Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

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

1985 Jun 7 Fr
Margaret Thatcher

TV Interview for TV-AM

Document type: speeches
Document kind: TV Interview
Venue: TV-AM Studios, Camden Lock, London
Source: Thatcher Archive: COI transcript
Journalist: David Frost, TV-AM
Editorial comments: 1600-1800. The interview was broadcast at 1030 on Sunday 9 June 1985.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 8875
Themes: Autobiographical comments, Autobiography (marriage & children), Executive (appointments), Conservatism, Conservative Party (organization), Conservative Party (history), Defence (Falklands War, 1982), Employment, Industry, Local elections, Monetary policy, Public spending & borrowing, Taxation, Labour Party & socialism, Liberal & Social Democratic Parties, Leadership, Media, Social security & welfare, Terrorism, Trade union law reform, Women, Famous statements by MT (discussions of)

David Frost

Hallo! Good morning and welcome to a special format this morning, because it is a special event; the visit of the Prime Minister in the course of the next hour.

Prime Minister, you are always talking very much about how you like to encourage small businesses, so in thanking you for being here this morning, may I say that your presence has greatly encouraged this small business!

Prime Minister

I am very happy to be here. Sorry I have not been before.

David Frost

Well, we are delighted you are here now, particularly with a summer cold as well.

Prime Minister

They are always the most difficult to get rid of, but they do not really bother one. [end p1]

David Frost

But the myth, however, is that you are never ill with anything, actually, isn't it?

Prime Minister

Not enough to stop one from carrying on as usual.

David Frost

Tell me, do you enjoy appearing on television, in the sense that …   .I mean …   .do you find it easy to be yourself? Is what we see when you are on television the real you?

Prime Minister

I am very nervous and it is not until I lose myself in an argument that I really am quite natural.

David Frost

Arguments really are the thing that. …

Prime Minister

Yes, all of a sudden, it is what you are going to say which takes over and how you are going to say it.

David Frost

May I ask, as people watch us now, how do you think people perceive you in the country, the general public? How do they perceive you as a person and a leader? [end p2]

Prime Minister

I never quite know. I read how they perceive me and it does not seem to have anything in common with what I am, but then, when I go out and about and do walk-abouts, I get a fantastic welcome and I love listening to what people have to say to me. It has always got some terrific common sense. People are very generous you know. They really do say encouraging things and nothing is nicer to hear, especially if you are a little bit down.

But I find that the welcome I get does not really match up with some of the things I read about me.

David Frost

And when you read those things about you …I mean… I just picked a lot of adjectives … good ones like visionary, clear-sighted, bold, dynamic, single-minded …

Prime Minister

My goodness me! They are all quite big, aren't they?

David Frost

Good ones, right? And then they are intolerant, uncaring, aggressive, hectoring, and so on. Which don't you recognise? What do you wish when you read that? You say: “I wish they realised this about me!”

Prime Minister

I think everyone should know that you have to be many-sided. You do have to be firm sometimes. Yes, you do [end p3] have to put your point very forcefully. Yes, you do have to argue against other statesmen and argue for your country—and keep on and on and perservere. So some of those things about being very firm, even a touch of steel, they are correct, of course they are, because I would not be doing the job I am unless one had those things. But they are only a part of the time, a very small part.

Perhaps they influence your attitude. If you are the kind of person who knows what you want to do, who knows it is going to be quite difficult to do it, who knows that other people are going to take different views and they are going to try to get their way, then you have got to be firm; but also, you could not be like that the whole of life at all. You have to work with people. They have their problems, and you know that if you are to get things done you have got to work together and you can only do that if everything goes smoothly, because you trust one another and because you like one another and because you do things not only because you are in a team, but because there is some extra special kind of loyalty, and that is when the other side comes out.

David Frost

And do you think people who work for you because you are such a dynamic personality tell you the inconvenient truth? I mean, there have been lots of things you will have read in the papers about people finding in the canvassing for the Shire [end p4] elections that some people were talking about the “TBW factor” . Does the Central Office …

Prime Minister

The what? The what TV?

David Frost

Well the Central Office used this phrase …   .

Prime Minister

I have never heard it.

David Frost

They should have told you!

Prime Minister

TVW?

David Frost

I am afraid it means, if you will excuse …

Prime Minister

Television?

David Frost

Not quite. It means actually “That bloody woman!” factor in fact. [end p5]

Prime Minister

Oh dear, how dreadful!

David Frost

Isn't that awful? They do not tell you. You see, they do not tell you this.

Prime Minister

No, they do not tell me. I think they do not tell me because they know it is not true and recently I just stopped shouting in the House of Commons at Question Time. They make a noise when I get up and tried to make my voice rise over it and then I thought, well, why should I. If you want to hear what I am saying you can keep quiet and now they say: “Oh, she has softened!” That is not so at all. I am just the same as ever I was. What they are cross about is that they built up an image and now they are cross that I do not match to the image that they have built up.

