Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

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

1986 Feb 17 Mo
Margaret Thatcher

TV Interview for BBC1 Panorama

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Document kind: TV Interview
Venue: No.10 Downing Street
Source: Thatcher Archive: COI transcript
Journalist: David Dimbleby, BBC
Editorial comments: The interview began at 2130 and was broadcast live.
Importance ranking: Key
Word count: 7609
Themes: Executive, Executive (appointments), Conservatism, Employment, Industry, By-elections, Privatized & state industries, Pay, Public spending & borrowing, Taxation, European Union (general), Foreign policy (USA), Labour Party & socialism, Law & order, Liberal & Social Democratic Parties, Leadership, Society, Social security & welfare, Trade union law reform, Strikes & other union action, Women, Famous statements by MT (discussions of)

David Dimbleby

Prime Minister, all prime ministers go through difficult patches. Were there ever moments, during the political battering that you have taken these past weeks, when you thought that perhaps you would not get through?

Prime Minister

No, I do not think so. I thought our policy would prevail in the end. The policy, as you know, was: “It is a matter for Westlands Board and Westland shareholders to determine their own future!” and that is the policy that did prevail.

David Dimbleby

You said in the House of Commons that there were a number of matters in the whole business that could have been handled better. When you said that, were you thinking of the way other people did things, or were you also talking about yourself? [end p1]

Prime Minister

I was thinking really that it is very very difficult if you give Michael Heseltineone Minister authority to go and help to put a European bid together—it is very difficult for him then to detach himself and be absolutely even-handed as between the two bids—and I think, on reflection, it would have been better if we had not done that.

David Dimbleby

So you would have done what exactly?

Prime Minister

It would have been for the European companies themselves to put themselves together. You will recall that Sir John Cuckney had already had conversations with them, but I think it was quite a lot to give him authority to put a bid together and then say: “But it is up to Westland shareholders to choose and we show no preference!”

David Dimbleby

So you did actually say to Mr. Heseltine that he could go away and see what he could do?

Prime Minister

When we had the Economic Committee of the Cabinet, we withheld the decision on the National Armament Directors' recommendations until he had seen whether he could put a bid together or explore the possibility, I think, was the official thing. [end p2]

David Dimbleby

You also said some people would allege that prime ministerial power was not sufficiently in evidence during that period. Is that what you mean by that, or is there something else you were getting at?

Prime Minister

No, that is just not so because, of course, you will remember that we had two previous meetings before that and there was a good deal of difference of opinion and, in fact, at the second one, the view which I took actually held the majority, but I really felt that we could not rely upon that; we had to go to a full Economic Committee of Cabinet to make the decision, and we did.

David Dimbleby

I suppose what people are surprised at is that with your reputation for straight speaking and straightforwardness, you did not knock Leon Brittan and Michael Heseltine's head together at some point and say: “Listen! We cannot have this going on in Cabinet! It is ridiculous! You have got to stop!”

Prime Minister

Well, we made several efforts to restore collective responsibility and indeed, you will remember that on the Thursday afternoon after Cabinet on December 19, I reasserted it once again. But somehow, because of this other emotional thing, it was extremely difficult; and then, as you know, we [end p3] went into recess and had a very very difficult time, and we had to restore collective responsibility on January 9—not merely as a principle, but say: “Look! All right! We agree the principle; it is how it is applied that matters and because it is very sensitive because Westland is near to making a decision, we really must keep out!” and that, unfortunately, was when Michael Heseltine resigned.

But you know, you said should I have asserted authority earlier. One tried to by agreement. I think what you are really saying is should I have said to Michael Heseltine “Either you are even-handed or else you go!”. I think that I would have been bitterly and deeply accused then of being anti-European. It was not true, but that is how it would have looked, and so I think we were right to carry on as we did.

David Dimbleby

So as the captain of the team, so to speak, you could not sack a person who was not playing as part of a team for fear that people would think you were anti-European?

Prime Minister

I could have done. I do not think it would have been the wise thing to do. [end p4]

David Dimbleby

Of course, you not only lost Michael Heseltine; you lost Leon Brittan through that crisis, and I would just like to ask you about that.

You said in the House of Commons, I think, that you knew nothing about Leon Brittan's own role until you received the Report of the Inquiry 16 days after that famous leak. Did you mean by that you knew nothing at all about his involvement?

