Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

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

1983 Jun 16 Th
Margaret Thatcher

TV Interview for ABC

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Venue: No.10 Downing Street
Source: Thatcher Archive
Journalist: Barbara Walters, ABC TV
Editorial comments: 1530-1615. Broadcast at 2200 EDT on 20/20 , 16 June 1983.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 4512
Themes: Autobiographical comments, Autobiography (marriage & children), British Constitution (general discussions), Executive (appointments), Commonwealth (general), Defence (arms control), Defence (Falklands War, 1982), Economy (general discussions), Employment, Industry, General Elections, Foreign policy (Americas excluding USA), Foreign policy (development, aid, etc), Foreign policy (USA), Foreign policy (USSR & successor states), Leadership

BW

We thank you for doing this interview with us Mrs Thatcher. You are much admired in our country and obviously in yours as well, but it wasn't always that way back in 1982 your approval rating stood at just 25%; it was the lowest of any Prime Minister since World War II and then came the Falklands your rating went up and stayed up. What need do you think that you fill for your people?

MT

When the ratings were very bad it was an acutely difficult time for us and nevertheless I knew that we had to do certain things economically in order to get things right in the longer run, indeed that's been my whole approach. There are certain right ways to go and you have to stick to it long enough to get the results. We were doing that then along came the Falklands and one applied just exactly the same things, exactly the same principles, we cannot just sit back and let others take territory by force exactly the same things and the whole of the country was behind one. The point I wish to make is that it was the same approach to both problems they saw the kind of results it produced in the Falklands and I think they began to realise that it was the right way to go at home as well.

BW

When you are called a nanny or a school teacher and people say, but what she's given us is decisiviness and clarity and that's what the people want so much, do you think that's true? Do you think psychologically.

MT

I think people like decisiveness. I think they like strong leadership, I think they've had it. As far as being a nanny or schoolteacher is concerned I've known many of whom I am very fond.

BW

Mrs Thatcher it has been said that your landslide victory was not just a vote for you but a vote against the Labour party, with more than 13%; unemployment in your country and with bankruptcy at an all time high, why do you feel this was a vote of confidence for you?

MT

Again because people realised that there had been a lot wrong in this country industrially and that somehow previous governments had glossed over the things that were wrong. We got on all right when the world was growing and expanding but as soon as you get recession, and we all have to compete with one another, then those whose industries were inefficient suffered the most. [end p1]

MT

Some of ours were very efficient, they do very well. Others were in acute difficulty, our car industry was not doing well, our steel was not doing well, they were overmanned they were full of restrictive practices, no one had ever tackled these. I did tackle them, they had to be tackled and that was right.

BW

When you ran the first time you said that it might take two terms for your program to really be effective. Now you're in your second term. Do you think by the end of this term you will have accomplished what you want to do including bringing down unemployment or might it take a third term?

MT

Certainly by the end of the first term industry was already very much more efficient, enormously more efficient and overmanning has gone. We are also getting new businesses coming faster than we are getting old ones stopping. So we are getting new businesses new products, more efficient industry. We suffer from the problem that the United States and other industrialised countries suffer from two things, first the products of the newly industrialised countries of the far east, they are competing with us in our traditional markets and secondly, of course, the new technologies are meaning in manufacturing industry you can make the same amount of goods with fewer people, so we are all having to go over far more to services and again to products that no one ever dreamed of when science was not as advanced as now. We're doing that, I believe that that will produce more jobs in the future, just as new technology has produced more jobs in the past and I believe that we can compete in our old industries we shall keep the business in those, so yes I do hope that by the end of my second term the policies will have proved themselves.

BW

It gives you five years.

MT

Yes, that's longer than I've had till now.

BW

The big question of unemployment, you have more than 3 million people unemployed in this country, obviously they haven't thought that it was your fault because you were re-elected, but it's such an overwhelming issue, in your country and in ours and it will take what, imagination and retraining and inspiration. Specifically what can you do to really bring this down? [end p2]

MT

Imagination, inspiration, retraining.

BW

Training for what?

