Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

Margaret Thatcher

Interview for The Sun

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Venue: No.10 Downing Street
Source: Thatcher MSS (THCR 5/1/1E/47 f49): COI transcript
Journalist: Wendy Henry, The Sun
Editorial comments: 1700-1800. Some of Wendy Henry’s questions were too faint to be transcribed.
Importance ranking: Minor
Word count: 7399
Themes: Arts & entertainment, Autobiographical comments, Autobiography (childhood), Autobiography (marriage & children), Defence (Falklands), Economic policy - theory and process, Primary education, Secondary education, Higher & further education, Employment, Industry, By-elections, General Elections, Environment, Family, Health policy, Local government, Media, Science & technology, Social security & welfare, Transport, Voluntary sector & charity, Women

WH

Can I ask you first about the Bermondsey result?

PM

Well, I never expected to win Bermondsey obviously. I say obviously—we've won Sutton-in-Ashfield—but then we were in Opposition. But what pleases me is that the ordinary people of Bermondsey do not accept an extreme left-wing candidate. That does not surprise me. And the whole thing became how not to let him get in, how to make sure he did not get in. And that I think is good.

WH

Did that alter? We, the Sun, had a poll the night before saying, could …   . (unclear)

PM

The whole thing … above all they did not want the official Labour candidate to represent them in Parliament. And many many people voted to ensure that that did not happen. And I cannot remember in any by-election before that happening. You know, voting positively not to let a particular person in, particular candidate in. In that sense I would say it was unique.

WH

Some of the major issues that should have been raised at Bermondsey and weren't because of that—like, one of the most worrying things to ordinary people in Britain, must be the unemployment situation. Do you hold out any hope that things are going to get better or … (unclear)

PM

We've got it as you know all over the Western world, a number of things have come together, one of them is a tremendous amount of new technology on certain industries, which the first effect is always to enable you to produce the same amount with fewer people. The second effect is to start to create new jobs and someone has to produce that. My guess is that it is not produced in this country and we ought to be producing new jobs. All the latest office equipment has been brought in from Japan and the United States because there is no-one manufacturing it here. So the secondary point is to create new jobs that didn't exist before because the [end p1] exist. We've got to make jolly certain that we get those new jobs here. But if you similarly hold on to out-dated equipment all that happens then is that you can't compete with other countries and you lose your overseas markets. So you've got to have the latest. You've got to keep up-to-date. You've got to have the latest, you've got to keep your costs down, all that has to be done and the battle now is, while that's going on, to try to get enough new industries starting up. To some extent they are. There are a lot coming up like this, for example, who could have told ten years ago that in Scotland today we have more people working in new electronics, 40,000. More people than either in steel or shipbuilding. Now to keep your steel market or shipbuilding you've got to be able to compete. To keep those, you've got to try to keep those by being efficient, you've got to try to encourage these. There's a gap at the moment and that gap will only be closed by new businesses starting up, by more people being self-employed, mostly those are on services as you know, or a particular skill that they have that they can then see an opportunity for using that skill. A nice figure the other day—we've got a record number of people self-employed in this country. More people are taking the initiative themselves—over two million Romola ChristophersonRomola if you'd like to look it up. One thing we have not got in this country is quite a big proportion of small businesses and this again is where it's going to be the new people starting up, making a small product which they know about, selling it and expanding and that historically is how you've got new products, new jobs, new services. Now its starting but at the moment the redundancies in the older industries are still occuring faster than the new jobs are starting. There are quite a lot of new jobs starting. And then don't forget years ago, for example, Harold Macmillan 's time, twenty years ago, what I call the defeated European countries or the occupied hadn't got their industries back into full efficiency, now they have and are competing with us everywhere. And the third world, the newly industrialised countries, South Korea, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore and of course Japan. They've got the latest equipment, latest machinery, their design used not to be as good as ours, now it is. They are competing [end p2] so you've got new people competing with you. This means we've got to be even better. We should be, after all so many inventions came from this country, they really did, and we ought to be able to translate them into profit.

WH

Why do you think we can't?