I am sorry I did not know about the TBW …   . not TVW … I had no idea.

David Frost

Television West … no, no, TBW.

At this particular moment, would you feel … anybody would …   . do you feel a trifle embattled with the combination of the Shire elections and the opinion polls and revolts in the party and so on?

Prime Minister

I do not feel at all embattled. I have been in politics 26 years. I have seen middle-of-election terms before. I am [end p6] not surprised that some people feel deeply concerned because they might have mortgages and mortgages are up. I wish they were not up, but I understand that they feel a bit resentful that they are. I understand that they are puzzled about unemployment, especially when we have got output at an all-time high and investment at an all-time high, and they are bothered about it. So am I.

I think the mistake some of them make is that they think that because these things have happened that one does not care about them. Of course one does! One would wish that they did not have to be so, but politicians have to make difficult choices.

Look! The pound was going down against the dollar. That matters to me enormously. It is part of pride, a fundamental part of pride.

Yes, you have to look at the free market mechanism and then I heard one Sunday morning, because I usually listen I am afraid to the radio early Sunday morning, the Government did not care about the pound going down and my goodness, I was up like lightning at the telephone saying that they had just better get on to those people who did the television news and tell them we did care. And so we had a choice. The way at that time to deal with the pound was to put up interest rates and we really could not have let it go down any more without trying to put up interest rates.

Now, if we had let it go down, prices would have gone up because the pound went down. When we put up interest rates, I am afraid mortgages had to go up, but you see the choice. I explain this because life is full of difficult choices for Prime [end p7] Ministers. All the easy decisions are made way way way down the line! Either we let the pound go, in which case prices would have gone up faster, or we put the interest rates up, which would have taken the pound up, but have had an effect upon mortgages. Now I understand why people feel quite deeply.

David Frost

I think the figures—and I know we can all say about opinion polls and mid-term blues—but the figures at the moment are pretty staggering. I mean, the Alliance at an all-time high and so on, and the opinion polls, a lot of them, putting the Conservatives in third place and so on. Now, that is quite serious. You may say it is mid-term blues, but it is more dramatic than that isn't it?

Who do you regard as the greatest threat or challenge, the Labour Party, Alliance with its record popularity or your own record?

Prime Minister

Can I take you up on your first point. Look! The polls were worse in 1981 than they are now. They were worse and we recovered.

I do not necessarily look at Labour or the Alliance as which one is worse. I think there is always a difficulty in democracy, but so far it has not affected my own election results. The difficulty is whether people will be taken in by those who promise them everything but do not tell them what it will cost in [end p8] taxation on their pockets.

Now, I think people are more sophisticated and I think that they are not taken in by that. They might be mid-term election, they might be mid-term, but when it comes to elections they are not, and they really rather suspect any party that promises them the earth or says: “Vote for me and I will restore this, that and the other!” or “You could have that subsidy” and when you add them all up, by the time they have given all their promises, you will not have anything left in your pocket!

David Frost

That obviously is Labour you are thinking of there. What about the Alliance?

Prime Minister

No, no, no. Oh no, no. They are both just as bad in one respect. They always give the impression if you vote for them and you can have everything. Democracy is not like that. Not only is it not like that, but we would not be the people we are if we did not realise that you have to run sensible policies and you have to balance the needs of those who are unfortunate with the capacity of the working population to finance pensions, education, health and everything else.

David Frost

Of the three men who are vying in a way to be Leader of the Opposition … [end p9]

Prime Minister

Three men … three … there is one there.

David Frost

Neil Kinnock and then also David Owen and David Steel. Who do you regard as the most formidable?

Prime Minister

Well I am not going to say. People have to make their own judgments.

David Frost

You do not want to pay a compliment to any of them!

Prime Minister

No, no. Nor utter an insult to any of them. We all have good days, we all have bad days.

David Frost

So you would not pick any one of them?

Prime Minister

No, no, not for me. That is for the public. I have to present our case and I have to go on presenting it. That is a judgment for the public.

David Frost

And do you think you can win the next election? I mean, you are going to lead the Conservative Party at the next election? [end p10]

Prime Minister

I hope so.

David Frost

Yes. You know so?

Prime Minister

I hope so.

David Frost

Why can you only hope?

Prime Minister

Why can I only hope? I intend so, I hope so.

David Frost

I intend so, I hope so. Do you think you could still win the next election if unemployment were still over three million?

Prime Minister

If it is still over three million, there will be a reason for it which we have not been able to overcome and we would have to explain why we had not been able to overcome it. Almost every day, I pick up the paper and there will be some big company that is going to make some people redundant. That is part of technology; that is part of being able to produce more goods with fewer people, and each of them has to stay efficient.

You started off with small businesses. Those people are going to be taken up into jobs by small businesses, by [end p11] service businesses, by small businesses growing.

