Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

Complete list of 8,000+ Thatcher statements & texts of many of them

1982 Dec 30 Th
Margaret Thatcher

TV Interview for De Wolfe Productions (Sir Laurens van der Post)

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Document kind: TV Interview
Venue: No.10 Downing Street
Source: Thatcher Archive: transcript
Journalist: Laurens van der Post for De Wolfe Productions
Editorial comments: 1400-1645 was set aside for the interview. A transcript of the programme as broadcast is followed by a second transcript of material not used in the broadcast. Two pages of the second transcript are missing (see editorial notes in text). The programme was made by an independent company for broadcast on ITV; it was first shown in the UK on 29 March 1983. Reproduced with kind permission of the estate of Laurens van der Post.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 15039
Themes: Arts & entertainment, Autobiographical comments, Autobiography (childhood), Autobiography (marriage & children), Executive, Monarchy, Civil liberties, Commonwealth (general), Conservatism, Conservative Party (organization), Conservative Party (history), Defence (general), Defence (Falklands War, 1982), Education, Secondary education, Foreign policy (general discussions), Foreign policy (Asia), Foreign policy (USSR & successor states), Foreign policy (Western Europe - non-EU), Law & order, Conservative (leadership elections), Northern Ireland, Race, immigration, nationality, Religion & morality, Science & technology, Society, Social security & welfare, Terrorism, Voluntary sector & charity, Women
Transcript of programme as broadcast.

LvdP

Margaret Thatcher and I have been friends for many years and as a person who is tremendously pressed, she still seems to find time for her friends, and I've been able to visit her here, at No. 10 Downing Street, the official residence of all British Prime Ministers, on many occasions in the past three years. It's one of the few houses which have survived from the early days of the Restoration when George Downing, an American speculator, returned to Britain to make a fortune in the 17th Century and built this little street.

No. 10 may have just about the best known front door in the world, but very few people know what lies behind it.

It has so many memories of past prime ministers. There have been over forty of them, but Margaret Thatcher is unique in being the first woman. And, like Airey Neave, the mutual friend who introduced us, I think she's unique in many other ways as well.

That's why I'm here today, to talk to her about herself, her vision of life, [end p1] and the sense of purpose that has brought her to the top of the stairs.

LvdP

I would love to know more about your father. as you remember him. He started as as cobbler, didn't he? Or is that wrong?

PM

My grandfather was … [end p2]

LP

It was your grandfather …   .

PM

… a cobbler. Alfred RobertsHe … my father was born in a small village called Ringstead, and I remember visiting the house. It was a small cottage and again, I remember the atmosphere. Children are very sensitive to atmosphere. It was always a family atmosphere in which every one was interested in the children. Of course, there was no radio, there was no television. The life was a village life and people were naturally interested in their children, and in their family. So it was very much, it seemed, very much the centre if not of their life, the centre of their hopes.

And when my father went out to work at the age of thirteen, he was not paid very much and he moved to Grantham to become a manager. And he told me he was paid twelve shillings a week, and of that, ten shillings per week went to your board and lodging, one shilling to saving, and only then did you spend. So that was the way they started. Beatrice RobertsMy mother was a seamstress.

And I think that it was a combination of their savings and my mother's savings that enabled them to … to start … to have enough money to put down as a deposit on the shop and to borrow a good deal more. [end p3]

But they really had proved their worth, by the saving and by their hard work. Both of them brought up in a strongly religious family. I think both, very conscious that there was a lot more to life and both very anxious to give it to us.

LP

What is the first thing that you remember? Not a rational thing. What is the first thing you remember in life? A sound or a colour—but what is the first thing that you remember?

PM

I can remember being taken out as a … I can remember in one's pram being taken out for a walk. And just sitting up and looking around one. But, I can remember a feeling both of wonder and of security.

LvdP

It seems to me frightfully important that you start with a sense of wonder … and because it seems the whole of life begins with a sense of wonder.

I have here with me, a picture of the place where you were born.

PM

Oh yes …   . I remember it very well. That was my bedroom window. [end p4]

LP

What did you see from it?

PM

I looked across … it was the Great North Road. It was on the Great North Road.

And there were traffic lights on the corner. So we were very much brought up with the great lorries. Life was going on through this physical artery which was the heart. But I looked across, straight across the road to a church. It was a Roman Catholic church, and a Roman Catholic manse. So we had the two things. indicating photograph

I remember this tree very well. This is winter. But that was a lime tree. It was a lovely lime tree.

And of course they have these most marvellous fresh green leaves when they open. And I can remember, again one of my earliest memories, my father just lifting me high so that I could feel the early leaves.

Later, when it grew higher, they came and pruned the lower branches.

LvdP

Doesn't it seem a long way from this house to where we are standing now?

Because, it feels much more like a home, indeed a country home, a modest country home, than a sort of Prime Ministerial establishment. Do you have a feeling like that about it yourself? [end p5]

PM

People always say that when they come here.

It is of course, although it's very grand in some ways, much more modest than many of the houses in which Prime Ministers live. But of course in days gone by they used to have large families here, large staffs, and they used to use these main rooms as living rooms. Now we use them as official reception rooms. But they were substantially re-modelled for Walpole, and they've kept their proportion and their beauty.

This is one of our Turners. I felt very strongly we should have some of our best pictures at Number 10, or representative work of our very greatest artists. This is the earliest one, but I think my favourite is the one over the fireplace, ‘Men with Horses Crossing a River’.

The colouring is lovely, and you have all the depth and perspective and the most beautiful trees.

There's great competition for the Turners. They have three in the Paris Embassy and visiting there I said, “You have three Turners, and I haven't any.” So very quickly, we got three Turners here.

We used to have a number of Italian pictures in this room, and again, I wanted ones by British artists, [end p6] and they brought me two or three by Richard Wilson, whose work I'm afraid, I didn't know, but I was quite thrilled when we put them in place in this room. The lighting is lovely and the depth of the picture is beautiful.

This desk is a very unusual one. You don't find repeats of it. It was specially made for Pitt, and it's just lovely. You see it looks …   .

LvdP

Oh, it's beautiful …

PM

…   . like three draws, it isn't—there are more in here.

This inkstand is one of the few pieces of silver that are permanently in No. 10 apart from those in the Cabinet Room.

This comes from the Treasury. We have to work very hard to extricate anything from the Treasury, even in No. 10.

LvdP

Yes, it's almost … the feel of Pitt about it.

It's so right for him. He must have been—

PM

Prime Minister when we won the Battle of Trafalgar. [end p7]

LP

Yes.

PM

Yes. And this is one of a pair and the mirror's one of a pair. The mirrors are Chippendale. Very impressive mirrors. They used to have when I came here, very, very a Rococco-style table—much too elaborate for my liking—and I wanted something much more British.

So the Victoria and Albert let me have this pair, only just a few months ago, but again, it's beautiful, the proportions are lovely, and it's beautiful work. And I wanted really just the best of English furniture here, or Scottish furniture.

LvdP

What period is this, forgive me …

PM

It is an Adam.

LvdP

…   . for asking, I really ought to know. It's an Adam, is it? It's beautiful.

PM

It, er, looks to me as if that's warping slightly. We must just have that attended to.

LvdP

Incredible piece of work that, yes. [end p8]

PM

Over there, this small table here, is really Chinese Chippendale.

LvdP

Yes, indeed.

PM

It was part of a suite the rest of which is just outside my study, and it was made for Clive of India. So once again, it's history of great men …

LP

Yes, yes.

PM

… who have done great things. Now when I came here, we had no original pictures of Nelson, or Wellington, only copies. And I thought we ought to have original ones, so the National Maritime Museum let me have this one of Nelson. I'm very fond of it …

He was such an enigmatic man, as so many very, very brilliant people. are. But what's always struck me about it, is one always thinks of him as such a fantastic victor and man of war, but look at that sensitive face …

LP

Now, this is what's the paradox which hits one immediately—how somebody so frail, with the imagination and sensitivity of that face, could endure so much. [end p9]

PM

This is a picture of Wellington. I, after Falklands, thought of him very much because I was very upset at the people who lost their lives in Falklands, then I thought of Wellington, after the battle of Waterloo, he walked around the battlefield totally and utterly sickened and grief-stricken by it—over 22,000 dead of course, in two days—and of course he never fought another war again.

LvdP

There was that wonderful remark of his, “There's only one thing worse than a battle lost, and that's a battle won.”

Well, that was very exciting seeing those things there.

PM

Yes, they're lovely.

LvdP

Absolutely incredible. They enter the Pillared Room.