PM

I don't know, we were discussing this the other day and our universities and industry have always tended to be rather apart. People who went to university, many of them have not been people who went into top industry. All the time they went into the City, the Civil Service, into the professions. And we just have to make it—I think it is changing now but we used to be the first in the industrial revolution, we used to be a great commercial nation, we still are, but we've still got to get people's first objective to go into industry, onto commerce, because that's where the money is made, it really is. But you see unless you have efficient private enterprise you don't get the wealth created to have good public services, so it's absolutely vital to get it that way round. So yes, there is hope. Every time we have a new technology, whether it be tractors replacing hand implements, there will be tractors replacing those in agriculture, whether it be the car replacing the horse carriage, whether it be the hoover replacing the dustpan and brush, in the end it always produced more jobs as you have to make the new products and then patent them and design them and market them.

WH

But what about the short term problem, I mean, what would you say to children or teenagers who are leaving school in the summer?

PM

Right now we've got the biggest and most exciting scheme for training than we've ever had in the history of this country. And again Germany has had a scheme for training young people that came out of school. We have not had such an effective scheme, that's why the big scheme starting up in September 1983, twelve months training, and it is, and I want it to be training for industry and commerce, not training just in education but [end p3] training in industry and commerce, then going to get some of the sandwich courses that operate now. Going to further education for the theory and back to get the practise. Again I sometimes think we don't sell as hard as we should, we don't market as hard as we should. We've got not only to be efficient, we've got to have superb design. I can't stress how important design is. You and I will probably buy a car, not only for its price but also for its design. You get a really good product with a smashing design, superb design, someone will want it and you've got to concentrate on getting an efficient reliable product. But design is tremendously important. And you look at textiles, look at how many people buy quite expensive textiles some of which we don't make here because of the design, because of the colour, because of the weaving. There is always a market for these things. We spend quite a lot of money now on good design. It matters, a housewife, an electric iron—you want a very good design. Because the housewife will go and buy the one that does what she wants and the one that looks best. The design really matters as well

WH

But … find it very difficult to turn a good design into a product at the end of the day which …

PM

This is because—I've had a number of incidents of it here. A number of you get a really good product, excellent design, they don't know how to run a business, you know they don't know how to set up a production line and how to control their cost, and now we spend quite a bit of time trying to bring them together and you will find a number, for example I went in Rossendale the other day, the Rossendale Enterprise Trust. They are a number of businessmen who have got together to advise people who start up—what sort of premises they want—how to control the costs and how to set up a production line. Pilkington Trust did it you know in St. Helens first. You've got to get more and more of this so that young people feel that there are people they can go to get advice. The Civil Service as such can't do it because we are not expert at running business, but there are one or two very very good ones starting up and you've also got an experimental scheme—Enterprise Allowance. [end p4] We've got five pilot schemes working but people come up with their redundancy and they might have acquired a skill and they have got a product for service and they don't know how to go about it and the rest and what we are now doing is saying all right you'll start by coming self-employed, you won't lose your unemployment pay, we will pay £40 a week for a year, so you've got something to fall back on, now go and someone will give you advice …   . enterprise trust. And also it helps those who want to set up on their own …   . great belief in life, to get satisfaction from helping others and doing a job well and I think the Rossendale Enterprise Trust, there was a horrid demonstration outside, so the work was going on inside. They have something like four hundred, four hundred people they have helped start up on their own. Now it's exciting, it's satisfying, it's satisfying for the person who starts up, it is tremendously satisfying for the person who helps at no cost to themselves.

WH

Do you think though that the children coming out of school now whether there is a job there for them or not that they are actually equipped …?

PM

Well again you've absolutely put your finger on it, a hole in one. No, we don't have so many technical schools as our competitors. We used to have. I am afraid a lot of them got submerged when we went comprehensive which was a pity because we need those skills. Even now there are some jobs we cannot fill because we haven't got enough of the skills in the right place, and I was very concerned about this and so, I don't know whether you have noticed, but we are starting up a new scheme, a pilot scheme, where the Manpower Service is commissioned to start up technical schools. I hope we can get ten going in the big industrial areas, in conjunction with the local education authorities. So that you take youngsters from school who have a technical aptitude, they have got to have a technical, you know a feel for going technical …   . trained to be technical all that time. Now that again I hope will start this September. So but then, you say, you look at [end p5] many teachers, not many have any experience of working in industry or commerce. They have been school, college, school, and it really is a problem and we try to cope by again getting more parents interested in school and by getting parents interested in the possibility of a career and going and talking to the youngsters what a career industry is like because that industry and commerce are the wealth of the nation.

