Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

Margaret Thatcher

TV Interview for BBC (visiting Hungary)

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Venue: ?Atrium Hotel, Budapest
Source: Thatcher Archive: COI transcript
Journalist: John Simpson, BBC
Editorial comments: MT probably gave this interview after her Press Conference 1500-1600.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 849
Themes: Executive, Defence (arms control), Foreign policy (Central & Eastern Europe), Foreign policy (USSR & successor states), Security services, Trade unions

John Simpson

Prime Minister, it was the Eastern bloc that invented the nickname for you of the iron lady, have you now converted them away from your iron lady image?

Mrs. Thatcher

I'm not quite sure, I'm not quite sure what they expected but I think they know, as I said in my statement, that I have an iron resolve to try to improve relationships between East and West because I believe that it's in the interests of all our peoples

J. Simpson

And how has your visit here affected that whole purpose?

Mrs. Thatcher

Every visit helps. Every visit gives you a much better understanding and when you talk easily to other leaders and they talk easily to you, then things just go very well and whether talking to Mr. Kadar or Mr. Lazar or to President LosoncziThe President of the Council, it all went extremely well, and I think we all feel rather pleased about it.

J. Simpson

So presumably the Hungarian leadership will pass their feelings on to Moscow, what do you think their feelings will be and how will Moscow react?

Mrs. Thatcher

I cannot speak for them in any way, but I believe that they want what we want, they do want a lower amount spent on armaments, naturally they wish to improve their economy and the standard of living of their people and that really is what we're in politics for.

J. Simpson

And yet if I may say so, it does sound like a change of tone from how you used to talk about the Eastern bloc a year, two years ago.

Mrs. Thatcher

I think I've always made it absolutely clear, that the West believes passionately in certain things, freedom, justice, democracy, we'll argue the case for those anywhere and everywhere in the world, we'll always be ready to defend those things, but we don't attack anyone, we are a defensive alliance in a NATO, we don't threaten anyone, no-one need fear anything from us, we are defensive of the things we believe in, there is another alliance, they have different ideas, I think it is in the interest of our people, I think it's in the common interest to try to see if we can reduce the amount we spend on armaments. First I think fewer armaments will make the world a safer place, secondly it will release a lot of money but always subject to this, we must keep our security and that's why you have to go down in a balanced way and every step has to be verifiable.

J. Simpson

Do you think that the next few months are going to see an easing of tension between the two blocs?

Mrs. Thatcher

You have to work very hard for that, very steadily, and for quite a long time. There are some talks going on now at Stockholm, those are very valuable indeed, especially at this time. I hope that we shall soon get back to the conference table in vienna, where we talk about conventional arms, where the Soviet Union has agreed that she'll return to that negotiating table. I hope most of all that the Soviet Union will return to the nuclear negotiating table, there were a lot of detailed proposals there, I think they should be taken up again and this is no time for empty chairs there. [end p1]

J. Simpson

Has it been an important visit in this context?

Mrs. Thatcher

It has been a very important visit for me and I believe the timing is right and I think we're all pleased with the way the talks have gone and so I hope that it has contributed to a little lessening of tension between East and West.

J. Simpson

Back at home of course the opposition has accused you of escaping to Hungary at a time when the government's policies and the government's attitudes toward GCHQ and so forth, are causing great problems for you and for your colleagues in government, especially for Geoffrey Howe. How do you feel about all that looking at it from a European viewpoint, of being away from it all?

Mrs. Thatcher

Well they've got to say something, haven't they? I'm not away from it all for very long, only for 48 hours. What we had to do here was extremely important. What we have to do here and the time we're away, isn't going to affect what happens at gchq.

J. Simpson

Do you think though this has been badly handled by Sir Geoffrey?

Mrs. Thatcher

I have every confidence in Sir Geoffrey HoweSir Geoffrey, I negotiate alongside him with the European Economic Community, he is an absolute master negotiator and I think everyone in Europe knows it.

J. Simpson

So he won't take any notice of the calls on him to resign?

Mrs. Thatcher

My goodness me, no.