Speeches, etc.

Margaret Thatcher

Speech to Orpington Young Conservatives

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Venue: Green-Street-Green, Orpington, Kent
Source: Erith Observer, 2 September 1949
Editorial comments: Afternoon.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 945
Themes: Civil liberties, Conservatism, General Elections, Privatized & state industries, Labour Party & socialism, Social security & welfare


‘TO USE OUR OWN TALENTS’ —Miss Margaret Roberts

Dartford Candidate Visits Orpington Division

Miss Margaret Roberts, prospective Conservative candidate for the Dartford Division, advocated an addition to the Four Freedoms of the Atlantic Charter when she addressed an Orpington Division garden meeting of Young Conservatives at the home of Mr. J. E. Brittenden, president of the Orpington Divisional Association, at Green-Street-Green, on Saturday.

She told representatives of Orpington and district, Petts Wood, Biggin Hill, Eynsford and Farningham branches that the fifth freedom should be freedom to use one's talents as one wished and to develop one's own ideas.

Miss Roberts considered the next General Election would be fought on both the immediate problem of the financial position and on the fundamental issue of nationalisation versus private ownership. She had believed two or three months ago that there would not be an autumn election; now she was not so sure, for the financial position was such that the Government might find they could not cope with it and hold a snap election.

“If you went home to-day and heard the news on the radio that the writ for an election had been issued, are you ready for it?” asked Miss Roberts. “If you are not, I ask you to use the remaining few weeks to get ready and prepared so that when you hear the news you will know what to do.”

Ownership and Control

Miss Roberts devoted most of her address to the issue between nationalisation and a property-owning democracy. Speaking of the consequences of nationalisation, she said it was termed public ownership, the public were supposed to own a little bit of the nationalised industries, Ownership, meant that one had some control over what they owned, but the public did not own the nationalised industries in that sense, as could be seen from what had happened on the railways and the coalmines. If a question about them was asked in Parliament, the Minister need not answer it on the grounds that it was a day-to-day matter of administration, and when the prices were put up there was nothing the public could do about it. Public ownership was a myth, for the public had no control over the industries or any say in the running of them.

It was the Minister concerned who had all the power, for he appointed the boards to run the industries; he had absolute power. History had turned the full circle, and now power was back in the hands of the few. This must not go on, for it meant slipping back 1,000 years in history.

“We Conservatives want power more widely diffused through private ownership, so that you never get more power in the hands of the Government than you get in the hands of the people. Ownership that you and I have must always be greater than the ownership of the Government for that is the only check we have on Government activity. When we have men in power as we have to-day who say, ‘We are the masters now,’ you may be certain they will not use that power as judiciously as they should in a democratic country. Those words would never have fallen from Conservative lips, for we knew that power is placed in our hands as a responsibility and the people are masters. As long as free elections are held in this country the people are the masters, but people like those in power to-day will never give up power. The longer they hold it the more difficult it will be to get it away from them.”

Stifled Under Nationalisation

Under nationalisation, a man with ideas could not develop them his own way, it was not creative. The country needed uncommon men, the men with ideas but they would be stifled under nationalisation and the common man would be worse off, too, for if he lost his job in a State-controlled industry he would not he able to find an outlet for his particular skill with another firm, for the State would control all that industry.

The Conservatives believed in the four freedoms of the Atlantic Charter, but they also wanted a fifth—freedom for everyone to use their talents and develop their ideas. It was difficult to put down these ideals of freedom on paper or in speech and get them over to the people, and it was easy to be cynical about them. Communism had nothing in common with them, but Conservatives had and Miss Roberts hoped that they would go on fighting until they were secure in this country, the Empire and the world.

Replying to questions, Miss Roberts said not one social service had been originated by the Socialist Government; all they had done was to “put the roof on” foundations laid by others. The Socialists said these services would not have come had they not pressed for them, but the Conservatives were going about social reform long before the Labour movement even started. Family allowances were the idea of a woman, Eleanor Rathbone, who was perhaps the greatest woman M.P. of all time, and she hoped that the women of the country would see to it that she got the credit for it.

Mr. J. Bacon, chairman of Petts Wood Young Conservatives presided, and Mr. W. Boulton, Biggin Hill, thanked Miss Roberts and Mr. and Mrs. J. E. Brittenden for the loan of their garden.

Among those present were Sir Waldron Smithers, M.P., J.P., Major P. W. Twyman (Divisional chairman) and Mrs. Twyman, Mr. and Mrs. Brittenden and Mr. Charles Knight (Divisional agent).

Following tea provided by Mrs. Brittenden, there were games and amusements.