PM

This is the largest …

LvdP

This is lovely …

PM

Isn't it beautiful? It's the largest of the three reception rooms, designed by William Kent. You're quite right, it's dominated by this remarkable carpet. It's a Tabriz Persian and it's always been a feature of Number 10. [end p10]

But one day, I had some people in to lunch and there was an expert at Persian, and I asked him what it said here, because it's woven into the carpet. And it says that—by the person who wove it:

“I have no place in the world, save thy threshold.” And it's made by a slave of the Holy Places, and the date on that is equal to 1520 AD.

So, I said at once, if it's that old, we ought not to tread on it.

LvdP

Yes.

PM

So we got someone down from the British Museum to have a look, because the British Museum are expert at everything, and we were told immediately, it's not the original, the British Museum had the original, and this was a copy.

I was relieved because we could go on using it. But it's eighty-two years old, so it's worn very well.

You can see there are some lovely pictures in the room, so we've above all tried to get pictures by British artists and we have quite a number of Romney, Hoppner, and this one here by Sir Joshua Reynolds of Lady Sunderlin. The room used to end here, the whole house used to end here by these pillars until the end of the 18th Century, it was extended and a new wing built, so it has two dining rooms, a small one and a large one, both of which we use officially. [end p11]

If you hear we have a working lunch at Number 10, it's in the smaller one, and a state lunch, it's in the larger one. Let's go and look at the smaller one because I've tried there to get some pictures and marbles of great scientists. They enter the Small Dining Room.

Now, just let me tell you about the silver first, Laurens. Again, it doesn't belong to Number 10, because there was very little here, but a great friend of mine, Lord Brownlow, who lived after all only three miles from where I was born, in Grantham, Belton House, let me have this. And it has a history too. It belonged to the Brownlow family in the days when they were the Cust family, and there was a Mr Speaker Cust, who was Speaker of the House of Commons, and in those days apparently, a Speaker had to provide his own silver.

As a matter of fact, we do a lot of statecraft around this table. We have formal talks in my study, and in the White Drawing Room, but somehow, it's a narrow table, and it's very easy for talking, and we often have quite informal luncheon meetings here—and—

LvdP

Do you get foreign statesmen here too?

PM conts from a/b

—frequently, all of a sudden, tongues are loosened, and people talk.

LvdP

Do you get foreign statesmen? [end p12]

PM

Oh, yes indeed …   .

LvdP

And are they impressed by it—they must be—

PM

They expect us to be rather cold and formal, and rather surprised when we're friendly and informal.

LvdP

This would be a marvellous room for it. I don't see how one could feel outdistanced here. Lovely.

PM

And then we're trying to make it a little scientific gallery as well. We've got one or two spaces still waiting. There's a picture of Priestley who discovered oxygen.

And there's Humphrey Davy, the inventor of the miner's lamp which saved so many lives, and perhaps our greatest scientist of all here, Isaac Newton.

LvdP

That must give you a great satisfaction, to have him here.

PM

Well, it does, bearing in mind again the connection with Grantham. [end p13]

LvdP

I was wondering how the likeness corresponded to the statue near Grantham?

PM

I think the face is similar. It's a full-length statue at Grantham. This is a much more informal one and we're just really rather lucky to have it. It fits there perfectly.

LvdP

Pity he's separated from Faraday.

PM

Well, Faraday—I got Faraday here too, also to come up here in the dining room, but he's come with a big granite plynth about that high, and the granite plynth weighs a half ton, so I'm afraid he'd go straight through our floors.

But he's on the ground floor, so everyone sees him.

LvdP

And, Prime Minister, was it Newton who was so full himself of this sense of wonder of which you spoke at the beginning, who first turned your imagination towards science? [end p14]

PM

Oh, he was a remarkable person in almost every way. Yes, because of his connection with Grantham, because one was already passionately interested in science in any event, because I had a marvellous teacher of chemistry, and that really unlocks the doors to almost every one of the sciences.

LvdP

You were always confronted daily with the statue of Newton in Grantham, weren't you?

PM

Oh, yes, indeed, I passed it, every day on my way to school.

Look, this is a casket which used to be given to people who were given the freedom of the borough in Grantham. I have it on loan again from the present Lord Brownlow. And when I saw it I was quite thrilled and said to him: “Look, for you this is one of many of your possessions, for me—may I borrow it, because it will mean so much to me.” Because there is the town hall of Grantham, which I knew and passed every day on my way to school, that is the statue of Newton,

LvdP

Oh, that's where it stands—how marvellous—confronting the Town Hall—

PM

Yes, the Town Hall is wonderfully sited, and then, on the other side we have this lovely Belton House which was built in the style of Wren, which I also knew. As a child, they held great fetes there and shows on bank [end p15] holidays and I remember all the school children went into the grounds there in 1935 when we had a great tea party for the Silver Jubilee of King George V.

Alfred RobertsMy Father took me about a great deal; I can remember being taken to meet Herbert Morrison, when he was Home Secretary—this was beginning of wartime—and he came to our town to look at our arrangements for ARP (Air Raid Precautions—people don't know these days what ARP meant) and I was taken to meet him.

And we were active in trying to save money.

And then my father was Mayor towards the end of the war, and so many of the aircraft, the bombers, went from near Grantham; we knew many of the pilots, and I remember, after that very famous and ingenious and scientific raid on the dam that was near—

LvdP

Oh, the dam-busters, yes.

PM

—which was led by Guy Gibson, and my father entertained him to a great reception in Grantham. Yes, we knew quite a number of the pilots.

LvdP

You must have known many who were killed. And you must, therefore, in those days, have had your first encounter with death. [end p16]

PM

I remember it quite vividly, because again, it was the same thing as with the Falklands, it's the young people who bear the brunt of the risks of war, and Cranwell of course, where many of them are trained, was not far from us, and you'd know quite a number of them and all of a sudden you'd say: “look, what's happened to so and so?” and there was a certain language that developed, and it would be: “Oh, he bought it.”

LvdP

One never gets used to losing people, does one?

PM

No. And yet they knew that they had to carry on and they did. But this has so many, many memories for me. And I remember too, there, the great victory parade, and the fantastic relief and we thought we would never more have any worries when peace had come, or that any of the worries that we had would be small compared to those which we had endured. And I think it takes you quite a long time and quite a little experience in politics to know that the battles of peace are even more difficult to solve than the battles of war.

LvdP

Yes. Prime Minister, it must have been a tremendous shock to you therefore, in this time of so-called peace, to lose somebody like Airey Neave, who had survived the war, who had such a gallant war, and it seems to me such an ironic—so tragic—that a man like that should have died in what we call a time of peace. [end p17]

PM

Oh, it was—I couldn't believe it almost—You know, one believed it intellectually, but one just couldn't take it in emotionally. Because, Airey Neavehe escaped Hitler, he'd escaped from Colditz, he was so extremely brave, and of course, only a coward could have got him. [end p18]

PM

showing family photographs.

That was a picture of the whole family, with my older sister Muriel RobertsMuriel who by that time was away learning to be a physiotherapist. I remember my Beatrice Robertsmother making her dress and mine. I was very thrilled with that dress, it was a dark blue velvet one, and I loved it for many years.

LP

How old were you?

PM

How old was I? About eighteen. It looks very young and earnest, doesn't it?

Oh, let's move on a few years. That was when I was married to Denis ThatcherDenis. It was a very cold day.

LP

Were you married in Grantham?

PM

No, I was married in London, City Road Methodist Church, London. It was a bitterly cold day so I was in a long velvet dress, again, I love velvet. And this Gainsborough-style hat, and I was married on December 13, and as I was [end p19] born on October 13, the 13th has never held any fears for me as a number.

LvdP

Prime Minister, this shakes me a little, because I was born on December 13 and married on October 13—perhaps the 13th has brought me here to you.

PM

Just the other way round! Really? Well, no superstition attaches to either of us on 13, isn't that remarkable?

Then, two years later the twins were born. That was Mark ThatcherMark, and that was Carol ThatcherCarol, I'm very glad we've got that picture. They hate it when I show it—

LvdP

It's a marvellous picture—you had no difficulty ever—

PM

—hate it when I show it—

LvdP

—in telling them apart, although they were twins?

PM

No, no—no, no—I think any mother of twins who are not identical will tell you that they have their own personalities from day one. Really do. [end p20]

LvdP

That's very reassuring.

PM

Then I became a Member of Parliament. That was me turning up to the House of Commons, October 1959.

LvdP

You don't look the least bit nervous. I would have been shaking at the knees.

