Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

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

1983 May 4 We
Margaret Thatcher

Interview for Newsweek

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Document kind: Interview
Venue: No.10 Downing Street
Source: Thatcher Archive: COI transcript
Journalist: Tony Clifton, Newsweek
Editorial comments: 0900-1000. The interview from which the above text is drawn originally appeared in Newsweek on 4 May 1983 published by Newsweek Inc.. For legal reasons the questions asked by the interviewer have been removed.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 4800
Themes: Autobiographical comments, Parliament, Conservatism, Defence (arms control), Defence (Falklands War, 1982), Economy (general discussions), Employment, Industry, General Elections, Monetary policy, Privatized & state industries, Trade, Foreign policy (general discussions), Foreign policy (USA), Foreign policy (USSR & successor states), Leadership, Northern Ireland, Terrorism, Women

Newsweek

[Question summary: WHY NOT HOLD A GENERAL ELECTION NOW?]

PM

I can give you reasons for and against every possible election time. I am not going to because what you are fishing for is how I am thinking about elections and I obviously cannot say. The first news when I decide has to come from here at the time I decide, and I understand your fish.

Newsweek

[Question summary: NEUTRAL REMARK.]

PM

I accept your basic proposition. I am in politics because I believe certain things. I believe them very strongly. I want those things to continue and obviously if you believe certain things you try to take an election at the best time to enable those things to continue.

Newsweek

[Question summary: WILLIAMSBURG?]

PM

Although I must say I think we shall win whenever we take the election.

Newsweek

[Question summary: WHY GO TO A SUMMIT MEETING?]

PM

Oh, the atmosphere just isn't the same if you call one another on the phone and you get together to discuss these things, not only that you talk informally at the dinners and in the wings of the Summit and there really just isn't any substitute for getting together and having a pretty long thorough discussion about matters. And I don't think there are any economic formulas anymore than there are any new formula for the way in which life is lived. But I think a number of people misread Keynes in the past. They have been misreading him ever since and thought that it provided an easy solution. It didn't. It just got us into high inflation and high unemployment. As Keynes would have been the first to have said if he had still been here.

Newsweek

[Question summary: MAJOR ISSUES AT WILLIAMSBURG?]

PM

There is a great move to protectionism and we must try to stop it because it is in all our interests, certainly the interests of the exporting countries, that we should have freer world trade. You can't have some people operating freer world trade and other people operating greater protection. So really therefore our objective is to reduce the amount of protectionism towards a freer trade. There are enormous issues to be discussed. World recession hit us at a time when there were certain other factors which would have been enough to tackle on their own. For example, the new industrialised countries and their problems. This wasn't a problem twenty years ago …   . and they have developed enormously since then and in many many products in which we were very skilled and which we reckoned we had world markets. So they on their own were a problem and, of course, more and more of the under-developed countries are developing things like steel plants at a time when there is a world glut of steel and becoming industrialised themselves. So we have to adjust our own economies to take this new big factor into account. There is particular difficulty in the transition period, because in the end it will lead to more trade between nations, within the transition period it is difficult. And the other thing that would be difficult [end p1] enough to tackle on its own is what I call the third industrial revolution which was going really from mechanisation … for decades, to automation and your automation in fact takes away many many of the unskilled jobs. Now in American society we are moving towards more service jobs for many many years and that is one solution. The other thing is you have to move into more highly skilled products—again you've been doing. You're into new electronics, designing of the new electronics, But, you see, the world recession hit us at the same time as the two other things came and those would have been enough on their own to try to cope with, The world recession was a third thing.

Newsweek

[Question summary: UNEMPLOYMENT?]

PM

In that context, one just made all the comments I've just made because the thing is how to find more jobs. New technology in the end will always produce more jobs. In the interim it produces unemployment and that is a difficult period.

Newsweek

[Question summary: BETTER TO SPEND MONEY ON INDUSTRIAL SUBSIDIES THAN ON UNEMPLOYMENT BENEFIT?]

PM

First, there are a number of industries which in fact we have to rationalise and adapt to change. Where you can see that if they do these things, and putting a certain amount of investment, they will come through to profitable business. There you help them through. That is cushioning the effects of change where there is a good probability they will come through, that is done.

Newsweek

[Question summary: EXAMPLES?]

