Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

Margaret Thatcher

Speech to Taunton Conservatives

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Venue: County Hotel, Taunton
Source: Western Morning News, 21 February 1976
Editorial comments: 1100. The report also covers MT’s speech to Exeter Conservatives later in the day. The Somerset County Gazette, 27 February 1976, has some slight additional material. MT said, "It’s wonderful to be in Edward’s [Edward Du Cann’s] constituency. I understand he has just done 20 years as your Member so he comes of age next year. I suppose you will be giving him the key of the door then". She recalled that it was two years since the Labour Government was formed - "and nobody could have made a bigger hash of it".
Importance ranking: Minor
Word count: 863
Themes: Conservatism, General Elections, Public spending & borrowing, Foreign policy (USSR & successor states), Labour Party & socialism


Mrs. Thatcher forecast a General Election in October 1977 when she spoke in Taunton yesterday. She said this would be when Mr. Healey 's cuts would begin to take effect.

Commenting on the Chancellor's cuts, she said: “Mr. Healey has not taken the axe to public expenditure. He has to cut the Social Services to pay interest on money he should never have borrowed.

“If less had been spent on nationalisation, more could probably have been spent on health. But dogma and party policy has been put first above the needs of ordinary people.

“We know what we want to do as a Conservative Party,” she added. “There are two ways to run a country. One is towards Socialist Marxism and the other is to a free society.


“The more you have nationalisation and the more the State takes choice away from the people, the further you are going to the total Socialist Marxist society.

“The more you do that, the more you relinquish your freedom and income to the State.”

Mrs. Thatcher said no nation in the world had prosperity unless there was free enterprise. Behind the Iron Curtain, people could not begin to approach the standards of Western life.

“They have no freedom or human dignity,” she said. “We must reject anything that goes that way. The time has come to redress the balance.”

In another major speech at Exeter, Mrs. Thatcher spoke of “the incompetent conduct of our home affairs by the Government,” which, she said “is damaging this country's world role.”

She told a 500-strong audience that the country's reputation was being ruined by the way it was run, and that meant “we do not count abroad.”

There was more at stake at the moment than economics and taxation. “It means we do not take our foremost place in the world,” she said.

Full part

It was the Tories job to get the economics right to enable this country to then play its full part in the future of the world. “We have a great deal to contribute. Let us release our talents and put them to full use once again.” she said.

But she warned that it would take two full-length Parliaments to “undo the damage which has been done and put Britain on the road to success once again.”

She spoke on the way Britain's “Mr. Average” was being “savaged” by the Chancellor, and pledged that a prime task of the next Tory Government must be to limit the advancing power of the State over the lives, earnings, and savings of ordinary people.

Brain drain

“A punitive level of taxation is self-defeating. It discourages the greater effort that Britain so urgently needs,” she said. It also caused a “brain drain” of people who had been highly trained at the taxpayers' expense. The unnecessarily high rates of tax struck at the very roots of the free society in which the Tories believe.

Every time the Government took a bigger slice of our pay packet it took a bigger slice of freedom, she said, because the “inescapable condition” for the exercise of individual freedom was a measure of personal prosperity. And when this was undermined by the use of the tax system, then personal freedom and choice were diminished.

“A person's pay packet belongs to him. It is not the Government to act as if it can take as much as it wishes, and hand back what remains to the taxpayer,” she said.

And Mrs. Thatcher warned, “If personal economic freedom is slowly strangled, political freedom will not survive.” Sir Frederic Bennett, Torbay's MP, was present at the gathering, as was Exeter's MP Mr. John Hannan, and the member for the Tiverton division Mr. Robin Maxwell-Hyslop.

Factory visit

Mrs. Thatcher's first call yesterday on her Westcountry tour was to a Taunton factory which makes gun sights.

The “Iron Lady” expressed great interest in the work carried out at Avimo Ltd. and was shown the various stages in the manufacture of weapon sights and pistons.

One worker explained the workings of a milling machine used to make windows for tanks.

Avimo is one of the fastest growing companies in the United Kingdom, having won many export orders.

Mrs. Thatcher was accompanied round the factory by managing director Mr. Roy Mountain and Taunton's MP Mr. Edward du Cann.

Later, she mingled with about 700 Party members at a coffee morning in the County Hotel. One brought along a present for the Tory leader—a corsage of game bird feathers.

Welcoming Mrs. Thatcher to Taunton, Mr. du Cann spoke of the security surrounding the visit.

“If there is one place where you need have no worries about security it is here “among your friends” he said.

He added that by visiting the Taunton constituency Mrs. Thatcher was treading in the footsteps of other leaders, including Disraeli and Churchill.

In reply, Mrs. Thatcher said she noticed those leaders went on to become Prime Ministers. “I hope that is a good omen. I hope I do not have to wait too long,” she said.