We do not have enough new small businesses starting. Governments cannot start them. They can give incentives, they can give grants. We do everything we can to encourage small businesses and you know, in some parts of the country some of them would grow faster. I looked the other day at a whole list of figures and do you know in some parts of the country, in the South East, there have been something like 20,000 jobs unfilled for two months. That is astonishing with this amount of unemployment. But even now, there are some skills that are short, particularly in engineering, some high technology skills. Then there are other jobs that people do not seem to want to fill, like in catering, for example.

David Frost

What do you project, though, in let us say Autumn of 1987, what would you hope the unemployment figure would be?

Prime Minister

I never predict exact figures. I hope obviously very much that it will be down. We are doing everything possible that governments can do to get it down. Later on, it will come down because the whole structure of the population changes. Right now, for a period of ten years, because of the way the birthrate went many years ago, we have more school-leavers every single year than we have people retiring, so the working population is rising. When it comes to 1989, 1990, there are fewer school-leavers than there are people retiring, so the situation goes the other way and between now and then we are [end p12] trying to fill the gap with all kinds of jobs. We call them “Community Programme” . We put that programme up to 230,000 jobs. We are trying to give young people two years of training instead of one-year training.

David Frost

Given you have done that now and unemployment has been so bad for so long, should you not have done it five years ago?

Prime Minister

Well, the number of people we have in the working population now compared with ten years ago, the number more, is one and three-quarter million more people in the population of working age than ten years ago. Now, in the last Budget, we put up the Youth Training Scheme from one year to two. That is yet to be reflected through to the unemployment figures. We put up the Community Programme, which is for people who have been out of work for some time; we doubled it, so that it goes up to about a quarter of a million jobs. That has yet to work through. That will show show through, I hope, within a year.

David Frost

Would it not have been better to do it five years ago, four years ago, when these trends first became apparent?

Prime Minister

Well, I do not think we quite knew exactly what would happen, but it takes a time. If you are doing youth training, [end p13] I cannot just say: “Right! We will put it up to 350,000 places and then up to 700,000” because we have to go out to businesses and say: “Look! Please will you take on some young people? The State will pay them up to about £25 a week, but you will have to take them on and you will have to train them, you will have to teach them well and then you will have to let them go for part of the week to a technical college!” It takes quite a time to arrange those and it is taking quite a time to arrange the extra year. All of that is being done and you know, the young people who go through the youth training, previously it was something called the Youth Opportunities which was how it started … it has got better and better … if they go through the construction youth training scheme they almost all get jobs immediately.

David Frost

Do you expect unemployment, without setting the exact figure, to be below three million in the year 1987?

Prime Minister

You are trying to get me to predict in spite of the fact that the population of working age is rising. We are doing everything possible to try to help people to get jobs. There is nothing I want more.

David Frost

But you did predict on inflation in an interview with “The Standard” on the way on your South-Eastern Asian Tour, you did predict there that you hoped that inflation would be down to [end p14] 3%; by the next election.

Prime Minister

I said that 3%; was quite a reasonable target. Yes, we have perhaps a little bit more control over inflation than over the number of new businesses which start, which depend very much on how enterprising people are and how much they are prepared to start on their own. There are in fact 613,000 more jobs than there were two years ago, 613,000 more jobs. Now, if I got up two years ago and said …   .

David Frost

Still less though, Prime Minister, than when you came to power. A million less than when you came to power, in 1979.

Prime Minister

Yes, indeed. Technology has gone very very fast, as you know. Each company has got very very competitive and it must to stay in the market. So we have to try to run faster with the creation of new jobs. Government cannot do it. Government can train, Government can do the creation of some, the Community Programme. In the end it has to be starting up new small businesses producing goods that the customer will buy. There is no other way round that.

David Frost

Therefore, how many people would you say of the unemployed at the moment, that the fact of their being unemployed is actually [end p15] their responsibility?

Prime Minister

I think you are being very harsh on them.

David Frost

No. I was then going to say how many are your responsibility?

Prime Minister

There are many many people who work extremely conscientiously and well if they are provided with a job. There are others who will come off that unemployment register and set up on their own, so we have a special enterprise allowance to help them to do that.

Our responsibility as government is to try to create the framework in which business can flourish. In fact, the existing business is flourishing. The people in work now have never had a higher standard of living. We have never had more investment, but because of the rising numbers in the working population, we have not yet got enough jobs. How do we get more?

Supposing Government took on more. That means that I would have to put up taxation and put up interest rates to borrow more. We think that at the moment we are already doing enough … as much as we possibly can, because if we put up interest rates new small businesses are not going to start. So we can do [end p16] something and other people just have to start up the businesses. If they do not, we are not going to get those extra jobs and all we are going to be able to do is shuffle round what we have got. That really is not good enough.

David Frost

But at the same time, that famous poster in '79 of “Labour Isn't Working!” and so on, looks a bit sick now really.

