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1987 May 26 Tu
Margaret Thatcher

Speech to Conservative Rally in Newport

Document type:public statement
Document kind:Speech
Venue:Newport Centre, Newport, Gwent
Source:Thatcher Archive: speaking text
Journalist:-
Editorial comments:1900. MT left the rally at 2010. Sections of the speech have been checked against an HTV Archive recording and BBC Radio News Report 2230 26 May 1987.
Importance ranking:Major
Word count:3477
Themes:Defence (general), Industry, Monetary policy, Privatised and state industries, Taxation, General Elections, Health policy, Labour Party and Socialism, Law and order, Social security and welfare, Trade unions, Trade union law reform, Strikes and other union action
Beginning of first section checked against HTV Archive

Mr Chairman, Ladies and Gentlemen, As you so rightly said, Mr Chairman,

I have chosen to make my first rally speech of this election campaign in Wales. In the last election, Wales returned almost, not quite, a rugger team of Conservative MPs. This election, I want two cricket teams. [Laughter and applause.]

And why not? For the story of Wales over the last few years is a story of success.

And a large part of that success is due to the outstanding work and leadership of Nick Edwards [applause] I believe he has been the best Secretary of State for Wales that we've ever had [applause].[fo 1]

He leads a formidable team of Ministers in the Welsh Office. And it is a particular pleasure to be welcomed here by Mark Robinson, the excellent constituency Member of Parliament for Newport West [applause]

And I'm delighted to see here so many of our candidates. We need them at Westminster to carry on the great work that has been done in the last eight years.[fo 2]

When I made a similar election tour before becoming Prime Minister, I found a Wales that had suffered for generations from industrial decline; from uncompetitive industry and from an image among outsiders that Wales was a place of dereliction and decline.

Today, what a change is here. I have been visiting a Wales transformed. The great steel strip mills here at Llanwern and at Port Talbot are symbols of this transformation. Modernised as they were by massive investment under Conservative Government, both are intensely competitive; both understand that the way to secure their future is to beat the rest of the world, and that's what they set out to do.[fo 3]

And that is what Britain has been doing. We've gone from the bottom to the top of the European League tables of growth and productivity.

The Welsh economy is growing and expanding. You have been successful in attracting firm after firm from overseas to invest in Wales. Successful in modernising old industries; successful in creating new businesses.[fo 4]

And unemployment, although still too high, has been falling faster and for longer in Wales than in any other part of the United Kingdom. There is a new sense of achievement and a growing confidence in the future in Wales.

And the bold scheme for the redevelopment of Cardiff Bay, which I saw this afternoon, is attracting interest and excitement from around the world. And I think we should congratulate Nick Edwards on his tremendous vision in inspiring that scheme [applause].[fo 5]

TURNING BRITAIN ROUND

Yes—it is a different Wales. The statistics may measure the difference but they don't tell the whole story.

Let's just look back at the 1970s. What do we see? —The dominating power of the trade unions, a power that went right to the heart of Government —The endless negotiations between Government and unions about the annual wage increase or norm.[fo 6] —the political price that the unions exacted for agreement: more nationalisation they demanded, more powers for the trade union bosses they required, higher subsidies to prop up any industry for which there was no real future.

And whenever they asked, that price was paid by the Labour Government of the day.

But whenever you pay danegeld, the demand rises. And strike after strike followed as each union demanded even more for its members.

Those who could hold the nation to ransom got most. The weakest got least.[fo 7]

What a mess, what injustice, what a tragedy.

For the irony was that while each union in turn had the power to inflict immense damage by striking, it was powerless to defend its own members against the damaging strikes of others. Some began to ask was that what trade unions had been established for?[fo 8]

Mr Chairman, If only the problems had been tackled earlier. But they weren't.

It took the return of a Conservative Government in 1979 to set things right.

We had to reform trade union law. First, to protect the rights of individual members against their own union. Second, to give a better balance between union and employer.[fo 9]

We also had to change the whole industrial approach, from one of subsidised decline with all its associated gloom —to a future of strong management, and new technology; —to replacing conflict with co-operation; —to competing in world markets; —to making a profit and proud of it.

That was what this Conservative Government managed to bring about.