PM

The second good example—British Leyland is one, Jaguar is now through to profitability. Range Rover is a good one. Rationalisation of special steels is another one—that was done on a very considerable scale. In the past we did it on textiles. Now those are some examples. The second one where you do in fact subsidise is where young people have a very good idea—an innovative new product—or where an existing business have an innovating new product which they cannot finance themselves to bring to the market and there we have a scheme where the Department on Industry will provide a third. So that gets your new stuff on to the market. Now the next thing is—that you have a regional policy where certain regions in the country where it is much more difficult to persuade industries to go. That you have incentives—a form of subsidies to do that. So that is quite a number of things. What you have to beware of in subsidies, is, “Wouldn't it be better to subsidise inefficient industries?” You take one or two companies that are inefficient, you say, “All right, we will subsidise you, keep you going,” and you think that will be better. I tell you why you shy away from that because in subsidising that company you are probably knocking out efficient companies somewhere else in the country. They will come along and say to you, “We've done it, we didn't get any subsidies, you're subsidising our competitor because he was not good, he gets the money and we don't”. And you cannot get into that spiral. That is dreadful. On the other hand you will again find in the worst of the recession—it happened in textiles—that people could keep going for four days a week and not five—they keep going efficiently for four days a week. Then you did something which is called a temporary, and it was temporary, it was a short time working compensation. Because they were working efficiently for four days in a week or maybe three and a half and you did that and that has helped them to come through. So I would say that you have, where subsidies are justified because a company is basically sound, it will come through, but you just cannot subsidise just plain straight inefficiency. That is wrong and would be a disservice. It would knock other people out of business and would take money which would otherwise might go to the creation of new innovative industry. [end p2]

Newsweek

[Question summary: NO NEED FOR CONSERVATIVES TO WORRY ABOUT UNEMPLOYMENT, BECAUSE UNEMPLOYED VOTE LABOUR?]

PM

You are the first person whom I have ever heard say such a thing. Now I must pick you up because I've never heard any of my Tory friends, right-wing, medium-wing, left-wing, ever say that. They are always saying, “Unemployment is a problem of our time. How are we going to tackle it and to bring genuine new jobs?” I do totally reject the brittle cynicism of your question.

Newsweek

[Question summary: MUCH HOPE?]

PM

I tell you something else: not all the unemployed are going to vote Labour. Many of them realise that our policy …   . is much more likely to get through to genuine lasting jobs and a higher standard of living than through voting Labour, and they wouldn't be with Labour on the defence policies either.

Newsweek

[Question summary: WHAT HOPE OF LOWER UNEMPLOYMENT?]

PM

It will depend upon how you tackle the opportunities in our industry and there is just no substitute for having well designed products, efficiently produced, delivered on time. That is the job of industry. It doesn't matter what you say or do in Government. We can set the framework, we can set the financial framework, we can set the legal framework. Within that someone is bound to produce the goods efficiently on time and compete with others. Getting out of a recession is a partnership between Government and industry. We set the framework, they take advantage of it. It will need a consistent, steady framework, so they know where they are. [end p3]

Newsweek

[Question summary: INDICATIONS OF ECONOMIC RECOVERY.]

PM

I do hope so. I think there are grounds for cautious optimism. All recoveries are patchy. Some industries do well. The new innovative ones and the ones that have modernised themselves. Others whose products have steadily become obsolete, become modernised themselves, they do not do well.

Newsweek

[Question summary: MIGHT HIGH WORLD INTEREST RATES PREVENT RECOVERY?]

PM

I do. But that is one reason that we are going to win. So we all get together and say we must not abort a recovery for example by running pulses [sic] which lead to high interest rates. There is nothing that aborts a recovery faster than high interest rates. Nothing aborts recovery faster or more surely than high interest rates. We are coming out, we were ready to come out at the end of '8l and we had signs of a upturn. Up went the interest rates at the other side of the Atlantic, the recession then hit Europe later than us and it knocked us back into recession. Nothing could have been so bitterly disappointing. Because we had got our things right. We were knocked back and the interest rate which went down—I had got it down to 12 per cent—had to do back up to 16. It knocked us hard again and not of our doing.

Newsweek

[Question summary: MILTON FRIEDMAN SAYS THAT YOU HAVE NOT CONTROLLED THE MONEY SUPPLY VERY WELL.]

PM

I think that Milton Friedmanhe hasn't looked at the money supply recently. We were having great difficulty with it during the early period as we took our various constraints. But in fact—I think Bernard will get you a graph, and Michael Scholar will show you the money supply …   . absolutely all measures within target for the last year. Very impressive. And of course unless we had been very tough on the money supply we wouldn't have got down inflation. Don't forget inflation has been brought down without the massive use of controls. It is genuinely down if you look at the money supply. And we have in fact gone very far with privatisation during our first four years, bearing in mind all the other things we have had to face. And … done very well indeed. In fact I think we got as far, if not further in the first four years than I expected.

