Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

Margaret Thatcher

TV Interview for TG1 (Italian TV)

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Venue: Palazzo Chigi, Rome
Source: Thatcher Archive: COI transcript
Editorial comments:

Exact time unknown.

Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 1813
Themes: Foreign policy (USA), Foreign policy (USSR & successor states), Foreign policy (Western Europe - non-EU), Foreign policy (Americas excluding USA), Foreign policy (Middle East), Defence (Falklands War, 1982), Conservatism, Leadership, British relations with Italy

Q

Mrs Prime Minister, what are the mutual relations between Great Britain and Italy following the decision of the Italian government to dissociate itself from the sanctions against Argentina in the Falklands crisis?

A

Relations between the UK and Italy are good. They usually are. We always have a very warm welcome when we come here and we try to give your ministers a warm welcome at home. And we share similar views about many things. Italy did join in the first round of sanctions for about four weeks. We were sad that she was not able to renew them but she did renew the most important ones of all, namely about military equipment. No military equipment was supplied to Argentina during the whole course of the hostilities in the Falklands and for that we were very grateful.

Q

Do you believe that the Falklands crisis will have negative consequences in the relationship among Latin American countries on the one hand and United States and Europe on the other?

A

Not the Falklands crisis itself, no. And I think that that argument has really been overdone. The countries of South America are very different from one another. We have diplomatic relations with them all. We do a lot of trade with a number of them. We have tried to become closer to them before the Argentine matter came to this terrible invasion. And I do not think we shall have any difficulty restoring relations to what they were with the vast majority of the countries of South America. And, of course, we are always close to the United States. There are one or two problems now between the United States and Europe but they are small compared with the enormous number of things that we have in common and we will try to talk those differences through and try to find a solution to them. And I believe and hope we shall.

Q

It was thought that the Falklands war had been a colonialist war. What is your opinion? [end p1]

A

A colonialist war - it is very strange to accuse Britain of that. After all we have brought some forty-five countries to independence. And these forty-five votes in the United Nations are from countries that used to be colonies of Britain and, as you know, no empire in the history of the world has said to the people and the territory which originally belonged to it&em;“look we are going to bring you to independence”. No other empire save ours. We still have a number of territories which are small and some of whose people do not wish to be brought to independence. As far as the Falklands are concerned they already have their own legislative council which they elect so they make their own laws. That is far more than the people of the Argentine do. And we shall go on gradually bringing the Falklands to self-government with their own ministers. That will not be difficult. We make advances every year. But for a country like the Argentine that has not got democracy to suggest that we are a colonialist power, when our people&em;British stock there in the Falklands, only about thirty people are of Argentine origin and some of our people have been there far longer in the Falklands than some of the people have been in the Argentine&em;to suggest that our people who enjoy freedom, justice and democracy are more under colonialism than the people of the Argentine who do not enjoy those things, is ridiculous. We look at it differently. We will bring the Falklands to self-government. The Argentines wanted to be the new colonisers and take the Falklands into a country which does not even enjoy freedom or democracy.

Q

The Middle East crisis is once again the main international problem. What is your point of view about the Israeli attitude?

A

We were very disturbed indeed when Israel crossed the frontiers in enormous force and did the tremendous amount of damage in the Lebanon which she did&em;physical damage and, according to the international red cross, very very considerable casualties, and naturally we supported the Security Council resolution that Israel must withdraw. At the moment it is not easy to see what the solution should be to the larger problem. The immediate solution, yes&em;Israel must withdraw from the Lebanon. The United States has obviously made a major initiative on trying to help to withdraw the Palestinians, and then the Syrian forces will withdraw and one hopes that Lebanon will have the country back for the Lebanese people. When that is achieved&em;and that will be a tremendous feat&em;there is still the deeper problem&em;what is going to happen to the Palestinian people who have just as much right to self-determination as the rest of us. Israel has a right to self-determination which she enjoys. She has a right to live in peace within secure borders. You cannot demand that right for yourself and attempt to deny it to the Palestinians, who were once a part of that area just as much as the Israelis are a part of it. [end p2]

Q

In your opinion, Mrs. Thatcher, why, after thirty years, is it not yet possible to foresee a possible solution for the Middle East in spite of several attempts at international mediation?