MT

But none of these things are new, look we are sitting in television, 50 years ago who could have foretold there'd be the number of jobs in television there are now, either in producing it, producing films for it, producing the interviews for it, but there was imagination, there was inspiration and there was enterprise, people were retrained they did get the new products they did get the new jobs, why should commentators think that we in our generation are less imaginative, less enterprising, less prepared to take new technology, its just with the same people.

BW

Well I'll give you that, but if you talk about retraining them your steel industry is different than it was 50 years ago, your automobile industry which was supreme no longer is, what will you retrain them for in these next 5 years?

MT

No politician can tell you, no politician could have discovered television, no politician could discover the new products, the new designs, but if you have the kind of economic system that in fact gives incentive, allows people to get benefits from the result of their efforts the new products do come along, they have come along in the past, they will come along in the future. We have many jobs now, take Scotland for example, a place where we had so many old industries, coalmining, shipbuilding, steel, we still have some steel, we still have some shipbuilding, we still have some coalmining, but the newest electronics companies employ already more than all of the people in shipbuilding, steel and coalmining. The new products the new electronics, so we are in fact creating the new jobs.

BW

But there is no master plan that, there is nothing that you can think of specifically that will say okay we'll bring it down by 1 million people?

MT

No, nor do I think there can be. I don't know of any politicians or bureaucrats who could tell you exactly what products will be on sale next year, who could tell you exactly what in five or ten years time the British housewife will be buying, or the wage earner will be buying or the overseas markets will be buying and it would be absurd to try and forecast that. What we do know is that we've [end p3]

MT

got to train people to have the right general educational background to be adaptable and to be enterprising and if we do that you will find that the new products, the new employment will come. We help here very considerably by giving financial help to new industries, people who have got a new idea, a good idea. We've learnt a lot from you and they can't get the money to finance them, government will guarantee the loan, people, young scientists who've got new products and they can't get the money, right we will give them a third to launch the product on the market. We too are having science parks, we too are copying some of your ideas, there are many many big companies offer venture capital to people with new ideas they want to support them, they have in the past, you know, produced millions of new products and new jobs, which people buy and of course, it's people who determine where the jobs go, it's the people who decide with their wage packet what goods to buy that determine where the jobs shall be and it's industry's job to make the kind of products that will sell. They can do that far better than governments.

BW

Mrs Thatcher you are often compared in our country to President Reagan, you are his closest ally, do you agree with all of the major issues that affect your country or are there areas in which you disagree with him?

MT

Ronald Reagan Let's get down to some, we're absolutely at one on the NATO alliance, on saying we must be strong but we must also try to seek to secure our defence at a lower level expenditure and a lower level of weaponry, but the way to do that is in a balanced way with the Soviet Union and a very viable way, so we are absolutely at one with that. I think we are absolutely at one in economic policy, that what I really have described, that it is enterprising people who produce the new jobs and you must always have the creators of wealth and really encourage them by your tax system because its they who produce the new goods and the new jobs and that overseas we are passionate in our defence of freedom and democracy and constantly encouraging it. When it comes to the developing countries I am always reminded that the United States gives a great deal in economic aid and has been very generous and we know that we depend very much on the developing countries too, so I don't think there is anything fundamentally different.

BW

Is there any place where you are not at one? Do you agree with everything? [end p4]

MT

Well I cannot say absolutely everything.

BW

Give us one.

MT

No, no, you would have to indicate to me what you're asking.

BW

All right I'll ask you questions. Do you agree with President Reagan 's policy on El Salvador and Nicaragua.

MT

I saw the speeches he made to Congress at the end of April. I thought it was excellent, he set out four principles which seemed to be eminently reasonable.

BW

Does that mean you agree with the policy?

MT

I certainly agree with that speech.

BW

Do you agree that the hard line he takes with the Soviet Union is the best way to treat them, our relations with them seem to be at a very low point.

