Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

Margaret Thatcher

Speech in Cardiff

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Venue: City Hall, Cardiff
Source: Thatcher MSS (THCR 5/1/4/51): speaking text
Editorial comments: MT arrived at City Hall at 1904, spoke at 1915 and departed by car for London at 2015. The line about Labour nationalising socks does not appear in the press release but has been added to the text from an excerpt on BBC Radio News Report 2400 23 May 1983. MT used an autocue.
Importance ranking: Key
Word count: 3627
Themes: Conservatism, Conservative Party (organization), Defence (general), Defence (arms control), Defence (Falklands War, 1982), Employment, Industry, General Elections, Local elections, Monetary policy, Privatized & state industries, European Union (general), Health policy, Labour Party & socialism, Social security & welfare, Trade unions, Famous statements by MT

Four years ago, we launched our campaign in this great city in this same hall. I seem to remember we didn't do too badly.

At that General Election, there were more Conservative MPs returned in Wales than in any Election since the War. But in this Party we don't stand still. Last time, you gave us a cricket eleven to take to Westminster. This time, we want to see at least a Rugby fifteen—a Welsh Rugby fifteen. [end p1]

As in England and Scotland, so in Wales, the Conservatives are the Party of the future. It is we who bring the new industries to the Valleys. It is we who bring new opportunities to families to do the best for themselves and for their country. And we bring a new chance to the nation to fulfil its destiny—a free people, a great people, proud of their past, ready to adapt to the future. [end p2]

This is a broad and noble aim. In the past, it was not Conservatives alone who dreamed that dream. The best of the old Liberals and Labour supporters, the great trade union pioneers, believed that this was what politics was for. They too wanted the state to look after those who could not look after themselves—but they also wanted the individual to have his independence from the state and the opportunity to make a life for himself. [end p3]

But in the last few years, the Labour Party has lost sight of those old ideals. Genuine sympathy for the underdog has soured into the politics of envy. And the high hopes of a better world have degenerated into a rigid belief that the state must control everything.

And so when we came to office, we found a nation at odds with itself, overtaxed, overdrawn and rapidly losing hope. [end p4]

Labour had borrowed thousands of millions and left Britain bowed down by debt. Inflation was back in double figures again and rising.

The Winter of Discontent had shocked us all. Britain's defences had been undermined. The police were demoralised. All too plainly we were a nation which had lost its way. And we were on the brink of the deepest recession since the 1930s. [end p5]

It was a bleak inheritence, perhaps the bleakest any newly-elected British Government had faced since the War. But you elected us to face it, and face it we did, squarely.

No fudging. No dodging. No muddling along. No making do with second best, because second best so quickly turns into third best, and third best into a downward spiral of decline. [end p6]

This Government was determined to restore Britain's health and Britain's pride. To halt the decline left by Labour. To revive our economy. To lift the nation and reawaken its spirit.

That is the task you gave us. That is the task in which we are succeeding. And that is the task that, with your support, on the 9th of June we shall carry through to completion. [end p7]

The Road to Recovery

We had to start by restoring honest money. Without that, nothing we tried to do could possibly succeed.

Government after government has learnt the same lesson—or should have. Labour's Manifesto reminds us that some people never learn. The lesson is simple— runaway inflation runs away with your most cherished plans—not to mention your savings. [end p8]

Only with steady prices can a nation achieve steady economic progress. The low-inflation countries of the West are the successful countries of the West.

For the first time in years, we are a low-inflation country too. And that is thanks to Conservative policies. But even four per cent a year is too high, although it would have seemed a a dream four years ago, let alone eight years ago. In the next Parliament, we shall aim to bring it lower still. [end p9]

Of course, our opponents now claim it was easy to take inflation down into low single figures. Anyone could have done it, they say. Then why didn't they, I wonder? They said any reduction in rising prices would only be temporary and that inflation was bound to take off again into double figures.

Well, it didn't. And that is due to our Treasury team, led by a Welshman, Geoffrey Howe, one of the best Chancellors of modern times. [end p10]

Today every family can feel the benefit.

Last year, food prices went up by less than 1p in the pound. Just compare that with the days when the supermarkets couldn't stick the new price labels on fast enough to keep up. [end p11]

And what is more, we have paid off nearly half the foreign debts Labour left behind.

With the Conservatives, Britain is again becoming a confident nation.

With the Conservatives, we no longer need to shelter behind a Maginot line of rules, controls and regulations. [end p12]

With the Conservatives, Britain can once more compete with the best.

