An exclusive interview with the Hornsey Journal
HUGH … AND I …
Britain's second most photographed and most talked about woman, Mrs Margaret Thatcher, leader of the Conservative Party joined Hornsey's Tory MP, Mr Hugh Rossi for an exclusive interview with Robert Eddison and Barry St-John Nevill of the Hornsey Journal.
Mrs Thatcher has been MP for Finchley since 1959 and her constituency adjoins Mr Rossi 's. They have been friends for many years and during the interview discussed such important topics as race and immigration, housing, the neutron bomb, the Communists and the National Front and a host of other items.
High praise for Hugh Rossi came from Mrs Thatcher during the interview. She declared that, among MPs, Mr Rossi was “Quite—outstanding.”
Due to its length, the interview will be published in two parts. Part two will be in next week's Hornsey Journal.
10%; ahead: How have you done it?Eddison
Mrs Thatcher, what do you think of the Glasgow by-election results? Thatcher
We were very pleased that our party was the only party that put up the number of votes it had. We put them up by about a third though we haven't been able to fight Garscadden all out before because we haven't had the people. This time we all went in and we got tremendous welcome so we're looking for even improved results in the future. Eddison
You took over a demoralised party about three years ago. You've had a string of by-election successes; the latest poll, I think, shows the Conservatives about 10 per cent ahead of Labour. How have you done it? Thatcher
I wouldn't have called it a demoralised party. Every party has setbacks and we had a set back. We were all bitterly disappointed at the result of the last election and I think the history of Britain might have been different if we hadn't lost in February 1974. What we've done is set out what we believed. We're not only interested in politics because we like being MPs. Eddison
Nonetheless, before your election as leader, your political opponents claimed that you would only appeal to the flower-hatted middle class part of the electorate. You've obviously proved them wrong. How have you done it? Thatcher
Because I'm just not that sort of person. I had a very ordinary background—probably a lot more ordinary than many of their own front bench. They've never been able to forgive me for it and therefore tried to put out a totally false image of me. And, as you say, they've been proved wrong.
Hugh on Homes: ‘outstanding’Nevill
Hornsey residents certainly give you the feeling that Hugh Rossi works for all his constituents, regardless of their political affiliations. Mrs Thatcher, do you think that goes for every Conservative MP? Thatcher
We all of us hold regular meetings, surgery evenings. I think wherever you have a Conservative MP with someone who says “Please, I need help” , he will always find a person to give it. But Hugh Rossi Hugh is quite outstanding. The depth of his knowledge, particularly about housing, is tremendous and he's always been able to build up wonderful relations with people of whatever background in Hornsey. Eddison
Hugh Rossi, you have encouraged people to but their own homes whenever possible. In what way do you think the Rent Act has cut across a person's chance of renting furnished accommodation if he so wishes? Rossi
The Rent Act of 1974 serves only to deny and deprive people of homes. I had a particularly difficult election in October 1974 because I had some 14,000 furnished tenants to look after. It was my reponsibility before that election to lead the attack against the 1974 Rent Act in the sense that I led the team that scrutinised it line by line in Committee. We came to the conclusion that it was a very, very bad Bill. if passed, we could see it causing great suffering. So we kept Labour Ministers up all night, 27 hours at a stretch, and they didn't take kindly to this. They said we were filibustering and trying to wreck the Bill. In fact, we were trying to improve it by pointing out its weaknesses. Eddison
In helping people to get houses, the GLC has just launched its own house renovation scheme. Did I not see a picture of you in yesterday's newspaper, Mrs Thatcher, with the first young couple to benefit from the scheme? Thatcher
Yes, it's called Homesteading and I think it's a very good idea. It's exciting. It's a real Conservative scheme. It starts off with things as they are and says “If we help people to help themselves, we shall get a very much better housing policy for the country and for individuals” . We've got a lot of them in good structural condition. Young people can't afford much. “So,” said Horace Cutler , “let's sell those houses to them now at their present value and in their present—rather parlous—condition. We'll lend them the money, we'll see they get a mortgage; they won't have to pay a penny piece on that mortgage for three years, and during those three years they can use all their resources to put the house in order.” That's what they're doing. I handed over the keys—with pots of paint and some brushes—to a very nice able young man who, I'm told, is a very good engineer. His wife is a district nurse and they're going to get stuck right in. It's marvellous. It needed a Conservative to do it, it needed someone with imagination and I hope the idea will spread like wildfire. They've had 15,000 applications which shows you the extent of the need. Rossi
Just to go back on this historically. The 1974 Rent Act was part of Labour's diliberate policy to break the private landlord, to drive him out of business and, at the same time, provide local authorities with the funds to buy him out when he, in desperation saiiaid “I can't stay in business” . So you had a vast plan of municipalisation by Labour-controlled councils. The GLC was ii in the forefront of this. It bought up thousands of houses. But, having bought them, it's administration was so lethargic and cumbersome that it didn't have the money to convert and repair them so the houses became empty and derelict. The only way out of this, Horace Cutler saw was to return them to the people. Thatcher
Labour's policy in fact produced derelict property and more homeless people. Ours takes the empty property and turns them into viable homes.