Prime Minister

I did not know his involvement in the authorisation and he confirmed that, as you know. He confirmed that everything that I had said was correct. Incidentally, you referred to it as a crisis. It was not a crisis of the kind that the Falklands was or of the kind that the Coal Strike was—that was a crisis. Those both were crises. This was not a crisis in any sense, save that we had two ministerial resignations. Indeed, I think people outside just did not understand why it was such an enormous issue, when it was really a comparatively small company and a straightforward issue.

David Dimbleby

Perhaps it was because they thought you were oddly not appearing to be very straightforward about it. That you were not able to call your Cabinet to heel; that you were using letters from the Solicitor General to undermine arguments put by other people. [end p5]

Prime Minister

Well, you do not call Cabinet Ministers to heel. You discuss matters in Cabinet, which we did; you discuss them in Economic Committee of the Cabinet. You say: “Now look! We have got to act together!” and one many many times at Question Time said over and over again: “It is for the board and shareholders of Westlands to determine their own future. They are a British company; they are going to continue to be a British company in Yeovil with British people working for them!” but there was, I think, the European involvement, which somehow could not be taken on Michael's part as being non-preferential about it.

David Dimbleby

He was too passionate about it?

Prime Minister

I think so. I think he became too personally involved in that particular solution. So be it!

David Dimbleby

What people, I think, find hard to credit—again knowing you, knowing your character or at least I do not know your character but as the outside world perceives it—that when that leak was on the front page of all the papers, that you did not blow your top, open your door, go into the next office and say: “What on earth is going on here? Here is the Solicitor General's letter that has been leaked to the press! Who did it? What happened? I wish to know!” [end p6]

Prime Minister

Well, very very quickly, as you will recall, Sir Michael Haversthe Attorney General came round to see Sir Robert Armstrongthe Cabinet Secretary and said: “Look! What has happened?” wanting an inquiry. Now, had I then gone and looked and said: “Look, I really want to see everyone!” with an inquiry in prospect, I think I should soon have been criticised.

David Dimbleby

But two or three days passed before you got the sort of formal request for an Inquiry! On the 10th.

Prime Minister

I think it was on January 7th that the Attorney came round—that there was an inquiry from the Attorney's office to the Cabinet Secretary about it.

David Dimbleby

But didn't you, on the 6th, on the very day it happened, on the 7th, want to ring up Mr. Brittan and say: “Look here! Whatever is going on? This has gone too far!”?

Prime Minister

No. It is difficult for other people to understand. We had our eyes on other things. That week we had a crime prevention seminar; I was very much concerned with how things were going and to reassert collective responsibility on the Thursday of that week. We had had the Roskill Report on the City. [end p7] We were preparing a Rates Green Paper and we were trying to get that through; and we just did not necessarily have quite so much concentration on that particular matter of Sir Patrick Mayhewthe Solicitor-General's letter as you thought. I was much much more concerned to reassert collective responsibility on the Thursday, to get the Rates Green Paper through, and to get other policy matters underway.

David Dimbleby

Looking back, you say people have perhaps exaggerated it. You did not actually see it as a serious enough matter for Mr. Brittan to resign, even, did you?

Prime Minister

No, I did not. I thought it was a tragedy. I thought both resignations were a tragedy. It is not a large company. The decision was for Westlands. Just look at it! Not a large company; the decision is for Westlands; and the Minister of Defence is a customer—a customer to many companies. Why in the world is that a resigning matter? It is not really, and it was a tragedy.

David Dimbleby

That is for Heseltine, but the issue of leaking the Solicitor-General's letter did obviously, with hindsight, cause trouble. [end p8]

Prime Minister

That should not have occurred. That should not have occurred. It should not have occurred. The information should have been put out in a much more direct and better way.

David Dimbleby

But not a resigning matter in your view?

Prime Minister

Oh no, I do not think so.

David Dimbleby

One other thing. Given the turmoil, given the publicity that attached to it all, was there a moment when you ever thought that you might consider resigning?

Prime Minister

No. I hope that we throughout were keeping the matter in perspective. Again, let me repeat: the policy prevailed. The policy that I set out, that the Cabinet set out right at the beginning, that this is a matter for the future of Westlands Company to be determined by board and shareholders—that was the policy which was carried out.

David Dimbleby

What effect do you think it has all had on your personal authority as Prime Minister? [end p9]

Prime Minister

Not a great deal. I think had I handled it differently, had I just called in Michael Heseltine and said: “Look, you go unless!” then it would have been much much more difficult than, as events have happened, it has turned out to be.