It took a lot of courage, but we had the courage of our convictions and the resolve to take the action that was needed. [applause].[fo 10]

It was our action and industry's response that brought new confidence to this country. Our people enjoy a higher standard of living now than ever before. We've given rights back to trade union members. Our policies of spreading ownership of homes, shares, occupational pensions and savings as widely as possible have brought to people dignity, independence and self-respect [applause]. Indeed, it is the principle and philosophy of the Conservative Party to bring what used to be the privileges of the few to be the daily experience of the many. And that we have done. [applause].[fo 11]

LABOUR'S ICEBERG MANIFESTO

All these achievements, this new spirit in Britain, our great national revival, would be destroyed, would be thrown away, if ever there were to be a Labour Government [applause].

We've had Labour Governments before, but today, Labour is more extreme, more left wing, more socialist than ever. And from the shadows the Hard left is already pulling the strings.[fo 12]

So don't imagine that Labour's programme of full-blooded socialism has been dropped. It's simply being kept out of sight.

And that's why Labour's Manifesto is a mere seventeen pages: — with big blank spaces throughout—on pages 5,7,12,14,16 and 17 [applause]. Indeed, what's left is a mere thirteen pages.

Labour's Manifesto is the tip of the socialist iceberg: one tenth visible; nine tenths below the surface [applause]. And that nine tenths is—concealed in the murky waters of Labour Party Conferences where policy is made by the union block vote.[fo 13]

Like the iceberg, Socialism is still there, silent and dangerous.

Because prosperity is rising, after eight years of Conservative Government don't think we are now rich enough to afford another dose of socialism, because that would soon put an end to our prosperity.

So tonight, I want to spell out why Britain can't afford, can't risk a Labour Government.[fo 14]

INFLATION

First, let me start with Labour's massive spending programme, costed last Saturday by the [ Nigel Lawson] Chancellor of the Exchequer. A programme costing £35 billion—£35 billion—that expenditure is equal to either a doubling of the basic rate of income tax from 27 to 54 pence in the pound; or putting up VAT from 15 per cent to 50 per cent; or a mixture of the two.

Incredible you may think. And you'd be right.[fo 15]

Labour would, of course, put up income tax. They've already said so. But they would still have to increase borrowing massively, leading to high interest rates as well.

But taxing and borrowing would not be enough for their reckless spending. They would have to fill the gap by printing money, leading to the kind of inflation which reached 27 per cent a year under the last Labour Government.

Inflation is the deadly enemy of everyone who saves for the future, the deadly enemy of those who invest in the future, and the deadly enemy of those who live on small fixed incomes.[fo 16]

What sort of party is it that is prepared to make reckless promises before the election careless of the rampant inflation that would inevitably follow? Inflation eats away the savings of pensioners, it ruins small businesses, and it makes our industry uncompetitive, and it destroys jobs. Labour's reckless spending would mean all that. Mr Chairman, that's why Labour must be rejected at this election [applause].[fo 17]

TRADE UNIONS

And second, Britain cannot afford and cannot risk, a Labour Government because it would hand power back to the trade union bosses.

Union members have been delighted by our trade union reforms. Secret ballots before strikes and for executive elections have abolished much of the power of unrepresentative union officials to bully their members into doing things which are damaging to their jobs.[fo 18]

Labour promises to repeal our union legislation. Union members would then have no legal right to secret ballots for strikes or for elections. Their only recourse would then be a tribunal set up in consultation with the TUC. And even if that tribunal found in favour of complaints from union members it would have no power to take the union leaders to court to make them provide genuinely secret ballots. And it was that power to take union leaders to court which led to terminating a number of the strikes [applause] If you want chapter and verse, look at the document ‘People at Work: New Rights, New Responsibilities’, Issued by the TUC and Labour Party in 1986 and passed by the 1986 TUC and Labour Party Conferences. It's all set out there. [End of first section checked against HTV Archive.][fo 19]

Moreover, Labour would change the law to prevent employers, customers or suppliers having any opportunity to obtain legal injunctions and damages against the unions.

That would be the green light to return to strike-prone Britain and the intimidation of the flying pickets.

We would be back to the days when strikers always won, whatever the cost to the nation. Labour's abolition of our union laws would wreck industry's progress. It would put our economy back into union chains. It would destroy the economic strength which is the foundation of our standard of living and the foundation of our social services.[fo 20]

DEFENCE

The third reason we cannot afford and cannot risk at Labour Government is because it would leave Britain defenceless. [Beginning of second section checked against HTV Archive]

If Britain cannot defend herself effectively then nothing else really matters. For without ... for without freedom and independence we have nothing worth having.

This issue transcends all others.

