Speeches, etc.

Margaret Thatcher

TV Broadcast in reply to the Prime Minister

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Venue: BBC Broadcasting House, Portland Place, central London
Source: Conservative Party Archive: BBC transcript
Editorial comments: 1755-1801. The broadcast had been scheduled to take place on Friday 31 March but MT postponed it when she arrived at the BBC studio and was told of Airey Neave’s death. Broadcast also on radio.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 821
Themes: Conservatism, Conservative Party (organization), Conservative Party (history), Economic policy - theory and process, General Elections, Public spending & borrowing, Taxation, Housing, Law & order, Northern Ireland, Terrorism, Strikes & other union action

Mrs Margaret Thatcher M.P.

Before I reply to last week's Ministerial broadcast, there are two things I'd like to say about the tragic murder of my friend and colleague Airey Neave. First, I want to thank the James CallaghanPrime Minister for his generous tribute to a political opponent. Airey himself was a generous man. He would have liked that. Second, when something like this happens, its a moving experience to see how the nation instinctively closes ranks. Anyone who thinks that terrorism is the way to divide us, or to weaken our resolve, doesn't know the British people.

Now let me turn to the task ahead. Last Wednesday, for the first time in over 50 years, the House of Commons asserted its right to dismiss the Government, so there'll be a General Election on 3rd May. The following evening you heard from the James CallaghanPrime Minister one view of what's happening in Britain today. It sounded—it was meant to sound—as if everything was going pretty well under Labour, or at least if it wasn't it would be all right tomorrow.

My impression is rather different. We've just had a devastating winter of industrial strife. Perhaps the worst in living memory. Certainly the worst in mine. We saw the sick refused admission to hospital, we saw people unable to bury their dead, we saw children locked out of their schools, we saw the country virtually at the mercy of secondary pickets and strike committees and we saw a Government apparently helpless to do anything about it. Its a thousand pities they didn't take up our offer of support to deal with some of these matters in January; together I believe we could have stopped them happening again. Now we'll just have to do the job ourselves.

But its not just this winter that things have been going wrong. Of course there's been a world recession. Of course every country has faced great problems. But other countries have tackled them very much better than we have, despite the fact that we have North Sea oil and they haven't. Today we're not just marking time, we're actually falling further and further behind.

I don't ask you to take my word for this. The other day the Bank of England showed that even Italy is increasing its rate of production twice as fast as we are and our most successful competitors are going ahead as much as six times as fast, despite that same world recession. The truth is that too many of the real success stories are being written in other countries, not in Labour Britain.

Now I know there are people who feel this is all somehow inevitable. That there's not much any of us can do about it and that it won't make much difference whichever party is in power. It will, you know. There's a world of difference between our way and the Socialist way. I believe that anything other countries can achieve we can. We have the people, we have the skill, we have the resources. We've not been allowed to make the best of them, that's the trouble. To make it worthwhile [end p1] to go out and get on in this country again, we've got to out taxes, the tax on earnings, the tax on savings, the tax on talent. That means we've got to stop the government spending so much of our money. When a government won't economise, it means that every family in the country has to do so instead. Every extra pound paid in tax is a pound less to spend on things the family needs, on food, heating bills, running a home, or running a car. It means there's that much less to spend on the children or helping one's parents. That's what its all about.

And we must do more to stop this terrible rise in crime and vandalism, to raise standards in education, to give more families the chance to buy their own homes. That's the way we used to do things when it was you, the citizen, who came first and not the State.

Labour called them the thirteen wasted years. Wasted? With the Conservatives, there were far fewer unemployed and as for prices there was nothing to compare with the increases we've had in the last five years under Labour. Of course we all want better hospitals, better schools, but we have to earn the money to pay for them.

Mr Callaghan tried to frighten you with a picture of Conservatives tearing everything up by the roots. But we're the party of roots, of tradition. Paying your way isn't tearing things up by the roots. Paying your way is good husbandry. Paying your way is planting for the future.

In the next few weeks I'll try to tell you the sort of country I want to see and how I think we can achieve it together. And I promise you this. I won't make empty promises. I won't pretend that everything that's gone wrong can be put right overnight. Its taken years to undermine our country. It will take time to re-build. But the job can be done. It must be done. That's the conviction that sustains me and that is my abiding faith.

We're at the springtime of the year, the traditional season of hope and new beginnings. I think we all know in our hearts it's time for a change.