PM

That was just outside. I think I probably was shaking at the knees.

Interesting. You know in those days it was the done thing to wear a hat. And so we turned up. And those were the pearls that Denis gave me the day the children were born.

This was just the day after I made my maiden speech. It was a maiden speech which went rather well. And I did the unusual thing of introducing a bill on my maiden speech. A bill which admitted the press to meetings of local councils and committees, and I think the press mustn't have had very much else to write about, anyway, they came and took a picture of me at home, with the children. It's a picture I love.

LvdP

It's an enchanting picture. [end p21]

PM

Isn't it lovely. Mark and Carol looking really rather full of wonder at all these people who've suddenly appeared. They were six or seven at that time. Again, the same pearls and the same broach.

This is another family picture which I'm very fond of. I think it's good of all four of us and typifies the family, at our home in Kent in Holwood Park.

LvdP

This is where I would like to just for a minute go back to your university days. What do you think was the greatest thing Oxford gave you?

PM

Oh, so very, very many things. To me of course, it was the most marvellous privilege and opportunity to be able to go there at all. And my Alfred Roberts father's dream. I—when I got there I think the first thing I learned was that for the first time in my life, you are totally divorced from your background. You got there as an individual. So what did we learn? We learned that it's what each person is that counts. And what they make of themselves. And the contribution they make. We learned that your own particular faculty and subject may be the centre of your life, but it's part of the whole. I learned a great deal about politics. I learned too that there were people with very different opinions.

And then, I also belonged to the Bach Choir, because again, music still coming out. [end p22]

LvdP

Bach meant most to you of all … of all the musicians, did he?

PM

I love Bach … his great chorales are marvellous. So it was just really the opening to my life.

LvdP

Now you went to you first job which sounds to me to have been very, very hard work indeed. You went as a researcher, didn't you?

PM

I went as a research chemist in industry, again, in plastics—it was the thing of the future—and worked in industry. Thank goodness I did work in industry because it was a completely different experience. When you're working in pure research, you're trying to find out the laws of nature. But it's quite different to go and work in industry where you are trying constantly to produce new things which would sell. That was why you were there. And that was a totally different experience. And early on again, I carried on politics in university as you know, and then joined the local political societies and became active there—

LvdP

This is to me where we come really to the—what shall I say—the mature climax of your career. The moment you've decided to transfer this into politics. Was there any particular incident which made, helped you to release, to precipitate this, act as a catalyst? [end p23]

PM

Really, there were two occasions. One when I was still at university, and also from Grantham and from the same school, there was another great friend of mine, at university, (I was at Somerville, she was at Lady Margaret Hall). But again, it helps in life if you've always got another friend who has known the same things. And in the recess we used to meet, her father was a vicar. And they had a, I think it was a 21st birthday party to which I was invited. And it was quite a way away, so we stayed the night. And the great thing about parties, isn't the party—it's really congregating afterwards in the kitchen (being a vicarage, it had quite a big kitchen), and you just sit down and you talk and you get whatever there is to eat—cup of tea, sandwiches—and you just sit down and talk. And of course, I was talking about politics. I so often was. And, one person there just suddenly said, “Well, then, you'd really like to become a M.P.?” And it kind of crystallised everything which I wished to do. I said: “Yes, I would like to.”

And I still kept in touch with the Graduate Society, the Conservative Graduate Society of Oxford. And therefore you went to Party Conference. And I remember one year it was at Llundudno. I think it was 1948. And I was sitting in the Hall just listening to the debates, not taking part in that one. And next to me was John Millerthe Chairman of Dartford Conservative Association. And on the other side, one of my friends from John GrantOxford. [end p24] And we all three walked out in the lunch-break down the Llandudno Pier and my Oxford friend said to the Chairman of Dartford, “I hear you're trying to find a candidate to fight the next election. “Oh, yes,” said John Miller, my Chairman. “We shall need a very able young man. It's a very tough industrial area.” “Oh,” said my Oxford friend, “would you not consider an able young woman?” “Oh no, it's not that sort of area at all.” “Well, just would you consider her?” “She can apply.”

And then he said that it was me. You see—I had not thought of applying at all. And then they brought along the women's chairman and she looked at me and then said: “Well, just apply.” And that was how really I came to apply. I think there were twenty-three who applied. And quite by chance, I was chosen.

LvdP

Did you have a feeling from that moment on that this was really the way you were going?

PM

Yes, I did.

I actually met Denis ThatcherDenis there as well. Again, the night I was adopted as the candidate. I had to go to travel there and to get back to London and back to Colchester where I was living, and someone said: “I know someone who'll bring you back—will take you, run you back to London, you can catch a train.” And it was Denis.

We weren't engaged until 1951. But I knew him very well. Again, we had the same [end p25] common interests. He didn't half ask me some tough economic questions! Very good practice. But, isn't it strange, things just happen. But, that was how it happened.

I really could never leave politics alone. It had always from my early young days, this total fascination. It wasn't that I went into it, it was that I really couldn't somehow keep out of it. And then I really just took advantage of the opportunities which came my way. And always, even though we didn't win in 1950, we didn't win in 1951, I always just kept on at it.

LvdP

You won in 1953?

PM

No, 1959, you see.

LvdP

‘59! As long as that?

PM

I kept on at it. The children were born in 1953. But I had to make … when the children were born I was, I had still been doing my legal studies. The children were born when I was half-way through.

LvdP

Yes, I remember Denis 's fantastic remark, he said: “In May, Intermediate Bar Examination, in August the twins, and in December, the Final Bar Examinations.” [end p26]

PM

I again remember lying in hospital. I had a Caesar with them and of course, they become the total centre of your life. And I remember thinking, if I don't now I'm in hospital, actually fill in the entrance form, for the Final of the Law, I may never go back to it. But if I fill in the entrance form now, pride will not let me fail. And so I did.

I had a feeling that with very young children, I could not go back immediately into politics, because I wanted to be with them, I wanted to shape and influence their lives,

I wanted to—well, you get so much from being a mother as well as giving. And they were small, they were very small, they were only four pounds; they were going to need a lot of looking after. And of course they do become the centre of your life and you live for them as you've never lived for anything or anyone else. Both of you. It's a marvellous thing about parenthood. And yet, I knew that I had something in addition to give, and I knew that I must exert myself to use it.

I was just very lucky with Denis. Absolutely marvelous. And always encouraged me to use all one's talents. And then we had a marvelous family. Everything just came right.

And then the children were six, and then Finchley became vacant and I never thought I had a chance for that, but I went, and I just tried, and I won the seat. And, the people there were marvelous. [end p27]

LvdP

Now I won't bother you with all the stages from the moment you arrived in Parliament. But it seems to me that a really, a particularly trying, crucial moment where you really found yourself, as it were politically through the fire, was at the Department of Education. Wasn't that a very, very difficult assignment?

PM

It was a very difficult assignment. The first assignment I had of course was from Harold Macmillan, when I did Ministry of Pensions and National Insurance, only two years after I had come into the House. And I had three different ministers in that job—very interesting—John Boyd-Carpenter, my first political boss, was a marvellous teacher, fantastic man, total command of his department. And then after a year, you know Harold Macmillan changed his government radically (it was known as ‘the Night of the Long Knives’).

I mention it for this reason: if during the lifetime of the same government you serve three different ministers, you see how the Civil Service works, because the advice they gave—I saw it vary from minister to minister.

And I used to sit there sometimes and say, “that's not what you said to the last minister. You're giving him totally different advice. Why? And gradually they said, “Well, the last minister wouldn't have accepted that advice.” So I said: “Well, you're now trying it on the present one.” And gradually—it was the most fascinating constitutional experience. [end p28]

LvdP

Very important.

PM

Yes, it was.

Back to education. Thank goodness, again, I was given it. It's extremely important. Again, at a critical time. There was a great battle on. It was part of this equalisation rage at the time, that you mustn't select by ability. After all, I had come up by selection by ability. I had to fight it. I had a terrible time.

LvdP

What did it do to you, that experience?

PM

It makes you stand up and go on standing up for the things in which you believe, regardless.

Iron entered my soul. You need a touch of steel to put through the things you believe in. Otherwise you'd be just like India rubber, and turn any way.

LvdP

But, not in your soul … I remember

Lloyd George making a remark about Ramsay MacDonald that he proved the one way iron enters the soul is by sitting on fences.

PM

Oh indeed, yes, and not coming down on one side or the other. [end p29]

Isn't it a ‘mugwump’—is a man who has his mug on one side of the fence, and his wump on the other? Yes, I remember Manny Shinwell saying that.

