Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

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

1985 Nov 17 Su
Margaret Thatcher

TV Interview for London Weekend Television Weekend World

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Document kind: TV Interview
Venue: No.10 Downing Street
Source: Thatcher Archive: COI transcript
Journalist: Brian Walden, LWT
Editorial comments: The interview was due to begin at 1200.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 8723
Themes: Autobiographical comments, Executive, Conservatism, Education, Employment, Industry, Monetary policy, Privatized & state industries, Pay, Public spending & borrowing, Taxation, Family, Foreign policy (USA), Leadership, Media, Northern Ireland, Social security & welfare, Terrorism

Brian Walden, LWT

Hello and good afternoon!

Today, “Weekend World” comes from No. 10 Downing Street. Two-and-a-half years into her second term of office, Margaret Thatcher remains by far the most dominant figure in British politics, and it might have been expected that by now the direction of her approach in government would be crystal clear to everyone. But in the last few weeks and months, her intentions have been the focus of an increasing number of doubts. Her defiance of the opponents of the Anglo-Irish Agreement, which she signed last Friday, has of course demonstrated yet again her capacity for resolute action—where she judges it to be necessary and her determination to try and crack down on crime and inner city violence is also consistent with the resolute approach.

But over the central issue of her economic policy, there is now less clarity. Some say that Mrs. Thatcher continues to stick firmly to the strategy with which she first arrived in office in 1979, but others suggest that she has begun to shift her ground significantly, modifying her image in the hope of preventing a haemorrhage of support amongst voters at the next general election. In the last week, it has even been suggested [end p1] that she is engaged in an economic U-turn.

So what are the Prime Minister's intentions? Today, in a live interview, we hope to find out.

First though, let us hear the latest news headlines from ITN and John Suchet (NEWS HEADLINES).

Brian Walden, LWT

Prime Minister, let me talk to you about the image that the British people have of you first of all. As you know, generally there are two types of politician. There is one that says: “Look! I have convictions. I have beliefs! And I intend to carry them out. They will not always be popular—and indeed they may always be unpopular—but I know they are right, and that is what I am going to do!” And the other sort says: “Oh, no, no! That is very dangerous! You must give people what they want. You must listen very closely to what the public wants, even if it keeps on changing, and give it to them!”

Now previously, everybody has thought you belonged to the first type, but there are kinds of siren voices saying that you are now going over to the second category. So can I ask you straight out, what image do you want the British people to have of you?

Prime Minister

I am only here because I believe very strongly in certain things, certain policies, and that is the way I wish to go. I believe that politicians have to place their policies before the [end p2] people and then the people choose. I think that if politicians take a followership line the whole time, then they are failing in their duty. They should clear their own minds, discuss with their own party and with others the way forward, and set it out quite indisputably; and that is what we have tried to do.

You mentioned a moment ago the Irish Agreement. That, I think, is an example of what we are trying to do. We are trying to mobilise everyone against the men of violence, because violence and democracy cannot exist together, and we are trying to do it against a background which will reassure the people in Northern Ireland that they will stay a part of the United Kingdom unless they vote otherwise. That is just a clear example of policy we have thought out, then we have announced, and now we shall carry it resolutely through.

Brian Walden, LWT

All right, Prime Minister. Of course I am not, for reasons that you well understand, going to question you about Ireland today. Not that it is not enormously important. “Weekend World” did a programme on it only last week. But on this side of the Irish Sea, what you are doing of course has overwhelming majority approval. Let me press you just a little on the things that you are doing that do not always have overwhelming majority approval on this side of the Irish Sea.

Are you saying that you will still resolutely continue with what you believe to be right, even if it is unpopular? [end p3]

Prime Minister

Oh yes! That is why I am here. Of course, I try to put our case and try to convince people that that is the way to go—and so far, we have not done too badly, and so far we have changed many many people's views.

Brian Walden, LWT

All right! Well, still the same old Margaret Thatcher! Let us test this against some actual issues. Let us move to what is undoubtedly the most important issue of all, namely unemployment, where some people do claim that they detect a change in your attitude and emphasis. For instance, you said at the Mansion House on Monday—you talked about the sense of belonging and the feeling of being needed that a job provides—and at the Conservative Party Conference you talked very sympathetically about the anxiety and frustration that people without a job must feel.

Now, that is fine, but a lot of people say: “Yes, but this is not what she used to say, or her Ministers. They used to say: ‘Get on your bike! Go and find a job! There are jobs available if you look for them!’” So which is it, Prime Minister? Is it compassion or is it in fact brusque firmness?

Prime Minister

Don't you think you need both? Yes, you do need both. Of course, having a job is more than being able to earn your own living. It is having your own identity. It is knowing that you are needed. It is knowing that you belong. It is having a [end p4] social contact which work brings. It is having respect in your family that you can provide for your children.

But what I am fearful of and I have always been fearful of it, is of giving the impression that governments can provide a job for everyone wherever they happen to be, and it would be wrong to give that impression, because we cannot. We can try to provide the background. We can get inflation down. We can try to see that the whole economy is such that it gives opportunities.