Newsweek

[Question summary: [ATTEMPTS TO INTERRUPT]]

PM

Bearing in mind we came into power just at the beginning of the second world recession was beginning to hit. That big world recession again coming on top of the second enormous increase in world prices, coming before we had recovered from the first took us into a deeper recession. I don't think anyone could have expected …   .

BI

…and the legislation that had to…

PM

Oh yes, in this country we cannot simply do—M. Mitterrand seemed to have an omnibus nationalisation—we could never have had that. But each time we denationalise, we have to have a special legislative measure applying to each individual thing. If it's a main nationalised industry—though sometimes they can sell their subsidiaries off without special legislation, we have already had past… But with telecommunications you see we have had a Bill going through now since the beginning of this Session, it is a major Bill, it takes a long time. But I do not need to address any merit to the problems of getting legislation through the legislature.

Newsweek

[Question summary: TARGETS FOR PRIVATISATION?]

PM

Well, we shall continue as fast as we can to denationalise and to get as much as we can back into the private sector, and having been a Prime Minister I know full well that many, many of the decisions you have to take in connection with nationalised industries are decisions which ought not to come to politicians. They ought in fact to be decided by the management who know the situation in the market, who know their workforce, who can respond to change far more quickly than we can. And also—can I just make this point and very, very strongly indeed?—it is not only nationalisation, it is monopoly. You are more likely to have monopoly where you have nationalisation—there is no substitute for competition, none at all. It is a spur on its own. Nothing else can imitate it. And so when you are de-nationalising, you have also to introduce greater laws for competition, because you simply cannot go from a public monopoly to a private monopoly. It is competition that gives efficiency—and choice.

Newsweek

[Question summary: FALKLAND ISLANDERS HAVE A RIGHT TO LIVE IN FREEDOM.]

PM

I think most people given the choice would …   .

Newsweek

[Question summary: YES.]

PM

British people are born to freedom and justice. It was taken away and we went to get it back.

Newsweek

[Question summary: DEFENCE OF FALKLANDS IS COSTLY. USE MONEY TO RESETTLE ISLANDERS ELSEWHERE?]

PM

What you are saying is that they are free to live anywhere except the land of their choice, and the land of their fathers. [end p4] Isn't it? That's what you are saying. … What you are saying is that you are free to live anywhere save in the land of your choice and the land of your fathers, where your forefathers settled. There'd been no other population there when they had arrived and we were the first to discover those Islands and to settle there. No, they have a right, they have a right to choice, they have a right to freedom and justice in the land of their fathers, and the right to self-determination, and I expect the great United States to understand all that. And how in the world would you say to someone who came along to Texas and said, “America's put a claim on Texas, Mexico's put a claim on Texas”—you know she used to have it—“and we really therefore must negotiate with her, we will give you enough money to go and live anywhere save Texas”?

Newsweek

[Question summary: UGANDAN ASIANS WERE RESETTLED.]

PM

I am sorry, the what …   .

Newsweek

[Question summary: OTHERS HAVE SUFFERED AS A RESULT OF BRITISH DECOLONISATION.]

PM

… What you are saying is something totally different to what you previously said. What you are now saying …   .

Newsweek

[Question summary: NO, IT FOLLOWS.]

PM

Maybe, but it is not a logical follow-up question. The logic of your question, though it is not obvious, except to me, the logic of your question is that you give the people in a territory over whom you have dominion independence. The logic of that question is not to give it over to another power, like Argentina, but say to the people in that territory, “You are free to be self-governing if you choose”. No difficulty about that as far as I am concerned. But that is in keeping with everything I have said. They have the right to freedom and justice in the land of their fathers. [end p5]

Newsweek

[Question summary: [ATTEMPTS TO INTERRUPT]]

PM

…   . which was discovered by the British, first settled by the British and has been continuously in British occupation 150 years and many of the families there have been in the Falklands far longer than many of the Argentinians have been in Argentina. I never expect to have to explain to an American the right to live in freedom and justice and the right to self-determination. Washington got it from us, Washington was an Englishman.

Newsweek

[Question summary: GOVERNMENT HAS LOST THE CONFIDENCE OF ROMAN CATHOLICS IN NORTHERN IRELAND? SUPPORT FOR SINN FEIN IS RISING.]

PM

One moment, the logic of your question again is that the minority must determine the lives of the majority. Where did that come from? Everything you have said has totally and utterly ignored the rights of the majority. Why? We had a border poll—we can have another border poll in ten years—the vast majority wishes to stay part of the United Kingdom. They are an inherent part of the United Kingdom. … and we have given the minority the same rights as the majority to go and be represented in the Assembly. The rights of the minority are also represented through the SDLP in our Parliament. They have the ballot …   . and yet they prefer, because they do not win by the ballot, they try to use the bullet. That is just not acceptable in a free society, nor should it be encouraged by any other free society. You believe in the ballot box.