LvdP

The next major battle, and which must have been a very difficult one, because you seem to have done this, again, as you've so often done, out of your own intuitive self, is in running for the leadership of the Conservative Party against Ted Heath.

PM

We had lost a vital election and again, history would have been different if we had won it. The Party was insisting that Edward HeathTed put up as leader again. And if they insisted, then it seemed to me that someone had to put up against him. He—I obviously by that time was beginning to have some different views of different emphasis. I had thought that others would put up.

Possibly that Keith Joseph would put up.

And there were demonstrations outside his house and everything else, and then all of a sudden he just came along to me and said: “Look, I want you to know, that I have decided I'm not going stand for the leadership.” And quite instinctively I said, “I'm sorry Keith, why not?” And he said, “Well, I just can't. I can't tell you quite why, but I just can't.” I don't think it was wholly to do with those demonstrations, but he realised the tension on him for about three days. And I said, straight away, “Well, if you're not, I'm going to.” [end p30] And after a few days, Airey Neave came along and he said, “Tell me, who is running your campaign?” I said, “Running my campaign? I haven't got anyone to run my campaign. Do I need a campaign?” He said, “Well, I think I better run it for you.”

LvdP

I remember Airey telling me during the election that he was convinced that you couldn't possibly lose.

PM

I—don't forget—that final vote. I was just waiting in a tiny little room upstairs in the House of Commons, and Airey just came in and said, “You are now leader of our Party.”

And until that time, I couldn't believe it. I had never expected the leadership—let alone it to happen that way.

It's rather different coming to power as Leader of the Opposition. Because, so much of what you have to do is comment, criticise and talk. And all my up-bringing has been not as a talker, except as a debater, as wanting to do something. And being constructive about it. So I found those four years in opposition very difficult. But one used them constantly to enlarge one's own experience, one's experience of international affairs, one's experience of getting a group, a view of a whole group of a shadow cabinet. And of taking one or two quite fundamental decisions about the way we should go and as a time of preparation for government. [end p31] They enter the Cabinet Room.

PM

This is our Cabinet Room. It's a very modest room as you can see, at least compared with that of some other heads of government, but it's a room full of history. It used to be smaller than it is now, it used to end here, across there, and then at the end of the 18th Century, these two colomns were put in and that extension was added, and those two doors go through to my private secretaries.

The blotters here look very nice when you turn them over. They're ‘Cabinet Room, First Lord’, reminding us that I inhabit this house as First Lord of the Treasury as well as of Cabinet Minister.

There's a silver box there belonging to William III; there's a candlestick there just behind which belonged to Pitt. We always have them on this table, and they're just part of the history of this room.

I used to sit in this chair when I was first a Member of the Cabinet, which is why I stop here automatically …

LvdP

Well, I think I'll bow to it myself …

PM

I was Secretary of State for Education, so I know what it's like to be in another chair. Then I graduated to this chair, which is the only chair in the room with arms, and is of course the Prime Minister's chair. [end p32]

It's been re-covered but it's the one where Winston ChurchillWinston sat, and many of his predecessors before him. Possibly, the first one, Sir Robert Walpole, who came into this house in 1735; it's a great comfort to many of us that he stayed here for twenty-one years.

LvdP

Yes, of course he was the first tenant of Downing Street …

PM

He was the first tenant of Downing Street …

LvdP

The first one was an American called Downing—really, at least he—he came from Harvard, didn't he?

PM

He built Downing Street, that's the house at the front. This one really belongs to the house at the back, looking over Horseguards' Parade. And when King George II purchased them for the Prime Minister, he purchased this one and the front one and they were joined together …   .

LvdP

He very successfully switched sides, didn't he?

PM

Downing switched sides to whoever was in power …

LvdP

Now if you had lived in that period, would you have been a Roundhead or a Cavalier? Your instincts … [end p33]

PM

Oh, no slightest shadow … I'd have been a Cavalier, a Royalist.

LvdP

The table was not Churchill 's table. What happened?

PM

No, there used to be a rather nice polished table in here, but it was not apparently easy

to see all Members around an oblong table, so Harold Macmillan had this boat-shaped top put on and it's been like that ever since.

Thank you. Please sit down. You see here one can have a command of the whole of the Cabinet Room table.

LvdP

Well, it interested me at once, Prime Minister, you don't sit at the head, but you sit at the centre, as it were, as near to the middle as you can.

PM

Very much better. You can see everyone here and there and you're more a part of what is going on, and can sense and feel what is happening.

LvdP

But when you sat here for the first time, in Winston 's chair, how many—were you the only woman in the room? [end p34]

PM

Yes, I was …

LvdP

How many men?

PM

Twenty-one, and of course, some secretariat. So—but you don't think of it that way.

LvdP

And yet, isn't it rather frightening that you've had no model, as it were. Men, when they come here have some tradition, they've learnt it at school, at their clubs, but for the first time, you come here with no model to go by, as it were, or—are the males sufficient of a model?

PM

Well of course, I was a Member of a previous Cabinet, so I knew the drill, as it were, and when you become a parliamentary secretary, which I did way back in Harold Macmillan 's government, you attend a lot of Cabinet committees, which are not here but elsewhere, but you know how the system works. I think this is one of the differences between ourselves, and for example, the American system. You can have a President who has never been part of a Cabinet, and doesn't really know quite how the system works between the Executive (which is the Cabinet) and Congress. We've come up through the system—1959 to 1970—I'd been in Parliament twenty years: I'd been a Parliamentary Secretary, I'd been a Secretary of State, so each stage—it's like climbing up a ladder, a few more rungs—but it's all part of one's experience, which is [end p35] so very different from that of our American friends, who have come to it totally fresh and really might have to spend a few months learning about it.

Whereas we're steeped in it. Of course things have changed.

So many of my predecessors had nothing of the strain which we had to bear. I think it was only in the post-war period that Prime Ministers had to answer questions twice a week in the House, every Tuesday and Thursday, and sometimes when I read of the life of my predecessors, they had a lot of servants here, Parliament only sat part of the year—but then they didn't have all the media work we have to do, they didn't some of them have television, I mean, Winston ChurchillWinston didn't have television, Harold Macmillan did, and we will have about three or four thousand letters every week to open and to answer, quite apart from the Parliamentary work.

PM

Well, the Cabinet Room is where most Government decisions are taken, but this is where I work, in my study. These of course, are the boxes in which all my papers come. I usually work on them very late at night; there are two or three every evening, any time up until 2 o'clock in the morning.

LvdP

But they leave you time for thinking things out here as well, I presume? [end p36]

PM

Yes, I think most of the thinking is done really at weekends. We do in this room a great deal of discussion; all ministers come here and see me, various leaders of industry, other statesmen, and all internal meetings. Oh yes, we have to make time for thinking.

LvdP

And you often go on till two in the morning?

PM

Quite frequently. Indeed, usually.

LvdP

And how early do you start?

PM

Well, that just depends. If I've got through it, I will not be on the job again until about half-past eight.

LvdP

Well, that's quite early enough for most people I think.

PM

Quite early, yes.

Have a look at this. It's the Royal Marines. It's taken from a photograph raising the flag on the Falklands, in San Carlos Bay, soon after the landing. And I think it just portrays everything that is marvelous about the British soldier.

And all the dignity, I think is portrayed there. The dignity, the calm and the kindliness. [end p37]

LvdP

I want to take up this capacity for heroism which was revealed in the Falklands, and to talk to you about a problem, which I know has haunted you, and haunts many of us who fought in wars: what happens to this heroism in peacetime?

PM

In wartime, you have a very, very clear and immediate objective. It is defined and everyone knows what they have to do and the role of each is carefully worked out. And after all, you have to go that way to survive. So there's an urgency, an immediacy and a clarity about it. When we turn to peace, we have to formulate our own objectives, we have to make ourselves live up to the best that is within us. That is much, much more difficult. There's no immediate problem of survival. Yes, we survive. And it's a question of each one, it's a question of creating your own inner challenge, and making yourself go on.

LvdP

Prime Minister, this seems to me also to be fundamentally and ultimately a religious question because this concept that you've outlined, is really the heart of Christianity. The creation of an individual who will take responsibilities of his life and time, as it were, upon himself and contain them in his own life. [end p38]

PM

I think it's quite true to say that the religion of both the Old and New Testaments have played an enormous part in the life of this country, indeed, have been quite fundamental to it. Because even though people did not go to church, they gave standards which were somehow totally accepted by our people, and actually practised.

