Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

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

1975 Feb 4 Tu
Margaret Thatcher

TV Interview for ITN (winning leadership first ballot)

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Venue: House of Commons
Source: (1) ITN Archive: Early Evening News (2) ITN Archive: News At Ten 4 February 1975
Journalist: Julian Haviland, ITN
Editorial comments: The interview must have taken place between 1600 and 1700. News of Heath’s resignation had not reached MT at this point. The interview was first broadcast on the early evening news and part of it was transmitted a second time on News At Ten. The whole of ITN’s evening news coverage of the first ballot is included in this item.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 4392
Themes: Conservative Party (organization), Conservative (leadership elections)
(1) ITN Archive: Early Evening News

Well, the lobbies and corridors at Westminster are certainly buzzing tonight. There was universal surprise among Conservative MP's at the size of Mrs. Thatcher's vote, which surpassed the calculations of even her supporters. They had expected her to run Mr. Heath close, but not to do this well and force Mr. Heath into second place.

Some MP's not previously supporters of Mrs. Thatcher were saying they were so impressed with the way she had campaigned and the courage of her stand that they too would vote for her on the second ballot next Tuesday.

Mrs. Thatcher's campaign manager, Mr. Airey Neave, said he was extremely delighted with the result. “We now think there is a good chance of her winning on the second ballot.”

Mrs. Thatcher now only needs another nine votes to get the overall majority she needs on the second ballot. But others may well switch their votes away from her to one of the other possible candidates who may now emerge. [end p1]

Haviland

Mrs. Thatcher, is this a higher vote than you expected?

Thatcher

It is just a few votes higher than our most optimistic forecasts, and we're very pleased.

Haviland

What are you going to do now? Obviously you're going through to the second ballot?

Thatcher

Yes, it's a very good basis on which to approach a second ballot. We hope our vote will hold, and we hope to attract some more.

Haviland

Have you any idea how many of these 130 votes are hard-core Thatcher supporters?

Thatcher

We believe quite a lot of them are, as you put it, hard-core Thatcher supporters.

Haviland

Is there any particular person who may now enter the lists whom you would have most reason to fear?

Thatcher

Well, I don't know what they will think of doing. Anyone as you know can come in on the second ballot, but they'll just have to look at the figures and make their own decisions. In politics you have to take what comes and just cope with it, and certainly from my viewpoint, we should take it one step at a time. We're through the first, and we approach the second one in a pretty good position.

Haviland

Do you think this first round has been to some extent an artificial ballot, a vote of confidence in Ted Heath? And that the next one will be a genuine vote?

Thatcher

I haven't found very much artificial about the first one. I can only tell you that as I was sitting waiting for the result, I knew that anyone of a dozen different results could have come—one could have been a long way behind Mr. Heath, or just about level, or well ahead of him, but I had no idea which one it would be.

Haviland

Would you have taken any result with the same equanimity as you have taken this one?

Thatcher

I hope so. That's part of the business of being [end p2] in politics—you have to cope with what comes.

Haviland

Would you like to see on the next ballot, all-comers coming in, so that the party can have quite the widest possible choice? In other words, that the election would be as democratic and open as possible. Would you welcome that?

Thatcher

I believe that whoever is next leader will want to feel that the party has had a wide choice, and therefore will be wholly satisfied with whomsoever they choose as a result of this ballot.

Haviland

The implication seems to be that the wider the choice the better the final result?

Thatcher

The wider the choice the stronger the position of the person who is finally chosen.

Haviland

Is there anybody in whose favour you would consider standing down, were they to let themselves be nominated?

Thatcher

I shall go ahead on the second ballot. I don't think one can look beyond that.

Haviland

Whoever stands? You can't imagine anybody standing whom you'd be happier to serve under than you would be to lead the party?

Thatcher

I shall go ahead on the second ballot with the largest vote—a vote of 130. I think I'm fully justified, not only in doing so, but in being fairly optimistic about the second ballot.

Haviland

Would you expect Mr. Heath to stand down tonight?

