Speeches, etc.

Margaret Thatcher

Article for News of the World ("The Year the People Speak!")

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Source: News of the World, 31 December 1978
Editorial comments: Item listed by date of publication.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 968
Themes: Commonwealth (Rhodesia-Zimbabwe), Conservatism, Defence (general), Economic policy - theory and process, Education, General Elections, Monetary policy, Pay, Taxation, Foreign policy (Africa), Foreign policy (Asia), Foreign policy (USA), Housing, Labour Party & socialism, Law & order, Northern Ireland, Terrorism, Trade unions, Trade union law reform

At stake is our future until 1984. We must choose Liberty, Law and Dignity. We must not surrender


1979 is the year the people speak. Not even Mr Wedgwood Benn can stop that.

Only 35 out of 180 nations have the right to change their government by free elections. We fought for it, not only for ourselves but for half Europe.

But for us, night would have fallen on European civilisation.

How strange, then, that it is Britain which has declined since that time. The reason? Two World Wars?

France and Germany also went through them with devastating results and look where they are today—ahead of us.

Lack of natural resources? But we have North Sea Oil, the rest of the European Community has none.

Lack of talent, initiative, research? But we are renowned for these abilities and our people are in demand the world over.

The trouble is that these qualities can no more flourish in the wrong climate of government than seeds can grow and bear fruit in a drought or if they fall on stony ground.

What is it our people want? The ordinary, quiet people of Britain. The people who work hard, pay their tax, look after their families and who like to feel that what they are doing is not only useful but right.

What do they want and expect from Government?

They want less tax taken from their pay packets so that they have more of their own earnings to spend in their own way.

Men and women don't work harder for government, or nationalised industries or because they belong to trade unions.

They work for their families, or to help keep their old folk in comfort at home, or to experience the sense of achievement that goes with starting up on their own.

And those are all worthwhile and responsible objectives. Worthwhile for their families, worthwhile for Britain.

If Governments get the business of government right, men and women should have the incentive and will to earn enough to look after their own, to pay a fair but reasonable slice of tax and have something left to build up a bit of capital out of earnings.

• They want to own their homes, and if they haven't had that chance themselves, they'd like their children to have it. And that goes for council tenants too.


To own your home is to do more for yourself and to do it the way you choose.

Those who have some property themselves are more likely to respect the property of others. That means less damage, less vandalism, fewer repair bills for rate-payers. More personal responsibility.

• They want to have more say in the education of their children.

It's no good this Government talking about more parental choice just when it is trying to organise schools so that there is precious little choice left.

State education isn't free. We all pay for it handsomely out of our taxpaying and rate-paying pockets.

Education authorities are there to provide what the parents want, [end p1] not what bureaucrats think they ought to have.

• Our people distrust and fear the power of the trade unions and are asking how those who wield such power can be brought to use it responsibly.

The irony is that many trade union leaders have a far greater capacity to damage others than they have to defend their members and their families against damage done to them.

They can deprive their fellow citizens of heating, lighting, petrol, bread, entertainment, fire-fighting services.

They can delay hospital treatment, refuse to supply old people's homes and harm the weakest members of our society.

This is not what the pioneers of trade unions envisaged, but men and institutions are judged not by their intentions but by their results.

The present James CallaghanPrime Minister cannot do anything about this question.

In 1969 he stepped in on the side of the trade union chiefs to prevent his own Government from taking action. Now he may put on a show if he wishes, but he is their man, and they know it.

• Our people want Governments to stick to the role of government and not try to do everyone's else's job.

When Governments try to do everything, they do it badly. Their role is:

FIRST, to keep the value of the currency stable. Within the early weeks of the New Year the 1974 £1 will only be worth 50p, in terms of what it will buy.


No other British Government in modern times has debased the coinage so far so fast.

SECOND, to preserve law and order. There should be no such thing as a “free-for-all” but there should be “freedom under the law” for all.

THIRD, to see that our country is properly defended. Our first duty to freedom is to defend our own.

Our first duty to those who defend us is to look after their needs, their equipment, and their families if they do not return.

The dying year displays a world where tyrants and terrorists operate. In Rhodesia, terrorists—not “liberators” —kill and maim the innocent.

In Ulster, three young soldiers were murdered and their families must have had a desolate Christmas.

In Vietnam, refugees flee from Communism, a political creed whose advance the United States tried valiantly to stem. But where are the demonstrators now?

In the Year the People Speak, the year of reckoning, the issue won't be about five per cent or any other percentage.

It will be about our whole way of life for the next five years, a period which ends with 1984.

Where shall we be then? With the Big Brother State of Socialism providing everything on condition that we surrender all that makes life worth living?

Or a Conservative Government dedicated to serving the liberty, law, dignity and institutions of a free people?