WH

Why do you still tinker within the comprehensive system? Why do you not abolish the comprehensive system and go back to a system …?

PM

Well, I managed to save quite a number of—I think the problem with the old secondary moderns and grammar schools was a number of secondary moderns were new and had excellent facilities, some of the others needed pulling up to standard both in teaching and in their facilities, and, in my view, it has always been far better had we concentrated on pulling them all up to standard and leaving the grammar schools and making certain that if a child was wrongly, went to a wrong school, he was moved quickly and easily or you had them all on the same campus. I managed to save quite a number, but them after me the Labour Government sent them all comprehensive. I tell you why you can't suddenly do it. First because you've got to get the premises again, secondly, when you start to chop and change no-one knows where they are, and this is why I think the way to go is to keep the grammar schools we've got now, start up some technical schools, and then as the number of pupils go through the secondary schools—there is a great fall off in pupils because there are fewer pupils in schools now because of the way the birth rate went—get some smaller schools again and then we can start to do things. But I'm sure the immediate need is to keep the grammar schools we've got, to have some more technical schools and to enable—we've got assisted places, because there are some youngsters who either are extremely gifted and who may not get [end p6] on, the facilities may not be there, to get more …   . in a comprehensive, so we get them through to another school and there are some children who need more, they're perhaps a little bit slower, and need again more specialised training and they need, in my view, to be in a smaller school. I think we had better get it that way than having wholesale change, we had better go at it gradually. But the main thing, it doesn't matter what sort of school you are in you have just got to get closer association and we are doing everything possible between the world of work and the world of education.

WH

What about the—you were saying about parents and schools and parents … which I think works …   . (unclear)

PM

Well, you have with a Jewish community a partnership with the Welfare State.

WH

(unclear)

PM

Absolutely first class, if I might say so, because I've seen so much of it both when I was in Ministry of Pensions and National Insurance and had to go to some of the homes where they were on supplementary. But many of your community build the home and the people of course drew their supplementary benefit and the extra came from the Jewish Board of Guardians usually, raising money. An excellent partnership.

WH

But such a lot of communities, such a lot of families, don't have that family structure to start off with.

PM

No, they don't unfortunately, and one cannot necessarily expect the teacher to do everything when the family should do it.

WH

Suppose the family is incapable of doing it, suppose …   . [end p7] the background is very traditional, very …

PM

They would do anything if the interest was there and this is one reason why in the early days a young mother when she is having a baby is at that stage far more interested in things than she has ever been before, and it is then, that is why I was always very keen, and still very keen, to start up the play groups where you want one or two mothers who know how to cope and one or two who don't, but the mother brings the child to the play-group and will stay some mornings, say two mornings a week, it's a voluntary thing run with a certain amount of skill and supervision, and then she will see and learn how to cope from some of the other mothers. And that is very very important and this is why I have always thought that that is better than just setting up nursery minding establishments and nursery schools all over the country because the mothers will learn from one another.

WH

(unclear)

PM

Yes.

WH

Do you think that mothers should do back to actually raising their families …   .

PM

You can never lay down a general rule. In days gone by grandma used to live with the family, or next door, there was a couple of aunts or uncles and the family was close by, so there was never any question of sometimes living at home, never any question of the children having to go back from school to an empty house, which I think is bad, thoroughly bad, because I think it robs the child of a feeling of security and I think you've always got to arrange when you do go out to work that there is someone there when the child goes home. Absolutely vital and may be done on a rota of mums but the worst thing you can do to a child is to rob the child of the feeling of security at home and in that sense someone has got to be there. Now within that many women when they get, many women still wish to keep in touch with their job and profession, and it is a very very good thing, but they do [end p8] some of it. Sometimes they can out of their own earnings pay someone to be there to look after the child. But really it is grandmas and aunts one is missing. But I wouldn't like to lay down a general rule. What I feel very strongly is that a young mother who wants to spend all her time looking after a family and bringing up a family should not be made to feel guilty that she doesn't go out to work. There was a time when we were getting to that and it was ridiculous, absolutely ridiculous. …   . young mothers help one another, and very many stay at home when the children are still young and go out to work a little bit later. But it is for them to choose, but it is easier if you have got a relative about, to be there when the children come home from school—I do think that is very important.