Thatcher

I think Edward Heathhe must take his time to decide. After all, I'm the first person to know that what is good news for me is rather sad news for him. And I wouldn't want him to make any decision in a hurry. He must make his own decision—we're all free to stand under this process.

Haviland

It may be of course that by the time this interview is broadcast that he will have made the announcement. If he is on the back benches, will you offer him a position?

Thatcher

I have already said that if he wanted a position, and I would like him to want one, he would of course be offered one. [end p3]

Haviland

Do I take it from that that you do in fact expect to emerge the winner at the end of the day Mrs. Thatcher?

Thatcher

I have learned to limit my expectations, and to take life as it comes. [end p4]

Presenter

We've just had a report that Mr. Heath has now decided to resign and not stand for the second ballot. Under the complex rules devised by Lord Home, more candidates can now enter the fray. It was hard to find an MP who didn't expect Mr. William Whitelaw to make a move fairly soon. He's been keeping his head down so far, and he's still refusing to say anything. But I gather he's already been having a meeting with his supporters at Central Office to decide whether or not he should stand. [end p5]

I believe that among the people present was Mr. Reginald Maudling, a former Home Secretary and still an influential figure in the party. Mr. Whitelaw 's decision is made easier by the fact that Mr. Heath failed to come top of the poll.

But Mr. Whitelaw may not be the only new candidate in the field. Mr. Hugh Fraser, who was not unpleased with his 16 votes, will now withdraw, and Mr. Edward Du Cann, the chairman of the 1922 Committee finally and conclusively ruled himself out. But there are a number of other senior members of the party who are considering their position. [end p6]

Mr Julian Amery, has started taking soundings to discover the extent of his support. So has Mr John Peyton, the present shadow leader of the House, though it's unlikely they will stand against each other. Mr Maurice Macmillan, a former employment minister and son of Mr Harold Macmillan, has said he's not ruling himself out either. There's a lot of support, too for Mr Jim Prior, shadow employment minister, who is also likely to come under pressure to stand.

Lord Home, who was responsible for the new election procedure, had said the aim was a decisive result on the first ballot. He must now be wondering what went wrong. [end p7] (2) NewsAt Ten

MR. HEATH RESIGNS AS LEADER OF THE CONSERVATIVE PARTY.

MRS. THATCHER HAS WON THE FIRST LEADERSHIP POLL BY ELEVEN VOTES.

NOW MR. WHITELAW SAYS HE'LL OPPOSE HER IN THE SECOND BALLOT. [end p8]

Good Evening.

After 10 years as the Conservative party leader Mr Heath resigned tonight after being beaten into second place by Mrs Thatcher in today's poll by Conservative MPs. There will be another ballot next Tuesday and tonight Mr William Whitelaw, the party chairman, announced he is going to stand as a candidate.

This was the vote by Tory MPs that led to Mr Heath's sudden resignation.

130 voted for Mrs Thatcher

119 for Mr Heath

16 for Mr Hugh Fraser

And there were 11 abstentions.

Mr Fraser, like Mr Heath says he won't stand again.

Here's our political editor Julian Haviland. [end p9]

Julian Haviland

It's a cruel business politics—and one's first and last thought tonight is for the rejected Mr. Heath sitting in his room at the Commons, as he was late tonight, preparing to clear room for his successor, with friends and rivals coming one after another to commiserate, to congratulate him on a brave fight, to wish him well. (Mr. Hugh Fraser 's been to cheer him up, having helped put him out of business but of course holding no grudges—and Mr. Julian Amery who's thinking of announcing his own candidature tomorrow.)

It was a different world when he walked in this morning. He never himself believed he'd win on the first ballot, but he had had assurances from enough MP's to believe that he would have a comfortable lead on the first ballot and a fighting chance of going on from there to win. And it must be hard for him to know that some of those who'd promised him support, withheld it. [end p10]

At least those who've seen him say he's not so shattered as he was just a year ago, when the first of last year's two election defeats left him poleaxed, as one friend said. Tonight, after talking with friends and reflecting only a couple of hours on the stark message of those voting figures, he put out his dignified statement: [end p11]

“As a result of the first ballot today for the leadership of the Conservative Party I have decided not to stand in the second ballot,” he said. And he went on: “it has been a great privilege to serve my party as its leader and my country as its Prime Minister. I should like to thank all those at Westminster and in the country who through the years in hard times as well as in good have given me their support and friendship.” [end p12]

And that was all. No regrets.