On the question of immigration …Eddison
On the question of immigration, the Liberal wing is reported in Times as being a little upset about your “tough” policy towards future immigrants. They feel it's too tough and that, even if implemented, it would only make a marginal difference to the total number of immigrants entering Britain. Do you have any sympathy with this view? Thatcher
No, I have, over successive years, tried to control the number of future immigrants coming in. Each time we've done it, the policy was relaxed and didn't therefore prove very effective. Many of them are now second generation and very well established. Indeed, I was in Brixton this morning and some of them are third generation. If we are to be fair to those already here, we must be tough on future immigration policy. Because many of them are young and will have families, we must expect an increase on present numbers as it is. If, therefore, we are to be fair to those already here, we must restrict the future inflow. Eddison
Are you proposing to build an active race relations policy within that framework? Thatcher
People exaggerate our race relations problems. Relations between, say, the West Indian community, or the Indian community and us are not that bad. I have been all round the Brixton campaigning this morning. There were no problems. The only problem we had was with some factory girls who were upset about being photographed with me. And why was that, do you think? Because they'd got their old cardigans on and, if they'd known I was coming, they'd have spruced up a bit! For the most part, there isn't any trouble, so let's not talk as if there is. Eddison
Hugh Rossi, as MP for Hornsey with a marginal seat and 17,000 coloured or black people among your constituents. Are you concerned about Mrs Thatcher's policy of limiting immigrants? Rossi
Not a bit. I have a mixture of West Indians, Asians, Cypriots and, if you wish to include them in this bracket, Irish, with all of whom I'm in very close contact. It's not only the indigenous white population that is worried about increasing numbers of immigrants. Black people feel equally threatened as, now they are here, they don't want to see the boat rock. If housing, if school places, if the social services are over-burdened with too many immigrants, the blacks suffer as much as the whites. In Hornsey, we have a very good race relations record. We were one of the first Conservative areas, for example, that accepted West Indians into our Association. By giving them safe seats to fight, we ensured that the West Indian community was represented on the local authority. We have excellent relationships and this policy causes me no embarrassment whatsover. I feel it's a good policy and one I wish our party had adopted earlier. Nevill
Robert Eddison mentioned your very small majority. Do you think that any of the recent Conservative Party statements on race could endanger it? Rossi
I think the misinterpretation of some statements could cause me damage and I'm very anxious that people understand what we are saying. Once immigrants realise why we take this position, they accept it. The Labour Party will do their best to distort and misrepresent our views to try and pick up some cheap votes. Yet, in practice, they are less concerned than we are with the well being of the immigrants already here and their right to settle down on an equal footing with the indigenous population. After all, if you talk to them, you quickly discover what they want. Like any other human beings coming to a strange country, they want to put down roots, to get a home of their own, to establish themselves financially, to succeed in business and to find good education for their children. And if you then ask them: “Which Party offers you the most opportunity along those lines?” they are in no doubt about it.
