Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

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

1975 Jan 30 Th
Margaret Thatcher

TV Interview for BBC Midweek

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Venue: ?House of Commons
Source: BBC Television Archive: OUP transcript
Journalist: Michael Cockerell, BBC
Editorial comments: Morning.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 4680
Themes: Executive, Conservative Party (organization), Conservative Party (history), Elections & electoral system, Conservative (leadership elections), Women
Opening shots: bucolic scenes of party members arriving at large country home of Colin Shepherd, Conservative MP for Hereford. A church bell tolls in the background.

Michael Cockerell, BBC

Once upon a time the leader of the Conservative Party used to emerge from a magic circle of old Etonians. But all that was ten years ago. In these democratic days every Tory Association has to have a say in the choice of leader, though it's only the 276 MPs who will actually vote on it next Tuesday. Colin Shepherd is MP for Hereford and he has invited party officials to his home to help make up his mind. Shepherd is one of 58 Conservative MPs who was elected for the first time last year. His seat on the border with Wales is a marginal one. The votes of the new boys at Westminster may well decide who is to be the next Tory leader.

Cut to shots of Ted Heath arriving at a rally in Liverpool; cheering and applauding crowd of supporters, some chanting “We want Ted, we want Ted”

Michael Cockerell, BBC

The man who made the leadership contest both necessary and possible was last weekend attending a rally of the Tory faithful in Liverpool. The leader of a Party that depends on volunteers has to press the flesh and remember the right names.

Film with sound in background of Heath exchanging small talk with individuals in the crowd.

And it's Mr Heath's personality and ability to communicate, as much as his policies, that even his supporters question. Ironically, Mr Heath is the first, and so far the only democratically elected leader of the Conservative Party. But the rules by which he was chosen ten years ago had one major omission: there's no provision for getting rid of the leader. In theory Mr Heath could have remained King for life. But after last October's General Election defeat—his third in four contests—the pressure on him to have the rules changed was irresistable. Heath appointed a committee under Sir Alec Douglas-Home, the man he had replaced as leader, to draw up a new set of rules. Sir Alec produced a series of proposals of Byzantine complexity that some people feel are specifically designed to ditch Mr Heath. Now the leader must stand for re-election every year and Mr Heath's own campaign began last weekend.

Film of Heath beginning his speech to Conservatives in Liverpool.

Edward Heath

Mr Chairman, ladies and gentlemen. It's splendid to be up here again, in the north-west, and to have the opportunity of meeting so many of you from the 18 constituencies who are represented here this morning, and to find you all in such excellent form and in such high spirits. Indeed, would I be wrong if I detected a certain sort of electoral atmosphere here? [loud laughter]

Film of MT in dawn light walking along Flood Street towards her front door.

Michael Cockerell, BBC

At dawn this morning the main challenger to Mr Heath arrived home after an all night session. She's been leading the Conservative attack on Denis Healey's budget proposals—like the gifts tax—that she sees as an attack on middle class values. At eight o'clock this morning she left her Chelsea home to start again. [Film of MT walking from her front door to small car; unlocks car and drives off.]Though nominations for the leadership closed at noon, her name was entered two days ago. Mrs Margaret Thatcher is a self-made woman, a grocer's daughter who served as a frontbencher under Mr Heath for ten years, most notably as Minister of Education. [Shots of MT at her desk working on papers.]She's a former tax lawyer, and as Tory spokesman on financial affairs her carefully prepared assaults on the Labour frontbench have greatly impressed her parliamentary colleagues in the last few weeks. In a deeply traditional party, a number of MPs are now considering for the first time the possibility of a woman as leader.

[Interview with MT begins: MT filmed in an office or drawing room, sitting against backdrop of painting of Palace of Westminster]

MT

Well, it was not I who decided that there should be a contest for the leadership at all. It was the Parliamentary Party that said “look, we've had the same leader for ten years, he hasn't got an absolute freehold for life. Isn't it time we had another election?” Now they took that decision, and it would be very strange indeed, if after you had had one leader for ten years and you have spent four years of that time in government, there weren't quite a number of people able and willing to be take up the challenge. Indeed, I think it would have been a criticism of the Conservative Party if there hadn't been someone.

Film of Sir Hugh Fraser and Lady Antonia Fraser taking tea.

