of Enoch’s problems: the most fantastic logic, the most fantastic brain, but not the right judgement. You see Winston ChurchillWinston was right when he said and warned have quoted him everywhere, including to the United States Congress—“Never never give up the nuclear deterrent before you are sure that you have something as good, or even better, to deter war.” The whole point of the nuclear deterrent is that it has kept the peace in Europe for forty years. We know that conventional weapons are not enough to stop conventional war. We have been through it twice in Europe. But this nuclear deterrent is so terrible that, yes, it would be barmy—to use Enoch ’s word—for anyone to start a war. But if you got rid of them all and went to conventional, the race would be on as to who could get it first, or who stowed a few away. It is etched on my heart and, probably, on yours, on my mind too, I am surprised that it is not on Enoch ’s, that had Hitler got that nuclear weapon first, then there would be no deterrent, and we should not be here talking now.

Sir Robin Day

[Question paraphrased for reason of copyright:]

Another quotation from Mr Powell. I only quote him because he expresses in vivid language what——

Prime Minister

Outstanding language.

Sir Robin Day

[Question paraphrased for reason of copyright:]

—many people feel; many people who are not necessarily your political opponents— [end p261]

Prime Minister

I disagree with him in many things.

Sir Robin Day

[Question paraphrased for reason of copyright:]

This refers to events since Winston Churchill. Enoch Powell said:

“The salutary event of Chernobyl strengthened and crystallised an already growing impulse to escape from the nightmare of peace being dependent upon the contemplation of horrific and mutual carnage”.

Prime Minister

It is fantastic language, isn’t it?

Sir Robin Day

[Question paraphrased for reason of copyright:]

But what is the logic like?

Prime Minister

I will tell you where my logic is. It starts again from a different point. What Chernobyl proved is the significance of a nuclear deterrent, because it shows that it will be even more damaging if anything nuclear were ever to be used and any war ever started. If a war started—even though you had no nuclear weapons at all—the race would be on to get the first nuclear, and who would stow them away somewhere?

What Chernobyl showed was that the nuclear deterrent was even more of a deterrent than we thought. Even more of a deterrent.

Sir Robin Day

[Question paraphrased for reason of copyright:]

In what circumstances would you be prepared to use either Polaris or Trident?

Prime Minister

The nuclear weapon is a deterrent. NATO has said that we are only a defensive organisation; that we only use any of our weapons in response to an attack. If there is no attack, there will be no war. If there is a nuclear deterrent, I believe that there will be no attack. I would not have that confidence if there were no nuclear deterrent. After all, Europe was full of weapons when Hitler went to war, and if you look on the side of the allies, there were probably more than Hitler had. Russia was full of weapons when Adolf Hitler attacked her. It did not stop a war. The nuclear deterrent has been so powerful that it has stopped it. And that is the argument. [end p262]

Sir Robin Day

[Question paraphrased for reason of copyright:]

If Labour wins and decommissions Polaris immediately—as Mr Kinnock announced he would do—what do you think is the duty of the Chiefs of Staff? To resign if they disagree? Or obey orders of the democratically-elected first Minister?

Prime Minister

The Chiefs of Staff have to make up their own minds. Each person is responsible for what he decides. It would be for the Chiefs of Staff to decide whether, in their view—it would certainly be mine—that the damage done to NATO; the damage done to liberty, because Britain has always stood for liberty; the damage done to Britain’s defences would be so deep, so fundamental that they could no longer be responsible for carrying the burden of defence, or for being in charge of our Armed Forces without a nuclear weapon of any kind, when those Armed Forces faced an adversarial attack. I know what I would do. I just could not be responsible for the men under me under those circumstances. It would not be fair to put them in the field if the other people have nuclear weapons. I know what I would do, but they are free to make their decisions. That is the fundamental part of the way of life in which I believe.

It would do untold damage. Britain is not just another country; it has never been just another country. We would not have grown into a Empire if we were just another European country with the size and strength that we were. It was Britain that stood when everyone else surrendered and if Britain pulls out of that commitment, it is as if one of the pillars of the temple has collapsed—because we are one of the pillars of freedom and, hitherto, everyone, including past Labour Prime Ministers, have known that Britain would stand and Britain had a nuclear weapon. [end p263]

Sir Robin Day

[Question paraphrased for reason of copyright:]

Do you think sometimes if you look——

Prime Minister

What a fantastic division [sic], Sir Robin.

Sir Robin Day

[Question paraphrased for reason of copyright:]

—at this campaign, Prime Minister, that if Labour did not have a policy of unilateral nuclear disarmament, which you have just condemned so strongly, you would probably lose the election because of your record on unemployment, the National Health Service, and various other social matters?

Prime Minister

No. My record on the National Health Service, as I have indicated—compare mine with that, compare the resources we have put in with that. Our record on increasing the standard of living has been quite outstanding. Look at Labour’s record—putting power in the hands of the trades union bosses, just at a time when all the Left Wing, being unable ever to stand in their true colours, worked through the trades union movement and worked through the Labour Party. Labour would put the power back into the hands of the trade union bosses. Labour would bring back many many of the controls that we had to get rid of enterprise. Labour would bring back many many industries into nationalisation. I do not know politicians who can run businesses.

