Speeches, etc.

Margaret Thatcher

Speech to Wembley Youth Rally

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Venue: Wembley Conference Centre, London
Source: Harvey Thomas VHS: OUP transcript
Editorial comments: MT arrived at 1500 and began her speech at 1535. The CCOPR (GE554/83) was released at 1530. MT made hundreds of changes in delivery.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 3515
Themes: Conservatism, Defence (general), Defence (arms control), Employment, Industry, General Elections, Monetary policy, Privatized & state industries, Public spending & borrowing, European Union (general), Foreign policy - theory and process, Foreign policy (USSR & successor states), Health policy, Housing, Labour Party & socialism, Science & technology, Social security & welfare, Trade unions, Trade union law reform, Women

Cecil ParkinsonMr Chairman, fellow Young Conservatives. [laughter and cheers] What a super start to this marvellous rally, and may I thank the superstars for their splendid contribution, which means such a lot personally to me, and such a lot to the cause which we are all here to support this afternoon. [applause]

This really is a remarkable and invigorating start to the last week of the Election campaign.

And I believe that this Youth Rally shows the world what we in the Conservative Party already know—Britain's young people want another Tory Government. [cheers and lengthy applause; klaxons]

That's marvellous, but there is quite a lot to come yet and I don't want you to have sore throats before the end. That's the sort of reception we want at the end. You've already demonstrated that there's an excitement and an enthusiasm which is the envy of all other parties.

And this great hall, filled to capacity with young people who want to live your own lives, in the way you choose, with a style which is on your own within the law. [sic] Young people want to stay free. [cheers and applause]

Could Labour have managed a rally like this? [ “No” ]

Well, in the old days perhaps. But not now. For they are the party of yesterday. And tomorrow is ours. [cheers and applause]

We are all here to state our faith in Britain's future and our determination to keep her strong and free.

And this rally isn't going to duck the issues. There'll be no fudging, and no manifesto-changing here.

We are here to talk about the programme of the next Government. We are here to make sure that it is a Conservative Government. [cheers and applause]

So let me start with the most difficult issue of our time, because we Conservatives don't duck the difficult issues. We face them determined to overcome them.

And the most difficult issue is the growing unemployment with which our world is faced.

Over 26 million out of work in the OECD countries alone.

Behind those unemployment figures lie the individual tragedies and the dashing of family hopes which make us determined to fight to rid our nation of this evil. [applause]

Twenty three and a half million jobs—that's what we have in Britain.

Twenty six and a half million jobs—that's what we would need to eliminate unemployment.

It's been, it's been hard work, you know, safeguarding those twenty three and a half million jobs in these last four years. Hard work in the teeth of a world recession that was not Britain's fault. But hard work, too, because of past failures of past governments [end p1] to deal with the root causes of Britain's problems. [applause] They preferred to take the easy way.

Let's just have a quick look at some of those failures which are causing us so much trouble now.

—The failure in the past to keep our prices down. You remember when inflation reached 27 per cent in November 1975? No, you wouldn't, but some of us do. [laughter] But it was … it's appalling when you think of it. Twenty seven per cent in one year, in 1975. That cost Britain thousands of jobs—jobs taken by countries where goods where cheaper than ours.

—The failure to push up efficiency. We just didn't keep up with our competitors. So they got the orders and we lost the jobs. Overmanning which was started years ago, to try to keep jobs finished up, pathetically, by losing us whole companies and whole industries and thousands of jobs.

—The failure to build new businesses and to use to new and latest technology. You know how many companies put it in, but they weren't allowed to use it to great advantage because some of the trade unions insisted that the manning levels were still those that belonged to the old machinery. We taxed people too much [applause] and discouraged enterprise. So many of our able people went abroad, those who could create wealth, those who could create new industries, those who could design well, those who could build the new technology. So other countries scooped the pool and too many of our people were made redundant.

Mr Chairman, those days of failure are over. [applause] At last Britain is taking the measures which have started us on the road to success.