Lady Antonia Fraser

Yes, I must say, if you were, if you weren't standing, and I did have a vote, I would vote for Mrs Thatcher. Because I would love to see [laughing, pouring tea] a woman as head of the Conservative Party. But that's…

Michael Cockerell, BBC

Hugh Fraser is the rank outsider in the leadership contest. His best known asset is his wife, Lady Antonia Fraser, the gifted historian and daughter of Lord Longford.

Lady Antonia Fraser

I admire…

Sir Hugh Fraser

I admire her very much. I admire them both.

Lady Antonia Fraser

I admire Ted Heath, I just think he's an unlucky General, and having studied Cromwell…

Sir Hugh Fraser

Oh.

Lady Antonia Fraser

…that, you know, you have to go for lucky Generals.

Sir Hugh Fraser

Yes. You see her as a Boudicca?

Lady Antonia Fraser

I believe you pronounce that Boo-dicc-ah. [laughter]Both Ted Heath and Margaret Thatcher, in a way—they may not mean too—are going in for personalities, and I'm not sure that personalities are their strong point, whereas I think your personality, if I may say so, is your strong point.

Sir Hugh Fraser

Oh, how very sweet.

Lady Antonia Fraser

On that happy note I think you should take the children to school! [laughter]

Sir Hugh Fraser

Perhaps I should. Well done.[Kisses his wife on the top of her head; leaves; shots as he goes to car (no children in sight).]

Michael Cockerell, BBC

Unlike Mr Heath, Fraser is an exotic, upper class Tory, and the father of six children. A junior minister in Macmillan's government, he is a right-winger and an anti-marketeer. He seems likely to attract those traditional Tories who want to be rid of Mr Heath, but cannot bring themselves to vote for a woman. Fraser interview begins: Fraser filmed behind his desk, long windows overlooking a London square.

Sir Hugh Fraser

You may call my candidature very audacious one. [sic] And frankly I would not be standing unless I was extremely worried about the whole position of the Conservative Party.

Michael Cockerell, BBC

What particularly are you worried…

Sir Hugh Fraser

Well, I'm standing against the present Establishment, because I think the present Establishment has not been successful, and has forgotten some of the bases on which the Conservative Party is based.

Cut to film of Colin Shepherd 's constituency officials meeting at his home.

Michael Cockerell, BBC

Colin Shepherd's still undecided between the three candidates on the first ballot. If none of them win outright next Tuesday, Shepherd will have the chance to vote again a week later, when fresh candidates can enter the contest. The officials he consults represent what Conservatives call “the party in the country”—a grocer, a retired army major, a garage proprietor, a cattle auctioneer, housewives and farmers. Shepherd himself runs the family business making garbage disposal units. He's convinced that the prolonged leadership doubts must now be resolved.

Colin Shepherd

It's a confidence problem, isn't it? You must believe in yourselves. This is a team game that we're playing, if it's a game—it's not a game—the thing is a team though. A good team is a good Opposition. Just like, the Leatherhead against Leicester the other day, one non-League team can take a League team flat out. Well, a good team can wipe out the second team, if it's playing together. And this is what I want.

Film of Shepherd addressing his constituency officials

Colin Shepherd

Well, it's very very kind of you to come out this morning and spare me your time to come and discuss this question of the leadership. Um, it is a point which is with us right the way across now. We are at the point where Mr Heath has said “go, we must get a decision on the leadership”. Lyndon, as a telly man, how does it look to you?

Young male constituency officer

I think the new leader has got to be Margaret Thatcher. I think she'd come over extremely well over the media, and I think in the past the Party has tended to choose a leader who is, um, maybe, looked the best politician, the best parliamentarian, the best statesman. But we've got to wake up that the next election is going to be '75, '76', '77, and in order to elect the next Prime Minister we've got to find the leader who will win the election.

Middle aged female constituency officer

I think probably, at the moment, my choice would be Ted Heath—not because I am against a woman, I agree that where women have got to the top they can be very good. I just don't know how Margaret Thatcher would be as Prime Minister.

Middle aged male constituency officer

I'm for Ted Heath. I think he was jolly unlucky to have lost the last election…

Colin Shepherd

Yup, yup. Jolly unlucky in fact.

Middle aged male constituency officer

Jolly unlucky. So I think his luck will change, and, uh, we shall probably be much better off with him.

Middle aged female constituency officer

I think a woman Prime Minister, and particularly Margaret Thatcher, would be a very splendid thing at this moment. The fortunes of the Conservative Party are low. Let's have a complete change. This extraordinarily efficient woman, and clever woman, has a lot to give to this country. I say “let her give it”.

