Mrs. Thatcher finds city ‘exciting’
Interruptions on two occasions during a public meeting in Norwich last night contributed to what “shadow” Environment spokesman Mrs. Margaret Thatcher described as “the most exciting speech I have made in this campaign.”
But the interruptions did not come from hecklers, who were also conspicuous for their absence earlier in the day, during Mrs. Thatcher's “whistle-stop” tour of three rural constituencies in Norfolk. Nor did they come from spontaneous applause, which broke out in response to her address.
Instead, the responsibility lay with three placards—one each for Norwich North and South candidates Timothy Doe and Maureen Tomison, and another reading “Put Britain First” —which adorned a wall behind Mrs. Thatcher when she began her speech at the Stuart Hall, Norwich.
First to slip was Miss Tomison. As her placard fell to the floor, Mrs. Thatcher broke off her speech to ask: “What is going on back there?” She then propped the placard, facing the audience, against a microphone she was not using.
Later, when Mrs. Thatcher was talking about a change of thinking resulting from the fact that building was not taking place rapidly enough to replace houses which at one time were being flattened, the “Put Britain First” placard also started to slip.
Mrs. Thatcher, turning, commented: “Talking about decay …” and asked Mr. Doe to take his placard down as well.
She added, amid laughter: “I must say this is the most exciting speech I have made in this campaign.”
The reception—at the end of her speech Mrs. Thatcher received a standing ovation from many of the audience—was not confined to Norwich.
For after lunch at the home of Fakenham's county councillor, Mr. Harold Oliver, at Fulmodeston—she won applause when addressing open-air meetings on the market place at both Fakenham and Dereham before making her way to Wymondham.
There, at the Central Hall, she faced her biggest audience—every seat being taken to hear her and the Conservative candidate, Mr. John MacGregor.
An attentive audience broke into her address several times with applause.
The biggest round came when she declared: “We believe that the main issues in this election are fundamental for the future of the British way of life—whether we are to continue with a free society based on personal responsibility and independence or whether we are going to have more nationalisation and yet more municipalisation and become the most State-controlled country this side of the iron curtain.
“All the moderates have left or are leaving the Socialist party and, if they win, what is left would be the extreme left, who would produce a State so Socialist that we could never return to the kind of life that has made this country great.
“That is the great political issue facing the electorate,” she added.
Generally Mrs. Thatcher dealt with two main themes—housing and the Conservative proposals for abolishing the present rating system gradually over a period of five years.
When she was on Fakenham Market Place she watched as a petition consisting of 63 sheets and bearing nearly 2100 signatures calling for a TV booster station in North Norfolk was handed to Mr. Christopher Fowler, the Conservative candidate for North-West Norfolk.
After this, she toured Fakenham's market stalls and chatted with stallholders and house—wives. She also visited Fakenham's Conservative club, where she was introduced to workers for the Conservative cause.
Mrs. Thatcher was greeted by Mr. Paul Hawkins on her arrival at Dereham Market Place, and there was applause when, in speaking about pensions, she promised that “as the cost of living rises, so we will review pensions every six months instead of every year.”
She said the Conservatives were going flat out for a majority in the House of Commons at the election, and she spoke of the determination of the Conservative Party to cut mortgage rates to a maximum of 9½ per cent.
Throughout the whole of her tour of rural Norfolk, there was no heckling, and relatively few questions came from the audiences.
In Norwich, after speeches by Miss Tomison and Mr. Doe, Mrs. Thatcher said there were a great many issues facing the public at present—among them the question of how many resignations from the Labour party there would be tomorrow.
Repeating her remarks about the increasingly left slant of the Labour party, she declared: “I do not believe that is right for Britain—I do not believe that is what Britain wants.”
On the subject of the Conservative manifesto, Mrs. Thatcher said it was divided into two parts—the first giving a few absolute promises, limited and modest, as it was not felt that promises could be dealt out in the present climate like a pack of cards.
The second part dealt with matters the Tories would like to work towards but realised would have to wait until economic circumstances permitted.
There was a definite aim to continue the Conservative policy of raising living standards and conditions, she said.
Mrs. Thatcher also dealt particularly with housing and rates, saying she well knew Norfolk's problems with the former, and those of Norwich with the latter.
Outlining Tory plans she highlighted policies of steadily phasing out or abolishing the rating system, introducing and maintaining a 9½ per cent. mortgage rate, modernising old houses and keeping them in better condition, and redirecting subsidies to help more private buyers, as well as encouraging council tenants to buy their homes.
Mrs. Thatcher also mentioned a plan to introduce a scheme already proven in Australia, whereby the Government would add £1 to every £2 young couples had saved with building societies for a house deposit over a two-year period, at a maximum level of £5 a week.
Under this constructive scheme, she said, figures to show how many people were taking it up would be published, so that builders would know what demand to expect.
“There are a lot of houses on the market at present, so it is the demand which needs stimulating, not the supply,” she declared.
Mrs. Thatcher also told the audience that while the Conservatives had encouraged the sale of council houses to their tenants previously, they now planned to make release compulsory if tenants of at least three years standing wished to buy.