MT

I think you have got to make a correct and constructive and unblinkered assessment of the Soviet Union, the fact is that the Soviet Union spends a far bigger proportion of her national income on armaments than the United States or the Western World and she does this although her people are crying out for the things that we take for granted. The fact is that she has recently modernised her nuclear weapons when we haven't, the fact is that when some of her satellite countries wanted just a scintilla of freedom, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, she sent the tanks in, the fact is that she marched in Afghanistan, which was a free and independent country, those are the facts, the fact is she runs subversion where ever she can throughout the world, the fact is that communism wants world domination, therefore, if you are dealing with such a potential agressor they only understand strength, but equally so long as they know that we will match their strength and whatever they do we will match them, then it makes sense for both of us to get together and say look this is ridiculous, we want to maintain our security at a lower level of expenditure and weaponry and that I'm sure is the right way to go. Always remember a strong man never attacks another strong man. [end p5]

MT

a bully goes for a weakling, never for anyone who is equally strong.

BW

Then the answer is yes, you think his hard line is correct.

MT

I think the line that is being pursued is that we must be equally strong and always ready to disarm, and after all it's President Reagan that's put forward proposals for disarmament, very strong ones. It was he who said he wants a fewer number of the strategic missiles. We are prepared to have no intermediate ones, we've been negotiating in Vienna with the Soviets for nine years trying to get down conventional forces. We have put forward the idea, we have not yet found a sufficient response from the Soviet Union.

BW

The fact that you have been re-elected, the fact that Helmut Kohl was re-elected in Germany, the fact that France's President Mitterrand seems to be having difficulty putting in his socialist policies, the fact that we have Ronald Reagan, do you think that this, these events will have effect on arms control and the Soviet Policy, will take a look and think we've got some tough ones there and therefore we have to think.

MT

I think that they were not likely to negotiate on disarmament until they saw what was going to happen in the German elections and in the British elections, now they know we are staunch in defence of democracy, freedom and justice and so we should be, we must never take it for granted. People who've lived without it long for it.

BW

Do you realistically think that this is going to make a difference, that we will see their approach changing?

MT

I believe that they were not prepared to put forward any true disarmament proposals while they thought they could persuade the peoples of the free democratic countries by their propoganda. Don't forget the greatest inequality of all, we have a free public opinion, they have none, we must see that we stand up resolutely for freedom.

BW

Mrs Thatcher, I'd like to turn to the Falklands which we in our country paid I think as much attention to probably as you did here on front pages every day. You said that the Falklands and Gibralter would remain British no matter what, even if, as in the case of the Falklands you're spending 672 million dollars a year to protect it, even though it may mean future wars, even though it may mean other people will be killed, isn't this a time now in victory to look for a lasting solution? [end p6]

MT

I don't understand why you seem to equate a lasting solution which is something different from the right of the people to determine their own political future. After all, that's what the United States is, that's why people went there, they went in search of freedom they went with the right to determine their own political future and I knew when the Falklands started that it's built right into the heart of the American constitution what I was fighting for, and I knew therefore that the American people were absolutely on my side. You can't be American, you can't pay service to that constitution and say I expect to have self-determination, freedom and justice for myself but I'm not prepared to stand up for it for other people.

BW

But you can say that it looks like, forgive me may I just give you part of the other argument, that it looks like imperialism, these are small portions of territories which are next to countries where there is a whole other philosophy, a whole other language, a whole people. Is there no way of coming to some compromise?

MT

Imperialism? They're all British, many of them were there before the Italians and Spanish went to the Argentine, they went to a country that we discovered, there were no indigenous people there, they displaced no one, we were turned off in 1770, we sent a task force there, it was regained, British people have been occupying those lands for over 7 generations continuously, they wish to stay British and yet are you suggesting that a country with a fascist military dictatorship is not imperialistic when it looks to those islands which are inhabited by British people? No, that is British Sovereign Territory, discovered by Britain, people by Britain. I indicated some before some people went to the Argentine what is wrong with their wishing to stay British, that is not imperialism, it is a free expression of opinion. Do you not have any territories in which you permit them to have a free expression of opinion and defend their right to do so?