But I think one of the distinguishing marks between a free society and a dictatorship, whether it's a Fascist or Communist dictatorship is the values of a free society like ours come from religion; they do not come from the state. And of course, the heart of the Christian message is that each person has the right to choose, and in choosing, develops his character. And it is each person that matters. I'm just groping after those two lines, I think it's the second verse of that marvelous hymn which starts: ‘I Vow to Thee, My Country, all Earthly Things Above’, and goes on in the second verse: ‘for there's another country I've heard of long ago,’ and towards the end of that verse it comes out that: ‘soul by soul and silently her shining bounds increase, and her ways are ways of gentleness and all her paths are peace’. There is the message: ‘soul by soul’.

And you tend, if life is slightly easier, not to create the challenge for yourself, and it tends only to come is you believe in something which is greater than yourself. End of transcript of programme as broadcast. [end p39] Beginning of transcript of material not broadcast.

MT (on her father)

(on her father): Alfred RobertsHe had, I think, a first-class mind, but he had not been able to have very much education because he had to leave school early and earn a living. He had a passion for reading. He always took part in everything. He was the kind of person who could never have worked for anyone else, so he bought his own shop, all on borrowed money, of course, and managed to work at that. But he was determined that we should have the kind of discussion and background which he had not been able to have. He also was a very good speaker, and he loved debating, so we always talked about things …

We had lots of friends; I think it's the most important thing in life. Whatever we had we shared, so we went out to have supper, tea, with other people, and they came in with us … One has to remember that we had a grocers' shop and people came in and out not only to buy goods in those days; it was very much a personal service. And we kept open late on Friday nights and Saturday nights … I think people came in as much to talk about what was happening. And in my life—all teetotal—no-one would ever have gone into a pub. Never. So perhaps this kind of background and upbringing provided just the kind of forum for talking … Daddy belonged to the Rotary Club, and of course that was an international movement. I can remember vividly when it was suggested that the Rotary Club go over to Germany. It was in Hitler 's time, and there had come to be what we know, indeed we should have known philosophically, as a tremendous fallacy—that if someone came to power and organised things well, as it used to be said ‘made the trains run on time’ and things happened, and discipline et cetera, that he would be a good ruler. Of course that was to put the outward signs before the things which mattered most. [end p40]

LvdP

Yes … I'm certain the Romans would have been good at making trains run on time. But there is always something, I think, in the criticism of Rome implied in the proverbial judgement, that Rome created a desert and called it order, because in a sense it was a spiritual waste. And that is the point that you are making now, that the inner things were the ones that really mattered.

MT

You cannot have a civilisation that will last and will endure unless men and women have freedom, and unless a government ensures justice. It seems to me that that is the fundamental equation …

LvdP

To return to you as a girl in the Thirties, which I remember so well, and which is one of the periods of horror in my own life, because we not only had the worst unemployment in world history, the worst recession ever, and the whole of the world seemed in crisis, but we had this creeping kind of totalitarianism which seemed to me already then to be threatening what your father and your family stood for. Now how much were you aware of that as a child?

MT

We were aware of two things. We were aware of the great recession, and of the problems. But we were also very much aware, indeed if I may put it this way, even more deeply aware, of Hitler and what he meant. And for a reason. When I was at school, and I went to secondary school when I was ten, and we started to learn languages, we each of us had a correspondent, a girlfriend in another country. There was an exchange. I had one in France, and my Muriel Robertssister, who was four years older than I had one in Austria. [end p41]

And we wrote once a week. And all of a sudden, we had a letter from the father of my sister's correspondent to say that the Nazis had gone into Austria, that they were Jewish, the Jews were being very badly treated and please could we help to get Edith out. It was somehow too big a problem for us and we took it to Rotary. Edith came to Grantham on a visit and in fact she stayed. We learnt then what really was happening. She came and stayed with us for a little time and then she went round to various members of Rotary. The shock that anyone could treat human beings in the way that they were being treated by Hitler. Total shock. That it could happen to someone we knew, because, you know, you hear of a lot of terrible things, but they never happen to you. Then all of a sudden they do. That it could happen in a Europe which had known the deepest feelings of religion, which had been the cradle of civilisation, which had known every culture. Then I remember someone saying ‘But you know cruelty and culture can go together’. These things we didn't just read about. They came right into our house.

LvdP

I've often wondered about this Jewish girl, because she struck me as being frightfully important in your life.

MT

Yes, she was.

LvdP

Has she vanished? Is she still alive?

MT

She stayed with us right until the beginning of the war. Then she had relatives over in South America and she left us and went there, and I'm afraid eventually we lost contact. But because of that, and because one of the people who worked for my father had an old aunt who also had been and worked as a governess to a German family, we were able to hear the eye-witness stories. [end p42]

And then of course we started to read those articles … And Hitler marched into the Rhineland, into Austria, and then we got the next claim, the Sudetenland of Czechoslovakia. This is my very early vivid memory, and very great consciousness that something totally evil was happening. Yet at the same time, with the dreadful recession and unemployment that we had, some of my friends at school, their fathers were unemployed. So again we knew that. Nevertheless, a feeling of security in our country. You remember: I remember it vividly—the Silver Jubilee of 1935, King George V and Queen Mary—that somehow we in our country were very fortunate that we had this great thing of freedom and liberty and love of country and loyalty. So every strand was there, every strand that has proved so significant in my life was there before the age of twelve.

LvdP

It seems to me that you must have been aware as I was, trying desperately in my writing to make people aware of what was coming. They said to me: ‘If only you people would shut up there wouldn't be any trouble.’ It seemed to me that one of the weaknesses, great weaknesses of our democracy was already in your consciousness. This is the inability of democracies, or the failure of democracies rather, to deal with things in their origin, when they are small and they have not yet arsquouired the size and a will of their own. The democrats tend to think they'll go away and they let them slide and they build up as they did in the 1930's into something overwhelming. They could have dealt with it so easily, because Hitler [end p43] said to his generals when he marched into the Rhineland: ‘If the French and the British march against us, there's my pistol: I'll shoot myself.’ And Daladier, I think it was, who was in power at the time and the British Prime Minister, Chamberlain, refused to act. Now you seem to me to have had this feeling that one of the things that must be right about democracy is the will to deal with things in their beginnings, or am I wrong?

MT

… it is a fundamental weakness that in democracy we love peace so much that we cannot assess accurately the evil in other people, because we look at them rather through our own eyes, with our own values, and not through their eyes with their values, and therefore we tend not to wake up until it is almost too late. One sees sometimes the same kind of thing happening now. You remember even in those days there was the peace pledge movement? That we thought that if we, some people thought if they gave an example and disarmed others would follow that example. But tyrants don't.

LvdP

I remember how Baldwin lied to the House of Commons about the state of the British Air Force and how deeply shattered one was, and how people simply wouldn't listen to unpleasant things. But now when the war burst over you at that time, you were just about to go to university, weren't you? You went in 1943? …   . and all these things were already simmering in you. But I was wondering, were these obliterated at university? Because it seems to me strange in one way that you chose a scientific discipline with this amazingly centred and almost classical upbringing that you got from your father and your family, that you moved over from the humanities to a science. Was it difficult for you to make the choice, and why did you do it? [end p44]

MT

I took an interest in most things. I had the most marvellous science teacher. One has to remember, you know, that the early thinkers did not distinguish between the philosophy of the humanities and the philosophy of science.

LvdP

One of my favourite statements is in a life of Einstein which I read just now, in which he says: ‘The spirit of science is fundamentally devout.’

MT

You see it's still the spirit of the search for truth in a way. And one has to remember that again in my home town Isaac Newton was our hero because he did not come from far away, and the statue of him is in the centre of the town in front of the Town Hall. One was aware of tremendous scientific things happening. One was aware there was someone called Einstein, that he too was altering our ideas of scientific law. One was aware that strange things were happening in the fundamental nature of matter. One was aware that there were new products. Of course, wireless, radio, had burst upon our lives. I can remember walking home from school knowing we were going to have a radio. Plastics had burst upon our lives. There was a recession and it was thought that these things were going to be the jobs of the future … One had to decide whether you went on the scientific side or on the arts side. I had a most wonderful headmistress to whom I am eternally grateful.