And Mr. Heath incidentally now loses his ministerial-size salary of nine and a half thousand pounds a year, and though he stays an MP, of course, will, I'm told, need to look for a job once he's had time to get his bearings again.

Meanwhile Mrs. Thatcher, as surprised as Mr. Heath, was preparing for the next round. [end p13]

An hour or two ago we found her at a ‘champagne celebration’ given by her chief campaigner, Mr. Airey Neave, MP, at his flat, a quarter of a mile from the House of Commons.

Norman Rees was there. … [end p14]

Norman Rees

This was to have been a private celebration, as Mrs. Thatcher, flushed with success, arrived to accept the congratulations of her most ardent supporters. Equally thrilled by a victory expected by no-one except her own campaigners, was her son Mark. Like any winner's dressing room after a big fight, the champagne flowed, with pro-Thatcher MPs beaming rather bewilderedly, one thought, in a glare of so much publicity. The only hiccough came when the glasses appeared to be empty for the press pictures of the happy family. The celebrations came just after Mrs. Thatcher had heard that Mr. Heath had withdrawn from the contest, but before the announcement that Mr. Whitelaw had decided to stand on the second ballot. So, when the kissing was over, I asked Mr. Thatcher whether he'd been surprised by this first result:

Rees

Was the result a surprise to you?

Denis Thatcher

Are you recording this? No, no it wasn't.

Rees

Do you expect Mrs. Thatcher's support to hold up under the next ballot?

Denis Thatcher

Yes, yes, I would, wholly.

Rees

You say you fully expect your wife to be leading a Conservative party, do you?

Denis Thatcher

I do.

Rees

How do you feel about it?

Denis Thatcher

Delighted. Terribly proud. Naturally. Wouldn't you? [end p15]

Julian Haviland

Mrs. Thatcher had already faced the press, and ITN, soon after the result was known, and before Mr. Heath had resigned. I asked her if she'd been surprised at the result … [end p16]

Haviland

Mrs. Thatcher, is this a higher vote than you expected?

Thatcher

It is just a few votes higher than our most optimistic forecasts, and we're very pleased.

Haviland

What are you going to do now? Obviously you're going through to the second ballot?

Thatcher

Yes, it's a very good basis on which to approach a second ballot. We hope our vote will hold, and we hope to attract some more.

Haviland

Have you any idea how many of these 130 votes are hard-core Thatcher supporters?

Thatcher

We believe quite a lot of them are, as you put it, hard core Thatcher supporters.

Haviland

Is there any particular person who may now enter the lists whom you would have most reason to fear?

Thatcher

Well, I don't know what they will think of doing. Anyone as you know can come in on the second ballot, but they'll just have to look at the figures and make their own decisions. In politics you have to take what comes and just cope with it, and certainly from my viewpoint, we should take it one step at a time. We're through the first, and we approach the second one in a pretty good position.

Haviland

Do you think this first round has been to some extent an artificial ballot, a vote of confidence in Ted Heath? And that the next one will be a genuine vote?

Thatcher

I haven't found very much artificial about the first one. I can only tell you that as I was sitting waiting for the result, I knew that anyone of a dozen different results could have come—one could have been a long way behind Mr. Heath or just about level, or well ahead of him, but I had no idea which one it would be.

Haviland

Would you have taken any result with the same equanimity as you have taken this one?

Thatcher

I hope so. That's part of the business of being [end p17] in politics—you have to cope with what comes.

Haviland

Would you like to see on the next ballot, all-comers coming in, so that the party can have quite the widest possible choice? In other words, that the election would be as democratic and open as possible. Would you welcome that?

Thatcher

I believe that whoever is next leader will want to feel that the party has had a wide choice, and therefore will be wholly satisfied with whomsoever they choose as a result of this ballot.

Haviland

The implication seems to be that the wider the choice the better the final result?

