Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

Margaret Thatcher

Speech to Conservative Rally in Newcastle

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Venue: Newcastle Centre Hotel, New Bridge Street, Newcastle
Source: Harvey Thomas MSS: OUP transcript
Editorial comments: Transcript from audio cassette tape in Harvey Thomas MSS. MT spoke impromptu between 1545 and 1630 at a reception for candidates, agents and party workers from twenty constituencies in the Newcastle area.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 2346
Themes: Conservatism, Conservative Party (history), Economy (general discussions), Employment, Industry, General Elections, Pay, Taxation, European Union (general), Housing, Labour Party & socialism, Law & order, Social security & welfare

Mr Chairman, ladies and gentlemen,

We're very happy to be here in the North East, first to lend support to our three Members of Parliament, Geoffrey Rippon, Bill Elliott and Neville Trotter all of whom we want returned with increasing majorities. Secondly, to lend you a hand in increasing the Conservative representation from the North East at Westminster, and thirdly in those areas where we can't quite manage it this time, to give you great encouragement and to say that to me every single vote counts from those seats as well [applause]. I've fought 20,000 Labour majorities and, in the end, look where I finished up [applause], so take heart all of you who are fighting that kind of thing.

But, as well as winning more seats in Parliament, we really do need to get as large a Conservative vote up and down the country as we can, so we have a real mandate to take Britain in a different direction from the direction which is leading at the moment to steady decline compared with all our Common Market countries who are so close to us. Decline isn't good enough for Britain.

Now they tell me that I'm a reactionary. I'm not quite sure who tells me, but I think it's the other side. But they tell me I'm a reactionary, to which my reply is that there's a lot to react against! I do react very strongly against a Government which has got the worst record on price rises of any European country save Italy. Mr Healey and Mr Callaghan, who dare to lecture us about prices, have themselves put prices up by over 100%; and food prices by even more than that. That's enough to react against for a start.

Secondly I do react against a Government which steadily puts up unemployment and can only offer our young people artificial jobs instead of genuine jobs. Artificial jobs at best are only temporary and if our young people are to have a future they must have the prospect of genuine jobs ahead. So we react against those things. We do react against a Government which does not allow us by or own efforts to put up our own standard of living because it takes away far too much in tax out of the fruits of our own work. We do react against a Government that does not put law and order as its top priority. We do react against a Government which constantly cuts defence expenditure when we ought to be proud to defend the freedoms which are the first characteristic of the British way of life. We do react against a Government which, although many of whom have more than one house themselves, don't seem to like council house tenants being allowed to buy their own [applause].

We react against all that and we notice as the election campaign develops, and it's only ten days to blast off, if that's the appropriate phrase, that we are the only party which is steadily and consistently putting forward a positive policy for the recovery of Britain. The other lot are running scared, and scared parties put up a lot of scares. Parties that hope and expect to be the next Government put forward a strategy that will bring Britain out of the decline she's in and give her a chance to make way once again and rejoin what I call the freer nations of the world with rising prosperity and an increasing degree of freedom. [end p1]

And seeing Geoffrey Rippon just over there, and he has represented us in Europe so magnificently [applause], I just want to say one word about Europe, only one word. The reason, the real deep fundamental reason for joining was I think twofold. First, to ensure that our sons and daughters did not have to fight again in a European battle as their parents had to two generations and one generation ago. I am perpetually grateful that my son did not have to go to battle in the same way as his father did. And you know this was the vision of the people who founded Europe, a vision fashioned just after France and Germany and we had fought the bitterest of battles. A vision: “Wouldn't it be wonderful if in future we could get together and ensure the peace and security of those nations who have hitherto been enemies?” That was the vision, that was the objective, and I wish to goodness that someone had thought of it early in the thirties. Think what it might have saved, think of the suffering it might have saved, and the sacrifice. That was the real reason, so that free Europe, free Europe, could be together, standing for democracy, standing for free enterprise, standing for freedom and let Britain never be slow to stand for those things. And if free Europe was to stand together, it had to learn to live more closely together and that in fact has been, I believe, its very, very great achievement, and Geoffrey has been in the forefront of achieving it [applause].

Secondly, just while I'm on Europe—I'm sorry, I didn't intend to say this but women do sometimes, you know, do this—I know that the … I know that the James CallaghanPrime Minister is complaining about certain things. He's complaining about two things. He's complaining about the agreement which he himself negotiated and then he's complaining about the way he's handled it for the last five years. Well, I agree with him. He's handled it badly [laughter and applause]. He's entitled to bellyache about what a poor fist he's made about it, but he's not entitled to blame us for his own faults [applause].

Now, recovery at home, because it doesn't suit many of us, in fact, to feel that we who once led Europe are now so way, way, way behind those other countries in standard of living. We don't like it. We don't think that it's befitting to our great talents and inventiveness here. You know, this election's going to be about even more than prices and about more than jobs. It is how to produce more in this country, how to get the wealth creation process going again. And you know you don't stimulate economies, you only stimulate people. And for every single person who has to have a subsidy to help them over difficult times, there has to be someone who is creating the profits, the effort, the work and the goods with which to provide that subsidy. And, my goodness, every firm or every undertaking that needs a subsidy should say, “My goodness me, we've got to vote Conservative, otherwise there soon won't be any money, any firms to provide those subsidies.” [applause]

Now, how are you going to do that? It doesn't matter whether you talk to a hard working chap who is not necessarily skilled but is prepared to work hard, it doesn't matter whether you talk to him or to the … the people who acquire skill, crafts, take apprenticeships, become skilled engineers, skilled craftsmen, skilled designers, skilled draftsmen. They complain they're not getting the differentials which make it worth the extra skill, and where on occasion they are then the tax takes it away from them. [end p2] Or the managers without whom we cannot have the improvement in industry, or the small businessmen who want to expand. They all have the same complaint: “This Government takes away too much in tax out of our pay packets and out of our efforts.” And so long as a Government does, you will not produce the extra goods, you will not be able to get the skilled people, and you know unless you can get the skilled people, you can't keep industry running. You will not be able to keep the best managers here, and to solve some of our problems, we need the best managers here. And you will not be able to stimulate those people who in fact can start up new businesses and expand them.