The message may not have reached the Labour Party, but it has certainly reached our friends and competitors abroad. Despite the world recession, despite all those long years under Labour, Britain is back in business. [end p13]

Recovery in Wales

Here in Wales, that new spirit of competition is as strong as anywhere in the United Kingdom. For sixty years or more, the people of Wales have had to face the harsh reality of old basic industries in decline. They have had to watch the decay and dereliction of the valleys and towns in which they lived. Thousands of them were forced to leave the communities they loved. [end p14]

Wales had seen many new industries growing elsewhere, while her own unemployment remained higher than in almost every other part of Britain.

For most of those years, the majority of Welsh people turned to Labour and put their trust in Labour politicians.

But even Mr. Foot could not prevent the closure of steel-making in his constituency; nor Mr. Callaghan in his. [end p15]

In recent years, some Labour politicians and trade union leaders have sold Wales short by presenting her to the world with an image of dereliction and hopelessness. Some encouraged strikes and disputes, regardless of the jobs they destroyed. The people of Wales have rejected all that. [end p16]

Instead, they set out to beat the world.

Llanwern and Port Talbot are symbols of that new sense of pride—breaking production records week after week; securing their future by making themselves among the best in Europe.

They have earned the new investment that will help to keep their place in the market—the new hot rolling mill at Port Talbot is the latest part of the programme. [end p17]

And they've had a tireless supporter in Nick Edwards—a suberb Secretary of State for Wales.

Throughout the Principality, men and women have earned a growing reputation for good industrial relations and excellent performance. [end p18]

Those people know that the only way to create genuine jobs is to sell goods and services that people want—and deliver them at the right price and on time.

The achievement has been remarkable. Despite the scale of the recession, despite the magnitude of the task, and despite the mood of dejection spread by our opponents: [end p19]

—New companies have come to Wales in record numbers

—New businesses have been born in Wales in record numbers

—New factory space has been allocated in Wales on a record scale.

New firms from America, Canada, Japan, Scandinavia, the Far East and Europe have been setting up in Wales. [end p20]

And yet, just at this moment when it is clear to everyone that the jobs of the future depend upon our being part of Europe, Labour wants us to withdraw from Europe. With the same breath that they ask for Nissan to invest here, they threaten to remove a major reason for doing so. [end p21]

In almost every constituency, there are companies and plants whose existence depends on our continuing membership of the European Community; and the farmers know how much they owe to it as well.

The Labour pledge to withdraw from Europe is the most devastating threat to jobs ever offered to the people of Wales—and to the rest of the United Kingdom.

We must ensure by our votes that that threat never comes to pass. [end p22]

The prosperity of our country and the employment of our people depend upon a flourishing trade and industry. Without their profits we cannot have thriving public services. This Government has done and will do everything possible to encourage new businesses to start and existing businesses to grow.

We've reduced the crushing burden of taxes on business. This Government has slashed the National Insurance Surcharge—Labour's tax on jobs. That's £2,000 million back into business. [end p23]

We've encouraged the new technologies—computers, microchips, fibre optics, robotics—every single one of those industries is now established in Wales. Industries with a tremendous future, industries offering real long-term employment.

And we are now offering still more encouragement for the industries of the future. We have recently announced an ambitious scheme in which government, universities, [end p24] and industry will collaborate on the next generation of computers and beyond. £200 million comes from Government, and £150 million comes from private industry. This really is investing in the future, and creating jobs here for our young people.

We had to help small businesses, for so long the neglected sector, harrassed by paperwork. [end p25]

Thanks to this Government, we now have the best range of constructive measures to help small business to be found anywhere in the world.

We are going to train young people to ensure that they have the skills which the new jobs will require. This autumn, we are starting the biggest and most exciting training programme for young people in our history. That means a year of training for 450,000 young people. [end p26]

We've begun to revive the wastelands of our great industrial areas.

At the time of his sad death, Michael Roberts was working to revive the great area of derelict land between the railway and the sea here in Cardiff.

And, we are delighted that Eileen (Roberts(c) who is here with us this evening—as a new Cardiff Councillor—will be able to help to see this great task through to success. [end p27]

And what a triumph you had winning Cardiff for the Conservatives once again.

I trust that this will be a happy omen spreading far beyond Cardiff a fortnight on thursday. [end p28]

And that is why we are asking the people of Wales to say loud and clear “Carry on Conservatives” .

Mr. Chairman, unemployment is the deepest and most intractable problem now facing the nations of the west. [end p29]

There are 2— million people out of work in the OECD countries. Every country in Western Europe has been hit by the recession. Every country has been hit by the competition from the newly industrialised countries of the Far East. Every country has lost jobs in the transition from the old industries to the new technologies. [end p30]

And the recession hit us harder because we were more inefficient. Pay had gone up regardless of output. Inflation was among the highest in the Western world—and we were bedevilled by strikes and restrictive practices.

