Speeches, etc.

Margaret Thatcher

Speech at adoption meeting

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Venue: Woodhouse School, Finchley
Source: (1) Thatcher Archive: speaking notes (2) Finchley Times, 15 February 1974 (3) Barnet Press, 15 February 1974 (4) The Times, 12 February 1974
Journalist: (2) Nick Whinnerah, Finchley Times, reporting
Editorial comments: 2000.
Importance ranking: Key
Word count: 3357
Themes: General Elections, Monetary policy, Privatized & state industries, Pay, Housing, Labour Party & socialism, Local government, Social security & welfare, Trade union law reform, Strikes & other union action
(1) Thatcher Archive: speaking notes


5th Election I have fought in Finchley in 15 years. Perhaps most crucial one of all. The result will decide:

(1) How serious we are in fighting inflation—even though the process of fighting it is difficult and painful.

(2) Whether the question of “whose wage-claims are legitimate?” is to be decided by the force which that group can bring to bear or by the reasonableness of that claim itself.

Events leading up to Election

Phase III—is the current method of trying to contain wage increases to what the nation as a whole can afford. Bearing in mind that it was [end p1] devised before the present oil troubles including the fantastic increases in price of oil, most commentators agree that it already provides more increases than we can truly afford. Not a rigid method& em;but flexible. 7%; basic increase and 1%; for wage-structure changes and amounts unspecified for working unsocial hours, and plus amounts for extra efficiency.

6 million people have settled, including nurses and teachers. Teachers have settled for 8%;. The miners have refused 16½%; plus offer to go to the relativities board.

Difficult to get at facts of this wage-claim therefore take figures from leaflet issued by National Coal Board called “The Coal Board's Offer to Mineworkers” . [end p2]

Figures given relate to 13%; increase—it is specifically stated that the productivity scheme would mean more and bring the total increase to 16½%;. Further, the figures are for 5 basic shifts and do not include the extra amounts that could be obtained for overtime. Increases range from £2.30 a week to £9.37 per week. In addition improved holiday pay, better benefits (retirement) and Threshold Agreement. This offer was refused. Further possibilities of solving the problem came with the Relativities Report.

Relativities Report

The amount that one group of workers should receive compared with another has always been a difficult question to answer. There is no fixed pattern of relative pay, and there [end p3] cannot be. But sometimes groups of wage or salary earners feel they have fallen behind. Therefore Last March (1973) Government asked Pay Board to suggest methods of r esolving this problem.

On 19th January 1974 Board reported and the report was published within a few days.

The Edward HeathPrime Minister reacted immediately and wrote to T.U.C. and C.B.I. asking them to co-operate, and set out a new basis for a settlement using the relativities board. Even the Harold WilsonLeader of the Opposition seemed quite enthusiastic. In a letter dated 29th January he asked Mr. Heath:

“While the miners ballot is proceeding to bring together as a matter of urgency and to consult with all the parties relevant to the relativities report” . [end p4]

But no sooner had the Prime Minister done just that, but without the prompting, than Mr. Wilson appeared to change his tune. He said in the House:

“in certain respects these proposals are essentially medium-term … they provide no answer to the coal dispute which is of transcendant urgency.

Attitude of Opposition

But then the attitude of the Opposition has been equivocal throughout. First the miners fell behind in pay compared with other workers during the period of the Socialist Government.

The pay increases then given in these six years were: [end p5]


If the Conservative offer had been accepted (without the productivity increase) the face workers would have had an increase over the four-year period of £18 a week — an average of £4.50 per year — more than the whole 6 years of Socialism.


The Leader of the Opposition refused to join the Prime Minister in an appeal to the [end p6] miners to defer the strike until after an Election even though the President Mr Gormley wished to do so. Was Mr. Wilson afraid to help the moderates? Afraid to do anything to offend the extremists.

Apparently the industrial organiser of the Communists was right when he said:

(Sunday Express 10 February) (New Society 17 Jan) “We have more influence now on the Labour movement than at any time in the life of our party… the Communist Party can float an idea early in the year and it can become official Labour policy by the autumn.”