Let me put it this way: people went to the United States—emigrated there—not to live on subsidies, but to have opportunities to make good, opportunities to pioneer, opportunities to do things for themselves. Do you know where jobs come from in the United States? Not from governments, but from people getting together and doing things and from free enterprise and doing things for themselves; and I would never like to give the impression that any government in a free society can provide everyone with a job. Yes, I know they want one. Of course, I only have the money which I earn to live on. I know how important it is, but it is a combination of understanding what it is like to be without one, but of taking the necessary firm background economic decisions which in the end will create the jobs.

You talk about unemployment. I talk about job creation, because that is what is going to cure the unemployment.

Brian Walden, LWT

All right, Prime Minister, let us take a down-to-earth example of the kind you and I like, and let me seek your guidance. [end p5]

There is a bloke up in West Bromwich, married, two children, and he has not got a job. Now, what should he do? Should he scour the country looking for a job or should he stay quietly in West Bromwich looking after his family and waiting for your policies to rescue him?

Prime Minister

I think he might try to do both. Look, what we are trying to do …

Brian Walden, LWT

At the same time?

Prime Minister

Yes, indeed, and why not? Look! We have all of the computers, we have all of the office equipment. Is it beyond the wit of the job centres and the Manpower Services Commission to flash them up and say: “Look! If a job is the most important thing, more than staying put” —and that will depend upon whether your children are at school, how far they are through their education, how far you think you will be able to find one here— “But at least, if there is one there, would you not like to go and see if you in fact can get it?”

When it comes to trying to get jobs in some of the regions where it is difficult, as you know, we have a lot of incentives for firms to go there. We cannot compel them to go there. Nissan is going to the north-east. It was a tremendous boost to the north-east. We try to get orders for some of the shipyards. We cannot get them for all of them. We provide subsidies. We [end p6] provide training, because we try to mitigate the unemployment. We say: “Look! If you cannot get a job in your present skill, please try to go and try to get another skill!” because sometimes you know there are jobs vacant and we cannot get people for them. So it will partly depend on the circumstances of the family, but it really should not be beyond our wit you know to say: “Look! there are jobs available there if you choose to try and go and get them!”

Brian Walden, LWT

But Prime Minister, human nature being what it is, if you tell this bloke that you deeply sympathise with him and if you also say that in the end everything is going to be all right, he is very likely to stay quietly in West Bromwich and not do a lot of scouring, isn't he?

Prime Minister

But please do not forget that earlier I made it perfectly clear that no government can guarantee every person a job where they are. What governments can do is try to make free enterprise flourish, to set the conditions for free enterprise to flourish, to set the conditions for people to start up on their own, to try to help them through the period of unemployment to starting up on their own. But unless those policies produce a response—and they are; jobs are being created in Britain at a faster rate than in any other country on the Continent of Europe; it is working—but he will choose. There are sometimes people who would rather work for a larger company, particularly in the north and the north- [end p7] east. That is the way they have always worked and they prefer to work for a larger company. There are other people who are prepared to start up on their own.

I remember Alfred Robertsmy father always saying to me as a child: “I could never have worked for anyone else. Therefore I had to start up on my own.” There are people like that, so we try to help them. People who want to work for a big company, we try to retrain, the companies try to retrain. But always we are trying to mitigate the harshness of the person who cannot get a job, and try to make it so that he will be ready for one should one come or he can travel to get one.

Brian Walden, LWT

So you are saying, Prime Minister, in effect, that he should go out and look for it?

Prime Minister

No, I am saying we try to mobilise all efforts.

Brian Walden, LWT

I understand.

Prime Minister

Some people do, as you know; quite a number of people have moved and have found a different life in different towns. Others prefer to stay where they are. What I think, if I might put it this way, is wrong—yes, wrong—is if there are jobs available at the same amount of money that a person could get on Social [end p8] Security and people do not take them. That, to me, is wrong, because if you believe, as I do, that you need to belong, you need to feel respected, then if you can get a job and keep your own family you should. You should not say: “Why work?”

Brian Walden, LWT

I am still not entirely clear, Prime Minister, that if I was this particular chap I would know exactly what you wanted me to do; and you said earlier, it rather depended on circumstances.

Prime Minister

Of course it does. It depends on his circumstances and it is his choice.

Brian Walden, LWT

Now this is an interesting idea. Are you saying then that if he is a married man with a couple of children, then perhaps his commitments in West Bromwich itself are greater than scouring the country, but if he were a single young man of 18, it is his responsibility to up his stumps and go and look for work?

Prime Minister

I am saying that it is his choice, but I do believe that if you are able to find a job, then I believe you should find a job. You might not get immediately the job you want, but do not forget that if people are prepared to keep you because you cannot get a job, then the other side of the coin is that if you can [end p9] get a job, then I think you owe it to society to get a job; but that is my viewpoint.

Brian Walden, LWT

All right, Prime Minister! Supposing all of the unemployed decided that they would go and get on their bikes and scour for work …

Prime Minister

Well a lot of them do, a lot of them.

