Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

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

1975 Sep 16 Tu
Margaret Thatcher

TV Interview for NBC Today

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Venue: Unknown
Source: (1) Evening Standard , 16 September 1975 (2) Daily Telegraph , 17 September 1975 (3) BBC Radio News Report 1800 16 September 1975
Journalist: Barbara Walters, NBC
Editorial comments: Live interview beginning 0700 (Thatcher Archive: "Programme in New York", 10 September 1975). No transcript has been found. Non-Thatcher copyright material paraphrased. Report for Evening Standard by Jeremy Campbell, for Daily Telegraph by Ian Ball. The Daily Telegraph article also includes an account of the Pilgrims speech later that day. The closing words of the interview can be found in the BBC Panorama programme on MT’s US tour (listed 22 September 1975).
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 2101
Themes: Commonwealth (general), Economy (general discussions), Public spending & borrowing, Taxation, Foreign policy (Middle East), Foreign policy (USA), Foreign policy (USSR & successor states), Social security & welfare, Women

[Non-Thatcher copyright material paraphrased]

(1) Evening Standard, 16 September 1975:

‘I'll be PM within four years’—Maggie

Washington, Tuesday. MT told Americans today she will be PM in under four years and is capable of forming a strong government.

Interviewed on Today show, a breakfast-time programme watched by millions, Tory leader also said that she has, “like most women, a pretty strong will and a determination.”

She was interviewed by Barbara Walters, a hard-headed TV veteran who said she was told MT was “ruthless and ambitious, an iron butterfly.”

Mrs Thatcher mildly criticised US Press for flimsy coverage of British affairs. “Things are nothing like as bad as they are painted in Britain,” she said. “We have serious problems. We are not growing fast enough. But we are the same people that we always were. We have the same sense of adventure. We are inventive. We have a large number of Nobel prize-winners and all of the talents are still there.

“We are an eleventh-hour nation. We tend to wait until the last minute until we act. Well, we are at the eleventh hour now and action has been taken.”

Miss Walters expressed amazement a politician expecting election should publicly admit standards of living will fall, but Mrs Thatcher endorsed that view. “It is inevitable,” she said. “Living within our means entails lowering our standard of living. You can't pay yourself more money without doing more work. And the people who suffer most from the fall in the value of money are older people who cannot increase their income to compensate.


“Most of the propaganda campaigns start out by saying ‘let's tax the rich.’ But before long you find there are no rich left and you are taxing the income of the average person. In the last 10 years the tax rate for the average person has gone up from five per cent to 25 per cent and Government spending is up by four hundred pounds for each man, woman and child in Britain in the last two years. We have to restrict that rate of spending.”

On foreign affairs, Mrs Thatcher denied Israel has “lost all its friends in Europe.” She said: “Israel is a small country like us, which has to export to survive, and we have a special understanding of those problems. I am pleased with the agreement Dr Kissinger managed to obtain.”

Accused of hostility to US policy of detente with the Soviet Union, Mrs Thatcher said she is not opposed to detente as such but warned: “We have the most precious system of government in the world. We must never drop our guard. We all want greater friendship between peoples, but we don't get that by signing pieces of paper. And at the moment there just plainly isn't freedom of ideas and freedom of movement between the East and West.”

Mrs Thatcher arrives D.C. tomorrow. On Thursday will breakfast with Dr Kissinger, the U.S. Secretary of State and see President Ford later in the morning.

She may do another TV interview on Sunday.

She has said she intends to assure Mr Ford that she and her fellow Tories are “absolutely resolved to preserve the closest possible co-operation with the U.S.”

Anglo-American strains under the Prime Ministership of Edward Heath were caused she said “by our great anxiety to join the European Community.” [end p1]

(2) Daily Telegraph, 17 September 1975:

Britain ‘is at the 11th hour’

Mrs Thatcher, the Conservative leader, made impassioned plea yesterday to a coast-to-coast television audience in the US and Canada, asking North Americans not to write off Britain as a great country because of its present economic woes.

“We're still the same people,” she declared. “We've still the same inventiveness, we've still the same sense of adventure.

“We're still one of the nations that gets a very large percentage of Nobel prizes compared with our population, perhaps the biggest.

“We're still the same people that fought for freedom. All the abilities, all of the talents are still there.”

She asked for understanding of Britain's special way of solving crises. “I sometimes say that I think perhaps we are an 11th-hour nation.

“We wait rather late to take effective action. And we are at the 11th hour now, and action is being taken, and please, there's no doubt Britain can come out of her present economic problems.”

Mrs Thatcher asked her audience to accept that the sitution in Britain was “nothing like as bad as it's painted.”

“We have problems. It would be foolish to ignore that they are serious problems. They are financial problems, they are economic problems, we're not growing fast enough.

“I think we haven't the incentives to grow fast enough. And like you we're suffering from a recession in world trade.” But the theme she pressed was that Britain retained its resilience.

Power of the State

Her long interview on the NBC “Today” programme, which is watched in 7 million homes, was best chance MT has yet had to put her political philosophy before a mass American audience.

To more sophisticated viewers, she showed she is not inexperienced on global matters.

Seated before huge mural of British Isles, MT asked whether there were lessons for Americans in Britain's economic decline and whether 30 years of the welfare state had inflicted “major damage” to the country.