I do not think that it has had, in the long term, very much effect.

David Dimbleby

Do you think the Government has been weakened by the loss of those two people? Some people say you are running rather short now of ministers of Cabinet rank.

Prime Minister

No, we are not running short. Goodness me, there are loads of people who could come in and who will come up and have the opportunity in their turn.

David Dimbleby

As you know, one of the things much said, admittedly by anonymous Cabinet Ministers quoted in the newspapers, was that one of the results was going to be the restoration of what they saw as Cabinet Government. Their complaint had been, again as you know, in the papers often said that you rather run things with little groups of Ministers; you tend not to bring things to Cabinet, and now that was all going to change. Is there any truth in that? [end p10]

Prime Minister

I do not see anything changing very much. I had had, as you do have when you have sensitive commercial matters on a particular company, you tend to get together only the Ministers who need to know, because they are commercially sensitive and you do not go more widely. We had two meetings on that matter in that way, and on the second one, as I indicated, there was a majority against Michael Heseltinethe Secretary of State for Defence and some others. It was I who, as I indicated, actually took the matter to the Economic Committee of the Cabinet, because I said this is so important we must have it decided in the proper Cabinet structure. I took it there. But many many things have to be decided in Committees of Cabinet.

The idea that you could run things competently by having everything to Cabinet is nonsense! There are 21 members of Cabinet. On one issue, if they all speak two minutes, that is 42 minutes. It is absolutely ridiculous that you can do things that way. Most things are done in Cabinet Committee and then they are reported to the Cabinet. Some things where there are questions which people wish again to come to Cabinet, then they come to Cabinet, but they come with proper papers, with proper notice and proper discussion—not just by raising without those matters. It is fully laid down, the procedure, and that is the procedure that we follow.

But often, we report from Cabinet Committees to Cabinet, so that people know precisely what has been decided. I am not on two Cabinet Committees, but I do not kick up a terrible fuss about it. I read the Minutes. [end p11]

David Dimbleby

Do you kick up a fuss when meetings are cancelled at short notice?

Prime Minister

Meetings. There was need to have a meeting and no meeting was arranged. We were on, as you know, automatic pilot. If certain things happened, certain things followed.

David Dimbleby

So Mrs. Thatcher, do you stand by that famous remark you made before you came into office that “as Prime Minister, I could not waste time having internal arguments!”? That is still how you are going to run Cabinet?

Prime Minister

We have discussion. We have internal discussion, very very lively discussion. That is the way I work, because we always talk things through. We never never never come to a conclusion without having all views represented and discussed and that is one reason why you have it in Cabinet Committee. That is the way I work and that is the way we reach our conclusions.

David Dimbleby

Of course, one of the examples that has been cited since Westland—let us leave that now behind—is the decision about Ford taking over Austin Rover. Now that was hailed as an example of the new Cabinet Government, because here were talks that had [end p12] been presumably … you knew about … had been agreed to taking place between Ford and Austin Rover … became public, and at the next Cabinet, the discussions were stopped. There was to be no more discussion; it was not to go ahead, even though the talks were only in the early stages.

Now that is cited as an example of Cabinet Government being restored over Prime Ministerial Government.

Prime Minister

Well, we meet every Thursday and if things come up very very quickly, we will of course have a discussion about them. It was absolutely vital then that talks would not have had a chance under those circumstances.

David Dimbleby

Why not?

Prime Minister

No, they just would not. There was far too much emotion. It is very difficult to carry on commercial talks against a background of emotion. It was running immensely highly.

David Dimbleby

Anti-American hostility do you mean?

Prime Minister

There was a certain amount of that which bothered me a [end p13] great deal, because after all, all Ministers go over to the States and say: “Please, look! Will you come and invest in our part of the country, because we want more jobs, more jobs in Britain?” It was part of the argument, when we went into the Common Market: “Look, we go into the Common Market, American companies will set up in Britain rather than in France and Germany!” They have provided a lot of jobs.

David Dimbleby

…   . stop?

Prime Minister

I think just because in the wake of Westlands there were very strong emotions; also, I think there was the fact that General Motors, the discussions had gone very much further on part of British Leyland—it was not the one thing, it was the two, and so as far as Austin Rover was concerned, those talks had scarcely got anywhere.

