Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

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1984 Nov 21 We
Margaret Thatcher

Radio Interview for British Forces Broadcasting Service (Seven Days)

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Document kind: Radio Interview
Venue: No.10 Downing Street
Source: Thatcher Archive: COI transcript
Journalist: Clive Jacobs, BFBS
Editorial comments: 1400-1430 MT recorded an interview for the New Year edition of the programme.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 1992
Themes: Conservatism, Defence (general), Defence (arms control), Employment, Industry, Privatized & state industries, European Union Budget, Foreign policy (Asia), Law & order, Northern Ireland, Terrorism, Strikes & other union action

Interviewer

Mrs Thatcher, how do you look back on 1984? I imagine there are parts of it you would prefer to forget.

The Prime Minister

Well, of course it has been dominated for me by the miners strike. Had anyone told me at the beginning of the year that we would have a miners strike which would last nine or ten months, I wouldn't have believed them, and obviously when you get a really big thing like that it does overhang everything else. Apart from that, I think we have made a number of advances in 1984. One likes to do two things in Government. To try to have things on an even keel, so that you can face whatever comes, and secondly to try to solve some of the long-term problems. And I think that the two long-term ones that we have tackled successfully this year have been the problem with the European Economic Community, over the budget and the arrangements for Britain—we have sorted that out, and also of course the problem of the future of Hong Kong. We have had very prolonged negotiations and sorted that one out, I hope satisfactorily. So that is two really big things. That together with the great unexpected, and then the things that have gone along fairly steadily is how quickly I would think back on 1984.

Interviewer

The great unexpected, of course, one also thinks of some awful black spots—Brighton, your friend Mrs Gandhi. It has been a pretty wicked year at times.

The Prime Minister

Well, I wasn't going to mention violence because it is the Christmas/New Year season and one likes to try to think of some of the better things but undoubtedly it has greatly disturbed one more than anything else. First, I never expected to see some of the scenes of violence which we have outside collieries with members of a union throwing stones and bolts and things at other members of the same union, who only wanted to go to [end p1] work. We never thought to see that in Britain, it is totally alien to the British character.

The Brighton bomb of course is an occasion that one will never never forget and particularly as some of one's colleagues are still suffering so much and we lost so many people. And then, I remember Mrs Gandhi sent me a message after the Brighton bomb saying that she totally condemned violence and we must try to eradicate it. Then just within a short time, I switched on the radio very early one morning and heard the almost unbelievable news—not only of her assassination but it was the treachery of it. Then of course I went over to India to Delhi. I just had to go and saw Rajiv Gandhi, whom I know and admire very much, who will be extremely good and of course he, as you know, went into an election fairly quickly so, yes, at the beginning I said I don't think it will be an Orwellian 1984 but there have been times you know when I have wondered.

Interviewer

I am sure. Perhaps though after all good may come out of all this evil.

The Prime Minister

That is what we must try to ensure. First, you can't continue with a democracy unless you get responsibility in all parts of society. People just can't say, “I am a free citizen. Now I can just sit back and let other people take responsibility” . That is not a characteristic of a free society. You can't just leave everything to Government. The essence of freedom is that freedom is one side of the coin, and personal responsibility another. I think one thing that is going to come out of the miners strike is a tremendous leadership on the part of many of the moderates. The working miner. They in fact have found their own leadership. They in fact decided that the rules of their union were not being honoured. It was the working miners who are honouring the rules and they independently took their own union to court under the common law. It is they who have found the moderate leadership which is so vital to the future of democracy. And I think when this strike is over, we have to get together with the moderate responsible leaders and see if we can try to prevent this thing from ever happening again. [end p2]

Interviewer

Let us move on to 1985, which hopefully will be a happy year. Doubtless there will be hurdles to be cleared. Defence issues of course are very close to the heart of our listeners. You must be pleased that the noises between America and Russia now seem to be more agreeable.

The Prime Minister

Yes, I think they are. May I just say this? I think that the armed forces of the Crown are one of the bright jewels of the Crown—they are always superb, they always act up to the very best that is in the British character. And this year, of course, we saw Exercise Lionheart in NATO. And my goodness, the compliments that we heard about our own troops were marvellous.