WH

Did you return to work when you were … (unclear)

PM

I came to Parliament …   . I was doing some law before that, but I never never, I was never far away from them. I always had someone to look after them, when I wasn't there. And I was lucky, I was never far away, I couldn't go far away because if anything happened you wanted to get there. I came to Parliament after they were six so they were then at school. They are very formative years before children go to school as you know.

WH

Did you feel split between them …   .

PM

I think you've got to be prepared to spend time with children and not just, I mean, not only looking after them, their physical wants but really to be prepared to spend time with them, and of course just because a mother is out at work doesn't mean she doesn't spend time with them. She will at weekends and in the evenings. It's terribly important to give time to them, time to talking to them, time to teach them and if they are crawling round, walking round after you when they are small, always want to help, it's tempting to do it all yourself because it is quicker, but you must let them do things with you. Not, I hasten to say, in the [end p9] kitchen because the kitchen can be a very dangerous place, as you know, a very dangerous place. You've got to watch the handles of the saucepans and everything else. If you are doing something harmless in the kitchen, yes, of course, but they always want to help, and they will learn by helping.

WH

Do you personally feel you missed out perhaps on …   .

PM

No because I spend a great deal of my own time with them and don't forget I was working again—I was lucky—working in a business, whether it is law or politics, where your vacations are similar to the school vacations. You see it does make a lot of difference. And teaching is a job that again has a similar, has similar hours, and it does make a tremendous lot of difference. Again in many towns they used to have a married womens' shift where Dad came home and would look after the children and the married women would go out and help to earn that little bit extra, and some women you know can carry on their work at home, or take something home to do. …   . Or take the child out with them to work.

WH

Do you see a lot of children—do you have time for your children?

PM

Yes, yes, they're often in and out …   . have to live their own lives, always. Very delighted when Carol ThatcherCarol returned from Australia because it is such a long way away.

WH

Did you used to speak …

PM

On the telephone, yes—that was our greatest pleasure.

WH

When your own son was attacked in the press …   . do you get personally very hurt or angry that …?

PM

I do not read these things. I just don't … people tell me about them and I just say to the children, look, I think it's jolly tough on you—but I am your mother. There's things that ordinary children would do or say go unremarked and because you do [end p10] they become, they get into print …   . please don't let it hurt you. I am sorry it happens and I think it is very very tough and I really would have thought that other politicians with children who have suffered the same thing locally would have more thoughtfulness and kindness than to do it, because these things, whatever you say, do hurt. But if a politician doesn't have that amount of thoughtfulness or kindliness then just content yourself that the remarks show more the sort of person he is than the sort of person you are, because by the time they are more mature than you are they ought to know not to wound someone younger than them.

WH

What sort of things hurt? I mean can you …   . hurt …

PM

…   . totally untrue, totally twisted. You don't spend your time moping about, and I don't read them because I know myself that they would affect me and therefore my mind must not be upset. I have decisions I have to take during the day.

WH

What are the hardest decisions you have to take? … (unclear) is there one decision that stands out …   .

PM

I can't remember. Obviously the Falklands were the hardest decisions because they were life and death then. The ones that they are not hard for me to take, anyway everything you do and say is twisted and I again insisted on keeping the grammar schools because there were people like me who needed grammar schools to climb the ladder to be equal to the people who started in at the top, and that was twisted, that it was elitist, and I said it is not elitist at all, it doesn't matter what your background is. I believe in merit, I belong to meritocracy, and I don't care two hoots what your background is. What I am concerned with is whatever your background, you have a chance to climb to the top—and that was twisted completely as being elitist … everyone, if you say that someone has more merit than someone else this someone else has failed, it's absolutely ridiculous. [end p11]

WH

(unclear)