Colin Shepherd

So are we ready for a…woman Prime Minister?

Young female constituency officer

No, I don't think so. I agree she's a tremendous woman, and maybe much later on, but I certainly don't think so at the moment. I think you would stand to lose too much. I don't think our party really could take any change like that. I don't think it's ready for that at the moment.

Michael Cockerell, BBC

Stock shots of MT at the hairdressers from July 1970 Panorama profile.

Margaret Thatcher goes to the same hairdresser in Mayfair as Mrs Barbara Castle, although unlike Mrs Castle she sits in the open, not in a private cubicle. There are successful women party leaders and prime ministers in the world. But doubts about Mrs Thatcher centre not on her intellectual ability, but—as one of her most prominent supporters puts it—on whether she can really identify with the problems that affect most people in this country.

Film of MT talking to her hairdresser.

MT

There's still a little bit sticking up there, you can see it in the reflection.

Michael Cockerell, BBC

That view was strengthened by the notorious food hoarding affair, though Mrs Thatcher insists she's not a hoarder, just a prudent housewife. [Still photograph of MT pointing, grim-faced, at the small supply of tins, bottles and packets in her larder.] Although Mrs Thatcher is keen to emphasise her humble origins, her career has brought her material rewards, like a second home in the country. [More film from 1970 Panorama profile: shots of Lamberhurst; Jaguar standing in drive of large mock Tudor house; Thatchers working in the garden.] She strongly defends middle class values, if that means the right to private property and barriers against the powers of the state. Her husband, Denis Thatcher, is a company director. He's much shyer of the limelight than his famous wife. At the recent crisis meeting of Burmah Oil, where he works, he avoided the press by unceremoniously leaping over the back wall. [Still photograph of Denis Thatcher escaping.] Margaret Thatcher says that the Conservatives lost the two elections last year because they didn't appear to stand for anything distinctive and positive. With Sir Keith Josephher closest political associate, she set up the Centre for Policy Studies in July last year. On a management board of two, Mrs Thatcher is vice-chairman. The chairman is Sir Keith Joseph, the only Shadow Cabinet minister publicly to have come out in her support.

Film of Keith Joseph behind his desk at the CPS.

Sir Keith Joseph

She combines a very warm human understanding, a real understanding of how the economy and society works, with a great strength of character, and this is an unusual combination.

Michael Cockerell, BBC

Do you have any reservations at all about her ability to lead the party?

Sir Keith Joseph

Look, there are no perfect animals in this imperfect world! Mrs Thatcher would be the first to admit that, uh, she hasn't had experience of foreign affairs. You have to arsquouire experience. You form a team, and you learn from your colleagues if you form a team. No one is perfect. I don't think any of the candidates, in any party at any time, are perfect.

Michael Cockerell, BBC

But it has been said by her critics that if she were to become leader of the Conservative Party, the Conservative Party would become more like a kind of middle class preservation society?

Sir Keith Joseph

I think that's…deeply misunderstands the nature of the population. I think what we call, for shorthand, “middle class values” are widely spread among the population. When I have spoken on the subject I get letters from every sort of home.

Peter Walker

[Film of Peter Walker sitting in armchair.]The majority of young MPs, and the majority of young people in the Conservative Party, Young Conservative movement for example, are very enthusiastic to retain Mr Heath, because they do feel that on the big issues of the day he recognises the nature of the changing international situation, recognises the importance of remaining a very important component part of Europe, and recognises that many changes are taking place in our society. And I think certainly both young MPs and Young Conservatives have identified themselves pretty firmly with Mr Heath.

Michael Cockerell, BBC

What do you think will happen on the first ballot?

Peter Walker

I think Mr Heath will win. [Shot held for a few seconds close on Peter Walker's face after he answers the question.]

Michael Cockerell, BBC

The first ballot will be held on Tuesday, and to win outright a candidate must win a majority of all Tory MPs—that's 139 votes—and have a 42 vote over the nearest rival. If no one achieves this, there will be a second ballot held a week later. At this stage new candidates may enter the contest, a rule described as “the coward's charter”. To win, one of them must get 139 votes, over half of all Tory MPs. But if no one does, then there's a sudden death play-off between the three candidates who received most votes on the second ballot. A result is guaranteed by a system of first and second preference votes, which ensures that someone gets 139 votes.

Edward Heath

[Edward Heath interviewed sitting beside his desk in the Leader of the Opposition's room at the House of Commons.]