David Dimbleby

Was it a mistake then, do you think, to have dropped them and would they be revivable now?

Prime Minister

I think it would have been better had we gone on to discuss it in an atmosphere of reason and common sense. That was not there. You know the problem. The problem is that Austin Rover— [end p14] indeed the whole of British Leyland—is very much better than it used to be, but Austin Rover, which is the thing in particular there, yes it has done much much better, but it only has 4%; of the European car market, and it ought to be in the league with the big boys—the big boys like General Motors, the big boys like Ford, like Renault, like Volkswagen, like Fiat. They all have 10 to 12%; of the market and it is very difficult to compete as a mass car producer when you have only got 4%; of the market, and all of the other boys have got 12%;. So that is something which one has to consider if you are really passionately keen, as most of us are, to have cars made here, to have a mass car manufacturer, that is a very great bother. At the moment they are cooperating with Honda but of course they still only at the moment have got 4%; of the market and of course there are still losses in British Leyland which the tax-payer is either having to guarantee or pick up.

David Dimbleby

There are people who for patriotic reasons still buy British Leyland cars in preference to other cars, because they believe they are British-made cars, and I wonder whether you think that it is desirable anyway to keep them British for that reason.

Prime Minister

Look! No-one wants more than I do for British Leyland to get more than 4%; of the European market, to be able to stand on its own two feet, and not to have to come to the tax-payer and [end p15] not to have to come to the Government to guarantee every pound that it borrows, and do you know, in that respect, those people who want it to stay absolutely British … I want it to be successful;

I want it to be producing here and to be successful.

David Dimbleby

Successful before British?

Prime Minister

If you want an assured future, you have got to be successful. If you want an assured future for the people who are working in it, you have got to be successful. 4%; compared with others who take 10 to 12%; of the market is a matter of considerable concern and if everyone now … all right, if they bought more British Leyland or if they said: “Right, let us make an offer for the whole of British Leyland as an entity!” or “Let us make an offer for Austin Rover!” Really, an ounce of offer would be worth a ton of talk!

David Dimbleby

Just one last point on Land Rover. There has been a lot of talk just today, yesterday, about Land Rover going the way Jaguar did and remaining in British hands. The Secretary of State for Trade and Industry has said the talks are very close to completion with General Motors. Would you, even at this late stage, reconsider the Land Rover decision and perhaps keep Land Rover … It is a famous mark in British … in British hands? [end p16]

Prime Minister

I think we are anxious to get a goodly amount of British Leyland privatised. As you know, the companies that have been privatised often have taken on a new lease of life, have taken much more responsibility for their own products, have somehow done better marketing, better production, more efficient production, and they are flourishing. So much as we would want to apply that to British Leyland, and I think we would like the whole lot to be privatised because we believe it would have a much better chance. It does not then have to come to Government for capital development and for decisions and Government should not make them.

David Dimbleby

But would you set up Land Rover separately?

Prime Minister

Well, I think we are much more concerned to ensure that a larger part of British Leyland than just Land Rover …

David Dimbleby

So Land Rover is not the sweetener that people say it is … Americans?

Prime Minister

Well one moment! I think we want to float a rather larger amount of British Leyland and I think if we have the chance to do that it would help not only the Land Rover freight …   . because you know they could have a much bigger market than they have. It is [end p17] heartbreaking to go to the Middle East and see the Japanese substitute for Land Rover because we have not been able to make enough. It is heartbreaking that we have not got a big market in America, but also we do want to look after Leyland Trucks and Buses. They too are important. We must not forget them.

David Dimbleby

Prime Minister, you have often said in television interviews, in press interviews, you have talked about the successes of the British economy at the moment, of the rate of growth, of the rate of investment and all the rest of it. You have also talked about the rate of unemployment which as everybody knows is now at a record high. Do you think there is anything more the Government can do—the Government itself positively do now to bring down the rate of unemployment? Extra to what it is doing?

Prime Minister

I think we have got the right approach to bringing it down in the long run. There are a number of things.

At the moment, as you know, we are producing more jobs than any other country in Europe—700,000 since 1983. That really is very very good, 700,000 new jobs. It is an excellent record. Neither Germany nor France nor Italy can rival it, and naturally, if that goes on then that is the way in which unemployment will be brought down. And they are genuine jobs. They are really creating the wealth of the country. But we cannot just wait for that. That is why we have such a big training programme for our young [end p18] people and why for people who have been unemployed for some time and really are getting demoralised we have what is called a Community Programme to get them back into the habit of work and get them back with some pride and respect for their talents.