Let us not forget that when in Government the Socialists began to realise they should tackle the problem of Trade Union reform having had a Royal Commission upon it. Mr. Wilson [end p7] retreated under pressure and gave up in humiliating defeat.

We would accept that any offer made to the miners must be fair and reasonable to them. They do a difficult job—the nation needs the coal. It would be easy to say “pay them what they want and lets carry on as normal again” . But what would be the longer term consequences.

(a) First—other groups who wield industrial power could use the same tactics, and there is no doubt that they would. This is the third power strike in 4 years (1 electricity, 2 coal) and the railwaymen last time made similar high demands. We have given way before—before we had a statutory incomes policy. [end p8]

(b) Second—there are groups who do not wield a lot of power or who won't go on strike—but their claims are deserving—would they be left out, or should we say give them the money too.

If we did, we should have once again massive wage awards (the miners want 31%;) without more production. A true recipe for rapidly increasing inflation—and the rate of this inflation would be greater than anything we have known before and would destroy confidence in our currency, not only abroad, but here at home. The r eal battle is the battle against inflation.


This country, more than any other, except Japan, is dependent on overseas supplies of food and raw materials. [end p9]

No Government of any political complexion can control the prices we have to pay. In the last two years there has been a dramatic increase in world prices— and if we want the goods we have no option but to pay. According to the “Econo mist” Index of Commodity Prices. January 1973–1974


World prices rose by 60%;

Retail prices here 19%;

Effect here—after Price Commission had refused some of the requests for increases — retail prices rose by 19%;

Compare their period of office (right hand figures) Add to these the oil increases—up by 300%; over a period of 4 months (from 3.01 to 11.65 a barrel)

We cannot and must not add severe wage inflation to world price inflation. We may not be able to do much about world prices—at least we should be able to regulate events here so that the increased wages and salaries keep broadly in line with increased production. [end p10]

This week's Economist puts the choice this way: “The crunch has come for the British economy. For 30 years successive governments, Labour and Tory alike, have run away from the central problem, how to control wage-push inflation. The immediate cost of standing up to industrial blackmail has always been judged greater than the longer-term damage from giving way. Other solutions have been tried … All have failed to stop the rot and many have made it worse. But he who runs away has to fight another day. The cost of standing firm has now become catastrophic, but so has the cost of giving way. There are no bolt holes left.”

On another page the same edition (9th Feb) points out that a 15%; annual rate of inflation would double prices within 5 years and multiply then by 16 in the 20 years of the average period of retirement often on comparatively fixed incomes. [end p11] That is why we must fight this inflation.

The Labour party by giving way to any group which threatens would make things worse—would make high prices yet higher. We believe the offer to the miners (and theirs is only one example of the claims that will come)

(1) Must be fair to them—we believe it is

(2) Must be fair to the other groups of workers (6 million)—we believe it is

(3) Must be fair to the even greater number of people who have no union to stand up for them and who rely on the elected government to look after their interests—we believe it is.

Against the background I have described, 16½%; and threshold increases and reference to the relativities board, with a promise to implement [end p12] from March 1st would make the basis of a fair and reasonable settlement.

Fighting inflation by firm but fair methods is at the heart of our policy. The manifesto itself, entitled “Firm Action for a Fair Britain” is realistic and makes very few promises involving public expenditure. There are a few points to which I should like to draw attention.

Points from the Manifesto.

It is manifestly unfair that those who do not go on strike are, in effect, obliged to subsidise those who do. It is no part of our policy to see the wives and children of men on strike suffering. But it is only right that the unions themselves, and not the taxpayer, should accept their primary responsibility for the welfare of the [end p13] families of men who choose to go on strike; and, after discussions with trade unions and employers, we will amend the social security system accordingly.

We shall maintain the essential structure of the Industrial Relations Act, but we shall amend it in the light of experience, after consultation with both sides of industry, to provide more effective control for the majority of union members by ensuring that they have the opportunity to elect the governing bodies and national leaders of their unions by a postal ballot. [end p14]

On PENSIONS our record is better than that of any previous Government of any party. We shall continue to give the pensioner first priority in the entire field of social service expenditure.