Success first in keeping costs down, because government can help in that way. And inflation at four per cent makes us among the best in the industrialised world, and the best for fifteen years in this country. [applause]

Success too in getting productivity up. Britain is showing that we can produce as efficiently as anyone else in the world. [applause]

And there's success in new enterprise—20,000 more new companies were born than we lost in the last two years—and great success in new technologies. Because the way in which we are moving into the new science-based industries gives this country a new opportunity and a new phase of development. We've always been best at research, we've always been most inventive, but until now we haven't been able to translate that research and inventiveness into profits and industrial success and jobs. And that's what we're going to do under Conservative Government. [applause]

The age of the microchip has dawned in Britain, and we're determined to see that the sun rises here too. And with the help of those behind us [looks at guests on platform behind her] we'll get it to high noon as well. [hear, hear and applause]

You don't remember High Noon? We remember it don't we Monty ModlynMonty? The most marvellously successful film of all time. One of the most successful films.

But the new electronics industries are producing the new jobs as they train and take on new people.

Now that is a successful start on our strategy for jobs. Just let me go through it. The Conservative strategy for jobs.

—Cutting industry's costs.

—Pushing productivity up.

—Reaching out to welcome the new technology and the new business.

—A new training programme for young people—the best that's ever been produced in this country.

—And reforming trade union law—to give trade union members more rights and more say in the decisions of their leaders. [applause]

There is no magic cure to genuine jobs. [sic] If there had been both we and other governments would have gone there before now.

But ours is a true cure, and it is born of supreme effort to produce the best in Britain and to excel (whether in the services, in the sciences, or in the arts)—to excel in everything we do. That's the kind of Britain I want to see. [applause]

And what about the alternative government—the Labour Party? [laughter] [end p2]

Well, we know the main thrust of their proposals. It is a matter of spending what you haven't earned, and that would lead to the inevitable financial crisis as we have to be bailed out by other countries.

And Labour's legacy from the last Labour Government, the legacy to the young people of today was an overseas debt of $22 billion. And so far even though we have been in a deep world recession, Britain under a Tory government has paid off $10 billion of that debt. [applause]

Under Conservatives we pay our debts and we honour our obligations.

But it's worse than that. Because Labour would put people out of work if their manifesto policies were ever put into practice when they came into power.

Over two million jobs depend upon our exports to the rest of the European Community, as the whole of our industry has geared up to our membership of that community and to sell our exports to them. Two million jobs at risk. And Labour would leave that Common Market within the first Parliament with no second thoughts of a referendum.

Moreover, many jobs that we are getting here now would never come here, because overseas companies invest here because we are a member of the Common Market—and if we were to pull out in future they'd invest in the Common Market and leave us with the unemployment and the Common Market with the jobs. So that's two million jobs at risk.

Then I don't know whether you looked at their defence policy? No, I'm not talking about the nuclear aspect, though I'll have a word about that later. [laughter] I'm talking about some of the smaller print. Because there's a little bit of it which says “and we are going to reduce our expenditure on defence to the average proportion spent by European countries” . That would mean reducing expenditure on defence by £4.5 billion, or by the amount equal to what we spend on the Royal Navy. And that would lose a fantastic number of jobs as we could no longer afford the conventional forces or the conventional equipment which perform and defend us so magnificently the world over. [hear, hear and applause]

And that's only part of it. I've been through their manifesto, this thing … [holds up Labour manifesto; audience boos] …   . In politics know your enemies. [applause] They don't want you to read it. That's why we've had all these leaks and scares. Ridiculous. Because they don't want you to read what was in their manifesto because they knew if you did know you'd totally and utterly reject it. And so will the majority of our people. [applause]

Well' I've been through it and I've counted at least forty seven new ways of controlling and confining Britain within a Socialist straitjacket; controlling us. Just listen to some of the things they are planning to do.

There is a section in here which would enable them to take over any company in Britain at any time, either permanently or temporarily, of they so choose.

There's a section which says, “if the banks don't cooperate, any bank which refused to do what they wanted with your money, they'd be nationalised too. [boos] Oh yes.

There's a section which goes on to say it's going to close down private employment agencies, although they find and provide the jobs. And also there's another section, which talks about stopping your right to buy your own council house.

I'll tell you something else: they don't stop at the front door. [laughter]

Listen to this: [opens manifesto to read; laughter and applause]

“Men and women should be able to share the rights and responsibilities of paid employment and domestic activities, so that job segregation within and outside the home is broken down” . [laughter]

They're going to see if Denis ThatcherDenis does his share of the washing up. [laughter] [applause]

More seriously, it's a list of proposals aimed at destroying the spirit of enterprise and the chance to display and develop your talent, your ability, your excellence whatever it may be, and wherever you choose to develop it. [applause] They think it's attractive to offer to the young a future wholly controlled by the operation of the [end p3] Socialist state. What is their message? To each his own pigeon-hole. From each, total conformity. We utterly reject it. [hear, hear and applause]

That sort of society is not fit for Britons. And we here today are determined it shall never come about.