Newsweek

[Question summary: EFFORTS TO INVOLVE CATHOLICS IN DEMOCRATIC PROCESS HAVE FAILED.]

PM

I can only give them the opportunity. We gave them the opportunities. They voted. They elected representatives. Those representatives choose not to use the ballot, they prefer to use the bullet. That is wrong. Totally wrong. It is not because of lack of opportunity, given to the population by a fundamentally democratic government—we've given them that opportunity. Where you have got people who turn to use the bullet, of course, freedom goes out of the window, as far as that population is concerned.

Newsweek

[Question summary: POSSIBLE TO IMAGINE UNITED IRELAND OR INDEPENDENT NORTHERN IRELAND?]

PM

Northern Ireland is free to determine her own future. She is part of the United Kingdom, a fundamental part of the United Kingdom. If the majority of people in Northern Ireland wish not to be, obviously we would honour their wish. … to be independent, or to join up elsewhere. But Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom because of the wish of the majority of her people. And I may say the Republic of Ireland is just as much against terrorism and the IRA as we are in the United Kingdom. And the Dr Garret FitzGeraldTaoiseach, both Taoiseachs, have been very forthright about that. They are totally and utterly against violence as a method of pursuing political aims. And they co-operate in security matters, as we all do in any democratic country, to try to eradicate violence, and I cannot speak too highly of the cooperation we have had from both the present Taoiseach, and Charles Haugheyhis predecessor, and J. Lynchhis predecessor before that. I would like to make that clear.

BI

Would you like to say a word about Noraid and whatever, PM?

PM

I am utterly horrified that there are people in the United States who, themselves the product of the ballot and freedom and justice, should actually be financing guns used to kill innocent people. It is totally against everything in the American Constitution and [end p6] totally against everything everyone who believes in liberty.

Newsweek

[Question summary: [ATTEMPTS TO INTERRUPT]]

PM

Incidentally, can I also say, those guns are used against America's most loyal allies, and soldiers stand side by side with those in the United States …   . what sort of people kill their own allies?

Newsweek

[Question summary: WE WROTE PROFILES OF YOU IN 1979. ]

PM

Were you right? Did you get them right?

Newsweek

[Question summary: YOU DID BETTER THAN EXPECTED, BUT WE DID NOT COME TO PRAISE. ]

PM

I didn't think you did.

Newsweek

[Question summary: HAVE YOU EVER FEARED DISASTER?]

PM

A defeat is something which faces every politician. They system which brings you to power is a system which people are free to use to put someone else into power. But that is part of your life. It doesn't come as a blinding revelation. I firmly believe … is the greatest thing that sustains me throughout all my time in politics, the things which I am trying to do are things which strike a fundamental chord in the hearts and minds of British people. And in a sense those things transcend politics. Except of course anyone who wishes to do a system of total control of government over [end p7] people, like the Communists, extreme left-wing systems. I mean, then they are fundamentally at odds with everything I believe in, and I think they are things which are alien to the character of the British people.

Newsweek

[Question summary: [ATTEMPTS TO INTERRUPT]]

PM

Did I make that clear? They are fundamentally at odds with everything I believe in—I think their views and their ideas are alien to the character of the British people.

Newsweek

[Question summary: THRIVING ON THE JOB?]

[cassette changed]

PM

… I found I fitted. And that's that. And I thrive on it. Yes I do, because every day brings its new challenge. I now know that I can cope with them all. But I didn't think I wouldn't be able to. And of course, remember, experience is cumulative. That's the thing that impresses me. I now go to a summit and I'm the senior statesman. So you've seen quite a lot before. And experience is cumulative and that does matter. Does it matter if the Opposition is fragmented? No, often it makes it more frenetic to deal with in the House of Commons. Fragmentation is good for a frenetic opposition. They do try to undermine your nerve—well, they just don't succeed.

Newsweek

[Question summary: WOMEN IN CABINET? FEW WOMEN IN PARLIAMENT.]

PM

There aren't many in the Senate are there?

Newsweek

[Question summary: ENCOURAGE MORE WOMEN TO ENTER POLITICS?]