Brian Walden, LWT

Supposing they all did, what proportion of them would find work?

Prime Minister

I cannot tell you, and you know that in asking the question. I can tell you that there are many employers who say they have jobs or youth training places which are not filled. There are a number of employers who say that they have jobs for skills which they cannot find. But do not forget, throughout this, I have been absolutely frank and said there is no way in a free society in which a government can make sure there is a job for everyone. Maybe if we took over everything and took total control of labour, dispossessed everyone, dispossessed them of their job and directed them. You would have a communist society. You would have no freedom. You would not have much standard of living, and [end p10] you would not have a life worth living.

What we are getting now is jobs being created in this country at a faster rate than in any other country in Europe, and the OECD are forecasting that we will go on creating them at a faster rate in 1986. So the job creation, that is the free enterprise system, when people start up on their own by producing, and succeed by producing goods which other people buy, is working, and I obviously hope it will continue to work. Indeed, all our policies are directed in that way.

Brian Walden, LWT

Well very few people in this country, Prime Minister, would want of course a communist society and a loss of freedom, but let us come back to this chap who goes and looks for work.

You see, isn't it the case that if, as you admit he is, he is frustrated because he has not got a job, and he sits quietly in West Bromwich and does not do much about it. He will feel frustrated, but he will feel a lot more frustrated if he actually gets on his bike, goes all over the country, and still cannot find a job. Isn't that the case?

Prime Minister

I think that he will try. I think that many of them do try, because they go for particular jobs. You have read of some people coming from one town and going to places in another town where there are jobs. You will also have read of people who chose to take redundancy, rather than to continue to work at the pay they were receiving. I cannot guarantee a job in every [end p11] single city. That was part of the Employment White Paper of 1944. What we can do and are doing is saying that the economic policies are producing more jobs and that those jobs are available for people who want them. I cannot guarantee them everywhere. I hope that people will seek a job where they can. I am only too aware of the difficulty. If you have got young children, then you have to weigh that up. It is a factor, because you might find they are in a particularly good school and you do not want to interrupt their education. That I understand, and therefore you might find that you do have great difficulty in the area where you are and then one would say: “Try to retrain” or one would say: “Have you thought of starting up on your own? There are many many service jobs to be done on your own. We can train you for them!” but I am not going to direct that person. That is no part of my philosophy. I am going to try to provide as many opportunities. I am going to try to cushion the harsh effects of change, to understand them, but to direct—no.

Brian Walden, LWT

All right! That, of course, I understand. I take it then, that what you are saying is that you do have sympathy, you think that circumstances—particularly family obligations—may alter cases, but that by and large it is not Thatcher Mark II, it is not this wobbly woman they are all talking about, it is Thatcher Mark I. You still think that most people should use their initiative, go out and seek a job and if they do not get one, well that is bad luck, they must try again and again and again, because you cannot deliver jobs to them on a plate. Now is that a fair summary of what you are saying? [end p12]

Prime Minister

I think it is a little bit harsh. If they do not get one, then they obviously will be supported and their families supported. If they are very anxious because they are not getting one, we will try to retrain them, because this has been part of employment policy for years and years. If they think they can start up on their own we in fact will try to provide an enterprise allowance for them to do that.

But you know, enterprise does live in this country. I do not know how large the what is called the “black economy” or the “cash economy” is. What we do know is the difference between the spending pattern and the income pattern shows you that there is quite a big flourishing thriving black economy, and what that means to me is this: that where people find a direct relationship between the money they get in their hands and the work they do, they not only do that work but they go out to find it and to seek it, but the enterprise is still there.

Brian Walden, LWT

All right! Can I take it, by the way, Prime Minister, that the Government's number one economic priority is now unemployment?

Prime Minister

The Government's number one economic priority is a flourishing industrial and commercial sector, because that is the way jobs are created and it is that way that you solve the unemployment. It always has been. [end p13]

Brian Walden, LWT

But the way you get that is by having inflation as your number one priority, isn't it?

Prime Minister

No. Certainly, getting inflation down is a necessary condition, because if we have higher inflation than they have in Germany, Japan, in Holland, all our competitors, or the United States, it is not going to help us to compete. If we cannot compete, we cannot get jobs. But that has never been sufficient.

I remember having quite a number of correspondents in to talk some time ago, two or three years ago, and saying: “Look! You do realise, yes, we have to get inflation down, but that is never enough. You have also got to have incentives!” Most policies, as you know, have two aspects: you have to keep inflation down so that we can compete, but you also have to have incentives to people to go out and do something for themselves; and that incentive, as I indicated, is that you do see some reasonable relationship between what you earn and what you can keep in order to do things for your family. So always incentives. Keep inflation down and have incentives.

You know, industry is a living structure of human beings. They work, not for something abstract. They work for their families, and that is a very very good thing. It goes far beyond economics.

