MRS. THATCHER TALKS ABOUT DEMOCRACY
Democracy is always changing. It is a new instrument we are still learning to play, and its full range has not yet been appreciated, said Mrs. Margaret Thatcher, M.P., answering the question: “What's wrong with democracy?” when she addressed the jubilee meeting of the Finchley and Woodside Park League of Jewish Women.
About 100 people crowded into the Hutton Grove Liberal Synagogue, North Finchley, on Monday evening to hear Mrs. Thatcher's first public speech in Finchley since her appointment last week as Shadow Minister of Transport.
She began by pointing out that many of the democratic principles we take for granted are not age-old but comparatively modern. For instance, “one man one vote,” a principle now being loudly acclaimed throughout the world, was only achieved in Britain in 1950.
Democracy was like a three-legged stool, with the essentials Parliamentary democracy, freedom of the individual, and freedom of the press.
This last, she said, was of vital importance. An oppressive government could never survive a free press. Much of man's equality had been won, not by Parliament, but by the law.
Mrs. Thatcher said she was not surprised democracy was questioned. We had a new generation which had been brought up on the Welfare State. Many of them had learned to expect their rights without realising their responsibilities.
Further education had taught young people to criticise—but many of their criticisms were merely destructive.
They had not yet learned to question society and use the apparatus of education to either suggest new principles or reaffirm the old.
She went on to compare our democracy in Britain with those in Germany, France and the United States.
In those countries an election was more likely just to change the personalities rather than the policies. There was no focal point of opposition as we had in Britain.
Because of our system we had avoided some of the pitfalls. The colour problem in America was entirely different from our immigration problem here.
In the United States the negroes were still fighting for their civil rights. In Britain immigrants had their full rights, both social and voting, immediately they arrived.
Mrs. Thatcher recalled that only 150 years ago bribery and corruption were rife in British politics. We had now reached a situation, she said, where if a candidate made promises people despised him for trying to secure their vote through favours; but if he refused to make pledges he was rejected.
Mrs. Thatcher spoke of her dislike of the election mandate and hoped that it would never become a question of promising the larger share to the majority in the plundering of the minority.
She did not agree that Parliament was becoming more remote, but thought there was a danger of too many professional politicians. To understand what legislation was needed in the country the House of Commons must have a complete cross-section of members.
Democracy, she said, was not just a question of finding the solutions to the problems, but of persuading the right people to accept them.
In a lively question time which followed the speech, Mrs. Thatcher was asked to comment on Mr. Enoch Powell 's recent immigration speeches.
“I think you should always be willing to take your views to the final test; and I hope Enoch PowellEnoch will put his views before the Parliamentary forum,” she answered.
A vote of thanks to Mrs Thatcher was proposed by Ald. Joseph Freedman. The meeting was to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the league which undertakes social and voluntary work in the community.