PM

I would like more women to come into politics. Those who are there would be less conspicuous and I think that women, the talent and ability of women is every bit as great as men. And there are not more in politics because they don't choose to follow that career. It's not one that has quite the appeal for women as it has for men. But some of those who come in are very very able. Very very able indeed and I would like more of that group. But it has to be up to them. I mean you are going to come into politics, you have to come into politics because it has a total fascination for you and you really want to be at the centre of [end p8] things and you positively want to have a part in shaping from the political stand point of view the future of your country. You simply cannot say, “Right, I will take up politics in the way I'll take up book-binding” or something like that. There has to be a magnetism between the subject and the person.

Newsweek

[Question summary: YOU DO NOT PROMOTE IT?]

PM

All I can say is that when I meet many women who want to take it up I can say, not, look I really must give them a push to get them into view and see that they are known among the people who do in fact have influence in politics. If we get more women in politics I'm absolutely thrilled.

Newsweek

[Question summary: ANDROPOV MORE REASONABLE THAN BREZHNEV?]

PM

No of course not. The policies of that country appear to be continuing exactly as they were, exactly as they were. It's not surprising because it is very much a collective government. We look at every suggestion that is made and President Reagan said some months ago that Ambassador Nitze had both instructions and authority to explore any constructive suggestion that was made in Geneva. That is the place to explore it and to negotiate. There is always a willingness on our part to negotiate because we wish to defend our freedom and justice and security always. And to defend it in the way that ensures its survival. We wish to be able to defend it at a lower level of expenditure. But you must not in so doing, weaken the defence. And therefore you have got to be certain that the other person is disarming. And that they are carrying out what they have said they are doing. And those the principles on which your disarmament is based. But the fundamental principle is defence of peace with freedom and justice.

Newsweek

[Question summary: ENCOURAGED BY LATEST ANDROPOV STATEMENT ON ARMS CONTROL?]

PM

I have given you the answer for that. You look at every new suggestion and you look at it thoroughly. But these things you never look at in a shallow way.

Newsweek

[Question summary: IS RISE OF CND DUE TO REAGAN?]

PM

Most certainly not here. It was the revival of a previous movement which in fact was very very dominant fifteen to twenty years ago. It has nothing to do with President Reagan in my view.

Newsweek

[Question summary: WHY HAS CND MEMBERSHIP INCREASED?]

PM

Well because you're modernising your nuclear weapons. And the trigger for the modernisation was the Soviet Union. She modernised first on SS20s. She modernised …   . the Cruise and the Pershing are modernisation and the first to modernise was the Soviet Union. And of course don't forget we have a public opinion which the Soviet Union can manipulate. The Soviet Union has no public opinions. We can't in fact put to them our arguments and the true position. Inequality? That is the greatest inequality of all.

Newsweek

[Question summary: PATRONISING VIEW OF WESTERN PUBLIC?]

PM

Not patronising at all. It's realistic. What the Soviet Union is trying to do is to keep her SS20s intact, a whole generation, and at the same time stop the deployment of Pershing and Cruise by manipulating public opinion in the free world.

Newsweek

[Question summary: WITH SUCCESS, YOU ARE SAYING?]

PM

No, I'm not. No, I am not. They weren't successful in Germany and that was a crucial election. My goodness me, they did try. They did not succeed. Nuclear is an essential [end p9] part of our defence. And the fact I think that some of the CND people ignore is that our defence in all its separate parts has kept the peace in Europe for thirty-eight years and that peace is valuable. And if you value peace, you would be very very slow to abandon the weapons and the structure which has kept that peace. We who have that particular pattern and defence are the true peace movement. We are the true believers in peace and haters not only of nuclear war but of all war. Because nuclear will stop a conventional war in Europe just as much as a nuclear war. And, let me say, conventional wars are horrible and they too want stopping. And the fact is that nuclear weapons have stopped the start of a conventional war. In the meantime there have been 120 non-nuclear conflicts the world over—I am sorry it's 140. Over 10 million people have died. We are the true peace movement. Peace with freedom and justice and we've kept that.

Newsweek

[Question summary: WHAT BOOKS DO YOU READ?]

PM

I'm reading John Le Carre, “The Little Drummer Girl”, Michael Howard “The Causes of War” and really quite a lot of what I call Sovietology, foreign affairs articles, lectures. Also Martin Gilbert 's latest thing which has come out on Winston Churchill.

Newsweek

[Question summary: DO YOU EMULATE ANY PREVIOUS PRIME MINISTER?]

PM

You fall into your own mode and your own style, because that's the only thing that fits you. By the time you've been four years in the job you do have your own relationship with it. Rhythm is a part of your own style. Obviously you try to learn from other people's experience, but you must adapt that experience to your own way of work and your own ideas. You can't be anybody else you can only be yourself.

Newsweek

[Question summary: VERY GOOD.]

PM

Right.