We had a go in the last Budget at stepping up those programmes, but in the end, we simply have got to get more creation of wealth by people taking advantage of the opportunities to create more products that there are.

David Dimbleby

You mentioned several points and they are all important ones.

Prime Minister

Yes, there are lots more.

David Dimbleby

I would like to take those one by one. The first one on jobs. You have often talked about the 700,000 jobs. In fact, the vast majority, as you know, of those jobs, are not full-time jobs like the ones that were lost, but part-time jobs. You would not want to equate them with the jobs that have been lost. I mean, it is not as good to have a part-time as a full-time job.

Prime Minister

No, no, but there is nothing wrong with part-time jobs and let us face it, many many women want part-time jobs. It suits them. It suits the way in which they run their families. [end p19] They want to get home sometimes when their children are there, to be there when they come home from school. A part-time job suits them. It can raise the standard of living of a family, so please do not denigrate part-time jobs. A lot of the others are for self-employed and self-employment has gone down in this country …   .

David Dimbleby

It is not that. I am not denigrating it. Of course, it is very important but from your point of view, from the country's point of view, when you have got unemployment at 3,400,000 odd, it is not enough is it, or is it all we can hope for, to look at the figures of part-time employment and say: “Look, it is getting better. Do not worry, it is going to get better!”?

Prime Minister

No, it is not enough. But look, inward investment we were talking about a moment ago, has created 100,000 jobs. That is very good. And then the new electronics industries, some inward investment, some our own investment, have created a tremendous number of jobs that did not exist before. So new jobs are being created the whole time. Old ones are going out. I think some people look at the unemployment figure as if it were a static figure. It is not you know. 350,000 to 400,000 people get new jobs every month. Some come on the register, some go off and get new jobs, so it is not a static figure. What I am saying is that in the end the only way we get more new jobs are by people setting up more new business or expanding it and selling new products, and there is [end p20] not another way, and we are doing really quite well at that.

David Dimbleby

But I will come to you about one proposal for another way in just a minute, but before we leave investment and jobs and manufacturing industry, given all the improvements that there are showing, those businesses that are at work and those people who are at work, is it a major worry for you that on the manufacturing side output is still below what it was in '79, investment is way below what it was in 1979? Are you in other words, concerned about what some people think of as the great sort of motor of the British economy—that is our manufacturing output—or do you think that is a wrong concern?

Prime Minister

No, no, I do not think it is a wrong concern at all. You want a very strong manufacturing sector. At the moment, it is not back to where it was in 1979 but what we have got is much much more flourishing than it was in 1979. In 1979, we had overmanned industries, full of restrictive practices. In fact, we had a lot of hidden unemployment. The steel industry had not been tackled. We have tackled it. The coal industry had not been tackled. The coal industry, incidentally, is not manufacturing. Oil is not manufacturing, but they are industrial, and although, as you say, we are not back to the volume we were in 1979, they are much much more efficient and they are doing well.

For example, last year the manufacturing industry had an [end p21] all-time export record. That is not bad. They are doing well but they are efficient, they are flourishing. You have got a good base from which to expand. Not those overmanned, restrictive practices, with hidden unemployment, with governments running away from tackling the real problems. They are being tackled.

David Dimbleby

Are they not now though in danger of slipping again in terms of their competitiveness, because of the wage increases that have been taken? Our competitive position against other countries, as you have complained and other people have pointed out, is already being eroded by the wage increases and salary increases that we are taking.

Prime Minister

I believe that is so. It is not a thing which Government can do anything about, except to warn and point out that if we go on like that, it is the Germans and the Japanese who will get the orders and the jobs.

David Dimbleby

Would you think of having a freeze?

Prime Minister

No, I would not think of having a freeze. I will tell you what happens if you have a freeze. Immediately after a freeze, you get wage increases coming in and bumping up. We have not done [end p22] that. I notice you leant forward as if it was a catch question.

David Dimbleby

No, no, no, it was not meant to be a catch question. I was just trying to get it in.