Now, our first line of defence is NATO. The partnership of Europe and North America is absolutely vital to our security, as it is to that of our partners.[fo 21]

But it is because you can never be totally sure what will happen that successive Governments have insisted on keeping an independent nuclear deterrent for Britain.

On this issue, Labour Governments used to be as resolute as any.

Clement Attlee's Government built the British atomic bomb. Nye Bevan championed our possession of the nuclear bomb.

Mr Wilson's administration sustained the Polaris force. Mr Callaghan's administration strengthened it.[fo 22]

But now Labour has broken with the bi-partisan policy which has kept the peace for forty years [applause].

So long as the extremists represented a mere fringe of the Party, they could be ignored. But that is no longer the case. The left has become the centre of the Labour Party [applause].

And Labour leaders who should know better have produced a defence policy which is utterly incredible.[fo 23]

We are to get rid of our own nuclear weapons and simply hope that the Russians will play fair and not use theirs. We are to tell the Americans to take their nuclear weapons out of Britain. Labour's determination to give up our own nuclear weapons and expel those of the Americans would leave us helpless [applause].

The present [ Neil Kinnock] Labour leader admits as much.

Asked this weekend how his non-nuclear defence policy would work, he said, and I quote, "You've got to make the occupation totally untenable" [laughter].

A Soviet occupation, I presume.[fo 24]

So now we know that Labour's non-nuclear defence policy is a policy for defeat, surrender, occupation, and finally, prolonged guerilla fighting.

The Labour leader has abandoned all his claims that conventional forces can provide an effective defence against nuclear weapons.

He has conceded that, once this country has renounced its independent deterrent, it has no alternative but to surrender to a nuclear threat [applause].

He has left himself no policy but to yield to invasion and occupation and to trust in the forlorn hope that a guerilla struggle would eventually persuade the army of occupation to withdraw.[fo 25]

Mr Chairman, I do not understand how anyone who aspires to Government can treat the defence of our country so lightly [applause].

And that is the third and possibly the most important reason why Labour must be rejected.[fo 26]

And the fourth reason why Britain cannot afford and cannot risk a Labour Government is Labour's policy to control the police. Only last month, they issued a policy document, written by their shadow Home Secretary, Mr Gerald Kaufman [jeers]. Labour would amend the present Police Act of 1944 [sic]—and I quote from that document:

"To give locally elected police authorities in all areas including London statutory responsibility in determining the policing policies, priorities and methods of their force."
[fo 27]

The document states openly that Labour's aim, and I quote again:

"is to ensure that locally elected representatives decide the nature of policing in their area."

Imagine what this would mean where hard left Labour is in control. Would the police be free to protect the individual worker's right to go to his place of work against the intimidation of the mass picket? I doubt it.[fo 28]

Mr Chairman, second only to their policies on defence, Labour's plans for political control of the police would bring peril to our country and our people [applause].

So that is the fourth reason why Labour must be rejected at this election.[fo 29]

SOCIALIST CONTROLS

And the fifth reason Britain cannot afford and cannot risk a Labour Government is because at the very heart of socialism is the urge to order other people around [applause].

You see it in their wish to take more of your income in tax. Labour are the high tax party.

We are the only Party that believes in lower taxation.[fo 30]

But, Mr Chairman, the desire to do better for one's family is one of the strongest motives in human nature. And as a Party committed to the family and opposed to the over-powerful State, we want people to keep more of what they earn, and to have more freedom of choice about what they do for themselves, their families and for others less fortunate. It is ... [applause].[fo 31]

Labour is the high tax party. And it's not surprising because socialists do want to control your lives. They want to deprive people of ownership and of the independence which it brings.

That is why a Labour Government would take back people's shares in British Telecom, British Gas and the other privatised and highly successful companies.

In return, you would get a Labour I.O.U.—a piece of Government paper signed by the Labour chancellor of the Exchequer. Labour call it "Social Ownership". The rest of us call it "Nationalisation" [applause]. [End of second section checked against HTV Archive.][fo 32]

Mr Chairman, Socialists believe in power over people. Conservatives believe in power to the people.[fo 33]

HEALTH AND THE SOCIAL SERVICES

We come together as a nation to insure against the costs of sickness and age which we all face. That is not Socialism, that is prudence. That tradition is part of what it means to be a British citizen.