“I don't think major damage,” she replied. “I think what's happened is that we have pursued equality and more and more power to the State and more and more expenditure by the State, and we haven't really thought about leaving enough money in the pockets of the people.

“I think you've got to have a balance between the sort of responsibility that the State has and the sort of responsibility a person has.

Balance of spending

“You've also got to have a balance about money. After all, governments can only spend people's money. There is no such thing as a Government grant. There is only a taxpayers' grant.

“So the more you expect from government, the more they'll take from your pocket. Now, of course, there is no question of our retreating on things like the National Health Service, free education.

“But what we must look at is whether we are going to expect governments to do even more expenditure, over and above that, because to do it, they can only take money away from people and once they take too much away then there ceases to be incentives for people to earn more.

“If you stop creating wealth, then you just haven't got enough resources to do what you want. It's a rather complex argument, but it means getting a sort of balance between more equality on the one hand and more opportunity on the other. Because opportunity, if it means anything, must be an opportunity to be unequal.”

MT was asked to explain her view on tax incentives for individuals and companies. She offered this summary:

“I think most of these propaganda campaigns start off by saying, ‘Look, let's tax the rich. If you do that then the poorer will be better off, and anything the State does the rich can pay for.’

“Before very long you find that there aren't any rich left, and you're taxing not the rich but the income of the average person.

“We find in Great Britain over the last 10 or 11 years that the amount the average wage-earner has paid in taxation has gone up from about five per cent. of his earnings to about 25 per cent.

“That's an enormous jump, you know, in 10 years and naturally they say ‘Well, please, we would rather have a bit more of our own money left to spend in our own way so don't go on taking a lot more in Government spending.’

“You have to restrict Government expenditure, not let it grow. Over the last two years Government expenditure, which has to be paid for by the taxpayer, has actually gone up in Great Britain by £400 per year; £400 for every man, woman and child over the last two years.

“That's come out of the taxpayers' pocket, out of borrowing. And what you really must do is not let Government or State expenditure grow faster than the growth of ordinary incomes, because if you do, you are having to take a bigger proportion away.

“Hold it, hold your Government expenditure until in fact you get more growth in your economy.”

MT, whose day began before dawn, went on from the interview to spend almost an hour discussing municipal finance in general, and New York's current crisis in particular, with Mayor Abraham Beam in his office at City Hall.

She then drove back from Lower Manhattan to give an off-the-record briefing, arranged by British Information Services, for a large group of American Press, television and radio journalists.

Last night, she addressed members of the Pilgrims of the United States, and returned to her consideration of Britain's economic troubles.

“We are beset by problems, some common to other countries, [end p2] some of our own making,” she said. “For too long we have played with the soft option.

“They lead where Conservatives always said they would lead—to inflation at 25 per cent., to unemployment over one million, to a lower standard of living, to a lesser standard for living.”

Mrs Thatcher went on to “update some of the sentiments of a famous American”—Abraham Lincoln. “You cannot pay yourself more money unless you do more work.

“You cannot print more money unless you produce more goods. You cannot have more jobs unless you have more investment. You cannot have more investment unless you have more savings.

“You cannot have more savings unless you keep face with the saver. You cannot keep more face with the saver unless you have sound money. You cannot have sound money if you spend beyond your means.”

She added: “But you can't increase your means unless you increase your effort; and there we are back where we started. Perhaps these things can best be summed up with the phrase ‘You cannot have self-government unless you have learned self-discipline’.”

“Lost lessons”

It would be a long time before Britain really defeated inflation if these truths were ignored, and if people were encouraged to talk of “free” services and of Government expenditure as i neither really affected their own pockets.

“Some of these lessons, fear, have got lost in Britain, she said. “But the underlying sense of the British people i sound.

“These fundamental truths strike a chord which we cannot fail to hear; we have been brought face to face with today's realities and we must act now, if we are to keep pace with tomorrow's world.

“My party's policies would, of course, be different from those of the present Government, and at home I am continually critical of some of the things they do. But the ability, inventiveness and determination of our people are just as much there today as they were in the past.

“You can count on them for the future. There is, too, a new determination that the will of the commonsense majority shall prevail as it prevailed in the recent referendum.” [end p3]

(3) BBC Radio News Report 1800 16 September 1975

MT, continuing her visit to US, has said Britain is at the eleventh hour with 25 per cent inflation and unemployment over the one million mark. Speaking in New York, she said if we continued to ignore the truth that you cannot have self-government without self discipline, then it would be a long time before we started to create more wealth instead of redistributing what we already had. Nevertheless, Mrs. Thatcher said earlier—in an interview on American television—that things in Britain weren't as bad as they were being painted: [end p4]


We're still the same people; we've still the same inventiveness; we've still the same sense of adventure; we're still one of the nations that gets a very large percentage of Nobel Prizes compared with our population, and perhaps the biggest; we're still the same people who fought for freedom—all the abilities, all the talents are still there. I sometimes say that I think that perhaps we're an eleventh hour nation—that, you know, we wait rather late to take effective action. We're at the eleventh hour now and action is being taken and, please, there's no doubt Britain can come out of her present economic problem.