LvdP

What was her name? Two pages missing. [end p45]

MT

Saki wrote a short novel called When William Came: it was a novel on the possibility that the Kaiser would win. And he wrote about the kind of people who would perhaps accept falsely some of the arguments, and he also wrote about the people who wouldn't. I remember the Englishwoman in the village, you know, very certain of everything she believed in, who would never, never give in to this. Nor would the young people. And I remember somewhere towards the end of that book there's a young man who is a salesman and he goes to see this great village lady and says: ‘What shall I do?’ And she says: ‘Go round, and teach the young people all the great and honourable and noble things that Britain has done.’ We of course did some great and honourable and noble things again in the Second World War. But coming back to Empire—incorruptible law—the incorruptible military—the incorruptible civil servants.

LvdP

You are almost repeating word for word what Nehru said to me when I went to see him on behalf of Mountbatten. He said that these were the three. Much as he hated certain aspects of British empire in India, and wanted the British to go, he would always remain thankful to Britain for leaving him with an incorruptible and non-political civil service, an incorruptible and non-political judiciary, and an incorruptible and non-political army. Because, he said: ‘Democratic government without these three things is not possible’. It is rather a vindication of what you've said now.

MT

There is also I think something else which one does see in India. I think it is because they have a deep religious feeling, although it was a religion based on caste. There is still a great, great habit of freedom. [end p46] I was going to say love of freedom, but it's a habit of freedom … It goes back again to the thing which I was very much brought up with and which I've seen sometimes in India, that freedom is a responsibility.

LvdP

Bernard Shaw said that; he said ‘That's why men hate it so much’.

MT

‘Why men fear it, fear it’, isn't it?

LvdP

‘Fear’, yes, that was the word … When you were at Oxford I seem to remember you were tempted to go into the ICS, weren't you?

MT

I was tempted to go into the Indian Civil Service, very much so.

LvdP

… I know it's heresy to most people, but the more I read about it, it seems to me the nearest approach to a platonic government we've seen.

MT

Platonic? I think it was more than that. I wanted to go into it because, first, again, I had a fascination, I've always had a fascination for India, and indeed many other countries that started off as, to me, countries of Empire. But basically it was still this thing that we taught what was right and we upheld what was right. Of course everyone's record whether it be a country or a person is marred by some things they do which are wrong. [end p47]

LvdP

What do you think mars our record?

MT

I would still think the one thing was the way in which the colour bar was operated in India. Without that I think the whole , of history could have been so very different. That seems to me to have been the worst thing.

LvdP

I think people … like Auchinleck … would have agreed with you about that in regard to India, and they tried very hard to eliminate it, and certainly eliminate it they did in the areas where they were responsible—the Army.

MT

I remember reading a Select Committee of the House of Commons about the opium trade, and of course as you know it was some of the great earnings of India for a time. I suppose we couldn't squash it quickly enough, but it was permitted to go on. Those, I think, are the two things which I seem to remember.

LvdP

What about a third thing; the extent to which we like the rest of Europe participated in the Slave Trade? It seems to me we in a sense redeemed it, because we were the first to work for the abolition of the Trade.

MT

To me it is the redemption and the credit to us which I remember totally. It is a terrible blot on the whole of civilisation, and I find it extremely difficult to understand how Rome could have reached such heights of civilisation and yet still have had slavery. To me it is a fundamental, totally fundamental contradiction in terms. Therefore we are always really rather proud [end p48] both of our politicians, of the Shaftesburys of the world and of our judges. Lord Mansfield let the black go. And therefore to me we are the country that abolished it, and therefore that is a great source of pride. Isn't it astonishing that even after the birth of Christianity it took so long to abolish it?

LvdP

… Have you any blood except British blood? Are you completely English or have you got Scots or Irish?

MT

I have a little Welsh and a little Irish … As I look back in history I see that there are some extraordinary cruelties. And yet we are looking back with hindsight. The development of the common law was a development of this great sense of fairness and equity. People would go to the king for fairness and so developed equity. We were very fortunate in some of our great early judges—the Blackstones, the Cooks—who would recall some of the things of classical Greek, which they didn't always operate, and some of the great Christian values, and say to the king: ‘There's no such thing as divine right.’ There are some things in life, some qualities that are so great, or so fundamental, that not even a king can set them aside. They are greater than the king. And this was really how the common law developed. Of course it took a long time to get rid of the injustices and the inequities. But it developed and it is still to my mind the greatest legal system the world has ever known. It was fought through fantastically courageous men always, who said to the king: ‘No. These things do not come from a king. These qualities, these rights come from God, and you are not entitled to set them aside.’ [end p49]

LvdP

You too are subject to your own laws.

MT

That's right. Law is right not because it comes from the king.

LvdP

That seems to me one of the most precious things throughout the English-speaking world. I include, obviously, America as a great part of it, because there's no country in the world where the Magna Carta is more worshipped than in America. But in the whole of this evolution of law, what impressed me as an outsider, in the beginning, most, was that it was precisely law which grew organically, it was never a written law so much, it was law of the spirit, reinterpreted from generation to generation by these great judges whom you have quoted, so that it grew. I remember how impressed I was in the midst of unemployment in the Thirties to discover that Social Benefit, as we call it today, was possible without the passing of a new law, that it went back to an act of Queen Elizabeth. When we move on to this era, what I would like to ask you about is whether we seem to have too much written law, almost, and not perhaps remember sufficiently the question of growing one's law, rather than imposing it ideologically, rationally, upon the society.

MT

That was the development of the common law, and therefore you constantly got the habit of re-interpretation and application of the principles to contemporary life. I think what you have said about the social benefit showed something else as well, that two things developed. First, that judges never feared to give what they felt to be the right judgements, but equally they did start to develop [end p50] very early what we now call, and I can't find a better word, a social conscience … and so grew up the first public assistance law. And of course the great question in modern times, with the great specialisation of life following the industrial revolution, is how far does your state law in fact substitute for individual initiative? And the battle of course always is to keep that individual initiative, because without that ultimately there is no meaning to life. I think one of the things that always shocks me most about English history is that we ever needed to have a Dr. Barnardo 's Home … or that we even now need to have a National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children. But I suppose it goes back to the very fundamental nature of man, that each of us is made out of good and evil … There was a view, not held by Christians, but held by some others developing in my time at university, that if somehow you managed to eradicate disease, and you gave everyone a good education and they had a reasonable standard of living, thereafter you would have very few problems. And of course with the very very best of intentions, many social workers started out that way. Of course it's a false view of life, because when everyone has a reasonable standard of living, a reasonable education—eleven years of compulsory education—good health or access to a reasonable health service, you haven't finished with your problems at all, you're then left with what we are talking about: the fundamental and difficult problems of human nature. Christians believe man is essentially imperfect. There is good and evil in everyone, absolutely everyone. The whole battle of life and the point of choice and the point of life here on earth is to try to bring out more and more of the good things and [end p51] to try to tame and overcome the evil. Christians would call it the doctrine of original sin, but it really means that the most difficult problems of all to deal with are the problems of human nature. It also means that there's no point in tackling political or national or international life thinking that the problems of evil and tyranny will go away, or indeed thinking that you can tame them just by good example. I remember there was a very well-known speech of Salisbury 's—the great Lord Salisbury was Prime Minister for thirteen years, a remarkable man, I often look back at his work—saying ‘You must never rely on the rightness of your cause. It isn't enough; it will not see you through. You are governing a country; trust only in your own defence’. And of course it was very very good advice.

LvdP

Yes, it was marvellous advice, because it seems to me to avoid falling into the great snare which is best expressed in one of the proverbs passed on to me by my French grandmother. It's a French proverb—that all men tend to become the thing they oppose. So that opposition really isn't the important thing, the important thing is to be for the good, and then, almost, in a sense, the elimination of the evil follows. Does that make any sense?

MT

I think life is a constant struggle. The battle is never won. I think the concept which you have put is a very difficult one, but in a sense it is the same, it is awareness of what is wrong and trying constantly to avoid it. You'll not always succeed; one doesn't; one does do things which are wrong knowing that one shouldn't. But there is if you have faith a constant determination to try again, and a constant knowledge that it is the power of choice that leads both to the dignity and the sanctity. [end p52]

LvdP

What do you think was the greatest thing that Oxford gave you?

MT

It was the most marvellous privilege and opportunity to be able to go there at all. And my Alfred Roberts father's dream. When I got there I think the first thing I learnt was that for the first time in my life I was totally divorced from my background. You go there as an individual. And that happens whoever you are, and so people look at you not knowing what your background is, but for what you are, and the kind of person you are, and the kind of contribution you can make and what you do.

LvdP

And you get an act of recognition of yourself.