‘The West is asleep’Eddison
Passing now to the international scene, Mrs Thatcher. In his biography of you, Patrick Cosgrave says that your real breakthrough as a world leader came out of your tours abroad. Your warnings of the dangers of Communist and Soviet domination got you dubbed the “Iron Lady” . It would seem from your speeches that you feel the West is asleep to this threat, very much as it was asleep in the thirties to the Nazi threat. Do you see an anology here? Thatcher
Yes, I do. The West assumes it can't happen here. It can, and what I was trying to point out was the tremendous amount of effort which the Soviet system puts into armament production. They are not only increasing in numbers, they are also increasing in sophistication, they're increasing in pretty well all aspects of defence. Not only in NATO. They're increasing on all the seas of the world. They're not a people who need to import the amount that we do. We have to import from the world, and yet they've got a very big navy and maritime fleet. What they are planning to do, I believe, is to cut our trade routes and cut our access to strategic materials. What I was doing was using the facts to tell a story, to say to people that liberty is the most precious thing we have. It's the thing that makes people want to come to this country when they've experienced political persecution elsewhere. Defend it, because unless we're prepared to defend it and be seen to be prepared to defend it, you may lose it. The Soviets use what I would call bully-boy tactics. There's only one way to deal with that. To say we will not be intimidated, we've got just as much strength as you have and we've got just as much resolve. Nevill
You're saying that the Reds are not only under the bed, they've moved into every room of the house? Thatcher
What do we do to stop them taking over? Thatcher
First you expose exactly what is happening. It's quite remarkable now, after I'd made those two speeches, whenever I did a walkabout, particularly in industrial towns, person after person would come up to me and say “I've never voted Conservative and I'm a Labour supporter but you're right about this thing” . They're so glad that someone had spotted it and was trying to do something about it. So the first thing you have to do is to expose it, expose what they're doing and expose how they're going to go about it. Literature is one way of getting this across. There have been, I think, a number of articles and novels about this.
So, we're aware of it and our enemies know we're aware of it. That's the first step to dealing with it. Eddison
Against this background, what is your view of President Carter 's decision to postpone manufacture of the neutron bomb? Thatcher
I took the same view as Ian Gilmour , of course, but I'm sorry it was postponed. It may be that we didn't give Jimmy Carter him enough support. He was asking what the views of other nations were and maybe all of us in NATO should have said: “Look, this is one thing we appear to have got which they haven't, this is why the other side is trying to stop us from manufacturing it” . Perhaps we didn't give him enough support and make it quite clear that we were behind him. So let's not be too critical of him. Eddison
On the conventional side, you mention Soviet strength—19,000 tanks are said to be threatening Western Europe. Thatcher
Not to mention aircraft and vast numbers of men. Eddison
Against that background, what is your view of the present Government's progressive emasculation of our defence system? Thatcher
It's quite wrong. In some ways it reminds me of the thirties when we were too slow to get up to full strength. Time after time there were debates in the House of Commons, even after Hitler had marched into Sudetenland, even after Prague. Yet even then there were people in the House, certainly on the Labour side, who were not prepared to have conscription.
As you say, this Labour Government is steadily eroding our defences. Even the Secretary-General of Josef Luns NATO said to me: “You really are risking the strength of your NATO forces” . At last year's NATO summit, we all had to agree that from 1980 we would begin increasing our defences. Whether we can catch up again or not I don't know. Just remember the determination of the enemy you're dealing with and the fact that he isn't subject to public criticism. Part 2: Hornsey Journal, 28 April 1978
HUGH AND I
In part two of the interview with the leader of the Conservative Party, Mrs Margaret Thatcher, and Hugh Rossi, Conservative MP for Hornsey, Robert Eddison and Barry St-John Nevill questioned them about the National Front, her impeccable clothes, economics, the incomes policy, education and many other topical subjects.
Once again, Mrs Thatcher praised Hugh Rossi, admitting that she had some very able people in her “team” — “… and Hugh Rossi is among the most able,” she declared.
