Speeches, etc.

Margaret Thatcher

Article for Gravesend and Dartford Reporter ( YOU will decide )

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Source: Gravesend and Dartford Reporter , 28 January 1950
Editorial comments: Item listed by date of publication.
Importance ranking: Key
Word count: 1260
Themes: Conservatism, Economic policy - theory and process, Industry, General Elections, Monetary policy, Privatized & state industries, Foreign policy - theory and process, Foreign policy (Asia), Foreign policy (USA)

YOU will decide

During the last General Election many people who had carefully read the propaganda and election addresses of the varous political candidates and Parties were heard to ask what was the difference between them? Such a barrage of leaflets and speeches will be put across during the next few weeks that the same thing may happen again unless we distil out the issues and keep the factors at stake ever before our minds.

We will consider them under four headings: (1) Britain amongst the Nations; (2) Britain's Economic Independence; (3) Nationalisation or Private Enterprise; (4) Frustration or Freedom.

Firstly, Britain amongst other nations. Where have we gone in the last five years? What have we lost? What has the name of Britain conjured up in the minds of friend and foe, in time past, and what does it mean now?

The whole situation of our decline can be epitomised in one incident, that of the “Amethyst.” Her escape was indeed miraculous, the courage of her men unsurpassed; but have the British people stopped to think that the “Amethyst” should never have been in such a position? That not so very long ago when a British ship sailed between enemy ranks, both sides would have ceased firing on one another, and saluted her.

Now she is treated with contempt and detained at the pleasure of another power. Such is our fall in the eyes of the world. And why, when it was our country and Commonwealth which fought for freedom in face of the force of a Dictator?

No nation stood higher in the eyes of the world in 1945. We had the greatest opportunities for leadership a nation ever possessed, but we didn't take them.

Winston ChurchillA prophetic voice urged us to co-operate more closely with Western Europe and with America in order to combine against Communism. But for two years his words fell on deaf ears until the initial opportunity was lost and we had to resort to his measures as expedients.

Britain must be restored to her premier position as a nation and as the centre of an Empire. The world needs her.

Are you going to let the decline continue under a further spell of the present regime, or are you going to put the nation's affairs in next door neighbour who had been to the wars and lost everything. You on the other hand had not had quite such a tough time and were still comparatively well placed.

You would probably think it over and agree to allow him a generous loan over a period of four or five years to help him to get re-established. Now in the first place, wouldn't your confidence in him be shaken if the money ran out in eighteen months instead of the expected five years? That is what our American Loan did.

But, nevertheless, perhaps like the Americans, you would be generous and offer to finance him for a further four years. Only this time you would review the position every year and make it clear that if he put his back into the work he would be independent when the four years were over.

That is effectively what America said to us. But, after a further two years, the man next door is far from making ends meet. Even with all the help he is receiving, he is not making sufficient effort to keep himself and his family alive; in fact he is having to sell one or two pieces of his wife's gold jewellery to pay the grocer's bill.

That is what what we are doing—having to sell our gold reserves to pay for our food.

Now, how does our next door neighbour view all this? Does he say: “The situation is desperate, I'm not even paying my way and unless I really get down to it I and my family will starve” ?

Or does he think to himself, “Well, the old blighter who is financing me would only have to pay far more in tax if he didn't let me have a lot of his cash, so he would suffer as well” ?

What would be the reaction of the “old blighter” ? Would he meekly go on lending money or would he say “I've given enough help [end p1] charge of Conservative men and women who will bring courage, firmness, and an unshakeable confidence into the realm of our foreign relations?

You will decide.

Secondly, our success both at home and abroad will depend on our ability to stand on our own financial feet and not to rely on the charity of a more powerful nation.

We have come to accept the American Loan, followed by Marshall Aid far too easily, without really preparing ourselves for what will happen when we can no longer draw our weekly pension.

There are those who argue that we shall inevitably run into difficulties which could only be made good by further grants of American dollars, and the United States would be the chief sufferer if these were not forthcoming.

Such premises are unworthy of a proud race. In fact they are no more than wishful thinking.

Supposing, to take an analogy, that in 1945 you were asked to finance your and if that chap can't stand on his own feet now, it's time he could; he won't get another cent out of me” ?

Like him the American people are not going to help us indefinitely. Every American citizen contributes about £11 production per year to Marshall Aid, and the time will come in 1952 when they won't do it any more.

Are YOU going to let this proud island race, who at one time would never accept charity, drift on from crisis to crisis under a further spell of shaky Socialist finance?

Or do you believe in sound finance and economical spending of public money, such as the Conservatives will adopt?

YOU will decide.

Thirdly, do you want another stiff dose of nationalisation? You know the quality and price of present day coal compared with pre-war.

Do you want cement to go up as much in price? That would make your already expensive house even dearer to build. It would mean the rent of Council houses rising again, and probably something slapped on the rates as well.

Do you want your sugar to deteriorate in quality and the cost of its manufacture to increase?

And how about steel; is the same thing to happen to that, affecting your houses, your cutlery, kitchen grates, etc.?

Are you going to let the manufacturers whittle down the prices under the stimulus of Private Enterprise, or meekly pay more for nationalised goods?

YOU will decide.

And finally, what about our own individual lives; is it to be frustration or freedom?

Last week I received a letter from a young unknown engineer from one of the Dominions who was on a visit to this country. He was so appalled by the restrictions on our peoples and the docile manner in which we accepted them, that he wrote to one of the younger Conservative prospective candidates urging her to put the position clearly before the electorate.

The unknown writer said that we were not using our national abilities for which we are famed, our spirit of adventure, our initiative, our courage to tackle new projects, to best advantage.

But we were submissively letting ourselves be ordered about by a system.

Is this the fighting spirit which put us head and shoulders above other nations, he asked.

It was not a Government that built up the skill and craft of this country—the woollen goods, the beautiful china, and the precision engineering, which have made their way into the markets of the world.

It was private individuals who patiently persevered, building up their businesses bit by bit.

They were not held up at every stage by having to apply to four or five different Ministries in triplicate. They and their families just went ahead with the job, living their own lives without interference.

Their success provided employment for others and greatly benefited the community as a whole. This was the spirit that made England great and can restore her once again. Do you want it to perish for a soul-less Socialist system, or to live to recreate a glorious Britain?