Brian Walden, LWT

All right, Prime Minister! What do you say to those of your opponents—and indeed to ordinary voters and viewers of this [end p14] programme—who do not agree with you about this and who say: “Well, I have listened to Walden questioning her on unemployment now for quite some time and it is quite obvious to me that this is Thatcher Mark I, this is the old Mrs. Thatcher. She has not wobbled on this at all and therefore I do not believe in any of this compassion stuff. It is crocodile tears. They have told her: ‘Look Margaret! You are not going to get rid of these unemployed. You are going to take them into the next election with you, so you might as well express some sympathy with them!’ That is all she is doing. All the Mansion House stuff and all the other sympathy is simply being said in order to win votes!”

What do you say to that?

Prime Minister

You don't believe that either, do you? I can tell by the way you put it, in your tone. You do not believe it because it is a highly artificial question and you know it is not true.

Even the hardest person would know that even for political ends you would want to provide jobs if you could. Do you really want me to take everyone on to the bureaucracy? Do you think people would have a future that way? No! My way takes longer to get there, but it will produce much better jobs; it will produce a sound economy; it produces good prospects for the future.

I was very encouraged reading last week of one or two industrialists who said: “Look! Things are so much better now for future prospects.” One of them said: “Look! We have just signed an agreement with the unions that there should be no more demarcation, no more restrictive practices. We are able to manage. [end p15] That gives us fantastic opportunities!”

Yes, there are fundamental things I have had to do. They are done because I believe them to be right for Britain. This country was a strong country long before we had state control, long before we had a Ministry of Industry. We built the industrial revolution by people doing things for themselves, providing things for others, and as they did it, a whole burgeoning of doing things for other people came as well, as with their prosperity they tried to build it for others. That prosperity and enterprise still lives in Britain. It is the way to go.

And what of those people who criticise me? Are they suggesting we put everyone on to the bureaucracy? What good would that do? Would it help companies to be built up? Are they suggesting that Ministers and Civil Servants turn out of Whitehall with their bowlers and their brolleys and say: “Brothers, you have got to set up six new small businesses in every town” ? Do you think they would know what goods to produce? No you are not.

Brian Walden, LWT

I do not think they are suggesting that at all, Prime Minister.

Prime Minister

Please! I told you right at the beginning, what we are doing I believe is the right way to go; the way to get manufacturing and commerce sound, expanding. That is the only good base for the prosperity of Britain in the future and that is the [end p16] way we are going, and why people now are lost is because they never believed it would work—but it is!

Brian Walden, LWT

But it has not worked for over three million people, Prime Minister!

Prime Minister

You know why. The population of working age is getting bigger, faster at the moment than the new jobs that are being created, because we are going through a time of 12 years when there are more people leaving school, because of the birthrate as it was that time ago, than there are people retiring. Indeed, if you look at the last Labour Manifesto, it said that they would have to create an extra 170,000 jobs a year really just to stand still in unemployment, and the jobs are coming—650,000 in the last two years.

They have not been coming over the whole period as fast as the population of working age is rising and a lot more married women now want to work, but they are starting to come, and they are starting to come in the last two years faster. But those who talk the way you are suggesting, they do not have any answers either, and they in their heart of hearts know that what I am saying is true, and I sometimes say to them: “All right, if you have got the answers, you go out and start up the businesses! Why withhold your talent and skill from Britain?” [end p17]

Brian Walden, LWT

Well, let me come back to these critics of yours, Prime Minister, who you think agree with you and think that all that you say is true. I think, in part, they do. I put the question to you again: I think a lot of your critics say: “I do believe that Margaret Thatcher sincerely thinks that this is the way of doing things, despite the fact that there are over three million unemployed. What I do not believe is that she has any genuine sympathy or understanding for these people. She says she does, but she does not give them any priority in her policy and she never intends to! The reason she says she does is that she thinks they are going to be around a long time and she thinks it is better to sympathise, because that way she can win votes!”

Now, I think your critics do believe that and I invite you to say to them what your answer is to that charge.

Prime Minister

They are talking tommyrot!

Brian Walden, LWT

You are not like that?

Prime Minister

Absolute tommyrot and they know it!

Brian Walden, LWT

All right, Prime Minister. [end p18]

Prime Minister

Do you know why they say: “She does not care!” ? Because that is the impression they want to give, because they have no alternative policies. They see these policies working, and that is the impression they want to give.

Brian Walden, LWT

You don't think that sometimes, unconsciously, you give that impression yourself?

Prime Minister

If I do, I hope not, I hope not!

Brian Walden, LWT

You concede you might, occasionally?

Prime Minister

Well I hope not. I come from a background where we had to work. We had to work to live and we were brought up to work, and it is the only way I know how to live—to work and to try to do things for myself, and I just apply the same things that I knew to other people, which is how I know how they feel if they cannot find a job.

Brian Walden, LWT

Do you understand the sort of person though, Prime Minister, who does all the things that you did but is frankly not as successful in life and is therefore infinitely more frustrated and feels infinitely less needed than you do? You sympathise with them, do you? [end p19]

Prime Minister

Yes, because most of us depend for our jobs on the comparatively small number of wealth creators. If you look right across the whole of any country, there are a comparatively small number of people who say: “My ambition is to build up a business, to make it bigger and bigger and to take on more and more people and to bring prosperity to them!” There are not so many of them, but they are absolutely vital.