Creed for individualsNevill
Conservatism, you say, is a positive creed and you've helped convince people of this? Thatcher
It is a positive creed It's a very ancient creed in its philosophical beliefs It's the uniqueness of each individual that contributes to the variety of life. Governments are meant to serve that individuality, not dominate it. Marxism starts in clash and conflict between classes. Marxism is about economic systems into which people have to be fitted. It's not for Britain. Never forget that Soviet Russia is the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, and that it is the end to which Socialism would go if practised more and more and in greater intensity. Nevill
It has been said that you reject the Socialist view of egalitarianism because you regared it as fraudulent. Thatcher
It is fraudulent. I don't regard myself as equal with some of the world's greatest scientists or politicians or musicians. I'm infinitely grateful that we have those very talented people. Egalitarianism, what does it mean? Does it mean that we all have to have equal incomes? If so, who would work to produce more for themselves? From saying we are all equal, it's only a small step to saying that we can't make choices for ourselves, and that the Government must do it for us. What's egalitarian about that? It produces the worst inequality of all. It produces two classes: the politically powerful and the politically powerless: the class who have to do as they are told. Ours is the creed for Britain which returns the choice to the people. Nevill
What kind of threat then does the National Front pose. Should the Conservative Party attempt to have the National Front banned, or is there any truth in the rumour that many Tories are afraid of upsetting National Front members because some of them might vote Tory? Thatcher
I've never heard that rumour. I hate extremes of any kind. Communism and the National Front both seek the domination of the state over the individual. They both, I believe crush the right of the individual. To me, therefore, they are parties of a similar kind. All my life I have stood against banning Communism or other extremist organisations because, if you do that, they go underground and it gives them an excitement that they don't get if they are allowed to pursue their policies openly. We'll beat them into the ground on argument. Rossi
People are always talking of the National Front as if it were a Right Wing organisation. Yet, if you look at their policy you will find they are a Left Wing organisation because what they believe in is nationalisation on a massive scale. Their attitude towards the European Community reflects the Communist view. If one studies all their items of policy, they are extreme Left Wing and remember the National Socialist Party of Germany was called a Fascist Right Wing party and, in fact, was a National Socialist Party: and it was the state-controlled party of nationalisation—all the things that the Conservative Party hold in absolute detestation Thatcher
The National Front is a Socialist Front.
Schools and healthEddison
On education, are you disturbed by the recent surveys which show the appalling lowering in the standards of school literacy? Thatcher
Of course I am and most particularly in school mathematics. Over the past 10 to 15 years we have spent more and more on education. We've produced more teachers in proportion to the number of pupils, we've given them longer training: yet we're still not getting in the good basic grounding without which you can do nothing I think one of the reasons is that we haven't had nearly enough inspections by Her Majesty's Inspectors of Schools to monitor progress. The other thing is that it is so much easier for children to get on if they're in a smaller school where the staff know one another and know the pupils I'm very much in favour of increasing choice but having more smaller schools. Eddison
I know that you want parents to play a bigger part in their children's education. How do you feel they can best do this? Thatcher
By having more of them on governing bodies and more parent/teacher associations. The best way of getting education is to get the parents interested in what is taught in the schools and in the way iitit is taught. They pay, after all, a massive amount for education. Never say it's free. They pay £8 billion a year for it and the politicians who spend it must remember that they are accountable to the people as to how that money is spent. They must never ride roughshod over people's feelings. It is their job to provide what the parents and the people want. Nevill
Free choice, in other words? Thatcher
That's what life is about, what ethics is about. The whole of the case for freedom is a moral case because it involves choice. Do away with choice and you do away with human dignity. Rossi
I agree entirely. Take the health service, where we have spent more and more and seem to have fewer hospital beds. A great administration has been created. We have also had teachers and doctors going to indeterminate conferences and committee meetings and they feel terribly frustrated because they are not following their vocations. An undue amount of money is going on administration, yet the responsibility for decisions seems to have disappeared. Nobody seems to know where the buck rests. The consequence is that people are frightened of taking decisions.
