Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

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1982 Apr 5 Mo
Margaret Thatcher

TV Interview for ITN (Falklands)

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Document kind: TV Interview
Venue: No.10 Downing Street
Source: Thatcher Archive: transcript
Journalist: Glyn Mathias, ITN
Editorial comments: The interview began at 1730. Press Office files in the Thatcher Archive record that the ITN interview was a long standing engagement, but in view of the situation MT agreed to give the BBC an interview immediately afterwards.
Importance ranking: Key
Word count: 1487
Themes: Executive (appointments), Defence (Falklands War, 1982), Foreign policy (International organizations), Foreign policy (USA), Leadership

Interviewer

Prime Minister, could I begin by asking you about the resignations announced today, particularly the resignation of Lord Carrington? Why did you accept that resignation?

Mrs. Thatcher

Because I had no alternative, I spent a lot of time on Saturday and on Sunday trying to persuade Lord Carringtonhim not to put in his resignation. he felt that he'd been head of the department responsible for the policy, the policy had failed and therefore it was a matter of honour that he should go. If a person says to me ‘it's a matter of honour and I feel I should go’, that's the one ground on which I am not at liberty to refuse because it would make it difficult for him. It was with great regret, he's been a marvellous Foreign Secretary, I've been with him on so many occasions, he's a sturdy and bonny fighter for Britain, a very gallant officer and we shall miss him.

Interviewer

Do you accept nevertheless that there was a major error of judgment in assessing the intentions of the Argentine regime?

Mrs. Thatcher

I don't know that I could say that there was a major error of judgment. You see, we've had similar times from many Argentinian regimes, many times in the last year, many many times, and I suppose you could say we ought somehow to have known this one was different. We'd heard a lot of it before but the fact is that the Argentines this time invaded, we were in charge when they invaded and that's why Lord Carrington felt so strongly. Indeed, I think we all feel deeply about it, but Lord Carrington felt that he was in charge of the Foreign Office at the time and there is not much point in going back and seeing whether we could have perceived that this was different from all the previous occasions, it turned out to be different and there's no point in refuting that fact. We now have to stand by the Falkland islanders and try to secure, indeed to secure that island back. [end p1]

Interviewer

Who is going to be the new Foreign Secretary?

Mrs. Thatcher

I have just appointed and the Queen has approved Francis Pym as new Foreign Secretary. He was, as you know, Secretary of State for Northern Ireland for a time and then when we were in opposition he was shadow Foreign Secretary, so he's not altogether new to this and of course he was Secretary of State for Defence so he's known in international circles as well, so he's got wide experience, considerable stature and we have every confidence in him. He also was a very gallant officer.

Interviewer

But this is an hour of crisis. Is it wise to have a new Foreign Secretary with no immediate experience?

Mrs. Thatcher

That of course, I also put to Lord Carrington but in the end, you know, he felt so strongly about the point of honour and after all it is rather a wonderful thing in politics to have people who feel strongly about honour and who resign ….

Interviewer

Are there any more who feel it's a matter of honour to resign—Mr. Nott for instance?

Mrs. Thatcher

Mr. Nott came to me, he was concerned, but his was not the lead department in policy, it's the Foreign Office that decides the policy on these matters, and as I pointed out to him his was not the lead department on policy. Also as we have assembled a major fleet to go and to redeem the Falkland islands it really was no time for a Secretary of State to resign and he agreed to stay at his post and that's where he should be.

Interviewer

Mrs. Thatcher, the crisis to many people seems a little unreal because it's come upon us so quickly. Are you really going to fight a war with Argentina? [end p2]

Mrs. Thatcher

Our objective is to recover the Falkland islands. We have to do what is necessary to that … I wouldn't talk in terms of war. a declaration of war is something different. Let's not get into the technicalities. We must recover the Falkland islands for Britain and for the people who live there who are of British stock. Let's not say this is war, it is not a declaration of war is technically different … don't stress the technicalities, we know what we have to do and there are many different ways of achieving that objective. Let's hope that it is not the worst one.

Interviewer

There are no technicalities about people losing their lives.

Mrs. Thatcher

That's exactly …, I entirely agree, I entirely agree. Therefore don't say “is it declaration of war or not?” What matters is we recover those islands. What matters is that the fleet is on its way. It has a lot of people on board and we shall have to judge the precise situation when they are very much nearer than they are now.

Interviewer

Mr. Nott has said yesterday that Britain was prepared to sink Argentine ships, prepared to storm the islands if necessary. do you agree with that?

Mrs. Thatcher

We have to recover those islands, we have to recover them for the people on them are British and British stock and they still owe allegiance to the crown and want to be British. We have to do what is necessary to recover those islands.

Interviewer

The people themselves may suffer from a British invasion. There are already reports that they're terrified about the prospect of a British invasion.

Mrs. Thatcher

When you stop a dictator there are always risks but there are great risks in not stopping a dictator. My generation learned that a long time ago. [end p3]

Interviewer

Is there any chance of averting the confrontation? Is there any chance at all that diplomatic moves may succeed in the meantime?

Mrs. Thatcher

We've been trying for many many years. The fact is that the Argentines revived their claim of sovereignty, I think it was about 1966 or 1967. Diplomatic moves have been made until now, they have succeeded until now, all of a sudden now they have not succeeded. No-one has been more active diplomatically than we have in the last three years. After all there was a very very successful conference in New York about it at the end of February. In the communique it was described as ‘cordial and friendly’. there were positive proposals put forward, we always negotiated with members of the Islands Council with us. What I am saying to you is those diplomatic moves have failed and so of course we went to the Security Council and did very well to get a straightforward condemnation by the Security Council of Argentina and a demand for their withdrawal, no-one could have been more active diplomatically than we have—if failed, we shall go on diplomatically, but it's difficult to see how it could succeed now when it failed before.

Interviewer

Indeed, when it comes to the crunch, can you rely on the support of the United States, when it comes to battle with Argentina?

Mrs. Thatcher

We have to try to recover what is our sovereign territory, we have to recover what is our sovereign territory, that is our problem. In all the diplomatic moves the United States were magnificent, they went in on our behalf diplomatically, Alex Haig was marvellous, and so was President Reagan and he had a very long telephone conversation with the Leopoldo GaltieriPresident of the Argentine, fifty minutes and even his pleas fell on deaf ears. They have been marvellous diplomatically. To recover British sovereign territory is a British problem and we will tackle it ourselves, we hope diplomatically, to have the support of everyone else and so many other people have openly condemned aggression and this is why I say to you it is important that aggression does not succeed. We've seen enough of it already. If this one succeeds there will be other examples of it elsewhere. Therefore we have a duty to our territory, to our people, but also a duty to see that these aggressive moves do not succeed. [end p4]

Interviewer

Mrs. Thatcher, you've stated your objective very clearly, you've staked your colours to the mast and you are determined to free the Falklands, if you fail would you feel obliged to resign?

Mrs. Thatcher

I am not talking about failure, I am talking about my supreme confidence in the British fleet … superlative ships, excellent equipment, the most highly trained professional group of men, the most honourable and brave members of her majesty's service. Failure? Do you remember what Queen Victoria once said? “Failure—the possibilities do not exist” . That is the way we must look at it, with all our professionalism, all our flair and every single bit of native cunning, every single bit of professionalism and all our equipment and we must go out calmly, quietly, to succeed.

Interviewer

Thank you very much.