Sir Robin Day

[Question paraphrased for reason of copyright:]

Interview ending, and you have got to get to Venice.

Prime Minister

I would love to go on.

Sir Robin Day

[Question paraphrased for reason of copyright:]

You have got to get to Venice.

Prime Minister

I would stay a few more minutes to put it. But you won’t let me.

Sir Robin Day

[Question paraphrased for reason of copyright:]

We have only got moment or two longer. If you do not win an overall majority, but you are the largest Party, will you resign? [end p264]

Prime Minister

No, I do not think so. If we are the largest Party, I do not see why I should resign.

Sir Robin Day

[Question paraphrased for reason of copyright:]

If you had a majority of 140 or so and that is wiped out in the hypothesis I was discussing, would not you regard that as a defeat?

Prime Minister

I am not going to prophesy what will happen on Thursday. I am not going to be tempted along this route. I hope and believe that we shall win. I hope and believe we shall win with a reasonable majority. To be perfectly honest, I tremble to think what will happen to Britain if we do not. That is my view. It is my privilege and the privilege of democracy to have been here, to submit ourselves to the judgment of the people. I am not going to tie myself as to what may happen under circumstances which I cannot predict. I shall leave myself totally free to decide, when the time comes, in consultation with my colleagues and ask them to put their views frankly and fearlessly.

Sir Robin Day

[Question paraphrased for reason of copyright:]

You do not rule out a deal with the Alliance in the event of a hung Parliament?

Prime Minister

I am used—I am used to that line of questioning, I shall consider what happens at the time. I had this line of questioning at this time during the last election campaign, and I said that then, and I say now, I hope and believe that we will win with a reasonable majority, and I tremble to think what will happen to Britain if we do not.

Sir Robin Day

[Question paraphrased for reason of copyright:]

Would you not think that if there were a hung Parliament— you losing your big majority—that would indicate that the British people expect co-operation and compromise between the politicians? [end p265]

Prime Minister

No, not necessarily. I have worked too long—had to work too long—on the international scene with coalitions. My goodness me, I guess that some of them are pretty thankful that we have got in Britain a strong Government that can take decisions from which they shy away. Do you know what it is like? We will say, “What are we going to do?” to the non-governed [sic]. You will consult with them—“Oh, well we have got to meet every day”. “Oh no, we take some time to meet”. Then they go behind closed doors. Do they decide on clear decisions? It is an argy-bargy between them. “What is the price you exact to keep you in the coalition?” Can you imagine it—a major party with a mixture of the SDP and the Liberals who are a miscellaneous group of views anyway, with the Scottish Nationalists, with the Welsh Nationalists, with several different Irish parties——

Sir Robin Day

[Question paraphrased for reason of copyright:]

All right, Mrs Thatcher.

Prime Minister

Britain governed by that? No. I would rather take it in the largest minority party, lay our programme before Parliament and say, “Deliver your judgment upon it”.

Sir Robin Day

[Question paraphrased for reason of copyright:]

Which a greater evil? A coalition between Thatcherism and the Alliance and others, or letting in a Kinnock minority Government committed to Socialism and unilateral disarmament?

Prime Minister

I do not accept that that is the alternative.

Sir Robin Day

[Question paraphrased for reason of copyright:]

Supposing that it was.

Prime Minister

I think that you have possibly posed a false alternative. Sir Robin, I shall keep my decision open to see precisely what the conditions are. I do not believe that they will be as you say. But nothing you say will trap me into answering what I do not believe will happen, or trap me into saying precisely how we would react to those circumstances. I might—indeed, I would—consult my Cabinet colleagues. The very thing you have accused me of not doing [end p266]

Sir Robin Day

[Question paraphrased for reason of copyright:]

I did not accuse you of anything. You keep on accusing me of accusing you of things. I want you to answer one more question which the undecided voter might be influenced by. If you win again and go on for another term of office, will you make why in a couple of years for a younger person?

Prime Minister

I am often asked that and if I were to say “yes” and I have not made my mind up. I would like to go through to a fourth term. I do not know what will happen; I do not know what will happen to me, for a start. What I do know is that, eventually, somebody will want to come up and do exactly the same way as I did. Of course one has to judge that time. I would like to go on to the end of a fourth term and do the things I believe in. That is my intention at the moment, but nothing is absolute. My Party has to re-elect me every year.

Sir Robin Day

[Question paraphrased for reason of copyright:]

The end of a fourth term, so what you are asking for is another eight years?

Prime Minister

No, I am so sorry. To the end of a third term——

Sir Robin Day

[Question paraphrased for reason of copyright:]

Ah, Freudian slip!

Prime Minister

Upto, no, up to submitting myself to the judgment of the people. I cannot be absolute. Events—we—do not know what they hold.

Sir Robin Day

[Question paraphrased for reason of copyright:]

Okay. Thank you, Prime Minister.

Prime Minister

Thank you Sir Robin