Now where are the new jobs going to come from? They are not in fact going to come so much from the well established large industries. They are turning over to very big labour saving capital intensive technology, and it's as much as many of them can do to keep employed the people they've got, and they do that by expanding their output on the same number of people. Your new jobs aren't going to come so much from there. They're going to come from the same places they come from the world over. One has to remember that today's big businesses were yesterday's small businesses and yesterday's small businesses had to start somewhere, and there's many a small businessman who does not, in fact, start because he said, “There's no incentive or they'll take it all from me,” or if he starts then it is positively, the tax system positively discourages him from growing. And if you've got this lot in, on top of all the other taxes, if you've actually got a small business up to a value of £150,000, and that's not very large when you think how expensive machinery is today, what would they do? They wouldn't say, “Brother, you're just the chap we want.” They'd shove on a wealth tax and say, “You've made a success, we must penalise you.” You will not get the small businesses starting or growing that way. That's why, for them too, we have to alter the tax system and reduce the amount of direct tax all the way up the scale.

It matters too to the pensioner. Yes, I know that both Governments say if prices go up, pensions go up. We say, and give the identical pledge, that if prices go up, pensions will go up, but that of course refers to the National Insurance state pension. And there's many an old person who, in fact, has saved for a lifetime, has seen the value of their savings steadily whittled away. Indeed no-ones whittled them away faster than Socialist Governments. £100 in a Post Office savings account the day Harold Wilson took over, is today worth £48 in terms of what it will buy. And then, too, they have seen the value of their occupational pension schemes taken down by inflation, but they've also seen themselves heavily taxed if in addition to their National Insurance pension, they've got a little pension of their own and some savings. So in fact, tax reductions would help them too, and I hope make it worth while for other people to save in the future.

That's why we put so much emphasis on tax reductions. Now, people say to me, “All right, if you do it, do you think it will work?” It's like putting a ball in front of someone. They won't all kick it, but some of them will and some of them will score goals, and that is where we will get the increase from. Now, these are the things which we should be talking about in Newcastle and everywhere else, because this is the only way we're going to get the recovery of Britain—through the smaller businesses becoming bigger, by our young people, and there are half a million of them [end p3] under 25 without jobs, by those people having a chance in the future to get genuine jobs with a prospect and with a future.

That's not the end of our policies. I think they're the right policies for Britain, and I think they're the most popular policies as well, because people have a feeling in their bones that they are right. As well as tax reductions, we've got the policy to try to get more and more people to become property owners. You know, if you've got some property of your own, you're likely to look after it and you're more likely to respect the property of others. And bringing up children that way should, in the end, mean less vandalism on your council estates too. But it means, too, that people become property owners, first house owners, then their own insurance schemes, then their own savings, because if they've got something of their own, they have a degree of independence and they have a stake in Britain that we wish them to have.

We also put tremendous emphasis on law and order. You would never have heard the Conservative leader talking about “the quicksands of the law” as the Prime Minister did the other day. What an appalling, revealing phrase to use! Oh no, we would talk about the law being a rock on which our freedoms are founded.

Now, I sometimes find that our opponents are trying to give a totally false picture of the modern Tory party. It seems as if they're trying to forget completely all the post-war years, the years in which Mr Churchill, Sir Anthony Eden, Mr Harold Macmillan, Sir Alec Douglas-Home, and Ted Heath built the modern Tory party. And what have been the achievements of that modern Tory party in the post-war period? We've only had one long run of office. It was during those thirteen years which started with Winston Churchill. And what did Winston Churchill say? He said, I do trust the British people, if they are given the incentive, they will respond, they will be responsible, let's get rid of the regulations, let's reduce the tax. He in fact started those thirteen years of constantly rising prosperity, handed over to Anthony Eden who had the dream of a property owning democracy, handed over to Harold Macmillan. Harold Macmillan, you know, was the chap who built 300,000 houses a year, when all the experts said it couldn't be done [applause]. And then we came to Sir Alec Douglas-Home and to Ted Heath.

Let me look at the achievements of those thirteen years. Wouldn't we like to have some of them today? First, inflation—what the Prime Minister's talking about—under 3%; per year on average. Wouldn't we like to go back to those Tory thirteen years, Tory rates of inflation? And I hope we can get them down even further. Wouldn't we like to have the rates of unemployment then, 3%; and below, Tory levels of unemployment, which meant far many more jobs for our young people? Wouldn't we like to have the Tory rates of steadily increasing standard of living? It became so regular we took it for granted. And wouldn't we like to have the prestige and standing that Great Britain had during those years? That is what the post-war Tory policy did for Britain. That is what we hope to offer again, and we're asking you to help us in this task.

This is perhaps the most critical election that I have ever fought. I didn't fight the 1945, I fought the 1950. Did you fight the 1945? No, look, he's young too! [end p4] [applause] I know, oh yes, he's young too. He didn't fight the '45, but that was the critical one. I fought the '50 and the '51. It took me—to all you aspiring candidates—it took me until '59 to get in. Don't be in too much … Don't be too much discouraged if you don't make it the first time. But, all of those, these thirteen years, we're asking you to help us in this the most crucial election for putting Britain on a different road. A road going back to increased prosperity, increased prestige and a Britain of which we can all be proud [applause].