Speeches, etc.

Margaret Thatcher

Speech at adoption meeting in Dartford

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Venue: Church Hall, Lowfield Street, Dartford, Kent
Source: Dartford Chronicle, 10 February 1950
Editorial comments: Evening?
Importance ranking: Key
Word count: 1190
Themes: Agriculture, Conservatism, Conservative Party (organization), Conservative Party (history), Economic policy - theory and process, General Elections, Public spending & borrowing, Taxation, Labour Party & socialism, Social security & welfare




“Vote right to keep what's left” was the slogan given by Miss Margaret Roberts, B.A., B.Sc., when she was adopted as Conservative candidate for the Dartford Division at a big meeting in the Church Hall, Lowfield-street, Dartford, on Friday.

There were cheers when Mr. A. Morris Wheeler, president of the local branch of the Conservative Party, pinned on her a huge rosette and wished her “Good luck.”

Introducing Miss Roberts, Mr. Morris Wheeler referred to the dissolution of Parliament that day, and said he was a very happy man that night because he was not under Socialist rule. He was sorry to say that they now had a Liberal opponent in the Division, but he did not mind who came into the field, for the Conservatives had a policy. It was said they had a past to live down, but that was not so. He had been a Conservative from his 5s.-a-week days and he was very proud of the past of this country.

Recommending them to adopt Miss Roberts as their candidate, Mr. J. Miller, chairman of the local Party, said that in the 11 months she had been among them, Miss Roberts had brought an extraordinary vigour and confidence, and in that time had done a tremendous lot. They were going into this election with better organisation, and more confidence and vigour than ever before.

In her introductory remarks Miss Roberts said they did not need to go scouting round for candidates at the 11th hour. That night they were really going into battle, and it was one of the biggest battles this country had ever known—a battle between two ways of life, one which led inevitably to slavery and the other to freedom. “Our opponents like to try and make you believe,” went on Miss Roberts, “that Conservatism is a privilege of the few. But Conservatism conserves all that is great and best in our national heritage. What is one of the first tenets of Conservatism? It is that of national unity. We say one nation, not one class against another. You cannot build a great nation or a brotherhood of man by spreading envy or hatred.”

Miss Roberts said their policy was not built on envy or hatred, but on liberty for the individual man or woman. It was not their policy to suppress success; their policy was to encourage it and encourage energy and initiative, because that was needed. People must be allowed the opportunities they desired. In 1940 it was not the cry of nationalisation that made this country rise up and fight totalitarianism. It was the cry for freedom and liberty.

One of the greatest charges against the Socialists was that they had devalued our national character. It was not Socialism that had made Great Britain great, which had made us the bastion of freedom and liberty, and our nationality the most respected in the world. “We need all the Nuffields we have got. We do not want to tax them out of existence, or where should we be?” exclaimed the candidate.

Only by creating wealth could they spend it; that was something people often forgot. Socialism did not create anything new. One example of trying to create something new was the groundnut scheme. (Laughter).

“A Lot of Rot”

Miss Roberts told the audience that they would hear a lot of rot about the past record of the Conservative Party, but long before the Socialist Party existed, the Conservative Party was fighting for the betterment of men and women, such as the fight for the reduction of working hours of children and young people.

There was one aspect in the election she was sorry to see happening—that was the attempt to smear the peace-time record of Mr. Winston Churchill. Among other things, with unemployment insurance and widows' and orphans' pensions, he had a magnificent record in the service of the people. “And we trust he will be able to put his services at the disposal of this country again very shortly. This smear campaign is actuated by envy and jealousy.”

For many years, she said, the Conservatives had been charged with not having a policy. That charge had now rounded upon the Labour Party because nowhere in their policy did they mention Marshall Aid. If that was not shirking the issue, she did not know what was. The Conservative policy, as stated in “This is the Road,” was ten times better than the Labour policy, and it did not shirk any measures they felt were necessary.


Taxation, said Miss Roberts, should not be used to punish anyone who earned more than his neighbour. Successful people should not be penalised to give fair shares to those who did not work so hard as those who did. If they were unequal in their efforts, they should get unequal rewards, the only exceptions being those who were too old and too ill. The instrument of taxation had been wrongly used in the last four or five years.

“People will not work harder unless they get extra rewards, she declared. “It is a great shame that the policy of Socialism is driving a great many of our decent men and women to do a bit ‘on the side’ to avoid taxation.”

Government expenditure was far too high at 40 per cent of the national income, and in claiming that the Ministries of Food and Agriculture should be one, she said last summer one was buying fruit from Italy while the other was trying to cope with a bumper crop at home. She could think of nothing more cheering to the heart and stomach of the house-wife than that Lord Woolton should get back.

It was false to say that the Conservatives would cut pensions and family allowances. Their counter-accusation was that these had been shamefully decreased by the cost of living and the devaluation of the pound. As with food subsidies, that was something the Socialists would completely misrepresent.

“Cut out bulk buying by the Ministry of Food,” she said. If that failed to reduce sufficiently the amount spent on subsidy, it might be necessary to cut down a little—but they should not get alarmed, for the cuts had already started. Meat had gone up in price. Fish had gone up in price. If it was necessary for the Conservatives to cut food subsidies, then it would not take place unless simultaneously with a reduction in taxation and an increase in pensions and allowances to those who could not afford to buy food if the price went up. If food subsidies were cut, an equivalent amount of money would be put in the hands of the people.

Concluding with the slogan quoted above, Miss Roberts said they believed they could put a Government into power which would not be dominated by circumstances, but which would dominate the circumstances and bring the nation through.

The adoption, moved by Mr. A. Hawker and seconded by Mrs. A. E. Young, was supported by Mrs. E. C. Botten, Mrs. A. Jenns, and Mr. J. F. Waterman.

Miss Roberts began her campaign proper when she addressed open-air meetings on Saturday at Dartford, Crayford, and Erith.