A

Because of the fundamental difficulty of the problem. You know for a long time the Palestinian problem was looked upon really just as a refugee problem. If you look back at some of those resolutions of the United Nations&em;the famous 242 which was in 1967&em;the Palestinaian problem then was still treated just as a refugee problem. But those people have more ambitions than just to be settled as refugees&em;and even that would be something: if they were all settled and in reasonable accommodation. They wish to be a national entity of their own and to have a say in their own future. We have all been trying to bring this about. We have failed so far and, I am afraid, that it will still take a very long time because we do not yet see a solution that is acceptable both to the Israelis and to the other countries bordering upon Israel where the Palestinians now live and used to live.

Q

After the second world war the forms of government based on socialists and Communists have made an impressive move forward. Do you believe that this trend could be changed?

A

Oh yes, very much, because I think in the last four or five years in particular, perhaps even slightly longer, people have taken one look at all those countries which live under a Communist system and said: “look it doesn't work. Never mind the theory&em;it doesn't work.” it brings those people neither freedom nor dignity nor happiness nor justice and it does not bring them a very high standard of living. It has failed. It is morally and politically bankrupt. It is no longer a theory at which people can point and say&em;“isn't is going to be marvellous?”. They see what the theory is like in practice. And so all the hopes and ambitions of ordinary folk are fastened on the systems, the political systems, that do give them a chance to live their lives in their own way and to have a chance to earn a reasonable standard of living. And those are the democratic systems of the West. And so there has been an enormous change. And you know some of those who have lived under the Soviet yoke have put it best because they perhaps value freedom even more than we do, because they have known what it is like to live without it. [end p3]

Q

From a political and cultural point of view how do you explain the success of Communist and Socialist models?

A

They have not succeeded. It is very interesting if you look at the history of the Soviet Union. They were under the csars which was really a dictatorial regime and then they changed to be under the Soviets and the Soviets turned out to be a central dictatorial regime. You have to do what you are told. They are almost indistinguishable from one another except that under the Csars they were more likely to come towards freedom than they have been under the Communists. You know the Soviet Union only had one free election, when they could choose between different people and that was just after Kerensky took over and they had an election. And the actual Soviet parties lost that free election. And they seized power, and they have only kept it by force and by internal police. And so I cannot say that that system has been a success anywhere where it has been tried. Not for ordinary people. The people who like it are the privileged ones and they are the ones in government. Everything becomes not a matter of merit, not a matter of personal rights, but have you got a Communist, party card? That is what gives you access to privileges. And you know the gap between the rulers in Communist countries and the ordinary workers is far greater than the gap in democratic societies. They have a far higher standard of living in relation to ordinary people and they have staff and servants to wait on them and so on, far more than we do.

Q

Following the British experience do you think that other Western conservative or liberal parties could take the lead steadily?

A

Well yes, but a number of them have. In Norway the centre right parties won. In Australia&em;long before we won&em;the centre right party in Australia won, in New Zealand and, if there is any difference in the United States, it moved slightly to the centre right. And our good selves. The other example which went the other way was France. So, yes I think we did start quite a fashion, but it was more fundamental than a fashion. I think it was a realisation and we have lived through it for many years that the inevitable end of a socialist party if you constantly return a Socialist party to power, is to get more and more controlled government, and less and less liberty to the people. And there comes a time when people will not take that any more. They say&em;“look we would rather have less taxation. We would rather have less control and we would rather divest the government of some of its powers and return more of the powers to the people so it is a genuine distribution of power between governments and people and that really is the difference between a Conservaive government and others. I use Conservative in the British sense, it is very different from the continental sense. It is more liberal, in the continental [end p4] sense, liberal in its old traditional economic sense. The real difference between the political parties is whether a government is there in the socialist sense to control everything or in the conservative liberal sense to see that the law is fair and to see that those things which only governments can do are done by governments, and that the rest is left to the people.

Q

In Italy you are called the steel lady. What are your feelings about this expression?

A

Well, you know, you need a certain amount of strength if you are to do the job which I do and if you are to believe as passionately as I do that certain things must endure from generation to generation and must be protected. But it is not a bad thing to put on armour&em;indeed you sometimes need it from the attacks you have. So, yes, the stronger you feel about things, the thicker the armour you must have.