We have already moved from a two-yearly to an annual review of pensions and all other benefits. We will now move to a six-monthly up-rating of pensions and other long-term benefits. We shall, of course, continue to ensure that pensions are increased by at least as much as the cost of living. We shall continue to relax the earnings rule during the next Parliament. Our ultimate objective is to abolish it altogether. [end p15]

London Allowance for teachers and other public service employees. The matter has been referred to the Pay Board. We shall act on the report as soon as we receive it.

Subject to a right of appeal we shall ensure that in future established Council tenants are able, as of right, to buy on reasonable terms the house or flat in which they live. [end p16]

The General Election that is now upon us is a chance for the British people to show the world that at a time of crisis the overwhelming majority of us are determined not to tear ourselves apart, but to close ranks.

It is a chance, in other words, to demonstrate that we believe in ourselves as a nation.

This is our aim:

A Britain united in moderation, not divided in extremism

A society in which there is change without revolution

A Government that is strong in order to protect the weak

A people who enjoy freedom with responsibility

A nation where the justice of a claim does not depend on might but on right. [end p17]

Once the General Election is behind us we must put aside our differences and join in a common determination to establish and maintain a secure civilised and fair society.

The basis of effective Government is public confidence. We ask for that confidence on 28th February. [end p18]

(2) Finchley Times, 15 February 1974

All three agree: it's crucial

Finchley was hit by election fever this week, and, as blue, red and orange posters began appearing in windows throughout the constituency, the three candidates began their campaigns.

The only point all three agree upon is that the election is crucial.

Mrs. Margaret Thatcher (Conservative) calls for backing to unite Britain in moderation. Councillor Martin O'Connor (Labour) says there are a welter of issues and Labour have a policy to meet them all. And Councillor Laurence Brass (Liberal) wants sanity brought back to politics.

Mrs Thatcher, 48, has represented the constituency in Parliament for the past 15 years, and is a national figure as Education Minister. She is an Oxford graduate, a barrister and a research chemist.

Councillor O'Connor, 41, lives in Oakleigh Gardens, Whetstone. He is a Barnet councillor and secretary of Finchley Labour Party.

He was born in Finchley, and apart from short spells when he worked building a radar station in Canada and a hydro-electric station in North America, he has lived in the area all his life.

He met his wife Carmel O'ConnorCarmel in Canada, and they now have four children.

Councillor Brass, a solicitor, is 26. This is the second time he has stood for Parliament. In 1970 he contested Hornsey, when he was the youngest candidate in the country.

He lives in Bushey and is a member of the new Hertsmere District Council. His wife comes from Finchley.

Mrs Margaret Thatcher began her fifth election campaign on Monday by telling Finchley residents: “You and I are the owners of the coal industry. The miners have had their ballot. We are now having ours.

She was speaking at Woodhouse School. North Finchley, after her formal adoption as candidate.

In answer to a question, she said: “The coal industry is nationalised. You own it. One of the arguments put forward for nationalised industry was that people would not strike against the rest of the people of the country, but that has not worked out.

“All our problems are now coming from nationalised industry because they have created a monopoly. This election is a ballot of all the owners of the industry.”

She said she had faith in the moderate majority of miners and added: “I believe if the question was put differently to the miners, if they were asked to accept our offer, not asked just to back their executive, they would agree.”

The election would decide two major issues—how serious the country was in fighting inflation: and whether the question of increases for workers should be decided by the force the group could bring to bear, or by the reasonableness of the claim itself.

“I submit to you that force is not a proper way to further a claim,” she said.

“Fighting inflation by firm and fair methods is at the heart of our policy.

“Our aim is to unite Britain in moderation, not give in to extremism,” she added. “We must put aside differences and pull together to establish and maintain a secure and civilised society.” [end p19]

(3) Barnet Press, 15 February 1974

Three candidates in election fight for Finchley seat

Education Minister Mrs. Margaret Thatcher fired the opening salvos of the General Election campaign this week when she described the election as the most crucial of her political career.