There was a great deal of criticism about candidates being able to enter on the second ballot, instead of all coming forward in the first ballot. There's been a great deal of criticism of the proposal for annual elections, because they say this undermines the authority of the leader of the party. There's criticism of the fact that you have to get, uh, fifty per cent of all those who could vote, whereas in, uh, I think in almost every other sort of constitution it is fifty per cent of those who do vote, or a percentage of those who do vote. So there are these very serious criticisms. What I had to take into account was also the general view of those whom I consulted, which was that the situation facing us a country today, economically, and also the importance of the European policy, meant that we ought to get this question settled as soon as possible.

Michael Cockerell, BBC

[Graphics and photographs on leadership ballot.]When nominations closed at noon today, there were three candidates for the first ballot: Messrs Heath and Fraser, and Mrs Thatcher. Though both the Heath and Thatcher camps are claiming strong support, neither is convinced of outright victory. If the result of the first ballot looks like a lost vote of confidence in Mr Heath, then his former supporters like Mr Whitelaw and Mr Prior may well come forward for the second ballot. Others, like Mr Julian Amery and Sir Geoffrey Howe, might also come in at this stage. But Mr Whitelaw, who declares his position tomorrow night, is seen as the favourite on any second ballot.

Michael Cockerell, BBC

[Film cuts to Mr Heath.] Do you not feel that after ten years at the top, there's a case for a change in the Tory leadership?

Edward Heath

I don't think that's a very sensible or rational approach. [Heath smiles.]

Michael Cockerell, BBC

But many Conservative leaders have in the past been regarded essentially as election winners, and you've lost three out of the last four elections. Don't you think that there is a case for a change?

Edward Heath

Wel, I don't think that's been view which has taken, been taken in the past about the Conservative leadership. I think the Conservative Party has always said that there are a considerable number of things involved in leadership, and, uh, the main thing of course is that the leader of the Party should be a good Prime Minister when the Party is in power. This is a major factor in the situation. Uh, and you have to look back to the time when other Conservative leaders have lost elections as well. Of course, to say a leader loses an election is itself a pretty controversial thing to say. Uh, our decisions in the Cabinet, of '73, '74, were taken collectively. We were a very strong Cabinet and my colleagues always had every opportunity of expressing their views and I think it speaks for itself that for nearly four years of that Cabinet we were united on some of the most difficult problems which any government has had to face. We carried through the European policy, we took Britain into the Common Market, uh, we had to handle the very difficult problem of Ireland. We didn't have one resignation from that Cabinet on grounds of differences of policy. And, after all, we might remember that Mr Churchill lost us the '45 election, having done more than anybody as the architect of victory in the Second World War. He also lost the 1950 election. [smiles]

Michael Cockerell, BBC

If you don't get a majority on the first ballot, the required majority, are you determined to stand in the second ballot and, if necessary, the third ballot?

Edward Heath

[Firmly and quickly.]Yes.

Michael Cockerell, BBC

You're absolutely determined, even if you come second, say, in the first ballot?

Edward Heath

Well, uh, that's a different position. But, uh, the first question you put was on the question of leading, and I am determined then to see the procedure through.

Michael Cockerell, BBC

How disappointed would you be…

Edward Heath

[Interrupts]This does not exclude standing on the other ballots, even if one came second, because, uh, one has to look at the situation, as to what the likely developments would be.

Michael Cockerell, BBC

So even if you came second you would might still stand on the second ballot.

Edward Heath

Yes, um.

Michael Cockerell, BBC

Is there anything that would make you voluntarily relinquish the leadership of the Conservative Party?

Edward Heath

Oh well, this is an entirely hypothetical question. We are dealing with this present situation, in which we are going to have an election on Tuesday, in which I am a candidate, and which I shall fight. I have been a fighter all my life and I shall go on fighting. [Heath smiles.]

Michael Cockerell, BBC

[Film cuts to MT]How well organised is your campaign for the leadership?

MT

Well now, I have to rely wholly on voluntary help, because I've no machine behind me, uh, and I have, uh, a very considerable number of people helping because they want to help, and it's pretty well organised. But voluntarily.

Michael Cockerell, BBC

But what does that mean? A number of MPs going up in the lobbies of the House of Commons and trying to persuade other MPs to vote for you?

MT

No campaign manager reveals fully all the details. Would you?

Michael Cockerell, BBC

The suggestion is that if you were elected leader, the steady erosion that the Conservative Party in the urban areas, and in the north of England would continue?

