Public are behind us, says Mrs Thatcher
No Government could surrender to a group with the capacity to hold the nation to ransom.
And the Government's weapons in the battle against inflation were “a reasonable policy backed by public opinion.”
Mrs Margaret Thatcher, Education Minister and MP for Finchley and Friern Barnet, said this on Saturday, when she spoke at the annual dinner dance held by her constituency's Conservative Association.
She pointed out that the miners' overtime ban was in its 11th week, and said: “The Government have done brilliantly to get us as far as this without our suffering more than we have.”
The effect of the dispute was that miners were producing about 70 per cent of the coal we needed. The Government realised that NUM tactics would be to have an overtime ban for quite a time, so they knew they must take steps to conserve existing stocks to get the country through the winter.
It was annoying for those on the overtime ban that the Government steps had succeeded while theirs had not. And this was the reason some of the miners were stepping up their action.
Mrs Thatcher said the country had been through a period when oil was extremely cheap. In loyalty to the miners successive governments had ordered the electricity authorities to burn expensive coal rather than the cheaper oil.
Now the situation had been reversed.
“Through that period we tried to show our faith in the future of the coal industry by making electricity 70 per cent dependent on coal, and that, I'm afraid, has made us particularly vulnerable. We could have put more of our natural gas into electricity but we didn't.”
Mrs Thatcher said the Government had tried hard to avoid confrontation. One way to end all talk of that would be a “no,” by miners to the strike ballot. The effect on the country and on confidence in sterling would be tremendous.
She commented that some of the militants involved were affiliated to the Communist Party, and added: “Whenever Communists have offered themselves for election democratically this nation has refused to elect them. They have been a total failure at election time. It would be a tragedy if they came to power by the back door.”
Mrs Thatcher said that in five or ten years Britain's future would be one of the brightest in the whole of Europe. By that time North Sea oil would be coming ashore and there would be more natural gas.
Mrs Thatcher received a standing ovation from members of the association present.
The other chief guests at the dinner, held at the Selborne Hall, Ye Olde Cherry Tree, New Southgate, were Mrs Thatcher's husband, Denis, and Baroness Macleod of Borve, widow of the late Mr. Iain Macleod.
Baroness Macleod, speaking of the Prime Minister, said: “I admire him enormously. He is a most honest man and a most direct man, and works harder for this country than any Prime Minister we have had.”
And she added: “The woman I admire most in this country is your MP and I hope you all do too. She is a vitally important member of the Cabinet—I have heard this from other members, all of whom I know. She is a one-off, a woman who has made her personality and brain power felt far beyond Finchley and Friern Barnet.”
Mrs Thatcher said she was delighted that the House of Lords now had the benefit of Baroness Macleod 's great experience. She added that any talent she might have was due a great deal to Iain Macleod, who was missed very much by the Cabinet and the Conservative Party.
She said that he had been the architect of most of the taxation reform prepared while the Conservatives were in opposition. “I was number two to him when he was shadowing the Treasury, and a wonderful training it was.”
The chairman of the association, Councillor Jimmy Sapsted, said the past few days had been a knife edge, but on behalf of everyone present he gave an assurance that if the crunch came they would be ready at once to go into battle and see that Mrs Thatcher was returned with a larger majority than before.
Councillor Sapsted welcomed the Leader of Barnet Council, Councillor Andrew Pares, and said that although he had been Leader only a short time, the Conservatives knew they had picked a winner.
And he thanked Councillor Mrs Ena Constable for her services to the area. [end p1](2) Barnet Press, 1 February 1974
Back-Door Communists Slammed by Minister
A Strong Attack on the mass media for distorting the facts on the miners pay dispute; the back-door methods being used by the Communists to overthrow law and order; and a warning to the British public that the next two weeks were going to be crucial, was made by Mrs. Margaret Thatcher, Minister for Education, on Saturday.
Speaking at the annual Finchley and Friern Barnet Conservative Association's dinner in Selborne Hall, Southgate, Mrs. Thatcher said it was difficult to keep the facts in front of the public. “They are being distorted on the mass media, particularly television, where the miners' leaders are being given too much publicity.”
Mrs. Thatcher went on to stress the miners had been offered a 16½ per cent increase. This means an extra weekly £6 per man on average.”
Referring to the methods being adopted by the Communists in the present dispute. Mrs. Thatcher pointed out that whenever they offered themselves for election to Parliament they had been a failure and the public had shown their policies were not ones Britain wanted.
Mrs. Thatcher appealed to the miners to give a “no” to the strike ballot and to their leaders and reminded the miners that the present Government and the last Labour administration could have put our natural North Sea gas into the power stations but instead kept faith with the miners and continued to use coal.
“In the last few years oil has been cheap and we could have diverted much more to the power stations but we remained loyal to the miners and ordered coal to keep the pits open.” said Mrs. Thatcher.
Turning to the TUC offer that other groups would not use the argument that the miners were a special case when making pay claims. Mrs. Thatcher stated the TUC could not say others would not put in large claims with threats of industrial action. “That is why the Government could not accept the TUC's offer.”
Mrs. Thatcher defended the Government's three—day week plan to eke out coal supplies and keep industry working.
“If during the 12 weeks over-time ban by the miners we had not taken this action we should not have got through to March. The effect has been we have been using only 70 per cent. of the coal stocks. If we had not taken this step vital services would have been badly affected.
“In my opinion the miners' leaders are now trying to force their members to strike because our steps have succeeded and their's have not.” said Mrs. Thatcher.
Concluding her speech, Mrs. Thatcher stressed there was enough for all of us to have a good future. “We have more gas, and shortly more of our own oil. The prospects are enormous.
“We shall need public opinion more than ever in the next two crucial weeks than ever before. We hold a trust for the nation and that trust we shall keep, said Mrs. Thatcher.
The Minister was given a standing ovation by the 200 members of the association which lasted for over two minutes, as she sat down.
Prior to Mrs. Thatcher's speech, the Baroness MacLeod of Borve, proposed the toast to the association, coupled with their MP. Mrs. Thatcher.
Paying a personal tribute to Mrs. Thatcher, the Baroness said: “She is an unusual person, a woman I admire and one who has made a vital impact as a member of the Cabinet. She is a woman who has also made her personality felt throughout the country.”
The Baroness went on to urge the Government to counter-attack the Communists' move to bring strike action. “We need people to talk on behalf of the Government. We are on a good wicket and the public must be made aware of it. Our Prime Minister is the best we can ever get for the country. He is a most honest and direct man who works harder for this country than any other Prime Minister has done before.”
Turning to Mrs. Thatcher, the Baroness said: “I expect many people tell you how you should do your job. I am going to be another. I wish you would get more young men to teach in primary and pre-schools. Children often don't see a man and they tend to rely too much on women.”
Chairman of the association Cr. Norman Sapsted, introducing the two speakers said: “We take Mrs. Thatcher too much for granted. She never fails to answer an appeal from us and when another election comes we shall show our appreciation. We are ready to go into battle into the streets, and to see she is returned with an even bigger majority.”
Cr. Sapsted paid tribute to Cr. Mrs. Ena Constable, who is retiring from Barnet Council this year, and also to Cr. Andrew Pares as leader of the Conservatives in the council chamber. “In Cr. Pares we have picked a winner.” said Cr. Sapsted.
The dinner-dance was organised by Mr. Ron Thurlow and his committee, assisted by Tory agent Mr. Roy Langstone. Table decorations, which were praised by Mrs. Thatcher, were made by Mrs. Rene Sapsted.