Tonight, Mrs. Thatcher and her three predecessors as Conservative leader, were all at a party at the Cafe Royal in London, and they said what they thought of Harold Wilson and why he went.
Reginald Bosanquet asked Mrs. Thatcher for her reaction to Mr. Wilson's resignation today.
I had no inkling that it would happen and it also comes at a very difficult time, with only three weeks to go before the Budget.
For whom is this going to make difficulties?
Well, it won't make difficulties for us but we obviously feel with an incoming Prime Minister, under these acute difficulties with the Government having had a very bad vote in the House of Commons last week, it would be far better to have a General Election.
Who would you be most worried about in the Labour Party, as your rival in the next election?
Oh, I'm prepared to be opposite whomsoever they appoint, it doesn't bother me at all, and I have no choice in the matter.
Next, Mr. Wilson 's old opponent Mr. Heath. Reginald Bosanquet asked him if he was sorry to see Mr. Wilson go.
I don't think its a question of being glad or sorry, he's reached a decision that the time has come for him to retire. What I am rather sad about is that he has done it after a defeat, last Wednesday evening, on a major matter, [end p1] and then after really a pathetic speech and the vote of confidence on which the Government remained in office. I would have much preferred to see him leave at a time when his standing was high and he had put on a tremendous performance. This is why I was surprised to see him go, because those last two days in which he was active really were almost the low of his career. For the first time his skill, his political skill in handling his Party and holding it together, failed him.
And now the Liberal leader, Mr. Thorpe, John Lander asked him if he would like to speculate on what sort of a man would lead the Labour Party in the future.
Well, I would have thought that … I mean I think, obviously, Jim Callaghan looks as if he is the favourite, but I would have thought that to be leader of the Labour Party is a very difficult job, sometimes thought to be common to all political parties, but you are after all keeping together what is almost an unridable beast. I mean, the Tribune Group and the Social Democrats are two totally different political parties. There was an old Clydesider once who said, if you can't ride two horses at once you shouldn't be in the ruddy circus at all, and Mr. Wilson has by dint of the Referendum, the changing here and there, the compromise here and there, very skillfully kept the Labour Party together. I very much doubt for example whether Hugh Gaitskell, for whom I had a very great respect, I don't think he had the strategic and tactical skills to have kept the Labour Party together in the way that Mr. Wilson has [end p2] and therefore I think the first challenge for his successor will be to see whether he can keep the Labour Party together in one bit.
And two Union leaders, Ray Buckton of the Engine Drivers and Joe Gormley of the Miners, also spoke about the succession.
Carole Barnes asked Mr. Buckton if the Labour Party and Union movement would be the same if Mr. Callaghan were indeed the new leader.
Doesn't matter who it is there as far as the Trade Union movement is concerned because we don't look at individuals as such, we look at the Party itself. And if the Party is pursuing the policies which have been decided, and of course we have had arguments on this in recent time, whether we should be more to the manifesto, these are debates that will always take place, but as far as the Trade Union movement is concerned, we have this allegiance to the Party itself and therefore to the Labour Party in Parliament.
I can't see any logical successor to it. At a time when we need a leader with the complete unity of the Party behind him. That's why I'm so shocked at this announcement this morning.
You mention the call by the three Trade Union leaders yesterday, do you think that today's news is now going to throw the Union movement into some disarray? [end p3]
Well, inevitably the uncertainty of the political situation is going to throw disarray in the Trade Union movement. After all, (words unclear) much easier with a Labour administration than another administration. Nobody can guarantee now how long it is going to be before a General Election is likely to take place.