Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

Margaret Thatcher

Article for the The Sun ("The Hand in Your Pocket")

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Source: The Sun, 13 September 1976
Editorial comments: Item listed by date of publication.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 888
Themes: Conservatism, Public spending & borrowing, Taxation, Labour Party & socialism, Social security & welfare


If you were to ask me—and people often do—what I believe in, I could answer you in one simple word: Freedom.

In particular, freedom to do, within sensible limits, what you want. And freedom to spend your own money in the way you think fit.

Increasingly, these two “privileges” (which used to be rights) are being taken away from us.

Let us first look at money—if we can find it any longer.

More than 60 per cent of what this country earns, all of us together, is spent not by us as individuals but by the Government.

Six pounds out of every ten. Sixty pounds out of every hundred.

Does this make sense? Of course it doesn't!

Can we afford it? Of course we can't!


Obviously, any Government must raise taxes to do its job—and raise is certainly the word.

It must pay for defence.

It must pay for the health service.

It must pay a part of the Housing Bill, the Education Bill, and for pensions and so on.

But to the extent of taking, whether you like it or not, 60 pence out of every pound you earn? I can't swallow that.

The trouble is we are being made to swallow it.

A system which takes well over half your pay-packet in tax, direct and indirect, painful and painless, is bad.

A system which goes further than that and says that the harder you work, the less it will be worth your while is worse.

And a system which makes it possible for people who don't work or won't work to get more money than people who do, is just plain crazy.

There are, it is often said, too many people living off the State. And there's a good deal of truth in that.

But it is even more true that there is too much State living off the people.

And even the frightening amount of tax that the Government takes from us is not enough to satisfy them.

For all the talk of cuts in public expenditure, the Government is spending vastly more than it raises in taxes.

It makes up the difference by borrowing at high rates of interest. But borrowings have, sooner or later, to be repaid. Where from?

The Government acts as if there were some kind of bottom-less money-well from which it can go on drawing until the cows come home.

Well, the cows are coming home. So are the chickens coming home—to roost!


There just isn't any bottomless well. There is only one place the money comes from in the end—your pocket or purse.

And I believe that the hand which takes most money from your pocket should be your own.

Just as we are not free to spend what we earn, so we are becoming less and less free to do what we want. Socialism sees to that.

The Socialist society does not believe that we are grown up. It pats us on the head, tells us to brush our shoes and wipe our faces.

Then, if we are good little boys and girls, it gives us our pocket money (which is, incidentally, our money) and tells us to run away and play.

I reject this attitude.

When I go shopping, I don't want anyone to tell me what to choose. Neither do you.

We want to make up our own minds. And what applies to shopping, applies to most other things.

In health, in housing, in education, in welfare and in practically anything you can think of, the freedom of the individual to choose what he or she wants has been steadily reduced.

The power of bureaucrats to interfere, to lay down regulations, and to stop people minding their own business has been increasing alarmingly.

At the last count, there were something like 3½million official forms waiting to be filled in. Many of them difficult to understand. Some of them impossible to understand.

One of the first jobs of the next Conservative Government will be to organise enough waste-paper baskets to take a good deal of them out of circulation!

I do not go along with, never have and never will, the idea that Whitehall or County Hall or Town Hall knows what is best for us. It doesn't.

There is only one person who knows what is best for you—and that's you.


We did not build a great country by being led along by the hand like a gaggle of children, and being told what to do and what not to do.

We did it, very largely, by individual effort. And nowadays, effort and enterprise are either strangled with red tape or taxed out of existence. Quite often both. [end p1]

There is no denying it: for many years now, Britain has been in a state of decline.

And the significant thing is that this decline has gone on at exactly the same time as the rights and freedoms of the individual have been chipped away by the creeping powers of the State.

I believe that the greatness of Britain has always been in its people, not in its governments.

I believe that the job of Government is not to tell you what to do, but to help you to do things in the way you want.

I believe that the man in the street is a better judge of what is right, and what is best for himself and for his family, than any bureaucrat—or any politician.

I believe that there is today far too much of “Why should he?” and far too little of “Why on earth shouldn't he?

I believe that the national motto should be self-help, not help-yourself at someone else's expense.

I believe that Britain can be great again. But that it will never be great again until it is free again.

And I promise you that any Government which I may be chosen to lead will put the power of decision back where it belongs—to you.