MT

Life is what you make of it. And you're treated in that way, and therefore it was a tremendous mixer of backgrounds—university was and I think still is. I had always had a wider interest than the scientific; that was the centre of my studies, but by no means the boundary of them, in any way. I had become, by the time I went to university fascinated with the law as well. This again is because in my early days my father, because of his lack of opportunity, intellectual opportunity, always took me around with him, when he felt that I could learn something from meeting someone. One learns in the end in life not only from what you read, but from the people you meet, and the conversations stay with you longer sometimes than the words on the written page. He was a magistrate and took me sometimes when he was sitting in court, particularly at Quarter Sessions which you know are the courts presided over by a QC. In the recess, when I was old enough—you [end p53] have to be over sixteen, I went into the court to listen. And I became very fascinated, not only with the law but the way it worked, with the humanity of the person, the QC, who is sitting in judgement deciding whether a person was guilty or not, the care he took with finding out about them and finding the right sentence. Over the lunchtime period my father was lunching with the Recorder, so I was taken also to lunch with him. I had the most fantastic opportunities opened up for me. And you know when you're young, you're not shy or self-conscious; that develops later. And so I had no difficulty in talking to him, and he was marvellous with young people. And I told him that I was already on the scientific side and was going to take entrance to university on the science side. I wondered if I'd chosen the wrong thing, because I found the law very very fascinating both in its history and in how he was working it. He said: ‘You go to university on the scientific side; you will never regret it. It will teach you logic and reason; it will teach you to sort out the facts and to disregard the other things. It will teach you to look for evidence. Then when you've finished that you can turn over and in your own good time take a legal qualification. That is what I did.’ Wasn't that marvellous? He said, ‘I went to Cambridge at the beginning of this century, when the atom was still indivisible. No-one had ever known or realised there was anything inside. And then afterwards I took the law.’ And there again it was: a chance meeting that had so much influence on my life. So when I got to university it was science, but very much [end p54] against a background of other things. I'd also had this great interest in politics and economics and so naturally devolved to some of the political clubs. And there again you have such fantastic opportunities at university. Once a week we would have some politicians from London come down and talk to us. It was coming to the end of the war at that time, and I remember Quintin Hogg, who was a Member for Oxford was back from the war, and also Peter Thorneycroft. And these two, who played such a great part in my life, were the bright young men, the new hopes of the future. Both had not only brains, but tremendous personality. Quintin, with his fantastic love of the law and everything that mattered; this I notice in Quintin to this day. Thank goodness I've been privileged to have Quintin in my Cabinet; always will take the big thing, separate it out from the little things. Those will not last, it's the big thing that matters. And I remember Peter Thorneycroft—after we had had the meeting they always stayed with a few of us and talked, and we went back to the rooms of, I think it was, Edward Boyle—and Peter came in and looked at these rooms at Christchurch and he said: ‘How marvellous. How lucky you are to be at university. I wish I'd had this opportunity.’ I was aghast because there was I with a very ordinary upbringing, having had this fantastic opportunity, and there was Peter. He'd been to Sandhurst, but was thinking wouldn't it have been marvellous if he'd had this opportunity. There was a young man who came down to talk to us, Lord Dunglass, of course later Alec Douglas-Home, and one learnt so much. And then I was very lucky in my tutor who was a [end p55] very distinguished woman Dorothy Hodgkin scientist; she became a member of the Royal Society and sorted out the structure of penicillin on which she was working when I was her pupil. And she started me on my research. So what did we learn? We learned that it's what each person is that counts, and what they make of themselves, and the contribution they make. We learned that your own particular faculty and subject may be the centre of your life, but it's a part of the whole. I learned a great deal about politics. I learned too that there were people with very different opinions. Professor J. D. Bernal was a great friend of my tutor's. Marvellous scientist. I remember talking to him; his politics so totally different from mine. So indeed were my tutor's. But we had certain things in common. And then I belonged to several religious groups at Oxford, and they gave one so much.

LvdP

Did you know C.S. Lewis?

MT

Well, I heard him … It was a fantastic period. Edward Boyle was at university then when I was. So was Robin Day and Kenneth Harris, quite a lot of people who went into the media. But great scientists. Roy Harrod was there, a great disciple of Keynes, and we all thought that Keynes had found the answer.

LvdP

Yes, I knew him as a young boy and as a man. Really if one looks at him purely as an economist, it seems to me that he was much more as a man. [end p56]

MT

Yes. And then I also belonged to the Bach Choir.

LvdP

Bach meant most to you of all the musicians?

MT

I love Bach; his great chorales are marvellous. Sir Thomas Armstrong was then conductor; of course his Sir Robert Armstrongson is now Cabinet Secretary, and Sir Thomas Armstrong is still alive.

LvdP

You make me regret that I was never able to go to university at all. Now you went to your first job which sounds to me to have been very hard work indeed. You went as a researcher, didn't you?

MT

I went as a research chemist in industry, again in plastics. It was the thing of the future. Thank goodness I did work in industry because it was a completely different experience. When you're working in pure research you're trying to find out the laws of nature. But of course in the end you try to turn the laws of nature to helping people to live a more prosperous and better life. A more prosperous life is not necessarily a better life. But it can give you the opportunity to have a better life. But it's quite different to go and work in industry where you are trying constantly to produce new things which would sell. That was why you were there, and that was a totally different experience. But at the same time I joined Lincoln's Inn and started to do my reading.

LvdP

From the beginning, from the time you were a child you seem to me to have worked twelve to fourteen hours a day. I mean, helping in the shop, walking four miles to school and back, the reading. You seem to me to have been always active, always to have been at work. And here you are leaving Oxford with your passion for work, your habit of work undiminished. [end p57]

MT

Totally undiminished. But of course in those days it was nothing to walk to and from school in the mornings, back to and from school in the afternoon. Nothing at all. I would say that our whole family was used to working. But you know you get much more happiness out of work than you do out of seeking pleasure; and it increases your knowledge, your understanding, your comprehension. Always we were working, but always great contact with people being the essence of my life—being brought up in a grocer's shop, talking with people. Church was a great part of our life—music a great part of our life—we did amateur dramatics because it was part of the community. You see, you didn't sit in front of television and watch, you went out and did things. A great Gilbert and Sullivan group in my home town and we all belonged to that. So, yes, we did things, we didn't live spectator lives.

LvdP

No, that's obvious.

MT

No, we were right in the heart of something. And debating societies—and we went to hear lectures. The University of Nottinghem was not far away; we'd have what you called University Extension lectures. So it was just second nature for me to be doing something. But I would do quite a lot of reading and quite a lot of study; but it only took off when one started to discuss it with other people. I carried on in politics in University as you know, and then joined the local political societies and became active there … [end p58]

LvdP

The average man is like the average rainfall, it's the one rain that never falls. I always have felt this a very reassuring theme running through your policies. I wonder if you remember how excited you were when Solzhenitsyn appeared in the west? You said to me at the time that all the forces in life were on the side of the individual. How else could, out of this totalitarian system in Russia, where the individual has been regarded as a bourgeois deviation, after sixty-five years of indoctrination this staggering example of a truly classical Western individual emerges. And I remember you saying to me: ‘Do you know him? I will go anywhere to meet him.’

MT

Yes, I remember vividly. I had read some of his work. It was the clarity of his mind and the values which Alexander Solzhenitsynhe attached to things that we take for granted, and his courage, his personal courage. Then, all of a sudden, he came to Britain. He was exiled from the Soviet Union and he came on our television—he, of course, was speaking Russian—he did an interview with Michael Charlton. It was, I think, one of the most moving experiences I have ever seen on television; even though he was speaking a language we didn't know, his eyes flashed his sincerity and conviction, and all of a sudden I realised he was giving us a message—that we don't value our freedom enough, and if we go on like that, it too could be extinguished. He was also giving us a message about the way of life in the Communist state, where they crush everything that is different. It has to [end p59] conform. I have read the work of many people who are called dissidents … and all of them have this kind of spark of the human spirit in them …

LvdP

What you say is very relevant to what happened to me in Russia. I spent some three months on my own there once, to try to find out what the human reality was about. All the Russians I met, some of them still alive and distinguished—I wish I could mention them, but I dare not—said to me: ‘We're caught in something which we can only grow out of, and we can only grow out of it if you in the West stand firm. For God's sake don't continue what looks to us from within Russia like a decline. Stand fast. Don't attack us, don't try and reform us, just stand fast. Because we are on the move inside ourselves and we will change it.’ … The Russians are not what people tend to think; there's a strange mixture of Western and Oriental man. They fundamentally are Western people, and the further east I went the more Western they became. I remember on the Chinese frontier going on a picnic with a party of Russian writers, and they said to me: ‘We are going to turn away here, because we don't want to get mixed up with the Chinese gunboats.’ And then the oldest Russian writer there suddenly turned to me and spoke to me in English and said: ‘You would understand, because East is East and West is West, and never the twain shall meet.’ And I nearly fell over backwards, because I couldn't quote Kipling in England without being ordered out of court, and here was a Russian [end p60] at the far end of Siberia doing it. I hope that in all your policies you have that kind of Russian in mind, and that you have in mind of enabling ultimately the Russians to join this free people, the West, for which they long.