Prime Minister

I would not have a freeze, no, because I believe we have got now responsible management with influence, we are getting workforces working with management. It is their business; it is their industry, and I believe in a system which says to people: “You are responsible. You must be presumed to intend the consequences of your own action! Management must say if they are giving wages that are too high!” But you must look at wages in relation to something. It is not just wages. It is wages in relation to what they produce and management will say if they are doing well and if productivity is going up very fast, then obviously those people who work in a company must see the benefit. Some do it on wages, some do it on profit-sharing.

David Dimbleby

Can we just come back to the people who are unemployed and the large numbers who have been unemployed for more than a year? There have been proposals from a Commons Committee on Employment and from the CBI, Sir Terence Beckett just today, suggesting that when the Budget comes, if there is some money available, do not spend it on tax cuts, spend it on jobs of a sort for people who [end p23] are already receiving unemployment benefit, so it is not going to cost you the whole amount, on rebuilding houses, on city centres, on land reclamation, on a whole range of public work for people that you think needs to be done; in purely sort of social terms for the good of the country, is that something that you would consider or do you think it is nonsense to do that?

Prime Minister

We do some what are called special employment measures, as you know. We have a special programme for the long-term unemployed, the Community Programme, to give them the respect of getting back into work, and we have had a pretty good capital programme. I pointed that out, if you recall, at the Lord Mayor's Banquet, and people were amazed at what we have done. We have really tackled it.

Roads. I think it is an enormous number of roads …   . 530 miles of new roads have been built during our time. Far more houses have been renovated. We are tackling the Heathrow Terminal 4. We are tackling Stansted. We are actually going to, through the private sector, tackle Channel Tunnel. There is a fantastic amount. 150 hospitals built or under construction.

David Dimbleby

But all governments are doing this.

Prime Minister

Can I come to your question now? [end p24]

David Dimbleby

Yes please!

Prime Minister

But I did not want you to get away with the fact that we have not been doing a lot. We have, and we are training.

Now you say if there is any money available, do you put it to more public works? Let me put an alternative view to you.

A lot of those people who come and put that view to me, I say to them straightaway: “Tell me! Are you in the top half of income earners or the bottom half?” and they are all very well in the top half, very well in the top half.

David Dimbleby

What happens to people in the lower half?

Prime Minister

One moment. And we have done quite well by people in the top half, which is right, because you have to reward success.

I do not know that politicians are entitled to take the money that should go to tax relief on the people in the bottom half. I feel very strongly about this. I can remember A. P. Herbert saying: “Don't say Chancellors are going to give. They have money to give away! It is not their money, it belongs to people!” I have quoted the nurse and the teacher many many times. A nurse on £140 a week gross pays £40 a week in a mixture of tax and national insurance contributions and it is too much, and so I [end p25] say to some of those people: “Don't you think that those people in the bottom half have some right to be considered, that their money shall be given back to them and not spent?” Because when they have their money they too can spend it and in spending it create jobs.

David Dimbleby

I see that, I see that, but it does not get away from the choice you have to make as a government which is that of course … and we know the tax burden has gone up under your government in fact, not that you wanted it to, but it has gone up …

Prime Minister

You are talking about the total tax burden, you are not talking about the income tax burden.

David Dimbleby

… national insurance to the tax cuts it has not altered very much in fact, has it?

Prime Minister

But you do not add national insurance to the tax cuts, because national insurance is an insurance, it is not a tax.

David Dimbleby

Prime Minister, you cannot believe people who pay it do not feel it is money out of their pockets. [end p26]

Prime Minister

Well yes, of course it is, but on income tax we have taken down the income tax and raised the threshold. What I cannot let you get away with is the idea that public expenditure creates jobs, even though that public expenditure is taken away from people who would spend the money which would also create jobs.

David Dimbleby

And you would rather do it that way?

Prime Minister

I feel that we owe quite a debt to the people who are in the bottom half. We have taken, in my view, too high a proportion of their income in tax and, of course, that has a very very serious effect upon them. Yes, we have done, and shall continue to do special employment measures. Yes, we have done, and will continue to do capital investment on a big scale and in the private sector as well. But people in the bottom half, they have a right to think “This Government knows that it is our money!”