We all care about unemployment. This Government and this Prime Minister care deeply.

I understand what it must be like for a man to search for a job day after day and too often for month after month and not to find one. [end p31]

I understand what it must be like not only for him, but for his family as well. Pride, dignity and self-respect go with a job. You know that's true. And so do I.

But caring is not enough. You've got to do something about it. And we are.

We are putting into practice the only policies that deal with the real causes of unemployment and offer real hope of removing this blot on our national life. [end p32]

There is no Government anywhere that is tackling the problem with more vigour, imagination and determination than this Conservative government.

Our policies are not window-dressing to catch the voter's eye. They are serious, long-term measures.

We have cut costs to industry by keeping inflation down, keeping interest rates down, keeping business taxes down and keeping local rates down—and we're going to limit rate increases. [end p33]

We have increased tax incentives for managers and the people of talent and energy.

We have given unrivalled encouragement to new business and the new technologies.

We have launched a unique and exciting scheme to train school leavers for the jobs of tomorrow.

Cutting costs, cutting tax, backing technology and boosting training. That is where Government can help to bring jobs, real jobs, to Britain. [end p34]

That's how we work with industry. That's real caring—constructive caring.

We will not accept the credentials to compassion of a Labour Party which has pandered to the trade union left—men who have destroyed more jobs over the years than the recession itself by starting strikes and sit-ins, and by clinging to their obsolete privileges and restrictive practices.

I invite the British people to choose—- [end p35]

Which party is more likely to reduce unemployment—the Labour Party which put a tax on jobs, or the Conservative Party which slashed that tax by £2,000 million?

Which party is more likely to reduce unemployment—the Labour Party which wants to give yet more power back to the trade union militants, or the Conservative Party which is determined to achieve a fair balance in industry? [end p36]

Which party is more likely to reduce unemployment—the Labour Party which wants to pull Britain out of the European Community, although it's our biggest market for exports, or the Conservative Party which is committed to staying in Europe?

Which party is more likely to reduce unemployment—the Labour Party which believes in more nationalisation and more state control, or the Conservative Party which believes in free enterprise and personal incentives? [end p37]

Mr. Chairman, the answer is surely not in doubt. I have no hesitation in saying that it is Conservative policies that are more likely to win the new customers for Britain, and so to bring about the new jobs that are the key to growth and our future prosperity. [end p38]

I have here the Labour Party's Manifesto.

I'm told that a member of Labour's Shadow Cabinet described it as “the longest suicide note ever penned” .

I can tell you this— If the British people were to put their signature to it, it would be a suicide note for Britain too.

This document was written by the extreme left. Labour hopes to goodness you won't read it. [end p39]

They also hope you won't read the background documents where they've revealed even more of the terrifying truth.

But if ever they got the chance, they'd claim they had a mandate to carry out every single one of the extreme measures in their Manifesto.

It's important that Britain should know what Labour would do to Britain. Let me tell you about it. I won't paraphrase it. I'll quote it directly. [end p40]

First, nationalisation. This is what they say. Labour “will establish a significant public stake in electronics, pharmaceuticals, health equipment and building materials— and also in other important sectors as required in the national interest” . Labour will “take powers to invest in individual companies, to purchase them outright, or to assume temporary control” . And, of course, they'd re-nationalise everything that has been de-nationalised by this Government. [end p41]

And how will they pay for this vast state grab? Well, they've got their eyes on your pension scheme and your life assurance. They will take your pension contributions and your life assurance premiums and spend them on their Socialist schemes. And there are 11½ million people who are members of occupational pension schemes.

It's all here in their Manifesto and it confirms their Conference Statement, “The Financial Institutions” . [end p42]

They will set up, and I quote, a “National investment bank” .

“We will” , they say, “Expect the major clearing banks to co-operate with us fully in these reforms in the national interest. However, should they fail to do so, we (that is, Labour(c) shall stand ready to take one or more of the banks into public ownership.” [end p43]

I am not putting words into their mouths. I am reading to you from the Manifesto. “One or more?” Barclays? Midland? NatWest? Lloyds? Or the lot? Its a question of obey them to the letter or be nationalised. Its the language of the blackmailer through the ages. [end p44]

The Labour Party goes in for nationalisation like other people go in for stamp-collecting; they want at least one of each—one of the big banks, one of the big pharmaceutical companies, one of the big building firms. Beechams, GEC, Glaxo, Plessey, Barratt, Taylor Woodrow; nobody could know who would be next. [end p45]

Under a Labour Government, there's virtually nowhere you could put your savings where they would be safe from the state.