There are a lot more people who start up smaller businesses, and they are every bit as important, because they might only employ two or three or up to nine or ten, but they are extremely important. But most of us rely upon them to create the wealth and then we all row in with them and get the jobs and make the thing efficient. And then you have your administrators, your doctors and everyone else who are all part of the same thing. But really, the prosperity of society will depend upon the real wealth creators. Now the rest of us depend upon them, including myself.

Brian Walden, LWT

I understand your argument, Prime Minister. I am putting to you a rather different point. What about the people who do not fall into any of these categories? What about the people who cannot pick up a plate without dropping it?

Prime Minister

Oh come off it! Come off it! Come off it! Let us just come off it! You can train that out of them! There are some people who are just unlucky, but look! many people, most people, [end p20] live the most honourable, decent, worthy lives and 80%; working. My goodness me, I wish it were far more! Honourable, decent, worthy lives, and that is their own success.

Brian Walden, LWT

But Prime Minister, you can perhaps—I would not know, I do not do much plate-carrying—you can perhaps train people not to drop plates, but think of the implications of what you are saying! Are you telling me that you can train people who are not very bright and have a fairly low IQ, to have a much greater IQ; that you can train people who have no competence in business at all to found successful businesses?

Prime Minister

No, I did not say that.

Brian Walden, LWT

Well then, what about them!

Prime Minister

But you see, you do not need an immensely high IQ to do many of the jobs that have to be done and yes, we can train them. Yes, we do train them. We have had astonishing success in some of the what are called “information technology centres” , where we have taken young people who did not do well at all at school—and do not forget, an awful lot of people who do well in life because they have got some instinctive trade in their fingers, in their bloodstream, they know how to make things, how to sell them, where to sell them—a lot of people who do very well in life, are not the [end p21] people who came top at school, and we take these youngsters. We put them in some of our computer centres. They are marvellous and all of a sudden they see the point in learning things, and they have an aptitude for it.

Brian Walden, LWT

All right, Prime Minister, but after you have done all of that …

Prime Minister

You keep saying “All right, Prime Minister!” It is very reassuring!

Brian Walden, LWT

What I am really saying is: “I want to ask you another question, Prime Minister!” and I do. This is a fascinating subject. I do not think anybody has really …

Prime Minister

I think you are working a little bit hard at it!

Brian Walden, LWT

Well, I want to get to the bottom of this, you see, because after all of that has been done, somebody has to be bottom of the class. There are failures in all societies, there are bound to be. People who just cannot cut the mustard. Now do you really deeply sympathise with them? [end p22]

Prime Minister

There are quite a number of people who as it were … I have never heard the expression “cannot cut your mustard” .

Brian Walden, LWT

It is an American expression, Prime Minister. Comes from your great ally!

Prime Minister

But you know, again, I can remember years ago, when I was Secretary of State for Education, addressing our minds to this problem, that were we going in fact somehow to stop some of the jobs that were there for people who can do those very ordinary jobs with supreme dignity? And were we trying to educate them up and somehow we were not thinking of these people, who may have limitations and they do have limitations. But you know, there are lots of very honourable, decent jobs for people with limitations, and this was part of the reason why Keith Joseph—and you know, he is one of the most marvellous people in politics—started up Family Income Supplements for the people who could only earn a comparatively small amount; they should still have the dignity of a job and you would top up what they earned, up to a certain amount, because it was not enough to keep a family. And I am sure that is right. That was the right way to go. It has so little in line with your line of questioning that I find your line of questioning remarkable, because we were thinking of this a long time ago. That is why we called for a Family Income Supplement and that is why we now call for Family Income Credit—to help some of those people and still say: “Look! [end p23] There are jobs!” People could not pay a lot to have them done, but they can pay something, and then top up the amount, so that you have a decent income on which to keep your children.

Brian Walden, LWT

I will tell you why I think the line of questioning is valid, Prime Minister, and I tell you, and I suspect you know what I am getting at. That a lot of people believe, not unreasonably, that unless you can feel in your heart the depths of frustration that comes from being a failure in life, if you have power you will not try hard enough to redeem that failure, you will not try and ease the path, you will not try enough compassion for people who cannot succeed, however they try. Do you have those feelings?

Prime Minister

I understand what you are saying, but I have watched previous governments and previous leaders not tread the right path because they have not had the guts to face the question long-term to rebuild a Britain worthy of these people, and because they have taken the short-term, because in fact, you know, they have said: “All right, reflate and just carve up people's savings; it does not matter if it makes you less competitive, you can always devalue!” —because they have taken that, they have never tackled it fundamentally.

If you are like me, yes, from an ordinary home, an ordinary background, you believe that there is some magic in the British character that is good for Britain and good for the [end p24] world, then you try above all to take the long-term view, to rebuild Britain on a sound economic basis, so that there will be jobs by virtue of our effort—the effort we did make in the past, the effort we are making now, and the effort that will win through to the future.