Thatcher

The wider the choice the stronger the position of the person who is finally chosen.

Haviland

Is there anybody in whose favour you would consider standing down, were they to let themselves be nominated?

Thatcher

I shall go ahead on the second ballot. [end p18]

Haviland

By now—six o'clock this evening—the anti-Thatcher forces were mobilising. Mr. Whitelaw had already been selected to take the place of the fallen Mr. Heath, and in the House of Commons he was consulting with the powerful Mr. Du Cann, chairman of the backbenchers, and the chief whip, Mr. Humphrey Atkins. Two hours later he declared himself.

David Rose asked Mr. Whitelaw tonight why he's opposing Mrs. Thatcher. [end p19]

Whitelaw

Naturally, as you know, I wanted Ted Heath to win. I believe it would have been right for our party, right for the country, with his enormous prestige both at home and abroad, and of course I voted for him and gave him my fullest support. My colleagues decided otherwise, and now with a very split situation between the three candidates it's perfectly clear that something is needed, particularly when the party in the country are as divided from the party in the House as they are, for the whole party to be united. I feel I might have a contribution to make in that regard, and that is why I'm putting myself forward to see if my colleagues think so.

Rose

Few people have been more closely associated than you yourself with Mr. Heath and with his policies—why should you attract any more votes than he did?

Whitelaw

I think that remains to be seen. I believe that I have a contribution to make in seeking to unite our party—the party in the country with the party in the House, and indeed the party in the House altogether. I believe that is the contribution I might be able to make, and I'm giving my colleagues the chance to decide whether they think I am the person most likely to unite the party. My goodness me, it's something that is very necessary at the present time.

Rose

Wouldn't the real way to unite the party be not to stand, but to give Mrs. Thatcher a clear run, and in fact to unite behind her?

Whitelaw

I don't think that one could say that that would have a hope at this stage of clearly uniting the party and it may be very difficult. Because the votes were very evenly split—she got 130 Ted Heath got 119, and Hugh Fraser got 16, so one sees that the party is very evenly split indeed. I don't pretend that after these elections—we're naturally going to see very split voting from now on—but what I believe is after that, a period of uniting the party will be very necessary, and I think I might have a contribution to make there. [end p20] Naturally, in putting myself forward, I've always worked with Margaret, will always be pleased to work with Margaret, any way, and any way round, but I just think that I ought to give the party the chance to decide whether I'm the person who is likely to unite them.

Rose

A number of MPs tonight have even been accusing you—perhaps they're Mrs. Thatcher's supporters—of being a coward in not standing in the first ballot—and of letting her almost do your dirty work for you.

Whitelaw

Have they? Well, it's a rather surprising thing that they should call me a coward, I would have thought, in view of some of the jobs that I've taken on when we were in government—perhaps particularly in Northern Ireland, and I find it a little extraordinary that people would describe me as a coward. Surely, rather extraordinary, and if they say of course that I should have stood before, I've made that very clear—I wanted Ted Heath to win, and if you want somebody to win, you vote for him, and you support him, and you don't stand against him. And that's what I wanted.

Rose

Were you astonished by this result this afternoon?

Whitelaw

I was very surprised.

Rose

What happened?

Whitelaw

Well, I think one of those rather extraordinary remarks one must make—that is what the Members of Parliament decided to vote. I don't think I can tell; I don't think anyone can tell. I think perhaps everyone was rather surprised at the actual result. I think it is a very sad personal day for Ted Heath, who as a person certainly does not deserve it. He has done much for our country, and indeed for our party, and whatever one's views may be, I'm sure those people who didn't vote for him will all feel that tonight it was a very sad personal tragedy for one who's given so much to our country. I hope he will still have a great contribution to make.

Rose

I know you've just seen him. How's he taken it in fact? [end p21]

Whitelaw

As you would expect with him, marvellously. He is a man at his best in difficult times, and in adversity, and certainly that is the position tonight.

Rose

Was he shocked?

Whitelaw

I think he was obviously very surprised, and I would have thought, naturally very disappointed.

Rose

Have you come to any agreement with other supporters of Mr. Heath, perhaps like Mr. Prior, that they would not stand if you stood?