They want your money for State Socialism, and they would mean to get it if they got in.

Put your savings in the bank—and they'll nationalise it. [end p46]

Put your savings in a pension fund or a life assurance company—and a Labour Government would force them to invest the money in their own socialist schemes.

Put your savings in your socks and they'd nationalise socks.

Mr. Chairman, do people really want Labour to take charge of their savings? [end p47]

And Labour cannot be trusted with your liberties either.

I counted at least 4+ ways in which Labour now intends to limit or destroy our freedom.

Under Labour a secretary who wants a new job would no longer be able to go to the private employment agencies. Labour would close them down by law. Their Manifesto says so. [end p48]

She would have to go to the Labour Exchange because Labour only trusts the state to find you a job. The Brook Street Bureau and others would be closed by law.

Oh yes, there would be one or two new freedoms under a Labour Government. It would give back to local councils the freedom to levy supplementary rates—and with their spending plans they'd need them’. [end p49]

Mr. Chairman, what Labour wants to do—and it's all here—is nothing less than to control the daily lives of the British people. And they call this The New Hope for Britain. The New Rope for Britain—that's what this is. It must not happen. And we in the Conservative Party shall make sure it does not happen. Every voter in the land must know before June 9th, before it is too late, just what Labour's manifesto means for their jobs, their homes, their savings and their future. [end p50]

Protecting the Social Services

Mr. Chairman, somewhere, sometime at this Election, you'll hear Labour make the allegation that the Conservatives are out to dismantle the Welfare State. You remember they used the same scare at the last election. It was totally untrue then. And it is totally untrue now. [end p51]

Our record proves our commitment to the sick, the elderly and the disabled. And under this Government, we have carried out that duty.

Thanks to four years of prudent management, we have been able to maintain our social services through the worst recession in forty years—something which some countries on the continent have not always been able to do. [end p52]

In France and in West Germany they have delayed pension increases for five and six months.

We promised that we would protect pensions against rising prices. We've done better than that. The pension today buys more than it did under Labour.

We promised to help the disabled. And benefits to the disabled have gone up by more than prices—some nine per cent more. [end p53]

We've not only raised the mobility allowance far ahead of prices, we've exempted it from tax.

We've given more grants for special housing for the disabled.

We've made it possible for cars to be adapted for disabled drivers, without paying VAT.

Mr. Chairman, no Government since the War has done more for the disabled. [end p54]

We promised to maintain spending on the NHS. And the 45,000 extra nurses and the 6,000 extra doctors are witness that we have more than kept that promise.

Those extra doctors and nurses made it possible to treat two million more patients a year than Labour ever managed. Hospital waiting lists are now lower than they were under Labour, despite last year's futile strike. And we're designing or building 140 new hospitals. [end p55]

If that's dismantling the Health Service, then Sir Christopher Wren was a demolition contractor.

In this Party and this Government, we are builders … Builders on firm foundations … Builders to the highest standards … builders who build to last.

We kept these promises through four of the most difficult years in post-War economic history. And we're very proud of it. [end p56]


Mr. Chairman, we know that deep in the hearts of our people lies a love of country and a determination to see our country properly defended.

Under this Government, Britain is a reliable ally. Last year, she also showed herself to be a redoubtable opponent. And something else happened. Patriotism was restored to our vocabulary. [end p57]

Eight thousand miles may divide these islands from those smaller islands in the South Atlantic. But the message came through. It still comes through today. Distance does not lessen our sense of duty. This country will stand up for the rights of free people to live in peace. [end p58]

Winston Churchill once wrote: “Once you take the position of not being able in any circumstances to defend your rights against the aggression of some particular set of people, there is no end to the demands that will be made or to the humiliations that must be accepted.” [end p59]

NATO's strength has kept the peace in Europe for nearly forty years.

In Europe, the nuclear balance has meant peace, not at the expense of freedom, but peace with freedom and justice.

Its a balance that spells security for all of us. That is the greatest prize of all. We must not put it at risk. [end p60]


Mr. Chairman, in this Party and this Government we do not lie down under humiliation; we do not tamely accept difficulties or setbacks. We overcome them.

We do not demonstrate for peace. We safeguard the peace we already have. And we negotiate from strength to try to make balanced disarmament a reality.

We do not keep on looking to see whether recovery is round the corner. [end p61] We set to work to bring about that recovery.

We do not wait for the future. We go out and make it.

Four years ago, we left this great hall on the way to an historic victory. As we set out once more from Cardiff, let us resolve to continue the work we have begun; to achieve, on the 9th June, an even more historic victory; and, in Government, to be worthy of the trust of the British people.