Prime Minister

Well, there were something like 1.3 or 1.4 million people unemployed then. I am quite sure the then Labour Government did not want 1.3 or 1.4 million people unemployed then. Yes, there are more now. There are far more too also in Germany and France and elsewhere. They did not want 1.4 million people unemployed then, but we have in fact to enable industry to get efficient; otherwise, the number of unemployed would have been even higher than it is now.

David Frost

We'd better take a break there, Prime Minister. We have got so much more to talk about. We will come rushing back.

Prime Minister

Of course! [end p17]

David Frost

Welcome back to the Prime Minister, Mrs. Margaret Thatcher. Tell me, Prime Minister, do you think it is an advantage in your job and what you do being a woman, or a disadvantage? There are arguments on both sides. Where do you come down?

Prime Minister

I do not think it is either. There are occasions, yes, when it is an advantage, because everyone knows you. Wherever you go in the world everyone knows you and because they know you they know the part you play and they recognise when you have been very firm and most people in most parts of the world applaud leaders who are firm. That is an advantage. They recognise me, where they might not recognise. …

David Frost

…   . as the most famous woman, you mean, yes.

Prime Minister

Yes. They also of course would recognise President Reagan. Some of the others they may not always instantly recognise.

I have not found it a disadvantage in any way.

David Frost

Viscount D'Avignon said that you have an advantage in the sense that it is very difficult to say “Shut up!” to a lady whereas with a man he could have dared to say it.

[end p18]

Prime Minister

Yes, it would be much better you know if politics are conducted in courteous terms, whether you are a man or woman.

David Frost

At the same time, I would have thought that the fact that you have to always be concerned about your appearance that a man can be tousled but a woman cannot for instance, that is an added pressure, isn't it?

Prime Minister

Yes, I suppose so. People are a little bit more critical but then there have been times when I have been very critical if someone representing us has turned up looking tousled, because I will tell them most leaders do not turn up looking tousled. Some do. But if anyone represents Britain, with our reputation for tailoring, for woollen goods and so on and for readymade clothes as well as tailoring, they ought to turn out looking quite good.

David Frost

Because one woman who was a member of the Labour Government is still quite touched by something. She was nervous before a speech and you wished her well in the speech and said: “Because you know, we have to be much better than them!” Do you feel that a woman has to be much better than a man to prevail in politics?

Prime Minister

I think a little bit different. Now if you say: “How are you different?” I do not know. It is just that we are in some ways. I think … yes, I think I know what we were talking [end p19] about and what we meant. If a woman makes a mistake, it is noticed and it is because she is a woman. If a man makes a mistake it is just something, well you have to learn to get experience, and therefore your mistakes are noticed much more and in that respect you have to be just a little bit more careful.

David Frost

And when the “Daily Express” and the “Daily Mail” put in a headline or an editorial—a very complimentary editorial—saying “Really, she is the only man in the Cabinet” as well—this is a different point—do you regard that as a compliment? They intend it as one.

Prime Minister

I know they intend it as a compliment and I therefore take it in the way in which they deliver it and my answer to anyone who says that from the Opposition bench is usually “Well that is one more than you have got!”

David Frost

How would you operate, do you think, if you and Denis were to change places and he was to be the Prime Minister and you were to be the consort as it were?

Prime Minister

I think he would be quite explosive in some of his comments and people would love it! [end p20]

David Frost

Would you be good as the woman behind the scenes?

Prime Minister

I am not. I am not. I am right in the front line and so there is no point in considering a reversal.

David Frost

Woodrow Wyatt, in his tribute to you in a book out this week, says among other things in a tribute to your husband: “A good biography or at least an autobiography by Denis Thatcher or about Denis Thatcher would be of real historical interest!” That was a nice tribute. Do you agree with that?

Prime Minister

Yes. He is absolutely marvellous, Denis, absolutely marvellous, and you know, if some days you are a little bit down, he is absolutely terrific and you know, marvellously complimentary when things are good, but always always always there.

David Frost

With shrewd comments when things are going well.

Prime Minister

Oh yes, very much so, very much so. And always keep things in perspective. A great person for keeping things in perspective. But always encouraging me in the way in which I want to go, because he will always say: “Look! You have never run [end p21] away from anything yet, never!” Well I would not start now, but it is nice to have someone saying “Look! Don't run away. Don't shirk the long-term issues! That has been the trouble with British politics!”

David Frost

The other thing Woodrow Wyatt said which is rather nice: he said: “Perhaps I am a bit in love with Mrs. Thatcher! Platonically of course!”

Prime Minister

That is very nice, isn't it? There you are, you see, someone who does not describe me as the harshest, most flinty-faced creature that ever walked the earth!

David Frost

In terms of womanliness and so on, I mean, do you think of yourself as a beautiful woman, a good-looking woman?

Prime Minister

No, I know I am neat and reasonably all right. I hope I am never flashy and never dress in a flashy way. I dress quietly. I hope sometimes with very good British design and yes, I know that one's appearance matters. You see, it is the first contact with you that people have and the first impression matters and that is especially so when you are abroad and it does matter that the first, just the first flash, is of a tidy person, preferably [end p22] smiling. There is not always a lot to smile about though.

