Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

Complete list of 8,000+ Thatcher statements & texts of many of them

1974 Oct 9 We
Margaret Thatcher

Article for Daily Telegraph ("Tory road to a free society")

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Document kind: Article
Venue: -
Source: Daily Telegraph, 9 October 1974
Journalist: -
Editorial comments: Item listed by date of publication.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 1102
Themes: British Constitution (general discussions), Conservatism, Private education, Secondary education, Industry, General Elections, Privatized & state industries, Pay, Taxation, Private health care, Housing, Labour Party & socialism, Local government, Social security & welfare, Strikes & other union action

Tory road to a free society


This Election is not about statistics although at times it seems as if it were. Nor even about economic theories. There is more to running a country properly than just getting the sums right. It's about the future of a free society, about whether that freedom is to be further diminished never to be restored, or whether it is to be retained, nurtured and strengthened.

And freedom is not just a passive ideal reserved for political speeches. It means freedom to act, to do things for yourself and your family, to benefit from personal endeavour, to own property, to start a business on your own, to be independent, self-reliant and to build your own security. The real job of politicians is to create conditions in which that freedom can flourish for the benefit of individuals, their families and society as a whole.

That is why we Conservatives put forward positive plans for owning your own home, whether it be built privately or by the council. That way you have a real stake in Britain, something for which you are responsible, about which you can make decisions and which you can eventually pass on to your children.

That is why we legislated for a second pension, one which is for the most part independent of the State, and why we contest the unjustifiably high contributions on the self-employed, proposed by the present Government.

That is why we encourage thrift, savings, and share ownership, and why we challenge the Socialists when they brand the results of such efforts as legitimate targets for heavy taxation at comparatively low levels of income.

That is why we plan to keep the grammar schools, the opportunity ladder to the top, especially for those who otherwise might not have a chance.

That is why we defend the right of the citizen to spend his money as he pleases, including on private education and health.

That is why we conserve and strengthen private enterprise believing that those who have spent their lives in business know how to run it better than the politicians. In spite of the difficulties private companies face (difficulties often imposed by politicians) they still win almost all our export trade, provide most of the jobs, and benefit the Exchequer to the tune of about £3,000 million a year.

But the practice and furtherance of freedom are now alien to the political programmes of our Socialist opponents. Theirs is no longer a party whose purpose is to give opportunity and hope to the underprivileged. It is a party dedicated to more State control, dominated by its Left-wing, and dictated to by the more militant members of unions. The moderates are leaving. Those who remain seem ready to resign over Europe, but not over too much nationalisation. And we must not be misled by the argument that nationalisation puts power into the hands of the people—it doesn't. Those who give to the people powers they cannot use, in effect assign those powers to the back-room bureaucrats or their party chiefs.

And the arrogant desire to control the lives of others does not stop at the nationalisation of industry. It extends to the “municipalisation” of private homes; it occurs in the refusal to let council tenants become home owners; it is seen in the determination to tax people until they “howl with anguish,” until they become dependent on the State.

Labour's record

This is the cold, icy fear behind tomorrow's vote. The British people don't like a Government to have too much power. We don't like being pushed around.

And yet—we don't like trouble either. We prefer a quiet life. But unconditional surrender and submission does not bring a quiet life. It stimulates more demands, [end p1] and more strikes if those demands are not swiftly met. As Michael Foot admitted: “The social compact never said all strikes should be ended.” Indeed, the facts show that comparing the Labour Government's record this year with ours for the same time last year, there have been more strikes (12 per cent. more) and more days lost (35 per cent.) under them than there were under us.

When pay claims are made, they are sometimes presented as claims against Governments. But they are really claims which can only be paid for by fellow workers, housewives and consumers generally. Last year the 15 nationalised industries taken together cost £468 million. Extra pay, if not matched by increased productivity, can only be met by higher prices (hence the increases in the price of coal and electricity) or out of taxation. In either case it is the people who pay.

Other nations, when faced with rising wage costs have, like us, handled a freeze and the first following phase fairly successfully. After that, strains set in which make it difficult to continue. We have been through the cycle three times now: the Selwyn Lloyd pay pause, the 1964–70 Labour Government's statutory policy, and the last Government's policy. Some groups will keep to a voluntary policy or a social compact, but others will not. Most unions observed a statutory incomes policy faithfully, but even that was challenged.

There is no simple or final solution to the problem. Only a constant process of putting the case both to those who make the claim and to those who pay the price, a ceaseless effort to persuade and to co-operate. And an economic policy which does not add to the demand, which the incomes policy was designed to reduce.

This vexed problem of an incomes policy is partly one of rising expectations, and partly a contest of power. I believe that the overwhelming majority of our people, whatever their present or past political allegiance, want to do a good day's work for a good day's pay; want to carry on unhindered by strife; want to be free to spend their money as they choose. How do they achieve this?

The power of a highly organised minority is great. But it should not be greater than the power of an elected majority. That is the basis of the democratic contract. The contract in which the minority consent to be governed by the majority, knowing that they will have the chance to become the majority next time. The contract which is implicit is our system of Parliamentary Government. Unless that contract is kept, democracy is at an end, and the freedoms which go with it.

The way the nation decides tomorrow is crucial to our whole future. A Socialist State can come about by voting Labour or Liberal. It would be irreversible. The fight for freedom is one which knows no final victory. It has to be renewed daily by the actions and spirit of man. Through their efforts and determination our forefathers gave us this priceless gift. Let us ensure that we transmit it unsullied to future generations.