Brian Walden, LWT

Well then, I do think we have got to the bottom of it, Prime Minister, and I ask for your confirmation of it; that what you are saying is you do have sympathy. It is not true that your heart is hard?

Prime Minister

Why do you think one takes all this criticism? Why do you think one takes all this flak? Because one cares about the final result!

Brian Walden, LWT

But it is not a soft and weak caring and you are not prepared to do the things that you think are wrong in the long-term, just to solve short-term problems; that your view of this is that we have all got to try harder and bite on the bullet, because eventually, long-term, the problem will be resolved in your way, which is the only right way. Now that is it, isn't it?

Prime Minister

You build a strong nation by governments being strong to do the things that only governments can do and by people making [end p25] the response. Yes, I think you have got the right way!

Brian Walden, LWT

But of course, at certain short-term costs, which you sympathise with but have to be borne if you want the long-term results?

Prime Minister

Oh yes, but we are coming through that short-term. We are coming through. That is why I have had to take the flak all of these years. We are beginning to come through. That is what my opponents do not like and cannot stand!

Brian Walden, LWT

But you do agree that there are these short-term costs for these people?

Prime Minister

Do you know, if we had gone the way—the short-term way—we would have far worse unemployment problems now, because more industry would not be competitive. Now industry, most of it, is efficient so there is a chance … if they were not, there would not be the hope for the unemployed that there is now.

Brian Walden, LWT

All right. Prime Minister, we must take a break there. We will be back in a moment. [end p26]

Prime Minister

I am sure we will!

Commercial break

Brian Walden, LWT

Prime Minister, we can resume our fascinating chat. The first part, on unemployment, I think revealed a great deal about your attitudes. Let me now switch to public spending, because here again, there is a lot of muttering that it ain't the same old Thatcher, and can I ask you a rather long question for which I apologise, but it is mainly because I am reading quotes from you yourself …

Prime Minister

Oh dear, how dreadful!

Brian Walden, LWT

So it will not be too painful, honestly! This is what you said at the Mansion House about public spending: “There is a process of renewal which is spreading throughout the country. You have only to travel to see it. 180 miles of trunk roads being built. Railways being electrified. Tube stations vastly improved. New power stations. £900 million next year to improve the water supply. Hospitals—51 major projects under construction. This is a colossal programme.”

But you said in the past—this sounds much more like you—to the Tory Conference of 1980: “To add to public spending takes away the very money that industry needs to stay in business, let alone expand!”

Now, Prime Minister, which is it? Is public expenditure a thunderingly good thing and lots and lots of colossal [end p27] programmes are required, or is it a bad thing which damages industry? Which way do you want it?

Prime Minister

What you have to do is be careful of the proportion of the nation's income which you take in public spending. It is quite possible to be very firm on public spending as a whole, which we are, and which we will continue to be, and say within that total we have certain priorities.

Now, right at the beginning, I said we have to spend more on defence. We are through that period now. We are going on to a flatter period. We have to spend more on law and order. We are not through that period and I said right at the beginning in the initial manifesto that we would not economise or not cut spending on health, which we have not, and we would keep our pledge to old-age pensioners.

Now, the programme that you have read out—it is interesting to me—that was all in quite a lot of previous programmes, because you have to allocate a certain amount to capital expenditure. That is part of our duty, and you must not dissipate it all in current expenditure. And so what was very interesting to me, seeing the sort of frenetic reaction to that, was they are seeing the power stations being built, Heysham and Torness have been in the programme being built for ages; they have seen the roads being built; they have heard every morning on radio “Look! There is contraflow or whatever they call here, there and everywhere!” because roads are being built. They have seen the hospitals being built and then all of a sudden they said: “Good Heavens!” [end p28] Do you know, I have been trying to get this across at Question Time twice a week for a year.

Brian Walden, LWT

Oh well, cheer up, Prime Minister! I can solve this riddle for you straight away. I will tell you …

Prime Minister

Excellent! Were you surprised!

Brian Walden, LWT

No, I was not.

Prime Minister

Good!

Brian Walden, LWT

I will tell you why you got a tremendous reaction from it, because of course they knew all that was going on, but they never had heard Margaret Thatcher before say that it was a colossal programme and seemed to be immensely proud of it. They thought you were rather agin all this kind of thing. That you were looking around to cut some public expenditure. That is what surprised them.

Prime Minister

I wonder how many times they have heard me say: “Yes, I would like to spend more on capital, but I am not prepared to [end p29] add to the total. Therefore, if we want to spend more on capital, we have to restrict the amount you spend on current!” They have heard that many many times, but you know, you have to say things again and again.

That has been part of our programme, having a reasonable capital programme. It has meant keeping very firm control on current expenditure because we believe in keeping a firm control on the total.

Do you know, one thing did surprise me. You remember not this year, but last year, we had an awful drought, a very hot summer and drought, and some people without water and they had been without water previously. I got absolutely fed up of hearing that the pipes of Britain are crumbling. They are not! They never were! I knew we were keeping up our repairs and maintenance, but that is only good management, and I thought: “Well now! As the standard of living goes up, people want more water. We will just spend more on making certain that the water supplies are safe!” So into the programme went £900 million. How do you finance it? Of course, by charges. Everyone started to complain about water charges and I thought that they would understand after a drought. Well, nevertheless, we still have to keep in quite a lot for water, because as the standard of living goes up people do use a lot more. But I hope that they do not waste it. All of this have been explained, but I have to do it ten times before people hear.