David Frost

We have been talking about the most permanent relationship in your life. In terms of relationships that are not necessarily permanent, the headlines all this week—and only you know the answer to this question—is there going to be a government reshuffle this year and if so, when?

Prime Minister

You know, some of those things they write about reshuffles really are very wounding to the people concerned. What do you think it is like taking the chair at a Cabinet when they have read that various people are going to be reshuffled? I never make reshuffles while Parliament is sitting, never. It is not fair to people to have to go into the House the next day, perhaps if they have lost a job or if they have changed a job, and they are not quite familiar with all the detail of their new work. I never shuffle while the House is sitting and I thought the press knew that, and I have only ever shuffled, usually just after Christmas and the New Year or in the long recess, because you have to give hope to people who want to come up into Ministerial work and that unfortunately means that some people have to leave it.

Yes, of course there is usually a reshuffle in the long recess. I do not know how big it will be or who it will involve yet and I do wish the press would not reshuffle the Cabinet every day for me because it is pretty hurtful. I mean, some days maybe I would like to reshuffle the press, but one day maybe I will write an article about them! [end p23]

David Frost

I thought you were going to say one day you will!

But I mean, in terms of the reshuffle this summer in the long recess, in terms of it being kinder to people, would it not be kinder to do it at the beginning of the recess to put them out of their misery?

Prime Minister

You are now trying to ask when I will do it. I do not know when I will do it. I will do it when I think it is most appropriate.

David Frost

Would you like this time to make room for, for instance, Mr. Cecil Parkinson?

Prime Minister

You are now asking who I am going to change. I cannot say.

David Frost

No, I am not saying who you are going to change.

Prime Minister

I have a great admiration for Cecil Parkinson's work. He had built up a business, knew how to run one, therefore can read anyone else's balance sheet, can cross-examine in a way in which only a person who's built up their own business can. He was a quite outstanding Minister and we miss him very much. He was also a very good communicator, very good on the media with which you are familiar. [end p24]

David Frost

Would you like to make room for Edward Heath?

Prime Minister

No, I do not think I can. I had to make that decision right at the beginning and you cannot go back now.

David Frost

What do you feel about your critics in general? Do you anything to learn from them, the Tory critics, do you think?

Prime Minister

Oh yes, you always have something to learn from them, because you have to keep a party going along with you, but in fact, above all you have to carry on going in the direction in which people expect you to go when you are elected.

Look at the problems that had not been tackled for years!

First, no-one had really tackled trade union law. Ted tried in 1970 and had the 1974 election been different the whole of British political history would have been different. I was not going to shirk that, because I remember the winter of discontent in 1979, when the Labour Party had sold out to the unions lock stock and barrel.

David Frost

I think it is true to say that a great many people in this country would say that in reducing what seemed to be the excessive power of the unions they would probably all support that. Would you actually like to reduce the power of the unions still further or is it about right?

[end p25]

Prime Minister

No, I think that we have some more work to do. I think we have learned a good deal in the last year and I think we have some more work to do. It is not so much reducing the power of the unions as such. It is ensuring that members of unions have power over the bosses of the unions. That is the important thing. That is the thing we started off to do and it has been this Government who has restored or given more rights to members of unions to control their own union bosses and people have fought us all along the way, including some people now in the Alliance, but we did it, and we need to do more.

David Frost

We will take a break there. Have a sip of honey and we will come rushing back. (music)

David Frost

Welcome back, talking with the Prime Minister.

Prime Minister, the late George Brown, Lord George Brown, when I was …

Prime Minister

It was very sad Lord George Brownhis death, wasn't it? I was so sad to see it.

David Frost

It was indeed. He was a great, larger than life, refreshing figure wasn't he? [end p26]

Prime Minister

He was quite bold in some of his beliefs and in some of his decisions. He was always good on defence. Whatever happened, George stuck up for the defence of Britain and he was a very keen and ardent advocate of going into Europe, and he stuck up for those two things, even though he was sometimes against his party.

David Frost

Yes, indeed he did, and on one occasion I was interviewing him while he was Foreign Secretary and he said on one occasion, talking about mistakes and decision-making, and he said: “I reckon if I am right six times out of ten that is better than average and I am doing well!”

Prime Minister

It is a very modest thing, isn't it?

David Frost

Yes. What would be your figure?

Prime Minister

I cannot tell you how often I am right. I think maybe you are right, that a woman would have to clock up a slightly higher percentage, a slightly higher percentage. Not very much higher.

David Frost

What would you say have been the mistakes of the Government so far? [end p27]

Prime Minister

Oh please, don't ask me that! I can say that I think it would have been better had we been able to hold public expenditure down more than we have but against the background of recession against which we have been operating and the speed of change we were not able to do so. But it has been my ambition for a long time to get taxation down more than we have done. We actually have increased the tax-free allowances very considerably, but you see, I do not really think you ever get an enterprising Britain if you get a highly-taxed Britain. I think you are much more likely to get an enterprising Britain when people see a much closer relationship between their earnings and what they have got left in their pocket.