BW

Will you keep the existing force in the Falklands? It's now, you have a garrison of four thousand soldiers, two squadrons of jets, a nuclear submarine, and half a dozen destroyers and frigates, will you keep up that much? [end p7]

MT

We have to deter an aggressor, an aggressor has many aircraft, many ships and is only 400 miles away. If we are going to defend the right of our people to choose their own destiny we have to defend it effectively.

BW

Mrs Thatcher I'd like to ask you some, let's say human, or personal questions. When I said that I was going to come over here and I asked my friends “what would you like to know,” they said “could you just ask her Mrs Thatcher what makes you tick, where does the determination come from, where does this certainty come from”?

MT

I've no idea, I've always been energetic all my life. I've always had to work very hard and I've always tried to think things out. I've always come up with strong opinions, it is me, it is in the bloodstream.

BW

Do you ever have fears or doubts?

MT

Yes, anyone in my job has both fears and doubts and I'm always interested, you know sometimes people say to me ‘oh I could never be a politician, because I always see both sides of the questions’ so I say ‘really, I see all sides of the question, but the difference is when I've seen all sides I have to make a decision, whereas some other people can go on discussing it ad infinitum’. Never think that a politician doesn't have doubts or fears. You have to look at all sides of the question, you have to look at your doubts but the difference is we have to make a decision and you have to be willing to make those decisions and carry the can for them.

BW

Perhaps it's inevitable when there is a female leader, and there are very few, that her husband should be made fun of and in Great Britain today, in articles I have read there is lot of teasing and perhaps ridicule about Mr Thatcher who seems to take it very well, but does it hurt him, or does it hurt you for him?

MT

You get a lot of teasing, you get a lot of ridicule, you get a lot of things that are really deeply wounding, and thank goodness I have him and he has me, and so you know the wounds don't matter so much. It is very hurtful but I'm afraid if you put yourself in the front line in politics you expect to be shot at, but he's absolutely marvellous and I couldn't do without him, he's been wonderful through the whole election campaign and I think in spite of those hurtful [end p8] remarks, most people really rather admire him. Indeed I know they do.

BW

What does he give you?

MT

The support always to go on, the total confidence that what I am doing is right and, of course, he knows how hard I work too before I make decisions. We're just part of, we're just part of one couple We're just together.

BW

With everything you have to do you get up in the morning and you make him breakfast and it might seem a little bit as if you're trying to say I'm still the wife, even though I'm the Prime Minister I'm still …

MT

No, we don't have very much breakfast, I have very very little breakfast fortunately, no we don't have cooked breakfast.

BW

You know what I'm getting at I think, is that there are many women now emerging who have very important jobs, who in some cases make even more money than their husbands and there is the problem that it might threaten a man's masculinity or might threaten his marriage or their marriage. What thoughts do you have, for women today whose leadership position and maybe even financial position might be stronger than their husbands?

MT

You can't lay down any general rules, it depends on the personality of the husband and wife, and they have to work it out for themselves and usually there is no difficulty, you have enough confidence in one another, enough faith in one another, enough affection to get you through the decisions that have to be made. I couldn't say that what is right for Denis and for me is right for other people. I know it's right for us, they must work out their own solutions in their own way and if the bond between them is strong enough they'll work it out all right.

BW

People believe that you are very strong and very determined but sometimes your compassion has been questioned, a professor writing a book on world leaders said that he believed that you were on a threshold of greatness but that you had to display more humanity and heart to attain the status of a Winston Churchill or a Franklin Roosevelt. Do you think that these accusations that you lack compassion or warmth aren't fair and that people just don't see the other side? [end p9]

MT

Compassion has become a political word. People talk about it a great deal. Those who talk most about it aren't necessarily those who do most to help other people along their way. Care and compassion have almost become a political subject and they're written about in that way and I think of the people who feel most about them are the people who talk least in that way and who just quietly get on with the job.

BW

What do you think is the biggest misconception about you?

MT

I have no idea, I don't think I'm the person to ask at all.

BW

Do you read about yourself?

MT

If there is a big article about me in the papers, no I don't even when I've had an interview, and I will not watch this, I couldn't possibly.

BW

Because it might hurt?