PM

…   . and then you find the thing that because you have increased prescription charges and other things, it is said you are hard, it isn't. You say, now look, people cannot build hospitals for themselves but they can pay prescription charges, a reasonable amount of prescription charges. Don't forget I have to take every single thing we give out out of someone's pocket and there are many many cases when if we left that money in that pocket they would spend it better, and often things which you have to pay for you use far more economically and better than things which come free. …   . So all these things …   . school meals, for example, …   . very well. There came [word missing?] an idealist country when compassion, the word compassion was totally abused. It became equal to how much people had got free, nothing was free. People in this country pay for it. And if you have a system under which you take money away from people, cycle it through a bureaucracy, have it provided through another bureaucracy and when it gets back you do not get the same out of it as when it was first taken away from you. You always have to think that the essence of a democracy is when people are prepared to take personal responsibility, and in the end the family, the parents are proudly responsible for their families. And most parents prefer it that way …   . build schools, they can't build schools for themselves. Some would wish to pay for them to go to private schools …   .

WH

(unclear)

PM

… things don't move fast enough, even now. Planning permission is one thing for example that doesn't move fast enough. Do you know it takes as long to build a road in this country as to bring a big scheme to fruition, even though we have got the enterprise zones, it takes longer to bring some of those schemes to fruition in this country because at every stage we have maximum rights of protest and sometimes it just slows things down so we don't get a road to the courts which would help our trade and industry, we don't get a by-pass and sometimes I think we have [end p12] got it too slow and other countries have got ahead faster than we have.

WH

Would you like to do away with …

PM

Sometimes I think we have too many stages. We have to deal with more. I mean, they obviously have a right. They obviously don't use [words missing] must be fair. But we do need to have a look at them to see that that we've done everything to speed them up. Planning, for example. It's absolutely vital … We've got a new big thing which will help the construction industry to get going. You get these new big planning schemes and everyone knows that ‘No, I don't want it near me. It's got to be done but not on that road near me’. And there are one or two big planning schemes that still haven't been approved yet. And my worry at this time is that nursery staff … I may say that the time of planning applications is much less than it used to be but naturally you may not be surprised that I am concerned that we get more jobs in construction and therefore when I, for example, come and say ‘Look, I understand that people are underspending on the amount they've got to spend on construction and capital. Now can we speed it up.’ And I start to say that in the middle of the year. When was I saying it? October. ‘Oh, no, they say, There's not much you can do about it this year because it takes such a long time to get planning permission.’ Isn't it ridiculous? I think we got about £600 million worth of stuff speeded up. Yes. You do get frustrated. Because you feel that you are personally in charge of that very thing and get it done more quickly.

WH

Are you personally a patient person?

PM

Patient? I'm patient about some things. We've got to be patient, for example, when we're teaching young people, because the experience can only be learned by going through it. But I'm very impatient sometimes with things that get stuck. Sometimes, things get stuck between Departments and that is totally exasperating. But you never hear about it until it's very late. You then pick it up and say ‘Why didn't you come to me earlier?’ [end p13]

WH

Do you find it easy to lose your temper?

PM

Oh, I'm impatient about things, but I don't really lose my temper. I get very cross about something if it's something I ought to get very cross about.

WH

Just on a lighter note …   .

PM

It never helps to lose your temper. First, it drains you of all energy. First, it doesn't really succeed in what you're trying to do. I'm impatient. Yes, I'm impatient. My mind tends to run on in life very fast if I've been dealing with something. You know if you've been dealing with something you tend to move on much faster than some [words missing] thing. But patience is quite different from that.

WH

Talking about energy, where do you get your energy from?

PM

I've no idea. First, I was born energetic. Second, we worked … I lived in a family that had to work hard. My Alfred Robertsfather worked hard. My Beatrice Robertsmother worked hard. From dawn to dusk. So we were used to it and it was a way of life and we had to work hard to get on. And I like it. I mean, I don't feel that I've been doing it for years and years. And it's the habit is 90 per cent of your life. And had I had an easier life, which I should never have wanted, and rested more, and taken more sleep, then I should not have the energy I have now.

WH

Do you take any special exercise?