If you were in power today, what would be the two most important innovations you would make? Thatcher
Certainly we have to go towards an incentive economy. If you work, if you have an extra skill, if you take extra responsibility, if you can innovate, if you can start things up, you're the chap we need to keep here; otherwise the rest of us will not get an increased standard of living. So that's the broad, general direction. The other one is on what I would call the quality side of life. There's no point in having a reasonably affluent, prosperous society unless you can be certain that the law will be enforced and that law-abiding people will be able to go about their duties without fear. Unless you can do that, then all the prosperity that we have will not help. Eddison
Specifically, Mrs Thatcher, how do you think your Government would counter unofficial trade union strikes? Thatcher
They can do such damage that every employer who makes an offer on wages or conditions has got to make certain he makes his maximum offer to the officials of the union and Not to the unofficial strike leaders. If ever management, having made an offer to them, gets an unofficial strike and gives into those militants, he'll have made the union leaders lose face and will lose their trust. It's very important that we work with the official trade unions. Good trade unionism is a large part of Tory policy. And that means looking after the future interests of their members as well as the day's wages.
In 1984 …?Eddison
One hypothetical question here which I know politicians don't like. If Roy Jenkins is right and democracy can't long survive the state taking over half the GNP and if Labour, despite all your leadership, were still in power in 1984, how would you see the country being run? Thatcher
My fear is that we should have such a socialist state by then that people would be almost afraid to vote for another party in case they might lose their jobs. I would still have enough faith in the British people to surmount that. I think that the British people are fed up with a Labour Government not only because of tax but because they reckon Labour is damaging the spirit of Britain. I was brought up to believe that we were a people who acted very much on our own initiative, on our own commonsense. It's that which is being damaged, and it's that which people don't like. They want their children to have the best of their inheritance, and so do I.
Turning now to economics, you said in last week's budget debate that people must have the right to spend their own money in their own way. Could you expand on that? Thatcher
If you look at what this Government has done during the last four years, you will see that our national income hasn't increased at all. We are producing no more now than we were five years ago. So the amount we've got is still the same. This Government has taken an increasing proportion even of that for government expenditure. Which leaves you and I with too little in our pay packet. Your wages might have gone up by 80 per cent but that increase actually buys less than your wage bought in 1973. The average wage is about £6 a week less, which is a good deal.
So we've got the same amount in real terms and this Government has gone on taking a bigger proportion of it whichever way you calculate it; and they're always calculating it in some new way. In Harold Macmillan 's time when he said “We've never had it so good” the Government was taking about 40 per cent of the national product. This lot take, on the same calculation, about 55 per cent. That's a tremendous slice. It means they are deciding how more of our money is spent—which leaves us with fewer decisions than ever. Wherever I go, people are objecting. They say “Look at the beginning of the pay slip; it's quite a good wage. Look at the end and see what I've got left.” They're objecting because they are saying they want more of their own money to spend and less to go to the Government. They're saying they would rather have a lower social wage—which is what the Government gives you in benefits and kind—and a bigger wage left in their pay packet. Eddison
That's why, within the present budgetary framework, you would use your giveaways to reduce tax rather than fund the Land Commission, or whatever. Thatcher
Yes. Don't forget that they've put the expenditure up this time even more. They're going to have to borrow the money for every single handout they've made to us. What they've done is put up their borrowing to “give” something away. That doesn't make any more sense for a government than for you and me. Eddison
You expressed your concern that Healey was exceeding this year's money supply targets. Were you in power today, Mrs Thatcher, obviously you would reduce public spending quite substantially but you are equally on record as being against a statutory incomes policy. If you reduce public spending and are against a statutory incomes policy, won't you risk yet higher unemployment? Thatcher
Don't forget that it was a statutory incomes policy that was broken before when we had the whole panoply of statutory controls. It was the statute, the law, which cracked so don't think that a statutory policy will necessarily control incomes. There's only one way, in the end, to get control and that's to get people to realise that they cannot have more unless they produce more.