David Dimbleby

The other people, of course, you might say are in the bottom tenth, the people who really have been out of work for a very long time and perhaps …

Prime Minister

Yes, we have had a special measure which we have been [end p27] considering for them. You know what it is. If people take lower-paid jobs, because you know the problems sometimes is that some people can get more on Social Security than they can in lower-paid jobs and that means a lot of lower-paid jobs are stillborn, and it is a great worry, and of course it concerns thresholds as well. So we have been trying an experiment that if people take one of the lower-paid jobs, I think it is a job below about £75 a week, they will get £20 paid to them, to try to persuade them to take those jobs and, of course, in our new Social Security, if they have got families they would get family credit to bring them up. We are trying to do everything to persuade people to take some of the lower-paid jobs and then give them family credits to bring them up or family income supplement, or something to get them back to the respectability and the sort of pride of keeping your own family by doing your own job.

David Dimbleby

You know that this is a critical point for the Government. I wonder what weight you attach to something that one of your Cabinet Ministers, Peter Walker, said a week-end ago, which was that the electorate gave the Government the benefit of the doubt on tackling unemployment at the last election, but will not do so again. Now, do you think that is how the electorate will see it; if you have not managed to get unemployment figures down, that will override … [end p28]

Prime Minister

No, I do not. First, we are getting job creation up, as I have already indicated. Secondly, I think if they look at the figures, they will find that the proportion of our population of working age in work is greater than that in Germany, greater than that in France, greater than that in Italy, and I think they know in their heart of hearts the only way in the long term to create jobs is to create the conditions under which new businesses can start and flourish, and that is what we are doing, and I think people have far more commonsense about that. You know, we have to compete in the markets of the world. We will only compete by producing better goods, getting back to British is best, best in competitiveness, best in design. They know, we know, and also, there is one more thing I should mention. We have been through ten years now and we are still in that ten years, and there are far more school-leavers than there are people retiring, so there are 1½ million more people in the population of working age now than when I came in. That turns turtle in the early 1990s. Then we will have much fewer school-leavers, more people retiring, so with the job creation that is going on there is hope that we shall … the demographic, the school-leavers and the retiring people, working with us.

David Dimbleby

Are you concerned—just look at society more generally, not jobs particularly, although I think that is perhaps part of it—are you concerned that when people look back on the Thatcher years, they will say there was a bad side, we have bad memories as well as [end p29] good memories to set alongside it and memories of rising crime, memories of violence on picket lines, memories of disruption in schools, the very opposite of the kind of virtues that Thatcherism was meant to stand for?

Prime Minister

I think that they know some of those things are the price we had to pay for halting the decline into which Britain had fallen. Remember the circumstances under which we took over. As I said, industries overmanned, full of restrictive practices; the trade unions had practically taken over Britain. The opinion polls, which I used to look on this particular factor, said they thought the trade union leaders had more power than the government. You had strikes. You had the Winter of Discontent. You had a government unprepared to tackle the industrial problems. “Let it continue!” They did not like to make the unpopular difficult decision, so we were in decline. Britain was defeatist. It was becoming ungovernable.

Yes we had to tackle those. Steel is now in profit. We are tackling coal. We had to alter the trade union legislation. We did. It has brought about a transformation and we did it by putting back faith in the ordinary trade union member and not in their trade union bosses, because we were not going to have the ordinary trade union members shoved around by some of their bosses who wanted power to them and not to their members. I could go on. … transformation and we had to go through that coal strike. It was not our fault that many of the striking miners, the picket [end p30] lines were against the working miners, not against government. I think people realise that had to be gone through.

David Dimbleby

Do you also blame the rise of crime though and the chaos in schools, which I suppose some people would say is also to do with young people not expecting to get a job, would you say that was also part of the …   .

Prime Minister

The rise in crime is a worldwide phenomenon and very worrying it is indeed. It is partly the breakdown or the lesser influence of the other institutions, not governments; the other institutions: the church no longer seems to have quite so much influence upon these very great matters. The family not quite so much influence; the schools not teaching so much our heritage and what is right and what is wrong, and when those things break down, then you do get the kind of situation that you have got and people turn to government and expect government to do too much.

David Dimbleby

Can government do anything about it?

Prime Minister

Government has done a very great deal. Government has restored faith in the police force, more numbers, better training. But I was very interested even reading an article I think just this [end p31] week-end in one of the Sunday Supplements on cruelty to children, which is one of the worst things, and someone there said: “You cannot just wait for the bobby on the beat. We have all got to be involved!” You hear the cry of a frightened child, neighbours, families, everyone, schools, have got to be involved. The issues are too important, and so now we are getting more people involved. You only tackle these things by getting everyone involved and reasserting what is right and what is wrong, having it taught in the schools what is right and what is wrong, and having people in public life and throughout every part of our life saying that this matters.