Interviewer

Really, they rate highly within the …

The Prime Minister

Very very highly. They are all professional of course. Very very highly within NATO. Technology has taken an enormous extra stride and is on the verge of making the kind of stride which in theory, although it is a long time, to translate one experiment into weaponry, in theory could see that a nuclear warhead is destroyed before it reaches its target. To go from the one successful research experiment, as the Americans have done, to translating that into weapons would be enormously expensive. It would take twenty or thirty years. If the West does that, then the Soviet Union would be bound to have to spend similar amounts of money on doing the same. Until at the end we would both end up with a similar balance at a higher technological level and a very much higher level of expenditure. It doesn't make sense. It doesn't make sense for democracies because we are the last people to want to spend more on armaments than we need for our security. It doesn't make sense for the Warsaw Pact countries. They very much need to spend more on consumer goods. Their people really will come to a time when they say, ‘Look, please can't you help to put up our standard of living!. So technologically as well as in the aftermath of the American election, technologically and in terms of common sense and economics, all of those reasons have come together. Why the armament talks on nuclear and on outer space and I hope on chemical weapons should this time have a much better chance of being successful. [end p3]

Interviewer

And yet we are spending more, aren't we, on our defence budget? For instance, I think I am right in saying, and I am on thin ice, and I admit it, Mrs Thatcher, the NATO budget has been increased now and agreed until 1986.

The Prime Minister

Yes, the question is whether you have to make a new change because the new technology which of course plays no part of our present armed forces, whether the new technology requires yet another step-change, and one does not wish to make that. You always have to have balance. You are not secure unless you have enough to deter the person who is your potential aggressor. That you simply must spend up to that level. Now when there are two major forces in the world, we the Western Alliance, and we feel the potential aggressor is the Soviet Union, obviously you have to keep an eye on one another because both wish to be secure. So both have got to be balanced. And so that does give you some hope, because it does make sense to balance at where you are now and not at a higher level. Then if you can avoid that higher level you look at where you are now and try to get that done in a balanced way. I mean there are far too many nuclear missiles in the world. Each of you have to come down.

Interviewer

Are you confident that the higher level can be avoided.

The Prime Minister

I hope so. I believe it can. I believe it can. Research will always occur. A science can be used for good or for evil. The very same science that can enable us to solve all kinds of technical problems, all kinds of medical problems, can be turned to very evil use. In the end, and of course it is very appropriate so soon after Christmas and New Year, we believe that there is far more good in the world than there is evil, and we have to harness and sustain the forces of good to see that they overcome those evil forces. Yes, we can. But you know you have to be at it constantly.

Interviewer

Defence aside, what of 1985, your hopes? Coming out of the recession totally? …   . we have listened to, doesn't it, depends on whether we are coming out of the recession or not?

The Prime Minister

Well, and the facts, and certainly the output has grown. There has been growth in the last two to three years. The question is we are in now? The trouble is we are in, added to the work [end p4] problems. We are in an eight year period, because of the birth-rate many years ago when the number of young people leaving school far exceeds the number of people retiring, so for a period of eight years we have the population of working age is increasing. For example, there are now a million more in the population of working age than there were six years ago. That means you have to work very hard to stand still on unemployment. Now last year we created about a quarter of a million jobs. Not enough. It is encouraging, but not enough. And so you ask me what is my greatest hope for the coming years, and I don't restrict them, it is that we can increase the growth but we can increase it in such a way that we employ our people. You see obviously we are in the new technological surge, so we can produce mechanically all that we need to feed and clothe ourselves and to house ourselves with fewer people. Now that means that we shall turn to serving one another as we have in the past. You say we make a living by taking one another's laundry, these days it is not so simple as that—it might be by entertaining one another on tourism, which of course means that a lot of people are employed and that of course means more manufacturing. Or you entertain one another in the great entertainment industry, in the great leisure industries, in the great sports industries, in the great culture industries, in the great broadcasting, in the great communications. These are the areas where you need a lot of people for output, maybe in insurance, maybe in banking, but they employ far more people than the manufacturing industries. And so we have to look not only at our solid manufacturing base and to extend that, but we also have to look to the great areas that I have indicated because that is where the really large numbers of jobs reside. Now let me just give you an example. I met someone recently, I will not mention his name but he will recognise himself, who was very interested, either has bought or is hoping to buy the Battersea Power Station,—it has been earmarked as an old historic building—and is wanting to turn it into an enormous leisure centre, not only sports, great interest, great technological participation, and so on. He is raising a lot of money to do it. He hopes that it will employ 6000 people. You see because it is labour intensive. So, all right, have I said enough of my hopes for …   .

Interviewer

It needs an awful lot of Battersea Power Stations. [end p5]

The Prime Minister

No, no, that is just one tiny example. I feared you might say that. That is just one tiny little example. Leisure, pleasure, entertainment, culture, travel, tourism, insurance are big business.

Interviewer

So your hopes for 1985 are certainly ones of optimism.

The Prime Minister

Oh yes. 1985 won't just happen. What happens will depend on us.

Interviewer

May I ask you a naive question Mrs Thatcher. If you had just one wish for 1985, what would it be?

The Prime Minister

It would be … I can't have one. Please let me have two. It would be that we see no more of the kind of violence, industrial disputes that we have seen this year. That we agree that there shall be no violence of that kind, and secondly that we find more jobs for our young people.

Interviewer

Mrs Thatcher thank you very much.