David Frost

Do you think the tax burden, which is higher now than when you came to office, will be lower than when you came to office by the time of the next election?

Prime Minister

It depends upon the growth rate during the coming years. It also partly depends upon world growth rates, but we are growing steadily, quite well at the moment, for a consistent record.

David Frost

I suspect in retrospect you may well agree with me. Do you think that in terms of the credibility of the Government and so on, the stonewall, the cover-up, or whatever you call it over the “Belgrano” was in retrospect a mistake? [end p28]

Prime Minister

No, I do not think it is a mistake. We had a very very long and detailed debate. Everyone accepts that the “Belgrano” had to be sunk. At least, I hope they do!

David Frost

Well that is one debate.

Prime Minister

I think people recognise that in fact you have to look after your own people on the high seas and everyone I think accepts that.

Do you know what the charge against us is? That the “Belgrano” was discovered, seen first, the day before we admitted we had seen it and that when John Nott said in the House that it was torpedoed he said it had been detected earlier that day. In fact it was seen the day before.

David Frost

Detected to …

Prime Minister

One moment! Do you really think that is worth making such a fuss about? That on the day in the middle of war when he announced it had been torpedoed, he said—and for very good security reasons—that it had been seen earlier that day and it was torpedoed that day and then that got into the final record and eventually it was realised that it had been seen the day before and a whole row was built up on this, a whole row. It [end p29] seems to me …   .

David Frost

Yes but …   .

Prime Minister

Yes but what?

David Frost

Two things, I think. I mean, I was going to talk about the cover up … but the reason I …

Prime Minister

Cover up of what?

David Frost

Well the cover up of the facts. I mean, you know …

Prime Minister

What fact other than that?

David Frost

Well I mean the fact that … I mean that …   . the fact that it was going in a completely different direction … it was not as he said closing in …

Prime Minister

Do you know, ships do zig-zag. [end p30]

David Frost

Yeah, but it didn't zig-zag.

Prime Minister

But ships do change direction.

David Frost

Yeah, but it didn't, it didn't though.

Prime Minister

That ship did change direction.

David Frost

On that day, when the Government said it changed direction many times, it only changed direction once to go back home and a 10-degree difference to get closer to Argentina.

Prime Minister

A ship is torpedoed on the basis that if wherever she is she can get back to sink your ships in reasonable time; you do not just discover ships on the high seas and keep track of them the entire time. You can lose them. You can lose them. I would far rather have been under the attack I was for the “Belgrano” than under the attack I might have been under for putting “Hermes” or “Invincible” in danger, and if ever you think that governments have to reveal every single thing about ships' movements, we do not! And If I were tackling …

David Frost

No, but I mean, the reason people get … [end p31]

Prime Minister

… in charge of a war again, I would take the same decision again.

David Frost

But would you still, I mean, I mean, when you told Diana Gould that it was not sailing away from the Falklands and in fact it was, would you go to that extent again?

Prime Minister

Look! Do you really think that they say to a Prime Minister, do you really think in the middle of a war, they come up and say: “That ship has changed direction!” and then they come up half an hour later: “That ship has changed direction!” or again: “That ship has changed direction!” Look! You run a war …

David Frost

You said. …

Prime Minister

… through your admirals.

David Frost

Prime Minister, you said that in '83 …

Prime Minister

But do you think …

David Frost

… and the Ministers knew in November '82 so that … [end p32]

Prime Minister

…   . Mr. Frost, …

David Frost

That was incorrect what you said to her, wasn't it?

Prime Minister

Do you think, Mr. Frost, that I spend my days prowling round the pigeon holes of the Ministry of Defence to look at the chart of each and every ship? If you do you must be bonkers!

David Frost

No! Come back to the …

Prime Minister

Do you think I keep in my head …

David Frost

…   . when you said to Mrs. Gould … when you said to Mrs. Gould on the election programme before the election in '83 that it was not sailing away from the Falklands … you had known from November '82 that it was!

Prime Minister

What I said to Mrs. Gould was … the whole thing was I think in Hansard … if you think that I know in detail the passage of every blessed ship I cannot think what you think the Prime Minister's job is. [end p33]

David Frost

But this was vital. This was becoming a worldwide issue.

Prime Minister

Do you think that when I am tackled with every single question on the direction of any single ship, that I know the precise direction at the moment you are torpedoed without any notice?

David Frost

Well the ship that changed the direction of the war …   . surely …   .

Prime Minister

What I know, Mr. Frost, is that Ministers have given the information in the House of Commons. When they came and it said that one thing was not correct, I was the first to say: “Right! Give the correct information!” and the correct and deadly accurate information was given, but I do not spend my days prowling round the pigeon holes of the Ministry of Defence looking at the precise course of action …   . one moment …   . the “Belgrano” …   . one moment …   .