David Dimbleby

We are coming towards the end, Prime Minister, and so I just want to ask you about the future as you see it. Are you going to be putting forward the same vision of Britain's future that you put forward before you were elected Leader of the Party, when you were Prime Minister in 1979, when it comes to the next election, if indeed you are leading the Party then?

Prime Minister

Yes, very much so. Let me just run through it. Yes, trade union law has been reformed. It took the government which I am proud to lead to do it. Inflation has been kept under control and has to go down further. Throughout all of the problems we have had, everyone knows that this government will run the finances of the nation in a sound way. No financial crisis under the Tories. [end p32] We got through the Falklands, we got through the Coal Strike, not by overborrowing, by running things so there is a margin. What I would call popular capitalism. Do you know, more blue collar workers own their own homes than ever before; more young people. More people have the chance of owning shares; more people I hope have a chance of savings and the savings keeping their value. This is caring capitalism. This is giving people the resources to care for their own families and the resources themselves to do something for the community … They cannot do it without their own resources. Caring is not spending money you have not got. It is spending money you have earned and being allowed to keep it, and we are producing more than ever before across the economy as a whole and Britain can walk tall abroad.

David Dimbleby

Do you believe the question mark over whether you will lead the Party at the next election has now been removed?

Prime Minister

I hope so. I never had any question in my own mind, but let me be perfectly clear. We were elected to do the difficult things. Yes, we were elected to take some very tough decisions. Yes, people know that mid-term popularity does sink. When you come to an election they still want a government which knows the direction in which it is going, which honours initiative, which does not want Britain to be defeatist but wants Britain to take pride in our achievements because we have in fact got a system [end p33] which enables them to take advantage of the opportunities and which produces business which can compete the world over and which has a legal system and justice which still we took the world over and still is highly honoured.

David Dimbleby

Honoured on a more prosaic level. If there were bad by-election results, bad local election results, do you think there still might be a challenge to your leadership of the Conservative Party by people who feel that they will not, for whatever reason, win with you?

Prime Minister

We lost Crosby between 1979 and 1983. We won it back. Yes, we have had bad by-election results before, in mid-term people know full well. They are not going to change the government by what they do. I hope we do not have bad by-election results. I hope we have people saying: “Look! They know where they are going. She will not veer to the right or left. She will go steadily forward. So will a Tory Government.” We set our course. It is the right course for Britain. So many other governments are following it, but it is a course to make Britain proud because her people take advantage of their opportunities. They do not just put up placards to government saying “More for us”. They say: “We have a responsibility by our own efforts, for our own future and for our neighbours and for our community” [end p34]

David Dimbleby

If somebody were to challenge you, and I know you would accept that in the Conservative Party there is now an absolute right to challenge the leadership if anyone wants to, would you fight?

Prime Minister

Well if they do, so be it. So be it. I shall fight, yes, because I believe that we have in fact done things which no other government dared to tackle and I believe that we can go on tackling those things, and I believe that we can take Britain through to the pre-eminence and pride which I believe is hers by right and certainly will be hers and should be hers by her own efforts.

David Dimbleby

The polls are suggesting at the moment very much a three-way split and I notice Mr. Biffen saying that the Tory Party should resist a sharpening of political conflict, that Toryism should not be raucous. Do you agree with that view of how to conduct …   .

Prime Minister

Toryism is not raucous. Toryism is reasonable. We must put our case. We must show up the shortcomings of the case of the Opposition. I do not believe that Britain is for Socialism or that Socialism is for Britain. They would take us down the East European road. That is not for Britain. They want power over people, not power to people to live their own lives.

I do not believe very much in the Liberal Party or the [end p35] Alliance. They try to be all things to all people. I believe they are wishy-washy. You do not get clear policy direction by being wishy-washy or trying to be popular or saying different things in different constituencies. You say: “This is right for Britain! This is the way we go!” Have I made myself clear?

David Dimbleby

You once said, Mrs. Thatcher, that in politics it was easier to walk up than down and much more difficult to walk down gracefully. How would you know when the moment had come to walk down?

Prime Minister

Well, I am still walking up and there is quite an uphill way and I intend to walk it up quite a long way.

David Dimbleby

Prime Minister, thank you very much.

Prime Minister

Thank you.