MT

No I would not be satisfied, I'd somehow say right we'll do it all over again.

BW

So would I. Perhaps I won't watch this either.

You have restored a sense of pride to your people, and friends who know you well have told me that you had childhood dreams that you've always had a vision for this country, if this country could be everything you wanted, how do you see it?

MT

I've always had a very, very deep love of Britain and everything she stood for, and I've always somehow known, perhaps it was my generation who stood to lose so much, perhaps it was because we had some friends in Germany who had to get out, I've always known the value of freedom and then I came to went to study law and one began to realise that law, an impartial law, is perhaps as great a protector of freedom as is democracy itself. A rule of law impartially administered enables you to go quite apart from government, your rights, your human rights to courts which are impartial. I've always known the value of these things, I've always felt that the value of the British Empire to the world was misjudged, we are the first country who tried to take freedom and justice to others, who tried not just to rule but to bring them [end p10] up to govern themselves, and they are many many of the best rules and laws which we gave, which some territories wish they still had, and so yes, I've always had this deep passion for those qualities which far too many people, including far too many Americans take for granted, but everyone behind the Iron Curtain longs to have and we have to see, what is called the Third World, the non-alligned countries, that they still retain their right to determine their own destiny. That they don't fall into the clutches of a communist country, the Soviet Union, who wants to say what form of government they shall have. They must have the right to determine their own destiny, I suppose what I am saying is that I have a tremendous faith in the human spirit if it is left to flower and tremendous belief that you will never have a responsible country unless you have a responsible people. That comes back to each one of us.

BW

Do you think that Britain will see greatness again?

MT

I think she is great in her own way now and I think the lead we gave over the Falklands gave many people heart and spirit that they knew someone would actually defend the things that we have said would matter.

BW

As we look at the Third World countries, as we look at the world in general we seem to see the trend of communism taking over more and more. Is this trend reversible?

MT

It's not always taking over more and more indeed President Reagan is trying again through economic aid as well as military aid to stop a greater and greater take over, I think that many years ago the communist countries were trying to say to what we now call the non-aligned world, look it is the west that is imperialist. But it isn't the west that is imperialist, we are trying to help other people to realise their own destiny, we in Britain have given up one territory after another to let it become independent and what those non-alligned countries are realising, it is the communist, communism that is the new imperialism and therefore Britain has given a lead. Tell me one other empire that has given up its territories and still kept its friends? [end p11]

BW

But do you think that in our lifetime we will see communism submerged and democracy otherwise?

MT

No, not submerged, they are kept under a very strong rule of force. To who do they go to try to exercise their human rights? There are no independent courts, but even that strong rule of force couldn't stifle the human spirit of people Solzhenitsym or Sakharov, you see when they start to teach people to think for scientific reasons they can't confine the thoughts to one part of the brain, they will spill over to the other and gradually I have no doubt that the human spirit will assert itself but I think it will take a very very long time, because science also helps communist countries to keep their rule of force, I'm afraid.

BW

I want to go back to one more political question, after your re-election you changed your cabinet and put in people who were closest to your own ideals and views and then we read well Mrs Thatcher is going to be very authoritarian, she has kept no one in who opposes her, and the specific question as to why you fired your Foreign Minister Francis Pym, can you tell us.

MT

No I never specific things, what you have said is not correct, I have people in my cabinet who come from all sections of the party. I also had to ask one of my very close friends to relinquish his portfolio, so if you're looking for balance, the balance was there. What I must do is try to keep the chance for new young politicians always to move up the political scale and for that purpose I have to ask people to relinquish their portfolios, no matter how much it hurts, I mean it's very painful because there are many many others who want to have to same chance we did and when we came in someone had to go, so that we could step onto the political arena and so it will go on, but my cabinet still reflects the same range of opinion within the Conservative Party as it did before. Mr Pym left, so did Mr Howell, one you would say on the left of the party the other very close to my own views, so the balance is still there.

BW

Thank you, Mrs Thatcher. We are honoured to have had this interview with you.

MT

Its a great pleasure, thank you.