David Frost

…   . Woodrow Wyatt says you only respect people who …

Prime Minister

One moment! That ship was a danger to our boys. That is why that ship was sunk. Let me tell you something else! We spent a long time looking for the aircraft carrier and if we had found her we would have—and been in a position—then I believe [end p34] we would have sunk her, because for a long time we were frightened—yes, frightened—that she would wait and come out on the day—if we had to land again on the Falklands—that she would come out and was a danger; so long as she was on the high seas with aircraft she was a danger to our ships and do you think I would have said: “Is she zig-zagging?” Did anyone say “Is the Bismarck zig-zagging?” No, they were a danger to our ships!

David Frost

Well, this discussion slightly surprised me because I expected you to agree with me, but when you say: “I do not know the details of odd ships” , I mean, this was a very special ship, and if you go through for instance to that debate on 21 February '84, when it had become a major issue around the world and in this country and was affecting the image of the Government and you said the full facts had been given to the House. I mean, in fact they had not, about when it was detected, nothing had seen said about the decision to attack the 25th of May, the course, they were still saying that the course was in fact zig-zagging all over the place. Why did you say the full facts had been given when they had not and the Government had to admit that afterwards?

Prime Minister

When I realised that the fact that had been given about the day on which she was discovered was incorrect, then we wrote and gave as many facts as we possibly could and corrected them. But really, do you know how many ships there were down there? A hundred. A hundred ships. [end p35]

David Frost

This was a major controversy …

Prime Minister

Look! A major controversy! What mattered to me was that the “Hermes” , the “Invincible” were protected. Some other ships I am afraid we lost. I wish to goodness we had not.

David Frost

Coming back to that point because that is absolutely true. But when you said to Diana Gould it was not sailing away from the Falklands, was that a deliberate mistake or an accidental mistake?

Prime Minister

Just because a ship is going in a certain direction does not mean it is sailing away from the field of battle.

David Frost

But it was sailing away from the exclusion zone all the time!

Prime Minister

But it does not mean to say that it is sailing away from the field of battle.

David Frost

Why?

Prime Minister

Well, because it can turn at any time! [end p36]

David Frost

But we were right behind it and it would take 14 hours to get back.

Prime Minister

There are times when you lose a ship, Mr. Frost.

David Frost

But if it is sailing away, it is either sailing away or it is not sailing away. That is just plain English.

Prime Minister

Sailing in a certain direction. I tried, when we realised, to give the full facts. We did, but I am absolutely astounded that in one of the most brilliant battles ever fought 8,000 miles away from home, the only pernickity point that you or others can make is that she was discovered the day we said before.

David Frost

Detected two days before and seen in one day.

Prime Minister

Seen one day before but you do not necessarily know who the oiler belongs to, and that she changed direction and after—I cannot remember the time she changed direction …   . I know the time we gave permission for her to be torpedoed … and that the only pernickity thing you can do is to say “Ah she was sailing on a certain course!” [end p37]

David Frost

And the commander of the ship …

Prime Minister

I am utterly amazed!

David Frost

No, the commander of the ship could not believe the orders, could he? I mean, when he had sent the message it had changed direction, then he asked for verification. He could not believe it.

Prime Minister

I am sorry. What did you say?

David Frost

Commander Wreford-Brown demanded reconfirmation did he not?

Prime Minister

I know when we gave the order to sink and that is all in the public domain. I know it was right to sink her and I would do the same again because so would you had you not been a television commentator, but been in a position of responsibility for the “Hermes” , the “Invincible” , the task force, the day after, Mr. Frost, may I remind you, the day after our task force had arrived at the Falklands and had been subject to a very considerable air bombardment. Yes, I watched that. Yes, I heard Brian Hanrahan say what he did. An enormous air bombardment. The task force arrived and we thought my goodness are we going to get that every day? And the next day—I think it was the nesxt day&em:I am [end p38] speaking from memory,—the next day we either spotted or … was it the next day …   . on the Sunday … the “Belgrano” was sunk very quickly afterwards.

David Frost

Yes, I mean.

Prime Minister

Do go on. Do go on, if you wish. We were right to sink that and I hope that everyone knows that so long as I am there they have a Prime Minister who will protect our navy, our boys and I will continue to do so.

David Frost

May I make two points and answer that. First of all, the reason that people got interested was—whether you call it the cover up or the stonewall—the fact that Parliament was misled and that is what got very many leaders upset first of all, and that was very worrying and that is still very worrying and nothing that you have said changes that, and that is a worrying issue, that the full facts were not put before Parliament and that misleading statements were made and so on.