Whitelaw

No, I've come to no agreements at all. I've naturally talked to some of my colleagues, but having talked to them and having seen the whole position, and having talked to some people who were pressing me to stand, I have decided that if they wanted me to, quite a number of people have come forward, and I feel that if they want me, to see whether I can make my own personal contribution to our party, then I am very prepared to see whether my colleagues want me to do so.

Rose

Do you think you can win?

Whitelaw

Yes.

Rose

Would you offer Mr. Heath a job if you did?

Whitelaw

It would be a great thing for our party and our country if he were prepared to do that. He has great prestige, great standing, and I would very much hope that he would do so. Of course, that would be entirely a matter for him at the time. No-one could expect him to decide that now, naturally I would be absolutely thrilled if I had that opportunity, and he felt able to do it. [end p22]

Julian Haviland

Mr. Whitelaw now has the fight of his life on his hands. Many believe that the Tory Party establishment—which sustained Mr. Heath so long as it believed he could win them elections, but which has been preparing for his departure these twelve months past—had all along intended Mr. Whitelaw to enter the contest at this stage, and to win. But what Mr. Iain Macleod once called the magic circle is not as strong as it was, and it cannot control the relatively new process inside the Conservative party of the secret ballot. At best, Mr. Whitelaw is reckoned by MPs to start equal favourite with Mrs. Thatcher. Certainly, by no means all Mr. Heath 's supporters will now turn to him.

And other candidates are ready to enter the ring. Mr. James Prior is going to say tomorrow whether he's a candidate too. So is Mr. John Peyton. Mr. Maurice Macmillan is being pressed by friends to stand and Sir Geoffrey Howe has not yet decided not to, I understand. [end p23]

But Mr. Du Cann tonight made it plain that he is not a candidate. And Mr. Robert Carr has ruled himself out by accepting from Mr. Heath the temporary chairmanship of the Opposition Shadow Cabinet.

With me now is the man who is thought to have run Mr. Heath 's campaign, Mr. Peter Walker. [end p24]

Haviland

Mr. Walker, did you expect this result?

Walker

No, I thought in fact Ted Heath would win on the first ballot.

Haviland

Can you say what went wrong?

Walker

No, I think it's impossible to say. As Willie Whitelaw has just said, more MPs voted for Margaret Thatcher than Mr. Heath.

Haviland

Do you think the party in the country is now going to be rather resentful of what the MPs have done?

Walker

Well, the party in the country made it perfectly clear that they were in the main very much behind Mr. Heath, and wanted him to stay, but I think that Ted Heath would be the first person to recognise that the last thing that would do the party, and therefore the country any good would be a great bitter battle between the parliamentary party and the party in the country, and I would hope that when this process is ended, that they will support the new leader of the Conservative party—I am sure he would hope that.

Haviland

Do you think Mr. Heath will do what may be expected of him by some of his colleagues, sort of to heal the breach by accepting a job in the shadow cabinet under whoever emerges?

Walker

Well, this really must depend on, you know, who emerges as the leader, and the policies that they intend to pursue, and Mr. Heath's own deliberations as to his own future. I mean, I think it would be totally unfair within three hours of such a result as this, to expect him to …

Haviland

Can you imagine the shadow cabinet without him?

Walker

Well, I can't imagine the Tory party without him as leader. I mean, I think he's been probably the most outstanding leader of the Conservative party in peacetime this century, and I think he's a man of immense talents, immense integrity, and that's why I've enthusiastically supported him as leader, and therefore he'd be an immense asset to any cabinet and to any party. [end p25]

Haviland

Do you want to predict the result, Mr. Walker?

Walker

No, I don't want to predict the result, because one doesn't know who the candidates are going to be at the present time.

Haviland

Can I briefly ask you—will you predict whether the Conservative party's going to change direction at the end of all this?

Walker

Well, I think that's once again difficult, because whoever emerges as leader has got to really get the feel of the party as a whole, and there are many pressures, and we're re-examining our policies, but I would hope that by the time the next election emerges, we will have a clear cut policy.

Haviland

Thank you very much Mr. Walker.