You then have to say to them that there is so much to be allocated to the wage costs in this organisation: so, if you want a lot of people to be employed here, you must each have less. Restrictive practices will lead to restrictive wages. If you are prepared to have fewer people employed here then, of course, each of you gets more. But that means that you've got to have a policy of expansion working to take up the unemployment. But how are you going to have expansion when there's no incentive for anyone to start things up, to make them grow? The stories you or your father used to print were “Local Boy Makes Good” . These days, if he does make good, he's taxed out of existence and goes elsewhere! Eddison
You also expressed concern that the present Government seems to be giving us quarterly budgets. Thatcher
That's absolutely disgraceful. Denis Healey He can't have very much confidence in his own budget if he's got to change it every few months. Eddison
How would you stimulate the economy? Thatcher
First, you make room for your private expansion by having a look at government expenditure. As I say, he's even putting it up this year. It means going through every department with a tooth comb. Bureaucracy isn't the fault of the Civil Servants; it's the fault of politicians who give them far too detailed regulations. We have got our small businesses section, and the CBI, working on the legislative changes they need to enable them to go ahead faster. Once you've made room in public expenditure, you can cut taxes and give people the incentive to go.
Living in an open societyEddison
Coming back to the personal level, you are reputed to have no particular love for journalists. Why is this? Thatcher
I didn't have when I was Minister of Education. There was a particular group of educational journalists who took a totally different view to the view I took and they made that perfectly clear. They proved to be wrong and I was proved right, and no-one likes that. But we got over that and I say to any press conference that I don't mind what questions they ask me as long as they don't mind what answers I give. We live in an open society and my concern is to retain the freedom of the press, not to limit it. Nevill
Are you afraid, in public, of showing too much emotion? Thatcher
No, I'm not, but I do tend naturally to keep cool. Nevill
On an equally personal note, we know you are conscious of maintaining standards. How do you manage to look so impeccably groomed on all the occasions when we see you? What clothes wouldn't you wear? What about trousers, for instance? Thatcher
I don't wear them very often unless I'm visiting the navy or something like that. I don't like women in trousers very much. I think the real reason is a vanity one—I haven't got the figure for it. This morning I would have been better if I had been wearing trousers because I was climbing a ladder up the side of a chimney at a steeplejack training school and I simply had to say to the photographers ‘Look, if I climb that ladder, I don't want any compromising photographs’ and they were perfect. Nevill
Do you dress as a leader, as a woman, for yourself or for your husband? Thatcher
I dress in the things that suit me. I like tidy, tailored things. But I'm certainly aware that I couldn't look too flamboyant, but then I wouldn't naturally. Also, I have to have clothes that last a long time because I need far more than I would if I wasn't doing the job I am.
You are a feminist—— Thatcher
No, I'm not a feminist. Nevill
Well, you are a feminist, but not a militant feminist. By your election as Leader of the Conservative Party and ultimate Premiership—— Thatcher
Not too ultimate … . Nevill
How do you think you have helped women, and where do you think militant feminists have gone wrong? Thatcher
I think they've become too strident. I think they have done great damage to the cause of women by making us out to be something we are not. Each person is different. Each has their own talents and abilities, and these are the things you want to draw and bring out. You don't say: “I must get on because I'm a woman, or that I must get on because I'm a man” . You should say that you should get on because you have the combination of talents which are right for the job. The moment you exaggerate the question, you defeat your case.
You're still convinced?Nevill
Do you, in these times of change have any hesitation in still supporting the traditional values and are you still as convinced as you were in the success of this country? Thatcher
The greater the change you have to face, the greater and surer the base you want of tried and trusted values. If you've got a good base, and you are sure of your ground, then you can make changes, and they will be progressive changes.
If you're uncertain, then I'm afraid you'll send the whole thing into chaos, difficulty and anarchy. The future of this country is EVERYTHING to me. It's what I'm in politics for.
But it is not only the future of Britain.
Britain has always stood for a free society; it's given that concept to the world.
If anything happened to the freedom of Britain, it would not only be the freedom of this country that was affected, but the whole of the free world, because we symbolise freedom.