However, that is the issue that particularly concerns me. Now that leads back, that makes people concerned suspicious about the original event and what people worry about—and I say what people worry about because I am not a professor of “Belgrano” studies, I have studied the issue but it is not a particular cause of mine at all—is the key question on the day was not just as you said any old ship, one ship of a hundred; it was the turning [end p39] point in the war in a sense, and as you have said sincerely that you took that action to save British lives. It killed a great many Argentinians and there are those who think we shot it in the back, but that is not the point. You did it … it is the point …   . but not your point … you did it to save British lives. However, the point that other people raise quite honourably in this debate is what if we had given peace one more chance? At that point Argentinian action had not killed any of our boys. After it, it did. Did in fact that event escalate the war and cause fatalities or, as you have said, save them? So both sides are worried about the lives of British boys and the people who go on about the “Belgrano” of whom I am not particularly one, I must defend in the sense they are worried about British lives too.

Prime Minister

Mr. Frost, Argentina had invaded the Falkland Islands, our territory, and subjugated our people, and you just think that is as nothing!

David Frost

No, I did not say that.

Prime Minister

Well you just said if they had done nothing. They had invaded British territory …

David Frost

No, I said no British lives had been lost. [end p40]

Prime Minister

No indeed, but they had invaded British territory, they had invaded British territory. They had subjugated our people, and you seem to think that that counts … for nothing.

David Frost

No, no. I am saying that no British lives had been lost before the “Belgrano” was sunk.

Prime Minister

There were no particular peace proposals. It is alleged there were some from Peru at that time. There were not. They had not reached us. We went on for a fortnight after that trying to get peace proposals. Now if you say was it precisely a fortnight I cannot tell you. I have not just been prowling round my pigeon holes to look up this particular thing. I have had rather more to do in the past week.

We went on negotiating. You heard what Al Haig had to say. I never believed Galtieri would withdraw. I did not see how he could. He did not. So in the end we put up our peace proposals and we published it in full to say this is how far we are prepared to go not to have any more fighting if you accept it, and they would not. Isn't it extraordinary, it was the most brilliantly successful battle, thanks to the armed forces, 8,000 miles away, I think that has ever been fought. It freed British people. Can you tell me any other Prime Minister whose ever had an enquiry about the kind of the Falklands enquiry? No. Everything was done, and you choose to spend such a long time—I don't blame you—on one day, one direction. [end p41]

David Frost

No! One war, many lives lost and this discussion took me by surprise. I thank you for that discussion because I think you have made clear your feelings more clearly than ever before. My concern …   . remain …   . people's concern about that day's action, they may be right, they may be wrong, but I think it is a very legitimate subject to debate because it was a turning point in the war, but you have made that very clear. We will take a break.

Prime Minister

I am glad the turning point was not the sinking of “Hermes” or “Invincible” . That would have been the end of it!

David Frost

Fair enough. (music)

David Frost

Welcome back, talking with the Prime Minister. Somebody, in a compliment to you the other day, said that you are the only Prime Minister who has given birth to an “ism” , to Thatcherism. How would you most like Thatcherism to be characterized and remembered and to have lasting effect on this country?

Prime Minister

I think really as someone who did not shirk the issues which should have been tackled over the years. [end p42]

David Frost

And what particular lasting symbols would you like there to be?

Prime Minister

I think the most important thing is that we are reducing the power of the State and increasing the power of the citizen. There were so many controls over the lives of people, income policies, prices policies, exchange control policies, so many things that had been taken by the State that the ordinary firms could not run their business. They did not decide on how much to pay their people; they did not decide on prices; so they got to be really not taking the responsible decisions. There was overmanning, restrictive practices. All of these things had to be tackled. We had to get more private ownership into the hands of people, more shares into the hands of people, much much more towards a society of responsible individuals, not putting the decisions away to someone else, but putting them back to individuals.

David Frost

And to those people who talk about how competitiveness is lauded in Thatcher's Britain and encouraged and incentive is encouraged, but the losers seem to be ignored, how would you answer that?

Prime Minister

The losers are not ignored. The losers are not ignored. The social security system at the moment, it is one of our prides [end p43] that we have not let people down in any way. Indeed, supplementary benefits, pensions, are better value now than they ever were. They have not been ignored. They have not been just put aside. They have been right in the forefront.

David Frost

And a lot of your friends say that personally you have been profoundly affected in your priorities and so on—I mean, this is not a sort of political issue—by the tragedy that happened at Brighton. Do you sense a change in yourself?

Prime Minister

I think when something like that happens and terrible things happen to your friends, it makes you realise how small some worries are and that you should keep them in perspective. If you have health and strength it is a very great deal. Health and strength and friends, that's a … very great deal.

David Frost

Friends mean a lot to you?

Prime Minister

Yes.

David Frost

Prime Minister, we are almost at the end of our time said at the beginning of the programme that you were only really relaxed on television when there was something of an argument, [end p44] I thought at that time well pity we are not going to have one but we had part of one anyway earlier on, but that was a surprise, but we thank you for being here and being at your best throughout.

Prime Minister

Thank you very much.

David Frost

That is all for this morning. Our thanks to the Prime Minister. Thank you to you for joining us.

Top of the Morning, good morning! (music)