But it is still within overall firm control of the amount of total public spending. Still the prudent old Maggie! [end p30]

Brian Walden, LWT

Is it?

Prime Minister

Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes. Yes, yes, yes.

Brian Walden, LWT

Let me probe the prudent old Maggie a bit from two or three different directions. Actually, I am very interested in the idea of the prudent old Maggie, because I think it has always had a very considerable appeal and one wants to have a look at it, but let me look at something else first.

You said: “Ah yes, of course, you spend money in one area; you have got to be very careful not to be spending it all over the place!” Do I take it then that this colossal programme of regeneration and renewal is going to be matched by some fairly colossal cuts in order to in fact balance it?

Prime Minister

Sorry, I am not with you. This is within the total expenditure on which I have always been very prudent. The main part of renewal and investment comes from the private sector, which is much much bigger than the public sector and as you know, that too is really going very strongly indeed.

Brian Walden, LWT

But you do take my point, don't you, Prime Minister. Let us keep to this colossal renewal, though you choose some other word. A moment or two ago you used the word “reasonable” . If you are going to pop around and say: “Well now look! We have got [end p31] to spend more on this! Got to spend more on that! Capital expenditure. Are the pipes up to snuff? We have got to have money spent on them!” Inevitably, you will end up by spending an enormous amount of money. The only way you can do that is if you look around for cuts, isn't it? You have got to cut certain other things.

Prime Minister

No, as people come in with their programmes I say: “Well now look! You have got such and such a total. You must live within that total and if you want to spend more on this, then you must find reductions on that!” and this, Brian, is the battle we have on public expenditure every single year. Yes, we do, because they are part of a whole programme and of course you decide how much you spend on capital. You must do your maintenance and renewal. That of course is current. You must do your maintenance and then you have your capital, your roads, and actually, our record over the last five or six years Brian is good, because we have always been prudent on this.

Brian Walden, LWT

Yes, and I will tell you one of the reasons why it is good, Prime Minister. This is a very happy picture you give of all these chaps turning up at No. 10 and being told to stick within their programmes, but they do not, do they? They consistently overspend. [end p32]

Prime Minister

The bad year we obviously have when you had your public expenditure going up as a percentage of your national income was the year of recession, because you cannot stop the programmes in the public sector when you get recession. It takes some time to slow them down, and that really was one of the worst years, as you know, when expenditure rose as a proportion of national income. Now you will find that expenditure as a proportion of national income is falling again—and so it should. And, of course, the amount which you borrow is falling. That is also part of our belief.

1981 you will recall, was a very very difficult year. It is strange to me, because I seem to remember having this kind of conversation with you when you were saying: “Ah! But you are helping British Leyland through!” and I said: “Yes, we just have to in a year of recession!” and that public spending was up as a proportion. Yes, it is during a year of recession, but since then we have had four years on the trot of growth. We are going into a fifth year, so public spending as a proportion of national income is now falling and that is the acid test.

Brian Walden, LWT

That is certainly so, Prime Minister, though of course, it is still above the proportion of national income that it was when you came to power in 1979?

Prime Minister

Yes, it is. [end p33]

Brian Walden, LWT

When you said it was in fact appalling and had got to be cut.

Prime Minister

But yes, I indicated then that we went into a recession and that was indeed difficult and you just have to look after people during that recession, and now it is falling as the growth comes, and we have had four years of growth. We are in a fifth year; we expect to go into a sixth year. The proportion is falling, so the policy is working and never never never did I get up—did this government, not just me, the whole cabinet—get up to the proportion of spending taken by government that the last Labour Party had in 1975/76. That was a disgrace. We have never, even in a worse recession, because the 1979/80 recession was on top of the previous one, it was a double oil recession …   . we never never never, through prudence, got to that.

Brian Walden, LWT

Well, you have convinced me. You have not convinced me that you are right. I am not entitled to have a view on that, but you have convinced me that I have got you right and I want to put it back to you …

Prime Minister

Yes I am right, I am right …

Brian Walden, LWT

Hang on! Let me put to you … [end p34]

Prime Minister

Well you hang on a moment!

Brian Walden, LWT

Let me put to you what you are right about. You have convinced me that you are the prudent old Maggie. That you are Thatcher Mark I; both on unemployment and on public spending and all of the rest of it, there has not been this colossal U-turn; that all right, yes, you do choose sometimes to splash the rhetoric about a bit—all politicians do that—

Prime Minister

No, no, just to point to what we are actually doing!

Brian Walden, LWT

All right, but you have not really fundamentally changed at all, have you?

Prime Minister

Quite right.

Brian Walden, LWT

It is the same old stuff, isn't it?

Prime Minister

Same old Maggie!