So as I read through that document it occurred to me—and from what I've heard they've been saying, which i haven't liked very much either, that Labour is the pessimistic party. It spreads its gloom wherever it goes. There is no joyous acceptance of what is right or determination to improve what is wrong. There is no pride in Britain's achievements.

Instead, there is a compulsive concentration on failure and a kind of envy which resents success. [applause]

And it's that kind of sourness which has made them a party which has given up hope. They have no hope that British industry can ever compete, so they can take cover behind import controls. We believe British industry can compete and so we're going to give it the opportunity.

They have no hope and no determination to achieve multilateral disarmament, disarmament on all sides, so they go in for one-sided abandonment of our deterrent, while they leave nuclear weapons in the hands of our sworn enemies. [end p4]

They've no hope that Britain can make her way in Europe, so they want to pull out of the Common Market.

They have no hope of real jobs for our people so they go in for false jobs—whatever the cost.

Labour has no hope for Britain, and it offers no hope to Britain. They have no faith in the British people. [applause]

What a contrast with us.

Where Labour's pessimistic, we are full of hope.

Where they are bitter, we are determined to succeed.

Where they fear the future, we rise to the challenge and the excitement and the adventure.

But then ours in the British way. This is a nation built on the success of merchant ventures. Men who were willing to sail out into the unknown to carry our trade and bring back wealth to our people. Men who took our ways of freedom and law to countries who would never otherwise have known them and some who would wish they still have them.

Imagine what Labour would have done to them, those brave seafarers who risked all on the chance of success. Just imagine, had they been in power in those days.

First, those merchant venturers who went out in the time of the first Elizabeth, they would have to be registered. [laughter] Then they would have to enter into a planning agreement with the relevant Government department. After that there would be meetings with the Minister of Trade to decide which merchant would be allowed to venture and where. [end p5]

Then the National Investment Bank would have to decide who, if anyone, was allowed to invest in the fitting-out of the ship. And which pension fund was to be expected to risk its money [laughter and applause]. And then the TUC would have nominated fifty per cent of the representatives of any governing body to decide on a division of the profits, if there were any, after tax [laughter] [applause].

The merchant venturer could then leave Britain, as long as he had cleared the voyage with the Foreign Investment Unit and satisfied the shop stewards that there were no non-union cabin boys on board. [laughter]

No wonder under Labour no-one ventures. And friends if no-one ventures, no-one else gains.

And that's why the economy foundered for years. And it's not only the economy.

We said a council tenant should be able to buy his own home. They too should have the chance to be freeholders, heirs to Runnymede. [end p6]

But Labour can't stomach it. They would stop all council house sales at present prices.

They'd take away the discounts you get for years of rent paying. And they'd allow local councils to stop sales altogether.

But that's not enough for them. They would fix a fetter on the freehold of the people who have already bought. They would limit your power to sell what is yours—they'd limit your freehold.

Do you remember Kipling 's famous verse?

“At Runnymede, at Runnymede,
Your rights were won at Runnymede!
No freeman shall be fined or bound,
Or dispossessed of freehold ground” .
Well, you would under Labour. [applause]

We Conservatives believe passionately in giving a chance to those who have never had one before—in giving a chance to be independent of government and not dependent on every political whim whether of national or local government.

Conservatives give you the chance to choose. For Conservatives believe in freedom. And notice that I say freedom, not license—there's no “devil take the hindmost” philosophy here. We are committed to a civilized society, where the poor and the sick, the disabled and the elderly, are properly cared for. Cared for by the community, cared for by their families, [applause] and cared for by voluntary agencies. And one thing our opponents hate is the excellent recored of this government in both pensions and in the National Health Service, in spite of the most difficult world recession we've been through.