PM

Vitamin pills? I always take Vitamin C. It's the one you can't make in your body. I always take Vitamin C.

WH

Also, how do you keep … because you're not only [word missing] you're a very fit person?

PM

I'm just very lucky. I can't remember when I had a day off …   . when I had these veins done in my leg. I just noticed them and thought ‘Well, I'd better have them done before they get worse’ and therefore arranged to have them done one day in my [end p14] holiday. And no one would have known about it. I went in the morning … Done one day in the holiday and I can't remember having lost a day through illness.

WH

Do you stick to a diet or …   .

PM

I have to watch that I don't put on too much. You do tend to … You see, quite a lot of one's life is spent sitting down in this job. All right, I'm dashing around for the rest of the time. And quite a lot of the time one has official luncheons. But I stick to a diet and try not to eat too many fattening things. Then there comes a day when you don't have very much so you stick to fruit.

WH

Do you cook for yourself? Do you enjoy cooking?

PM

We don't have a cook. We don't have a cook to the flat, or anything like that. I never wanted one. I like cooking but when I come back in late, if there's anything to be done, you have something. Or there's something in the fridge to cut at. And if I'm late, what we want is really something simple. I no longer cook anything very complicated.

WH

Do you have …

PM

Well, normally, if it's late at night, when I come in, there will be some kind of vegetable soup and inevitably something like poached eggs on toast or marmite. Poached eggs take toast … I, we nearly always try to have fresh fruit or cheese and whatever salad there is, because you must have fresh fruit and you must have preferably fresh vegetables.

WH

Obviously, you don't get much time to shop for yourself. Do you go shopping?

PM

Not a lot. They kindly send them in. Sometimes now and then I will go and have a look at something.

WH

Do you miss being able to just pop into the shops? [end p15]

PM

If we go up Regent Street, I love looking at the shops to see what there is. Really looking at them. If I go shopping, I go very early in the morning. Sometimes I do see something, and so I send someone up to have a look at it.

WH

[Inaudible]

PM

Marks and Spencers is very good. And one or two wholesale for me to have a look at.

WH

[Inaudible]

PM

Yes. I came in to have a look at …   . What we did, you see. We do that because it's actually got something which is a little bit young for me. I feel that's a bit young for me.

WH

Oh, I don't think so.

PM

Do you? I think it's a bit young. (Laughter) …   . So it got a little [word missing] put on it.

WH

Who cheers you up when you're with the family?

PM

Well, it's a great thing. We all cheer one another up. Whenever one gets depressed sometimes, it's a great need of a family. We all cheer one another up. You know, into life little rains fall and of course there are days when things don't go well. But there's always another day and you must look at life like that. But a lot depends what … Don't tell me we can get away with …   . I haven't got it too wrinkled?

WH

No. It's fine.

PM

Is it?

WH

Yes. It's all right.

PM

It doesn't look like mutton dressed as lamb. I can't bear mutton dressed as lamb at my age. You were asking me? [end p16]

WH

About being cheered up.

PM

We all cheer one another up. You all have to have someone you can talk to. And that's someone at the end of the show who says ‘All right, tomorrow's another day’. Sometimes there are bad days. I must say, the Falklands was a totally different depth of experience. And one lived at a different depth of experience. Everything affected you extremely deeply. It was …   . How could I explain it … It was a different—a deeper depth of experience because people's lives were at stake, because the risks were enormous. And it's something one hopes never to live through again. But other things, like … You get a disappointing set of figures … All right, we had a cheerful set of figures last night from the CBI. Quite cheerful. But previous ones I have been really very depressed about. And I thought, how much longer? Because I know the opportunities are there like things like, I know as I go round the manufacturing industries, they're buying in components and things from abroad which we can make here. And you think, how much longer? And then you see we have a growth in inflation. You can't stop it going up. How much longer before I can get it down? And now it's down, and it will slip along the bottom. It'll come up and down and there'll be a bad month and a good month, a bad month and then gradually get it down. There will always … that's the time. And then there will be time when you get more unemployed and you're looking for signs that more businesses are starting up, more young people are being taken on in trade. And then you've got enough faith in the way you're going. I mean, it's like an illness. It's like recovering from an illness. You have good days and bad days. But the thing is, you've still got to have faith that you'll come through and you know that if you've got faith in the treatment … And you've still got to go on trying. And, of course, the person who is good for you is the person who says ‘Now, come on, you've got to get up and take a few more steps today—just a few more. Come on, now just try’. Not the person who says ‘Never mind, dear, never mind, we'll look after you’, the one who says ‘Come on you can do just a bit better, come on’. And the way you [end p17] train a person for sport or an exam, of anything you say ‘Come on, just a bit more today’. So really we all cheer each other up because whatever's happening we're never depressed together.