Brian Walden, LWT

All right. Well then, if it is the same old Maggie, let me put to you what your critics will say on the public spending [end p35] bit, as they will on the unemployment bit. “You see, the old girl cannot stop the overspend. You know what it is like in government. They do not do too badly, but they overspend a lot. They have cooked up another £4 billion this year by fiddling the books. She has has been told by Norman Tebbit and all the smart boys: ‘Look! Don't keep on moaning about it! Take some credit for it! Go and tell them it is marvellous! You are splashing money around like champagne!’ She isn't really. She just says that to win some votes!” Now what do you say to that?

Prime Minister

I am not splashing people's money about like champagne. It is their money, not mine, and their money is the only money we have got to spend, and it is not being splashed around like champagne. Spending it on building new hospitals in a programme is not splashing it round like champagne; nor is spending it on roads to get your goods to and from the ports. It is not. It is being careful with it. It is being prudent with it.

What does make sense is to say people have accused us of all sort of cuts when in fact we have been spending money very very prudently indeed and well, and they do not like it, that we are spending it well.

Look! You asked me about cuts. I will tell you one cut we have had. Do you know, we have about 100,000 fewer civil servants now and that has saved us £750 million, so that money is free to be spent on capital. That is one example. There have been others as well. [end p36]

Brian Walden, LWT

Or to be spent on tax cuts!

Prime Minister

I am not. You say she is doing it just to win votes. No. What I am doing is to try to present our case. It is a good case. It is a measured case. It is a case of using people's money well and at the same time saying … we cannot take any more … people must have incentives, which is what I said earlier. And do not forget, 41%; of the tax we take from people, income tax, comes from people below average incomes. We have a duty to them to spend what we are spending well and to say it is their turn to have more of their own money. Norman TebbitNorman has never said to me what you suggest. I do not think he would. I say: “Look! First get the policies right!” I never believe this, politics is all about public relations. It is not. First get the policies right. We have got them right. But then you have to market them. Yes we are now trying to market them and I hope we are doing it well, but we are not changing the policies because we believe the policies are right.

Brian Walden, LWT

That is clear, that is clear, that you are not changing the policies. You have convinced me about that. Let me ask you about this presentation. I understand what you mean, that you do have to market policies. May you not in this virtuous exercise perhaps have gone a bit too far and all this stuff about colossal programmes and all the rest of it has had an unfortunate effect, it has touched off an unjustified feeling, as you keep insisting, that you are now going to spend an enormous amount of [end p37] money to try and win the next election that way? Might you not have overdone it a bit?

Prime Minister

No. If you are seeing roads now, if you are seeing power stations going up now, if you are seeing hospitals going up now, then you have only got to use a bit of common to know they were in previous programmes. That programme when you said I was Maggie Mark I, which I still am. You are now seeing the results.

Brian Walden, LWT

But does the old Maggie need marketing do you see? The old Maggie was a tough old bird who got through by being right. Does she need marketing?

Prime Minister

I don't know. I don't know.

Brian Walden, LWT

Well you said she did. You said: “I have got to market it!” Why? Why can't you be what you always were?

Prime Minister

Am I not putting across my case now? I hope I am. Because there is not much point in holding your light under a bushel, is there? There is much point in saying that after all, if a company has got a marvellous product it is no good unless I know about it, is it? They will not sell it. So taking that analogy, if I am doing very well, then I hope people are seeing, but I think too that you have to point one or two things out to them. [end p38]

But just let me say. You think I am a big spender. I am not a big spender. You know, if I am a big spender, we would be having to borrow like mad now. We have been very prudent. I just have a deeply ingrained belief that you are very careful about the amount you borrow, and even if you add the amount we are getting from privatisation—and privatisation stands on its own, governments are no good at running businesses—even if you add that to the borrowing, it is still a very conservative policy, very conservative.

Brian Walden, LWT

So you say, Prime Minister, but you see, it isn't only me and it is not only your opponents who think that there is something funny about this. Let me read you this from the “Daily Telegraph” , the house journal of your party.

Prime Minister

No, no, no. I do not think they would like to be called that.

Brian Walden, LWT

No, that is what I call them. No, they are a very great newspaper, but they are a Conservative paper, and they say: “What is depressing about the Autumn Statement” —that is the one you have had this week— “is the continuation of dodgy accounting and electoral cynicism!” They think so too, you see! Dodgy accounting and electoral cynicism. [end p39]

Prime Minister

I had some people in the other day and just pointed out one or two things to them. Now, this year, public sector borrowing requirement—what we are borrowing—will be of the order of £8 billion. If you add to that what we are getting from privatisation, it will be about £10½ billion. That is still very very prudent indeed. Do you know what Labour were borrowing at their peak, translated into modern terms? £33 billion.

Brian Walden, LWT

All right, Prime Minister.

Prime Minister

I am still prudent! Still prudent!

INTERVIEWER

All right! You are still the prudent old Maggie.

Prime Minister

That's right!

Brian Walden, LWT

Regrettably, we must call it to an end here. Thank you very much, Prime Minister!

Prime Minister

Thank you very much! Thank you!