MT

I think he was saying something very fundamental and very important. He was saying that the most important things in life are freedom and justice. We in the West have them. Let us never weaken in our resolve. Let us always defend our way of life, and showing our resolve and strength and our belief in our own way of life in safeguarding those things we are also acting as a beacon of hope to the oppressed peoples who one day hope to share them. So they're saying to us: ‘Keep them alive. Defend them, and one day we shall hope to have the same things which you take for granted.’

LvdP

It's so true, what you are saying. I've just had a Hungarian, an old Hungarian, staying for a few days. And the first thing he wanted to see were the soap box speaker's corner in Marble Arch. I was very moved by that … But the Russian problem, of course, this collective threat which we've talked about, it would be foolish to deny, to think of it only as a spiritual threat, because unfortunately in Russia it has a most formidable power back-up. The people in Russia, my experience was that whatever changes they'd introduced, they had adopted lock stock and barrel the nineteenth century imperialist expansionist policy of the Tsars, and they thought they had hold of a respectable [end p61] idea to justify this expansion. They have got this formidable, unnecessary, political back-up, because nobody's threatening Russia … Presumably that's at the back of your mind when you talk about the necessity for us to arm and be strong.

MT

I think one first has to be prepared to defend the way of life you believe in. That is the first duty of the government. But I would agree with you, it's a combination of things in the Soviet society. There was a traditional expansionist characteristic of the Tsars and of many of the Russian people, added to that the organisation of the Soviets, and the tremendous priority they have given to defence—to expenditure on armaments and weaponry. That should be a warning to all of us, to those who would wish to disarm by example. One's only said: ‘No-one's ever been influenced by that. Never.’ Unless we in the West stand together in an alliance, we could be picked off one by one. Then, when you're dealing with modern weapons and modern warfare, if you let go for three or four years, you can't catch up. It takes such a time to build the things to deter. So governments must never let go, never, never, if they are properly discharging responsibility to their people. And in keeping hold, in staying steadfast, they're not only carrying out their duty, but people the other side will think: ‘Well, one day there's hope for us too.’ Because the human spirit will out. It cannot be kept down for ever. One day the light of knowledge will dawn, not only in their own eyes, but something will happen. [end p62]

LvdP

Isn't it one of the great absurdities of our time that 216,000,000 Russians should still be governed in the name of two lopsided German sociologists who've been dead these past hundred years or more?

MT

Even more ridiculous is that [Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels]they couldn't have written unless they'd had the freedom of Britain in which to write. They set out to deny to others the very freedom which enabled them to produce the work. But it will end. One's ultimate belief is that the human spirit will end the days of tyranny once again. There are many religious currents at work in the Soviet Union, and those will not for ever be denied.

LvdP

I think that what the Soviet Union is demonstrating is that Communism is no good for ordinary people; it's only for the privileged rulers.

MT

Europe certainly has been the cradle of so many political ideas. It has been the place where we've had tremendous renaissance of art, the most marvellous music, what I would call the architecture of liberty. And yet the law came from us. Perhaps because we are an island off Europe and therefore just a little bit different, we've developed a little bit differently. [end p63]

LvdP

To what extent in this do you feel this illusion is dependent on us, or on the religion, on something beyond ourselves?

MT

… When I now go to international conferences, whether it be an economic conference, whether it be a Commonwealth conference, whether it be a defence conference, I still feel, because of our history, and our history came about because of our character, that we have a world vision. We don't confine ourselves to what is necessary for Britain or the continent in which we live. We do have the vision of what it's like in the rest of the world, how we can influence them and how we can ultimately help to bring about the things and the society in which we believe. You will not find that of all countries. It is partly because of our imperial heritage, but even more it is because of the character of the British people. We think that way, we act that way, we live that way. (ACTION CALLED A HALT)

LvdP

Doesn't it seem to you right that as Britain created the Industrial Revolution, Britain was the first country to go into the Industrial Revolution, that Britain should be the first country in the world to question the limitations of an Industrial Revolution? Because it seems to me, behind the strikes, the unrest we've got here, there's at work, first of all, what you've referred to all the time as your basic theme, a loss of individual identity, of individual incentive, in the collectivity which is presented to modern man. There's a loss of meaning, and that behind all this [end p64] there's something positive, that people in this country are demanding a life of quality and meaning more than they are asking for prosperity in the material sense.

MT

I think that's very true. I think they don't like things to get too big in this country, and in a way we hanker after a kind of village society. Even in big cities you'll find almost small villages and groups of people, and I think that's because basically the English character is that of an individual. If one were to go into a pub at a time of national crisis, possibly the phrase you'd hear on everyone's lips as they discuss things would be: ‘We're a free country.’ Everyone takes it for granted—we're a free country. I can remember my Alfred Roberts father telling me when I was very young that we are the sort of people who don't have to be told what to do. We can always take our own initiative. Whatever difficulties, and whatever corners we got into, you could rely on a group of British soldiers being able to take the initiative to get themselves out of it. Whereas frequently in dictatorships or in Communist countries, they would have to wait for orders because that's the ethos of the whole way in which they've been brought up. So I think it is very much right in the heart of British character … As we got the great Industrial Revolution which you talked about, as some people became very wealthy, so we got an enormous increase in the whole voluntary spirit of this country, so they used their wealth, quite by choice, by personal choice, to build schools, to build hospitals, the voluntary hospitals, sometimes to build town halls, sometimes even to help the social work in prison. They did that quite voluntarily, and it was a very great characteristic of this country … [end p65]

LvdP

You remind me of George Eliot in what I think is perhaps her greatest and certainly one of the greatest novels ever written, MIDDLEMARCH, where she talks at one moment and says something to the effect that there was once an ancient land, where men were law-thirsty and strived with all their might and main for perfect rule and order. Where is that land now? And she says: ‘Where it's always been, in the soul of man.’ I feel that George Eliot is speaking for the spirit not only of Britain, but of Christianity there.

MT

She was indeed remarkable. But man is imperfect, and we just have to strive as best we can to diminish those imperfections.

LvdP

… For the first time in history there's not a culture, totalitarian, pagan, democratic, that is not in a sense in a state of crisis; it's everywhere, and as we look for renewal one can't I feel have it unless one has also a religious renewal.

MT

This of course is a fundamental challenge …

LvdP

It seems to me that politics serves best when it's serving a vision which is beyond politics, and you've made that very clear to me.

MT

Yes, indeed, I remember, yes: ‘Where there is no vision the people perish.’ It is right in the heart of the Old Testament.

LvdP

But as you reach out to the future, could I ask just one last political question, how you see this task transformed [end p66] into political vision, and what is your vision of Britain, of Britain in Europe, Britain in the English-speaking world, Britain and America, because it seems to me unless we get this sorted out, we cannot build the bridges adequately which we need to build with the Far East, with the great civilisation of China, and the civilisation of Japan. What is that vision?

MT

I think there are certain things which unite the whole of the free world. In some ways I think they're best expressed in that wonderful document, the American Constitution, where it points out that the task of government is to serve the life, liberty and pursuit of happiness of the people. That is the essential task of government, not to dominate or dictate to people, but to serve the people themselves. And so therefore as governments, we have to create a framework of a just law, in which people can work out their own lives and destinies in their own way and make their own choices and exercise their own responsibilities, because you'll never, never get a responsible society unless you have a society of responsible people. Those things unite us all. We try to express them not only in the way in which we live in Britain, but by joining with Europe, which is a bastion of democracy, and in an uncertain world, it's so very important that those who believe in these things are seen to believe in them as fervently and to defend them as surely as those who believe in other systems. And of course it's not enough just to belong to Europe, we have to combine with the United States, and we do, in NATO, so that everyone shall see that this way of life shall survive, and somehow, one day, we'll have freedom on the offensive, so that it may extend to nations which are yet uncommitted, that they may see that our way of life is the one which offers the greatest fulfilment for peoples everywhere.

end of transcript of unbroadcast material.