WH

Does your husband enjoy you being Prime Minister?

PM

Denis ThatcherHe's always encouraged me. Right at the beginning, when I said ‘Do you think I ought to give up politics completely?’. I didn't fight the 1955 Election. The children, I thought, were too young. And let me make it clear, I could never have done that [words missing] lived in Yorkshire, or Scotland or the West Country or Wales. I don't think I could have left them the whole week and come down to London. And he just said ‘Look, first you've got the talent and ability for it and I think that you ought to carry on because you have something to bring to it, and secondly, I don't think you'd be a complete person unless you use all your talents and abilities and I think you should go on with it’.

WH

But that's a very different level from actually being Prime Minister.

PM

Yes, but dear, it took me … Don't forget, I started … I started my first Election and fought in 1950, fought 1950–51, didn't fight 1955, got in in 1959. It was twenty-four years ago. And so for twenty years I've been in Parliament before I became Prime Minister. So I was first a Member of Parliament, then the first step of Junior Minister and Parliamentary Secretary and then into Opposition, then into Government as a Cabinet Minister, then into Opposition as Leader of the Opposition and then Prime Minister. So you didn't go from the bottom rung of the ladder by a massive stride to the top one. You had to go a couple of rungs at a time. And that's how, on the whole, it comes. It doesn't come …   . You're not suddenly there and then suddenly there. You have to go a step at a time and a day at a time learning as you went, making some mistakes and doing some things right. So you don't suddenly become that. And the children were six when I came in, too, and I was interested. I heard Carol ThatcherCarol on television. Did you see her on TV a.m? [end p18]

WH

No.

PM

Well, she was on with Michael Parkinson. She looked lovely. And she was very very good, I thought. Didn't you? No. She was very very good. And she said ‘Look, mum's been in politics since I was six and it's just been part of our lives’. She's what twenty-eight now.

WH

If you were not what you are, what else would you like to do?

PM

I would have been in the law, I think. I would have carried on being in the law—a barrister. Because that's really the other way I …   . I actually took two qualifications. One was a scientific one and the other law, because I don't actually intend to practice in the branch of law where you knew both. They've both been extremely valuable to me as a politician and I've heard people say ‘She's the first woman Prime Minister …’ I think I'm the first Prime Minister who has a science degree. Because we've got to the science age, you see. Interesting.

WH

When you're not working, what do you do?

PM

When I'm not working, I'm really pottering around the house getting things back in the places that they ought to be and also, don't forget, sometimes at weekends, things have got to be got right for the following week. Got to be back in their place and given some attention to. I read.

WH

What sort of things do you like?

PM

I really like to read the books you know on how the current events are relating to history. I suppose one's always trying to learn from the past. One is always trying to learn from politicians one has known … what they've put into practice. I read a good deal of philosophy. I love detective stories of any sort. You know, I love the “Smiley's People” by John Le Carre. [end p19] All of them. I love the Hammond Innes. I love the Freddy Forsyth. All of these novels I read—lap them up, to read late at night.

WH

What about television. What's your favourite television programme?

PM

Now, I watch …   . I must tell you …   . I adored “Yes, Minister” . I thought it was marvellous—so true, some of them. It's a caricature. You can see it in every one of them. A caricature. You know, everything's a … not absolutely accurate. But a caricature … Absolutely brilliant—descriptive—brilliantly cast. And I loved “Barchester Towers” and I love watching the musical things. You know the musical sports “Master Class” . I like watching things like “The Professionals” .

WH

Do you watch “Coronation Street” ?