She was speaking on Monday evening in Woodhouse School when she was adopted as the Conservative candidate for Finchley and Friern Barnet.

The next evening her Labour opponent, Cr. Martin O'Connor, told a packed audience in the council chamber at Friern Barnet Town Hall that this election was on the issues of crisis and prices.

In the meantime Liberal candidate Laurence Brass, a 26-year-old solicitor who stood in the last General Election in Hornsey, has been touring the district.

He has already been canvassing around Tally Ho Corner, North Finchley, and next Tuesday has a meeting in Avenue House in Church End Finchley.

He will be concentrating his campaign on meeting voters in the shopping centres and during the evenings when his party colleagues are canvassing.

Thus the crisis General Election campaigning has begun in earnest.

Mrs. Thatcher opened her campaign at a public meeting in Whetstone on Wednesday evening. She laid down her strategy at her adoption meeting two days earlier when she stressed that the major issues were prices and the need to unite the country.

Although she was critical of the miners' strike she did not blame them for the need of this election.

She stressed that the Government were asking the public for a vote of confidence.

“Our aim is a Britain united in moderation and not divided in spirit,” she said. “A nation of freedom and responsibility: we must join in a common determination to establish a civilised and fair society.”

However, she did criticise the miners' attitude towards the Government's pay offer. “Of course, we realise it was important to get a settlement,” she said. “But not a settlement at any price: a settlement that was fair and reasonable to everyone concerned.”

Mrs. Thatcher continued: “The miners fell behind the other industries in the time of the Labour Government. I do stress that because we have now none of the speeches from the Opposition about not forgetting the miners.

“We have reached the end of the line. I think everyone will agree that this Government has done everything possible to prevent a strike.” she said.

She stressed that the cost of living was the major issue of this election.

“We have to admit that the first steps of fighting inflation should be in some ways almost as painful as the disease itself,” she said.

During the next week Mrs. Thatcher is expected to broaden these themes when she talks at a public meeting in St. Mary's Hall, Church End Finchley, on Monday evening, and East Finchley library on Tuesday evening.

Tomorrow (Saturday) she will be touring the district and talking to shoppers in Church End Finchley, North Finchley and Whetstone. This street campaign is expected to be used by Cr. O'Connor and Mr. Brass, too.

In a long and belligerent speech Cr. O'Connor said during his adoption meeting that the election concerned crisis and prices.

Said Cr. O'Connor: “Every crisis we meet has a price to pay. When one looks at the country one sees a whole welter of issues widening and inter-twinning into one and other: building a pyramid which is a true monument of the Conservative Government.

“When we talk about crisis we are not being alarmist but we are simply reflecting the picture which has been presented by Parliament.”

His 45-minute speech emphasised the crisis in education, housing and industrial relations.

He stressed: “Prices have soared and have reached levels beyond the reach of people engaged in working for a living … we have this incredible, frightening, appalling economic crisis generally.”

Cr. O'Connor 's only public meeting will be an eve-of-the-poll rally in Christ Church Hall, North Finchley, on February 27.

In an adoption address on Sunday to Finchley Liberal Party workers Mr. Brass said that Finchley had become a marginal seat through “double-talk and broken promises.”

He stressed that a Liberal voice at Westminster would be stronger than it has been during the last generation. “We must make sure we detach ourselves from the cosy two-party system which has served this country so badly in the past few years.”

Such words rewarded the Liberal with a promise of £1,000 from an anonymous supporter to cover campaign costs.

There is also the hope that Liberal MP John Pardoe will talk at next Tuesday evening's meeting in Avenue House. Mr. Pardoe was a former Finchley candidate and is now MP for Cornwall North. [end p20]

(4) The Times, 12 February 1974

‘Postal ballots help moderates’

Mrs Margaret Thatcher, Secretary of State for Education and Science, said last night that it was important that union moderates should be able to take control and become more involved in the action of their unions.

She told an adoption meeting in Finchley that moderates would be allowed to become more involved through the Government's proposal contained in the manifesto that union members should have the opportunity of electing their leaders by postal ballot. Mrs. Thatcher said the election was the most crucial she had fought since she won the London constituency in 1959.