MT

Uh, you're the first person who has ever said that. I've never heard it before. I think it's wholly wrong. What has happened in fact is that in the last ten years, we have lost the north. We have lost it. We have lost the large towns in the last ten years. Now, this is pretty ironic, when you think that on the whole Britain is, uh, known for its industry and commerce, and the Conservative Party usually had some of its strongholds in the centres of industry and commerce. And I agree, we've got to get them back, and we shall get them back. But it wasn't I who lost them, except by being a member of Mr Heath's administration and therefore bearing the same responsibility as he does. I don't shrink from that.

Michael Cockerell, BBC

But the suggestion is that you represent a south eastern seat, you live in Chelsea, and who look, [sic; MT frowns] if I may so, like a middle class lady, would not be the right person to attract back the vote in those kind of industrial areas of northern England.

MT

I think it's a wholly false question. Mr Heath represents a south eastern seat and lives in Westminster.

Michael Cockerell, BBC

How strong, how strong do you think the male chauvinist vote is, among your colleagues in the Conservative Party?

MT

I do not think it is very strong. I think it is a very very small minority. Attitudes have changed very quickly, in the past few weeks, let alone over the past few years, and I think people think why should we be behind other nations in the view we take as to having women in very prominent positions? Can't we look to them according to what they are, rather than because they are men or women?

Michael Cockerell, BBC

[Film cuts to Sir Hugh Fraser] How is your campaign being organised?

Sir Hugh Fraser

My campaign is being organised scarcely at all. I am standing—I think people know what I'm standing for, I think—I'm standing for as, not against Ted and not against Margaret Thatcher, but against what has gone on, and, uh, I think that the, my colleagues have got a vote now, they've got a vote, a chance of either supporting the leader of that Establishment, and quite frankly I see no point in their electing any shadow of that leader, whether male or female. If Mrs Thatcher was of the calibre of Mrs Golda Meir, I think she'd be a very proper person to take over the leadership. But I regard her, personally, as part of, uh, an Establishment, a leadership which has failed.

Michael Cockerell, BBC

Conservative MPs have three and a half hours from midday on Tuesday to cast their votes. As they troop into Committee Room 14 of the House of Commons, they'll face more choices than just the three names on the ballot paper. They may abstain, or even vote for the candidate they least want to win, in the hope of encouraging the one they want most to come forward. Though both the Heath and Thatcher campaign managers have been assiduously lobbying, many younger MPs admit their names are on the lists of all three candidates. They feel they don't yet owe any political debts.

Colin Shepherd

We have had ten years on the one side, let us say, there'll be a number of people who would have liked to think they could have gone further under one regime and can see their opportunity under another regime. Wherever you have got people of intensity, integrity and ambition together, there must be a certain amount of playing for position, in one form or another. That is why I say, at this particular time, I can be objective. I don't have anything to lose, [laughing] and I have an awful lot to gain both ways—all ways—in being able to do what I want to do, which is to see our way of life go forward.

Michael Cockerell, BBC

Would male chauvinist considerations affect you, or could you see a woman Prime Minister?

Colin Shepherd

No, I want to see the right person for the right job. I can see a woman, um, leading the Conservative Party. No trouble at all. I can see a woman. I just want to see the right person doing it, for the best interests of the Party and the country afterwards. Because this is really what it's all about. And the sex really doesn't worry me at all. Doesn't worry me.

Michael Cockerell, BBC

Do you think that Mrs Thatcher might be that woman?

Colin Shepherd

It's not beyond the bounds of possibility, not beyond the bounds of possibility. Whether I think it or not is a… possibly rather a leading question I would not answer at this time.

Edward Heath

[Film cuts to Heath's speech in Liverpool.]I want a Britain which frightens her enemies, and delights her friends, a Britain that is fun to live in and exciting to work in. A Britain strong enough to be tolerant, and confident enough to be compassionate. That's the Britain which I want. [Hear, hear] If I was alone in what I feel, then I too would begin to lose hope. But I know that I am not alone…

Michael Cockerell, BBC

In his ten years as party leader, Mr Heath has been written off more times than he cares to recall.[Film cuts to Heath unveiling a plaque and posing for photos, at Liverpool meeting.]

Edward Heath

…all the official photographers, all the unofficial photographers.

Applause.

Michael Cockerell, BBC

It will be a political irony if the bachelor party leader were to be replaced by a woman. But Heath echoes Mark Twain in saying: “The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated” .