Because the facts are [applause] … the facts are that after the last four years of Tory Government the retirement pension now buys more than ever it did under Labour. [applause] And the facts are that despite the recession and despite the scares we had last time, there are now 56,000 more nurses and 7,000 doctors in the National Health Service, which is now able to treat two million more patients a year. Take those facts and shout them from the housetops. Because that is how Conservatives are care. [sic] [applause]

Oh yes, we believe in the welfare state. But we don't stop there. We believe also in voluntary effort and family support. They march hand in hand to achieve the best possible life for the needy and the disadvantaged.

That's effective Conservative care.

Yet Mr Chairman we know that freedom cannot survive without personal responsibility. And a very famous quotation, which I repeated one day in the House of Commons, which I said: “Do you remember who it was said ‘freedom incurs responsibility, that's why so many people fear it’?” “Who?” they yelled. Well, they're always yelling at Question Time. [applause] “Who?” they yelled, thinking they'd caught me out, I couldn't remember. Well, as a matter of facti it was George Bernard Shaw. But it's absolutely right. Freedom incurs responsibility. Because we know that freedom depends upon us all regaining that sense of discipline and duty upon which the free society depends.

And we think that freedom is worth defending—even though it be challenged eight thousand miles away. [applause]

For at home, without a framework of just law, impartially administered, freedom becomes anarchy. And without order it degenerates into the tyranny of the strong. And abroad freedom can only flourish if our dedication to it is never in doubt. [applause]

Mr Chairman, there are powerful dictators and powerful countries who would snuff it out.

Nations whose ambitions would deny freedom to others as they deny freedom gtheir own people. Dictators who cannot bear to be opposed.

They must know beyond all doubt that we in Britain have the capacity and the will to secure and to defend our own way of life. [end p7]

It was Pericles of Athens, 2500 years ago, who gave our civilisation an understanding of that need.

He said to his fellow citizens:

“Freedom is the sweetest possession of those alone who have the courage to defend it” .

Mr Chairman we in the Conservative Party and in the Conservative Government have the courtage to lead our people to defend it. [applause]

The fact is that our policies have kept the peace in Europe for more than thirty eight years. And that is a prize above all others and we must not put it at risk now. [applause]

And our determination to defend freedom, and to retain the capacity to deter, marks the great divide between Conservatives and our opponents.

After years of wrangling and strife, the Labour left has won and Labour is committed to abandoning nuclear weapons while leaving them in the hands of our enemies.

Mr Foot says—and I quote— “If you vote Labour, you are voting for a Britain … without nuclear weapons” .

Of course he also says we'd still be strong, free and loyal to our friends. But nothing could be further from the truth. [end p8]

If we had no nuclear deterrent the balance between East and West would be upset. Britain would be wide open to blackmail. Because without a missile being fired, the Russians could demand of us to do what they will. And we would have no alternative but to surrender.

Is that freedom? [applause] Is that strength? In my book that would be serfdom. And that's no fit state for Britain. [applause]

A Conservative victory on June 9th makes peace with freedom and justice more sure. It sends a message to the world: That Britain is still a bastion of liberty and law. That Britain is still a staunch and reliable ally.

Doesn't that give real hope to your generation?

A solid base upon which to build your lives. Most of you here are going to live a long time into the 21st century. We've all got to see to it that you'll have that great heritage of liberty that our forebears won for us. [applause] And we've got to see that it's our responsibility to hand on our heritage to future generations and to add our contribution to it.

Ladies and gentlemen, it is your future which is at stake.

And that future starts on Thursday. What we do in these next five years will set the course for your lifetime.

Oh, Britain could make futile gestures and hope that the Soviet Union would reciprocate— Do you believe they would? [ “No” ] Ask the Czechs. Ask the Hungarians. Ask the Poles. [cheers] Ask the Afghans. [applause]

And Britain could try quack cures for unemployment—But that couldn't produce the jobs.

Britain could let down her friends and desert her allies—But that wouldn't build a secure and stable Britain.

Britain could do all of those things—either with Labour or Labour's former allies—the Alliance.

But if we were to do those things we'd regret it all our lives—and that's far too long for anyone here. [applause] [end p9]

And that's why there are not going to be any regrets. Because in the next few days we're going to do everything in our power to see that a Conservative Government is returned on Thursday. [applause]

To see —That Britain votes for her future —That Britain votes for jobs and that Britain votes for peace with freedom and justice.

That's why we ask you to make sure that next Thursday Britain votes decisively for the Government that has restored her confidence and rekindled her pride. [ovation]