But an equally important part of the British tradition is now understood only be the Conservative Government.[fo 34] The plain fact is that "All social services have to be paid for, in one way or another from what is produced by the people of Britain. We cannot create a scheme which gives the nation as a whole more than we put into it ... Only higher output can give us more of the things we all need." That was Clement Attlee speaking forty years ago.[fo 35] You won't hear Labour spokesmen talking like that nowadays. They never have a good word for the wealth creators on whom all our social services depend.

The Labour Party lives in an unreal world where the electorate can be offered beautifully packaged presents but no one has to work for them and no one has to pay for them.[fo 36]

The Labour Party has made daydreams its policy. The figures simply have to add up or the country is in trouble.

Our opponents try to smear us by alleging that we do not care for the old, for the unemployed and the sick. It is a wicked accusation and it is untrue; but it is no good saying that you are full of kindness and compassion if you run the economy so that there is no wealth created to pay the bills; and if inflation destroys the savings of those who have made provision for their old age.[fo 37]

We have kept our commitment to maintain the Health Service. We have not just talked about caring, but we have done something about it. In Wales, the Conservatives have increased spending in real terms in every single year that we have been in Office, unlike the Labour Party who failed to do so twice. In Wales, Nick Edwards and his team have carried out the largest programme of hospital building ever undertaken in Wales.[fo 38] They have completed five General Hospitals, and I was thrilled to be able to open one of them at Bangor only a few weeks ago. The new Community Hospitals at Mold and Ystradgynlals are among the best anywhere in Britain, and other similar hospitals are planned for the future in many parts of Wales. In so many fields of medicine, you have taken the lead in Wales, and set an example, not just to the rest of the country, but often to the rest of Europe.[fo 39] You led the way in improving care in the community for mentally handicapped people with the development of the Ten Year Strategy. In Wales you have established the Welsh Health Promotion Authority to build on the great work of Heart Beat Wales and those who have been battling with the new scourges of AIDS and Drugs. The hospitals in Wales are better than they have ever been before and they are treating almost a quarter more patients than they were in 1979.[fo 40]

The NHS belongs to all the citizens of this country. We are its guardians on their behalf. We have discharged that duty honestly and well over the past eight years. The figures prove it. —Under Labour, nurses lost out. Their pay rose less than inflation. Under us, their pay has risen almost 30 per cent more than inflation.[fo 41]

Now I know that there are stresses and strains in the NHS. Not everything is perfect. But they are not the stresses of collapse, they are the strains caused by growth. We keep on finding new ways of treating people. The NHS is like a vigorous health child which keeps on growing out of clothes that become too tight. That is the challenge of medical advance today.[fo 42]

We will rise to that challenge because we know how to manage the economy and generate the wealth to pay for the NHS.[fo 43]

CONCLUSION

Mr Chairman, this past week we have seen the way Labour would like this election to go. [Beginning of section checked against BBC Radio News Report 2230 26 May 1987]

What the people are being asked to buy is smoke-screen Socialism, a make-believe message carefully packaged and presented.

But no amount of slick presentation can disguise the policy beneath the gloss, or the true political intent below the almost invisible manifesto. [End of section checked against BBC Radio News Report 2230 26 May 1987.][fo 44]

Nor can the hard-left Labour core be somehow made acceptable by a soft-sell and delicate lighting.

I'm not talking about those local labour councillors known as the "Loony Left". I'm talking about the dozens of officially approved Labour candidates in the Constituencies; tomorrow's would-be Labour MPs who, if they were elected, would almost certainly outnumber their more moderate comrades.

We Conservatives know them well. We also have a clear picture of the East European North Sea Island they would dearly[fo 45] like Britain to become.

I say to you here in Wales, and to the nation: Don't be fooled. And don't be diverted. Behind the tinsel image and the pretty presentation is a very different Labour Party from the Party of Attlee or Gaitskell, or indeed of Harold Wilson.

Today, Home Affairs would not be safe with Labour. Foreign affairs would not be safe with Labour.[fo 46] The defence of the currency would not be safe with Labour. The defence of the country would not be safe with Labour.

Mr Chairman, the question of a party's fitness to govern is central to this, as to all elections.

Let us, for the next two weeks, submit ourselves and our cause to the judgement of the people.[fo 47]

There is much to do, if the great task with which we have twice been entrusted, is to be carried forward.

Britain, under the stewardship of the Conservative Party, is once again a great country. Britain today can look forward to a confident future.

Let us therefore fight with all our strength for what we believe in.[fo 48]

If we do that, then I believe that on the 11th June, the British people will once again entrust the Nation's destiny to the Conservative Party.