PM

No. I don't. “Coronation Street” comes at the wrong time for me.

WH

You don't have it videoed?

PM

No. I don't have it videoed. I used to watch “Morecambe and Wise” and “The Two Ronnies” . …   . Again … That is, I think, absolutely terrific. Now and then I watch an interview programme.

WH

Do you watch yourself?

PM

Never. I cannot bear watching myself. I just can't bear it.

WH

Why?

PM

Well, you never know what yourself looks like. And you always feel when you're watching, I could have given a so much better answer. [end p20]

WH

You sound very very good

PM

Do I? Why? I wonder …   . Is it what nerves do to you? Or is it one speaking faster.

WH

You're certainly speaking faster now than you usually do … It's very different.

PM

Isn't it extraordinary?

WH

Are you nervous on television?

PM

Well, everyone is nervous on television. Everyone is nervous. And even if you find an interviewer who will be talking quite happily … a different sort of voice comes on even with them. You do your voice levels and then all of a sudden I say ‘Are you going to do the voice level like that or will you raise your voice?’ …   . Everyone is nervous on television. I'm interested when they televise me for a speech and you're speaking then. If you've got an audience, you slow down obviously. But when I had questions at the Institute of Directors, they televised the questions and the answers and they came over, I think, a bit better, you know.

Romola Christopherson

Yes. We were hearing the sound here in the office.

PM

Were you? And was it different when one's delivering a speech?

Romola Christopherson

Yes, it was different.

PM

It is different. You make up a speech and then I learned early in my time as Leader of the Opposition … I was never to script speeches. I'd make a few notes only and deliver them and they're much more lively then. And then I found I wasn't getting much publicity. And they said ‘You're not making speeches,’ and I said, ‘Good Lord, I did five last week’. ‘You never put out a press release’. And so, then the next thing is you. … And then you start drafting, because you don't speak [end p21] grammatically, as you know. Then, of course, you draft, and then you have to read the blessed thing and you tend to know some bits …   . animation. And then, if you go off the script, that's a news point. So when you come alive, when we've done the real script. Now we're off the press release now. Now we can talk.

WH

Do you think it's harder being a woman Prime Minister?

PM

I've no idea. Not having the other experience …   . I wouldn't have thought so, to be perfectly honest.

WH

Do you find it hard being a boss of men?

PM

Well, it's putting everything together really and giving a fierce lead. I mean, look, the fact is it doesn't really matter. It's your personality. Either you've got the sort of personality that does give a lead or one that doesn't and that doesn't vary …   . you know, that aspect doesn't vary from woman to man.

WH

[Inaudible.]

PM

It comes naturally. It comes naturally. You know, all through life …   . well, yes, I'm afraid so. One learned to make up one's mind quickly. One learned to argue your point of view and then give a clear decision and stick to it. Then we were … we did … Don't forget the way I was brought up. …   . to no purpose. One was brought up at at a time when there was no television and we talked about things, we discussed, we went to lectures, we went to discussion groups, we talked about things. We used to listen to some of the discussions on radio. I liked radio. There were a lot on radio.

WH

Do you listen to a lot of radio?

PM

Yes, I listen to the radio every morning. [end p22]

WH

You have started watching Breakfast Television?

PM

No. You can listen to radio and you can do other things but you can't watch Breakfast Television and do other things. And then, you know, Alastair Cooke on America … there was also time when one could listen to one of the repeats and one could listen to it. Or The Money Programme … sometimes you can get a programme or two on television you want to watch.

WH

When we were at war with the Falklands …   . I mean, wasn't it a situation we thought we'd never be in? … When you were suddenly there and you were leading the country to war, were there times when you thought ‘I don't know what to do’? I mean, it's so out of the realms for most people …   .

PM

That was a time when you knew that each day you had to get certain decisions taken, that you must never get troops down there without having equipment there … you knew, in a way, as I say, it's a different depth of experience, but the total concentration of the task means that I would not necessarily say that one was frightened … You had to get on with it …   .

WH

You have to get on with it again …

PM

I'll have to get on with it again, yes.

WH

And no date for the General Election?

PM

No date for the General Election. Just say if they'd like to bet on every month until the end of May …   .