Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

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

1986 Apr 17 Th
Margaret Thatcher

Interview for Parade magazine

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Venue: No.10 Downing Street
Source: Thatcher Archive: COI transcript
Journalist: Prince Michael of Greece for Parade magazine
Editorial comments: 1730-1815. Parade had a distribution of 60 million or so in the US, distributed as a weekend supplement to a range of prominent papers. Transcript of an interview given to H.R.H. Prince Michael of Greece, originally published in Parade on 13 July 1986. Questions have been paraphrased for reason of copyright; the full text is available on the Oxford CD-ROM.
Importance ranking: Minor
Word count: 4225
Themes: Autobiographical comments, Autobiography (childhood), Autobiography (marriage & children), Executive, Leadership, Media, Women

Prince Michael of Greece, Parade

QUESTION PARAPHRASED:

I have read the note that your staff prepared - everything answered - but would like personal touches. Sixty million American readers here fascinated by one thing—success. That is the aim of every American. Is there a recipe for it?

Prime Minister

I don't know. What is it? It is a mixture.

Prince Michael of Greece, Parade

QUESTION PARAPHRASED: You exemplify success.

Prime Minister

I think it is a mixture of having a flair for the thing that you are doing; knowing that is not enough, that you have got to have hard work and a certain sense of purpose. If I say “a will to do it” , I think it is deeper than that. I [end p1] think it is something, in my case, that I really could not get away from politics. You know, it was so much in one's blood-stream somehow. I don't know why. Some people cannot get away from the stage; some people cannot get away from writing. For me: I did many other things. I did science, I started work in science. I did law, I loved the law, but always always always, I returned to this fascinating thing of contemporary history, of today's problems, of trying to solve them, and whatever else I did, I always came back to this; so it was not so much as if I set out as a matter of ambition. I set out with something much deeper than that.

I think I had a flair for it. I worked at it naturally because I liked it, and I got on it because I could not get myself away from it, but natural feelings are never enough. You have got to marry those natural feelings and tendencies—to marry them with really hard work—but the hard work comes more easily when you are doing things that you want to do, and I am called a workaholic. Yes, I do work. I do check the things, the facts, in my speech—check, check, check again. I do. Even on Monday night, when I had to be at the completion of the Bagehot volumes, you know, our great editor of the “Economist” years ago, the great constitutional journalist, financier, we had ever had. I had to launch the remainder of those volumes with Norman St. John Stevas. I had to make a speech. Nevertheless, I went to make that speech. I had taken endless trouble with it. So really that is … is a kind of …   . you must have a flair. You must, I think, have something deeper than that. You must be fundamentally attracted towards it. There are people who do it as a matter of ambition— [end p2] that was not me—and you must work, work, and then it becomes cumulative and, you know, there are people who come into politics who want someone else to take the difficult decisions, and as you get to the top there is no-one else to take the difficult decisions and you must not shrink from them.

Prince Michael of Greece, Parade

QUESTION PARAPHRASED: Your energy is your secret. Were you born with it or did you cultivate it?

Prime Minister

I think you have to be born with a certain amount of vitality.

Prince Michael of Greece, Parade

QUESTION PARAPHRASED: Just your nature?

Prime Minister

Yes, I think you have to be born with a certain vitality. I have known many people who have an inherent vitality, who just do not use it and there are two things: one, what you have got, and second, do you use that vitality? And that again is to some extent training and habit. Habit matters a tremendous lot in life. If you make a habit of having eight [end p3] hours sleep a night, you will always need eight hours sleep a night. If you make a habit of perhaps working later, then you will need less sleep. It is …   . habit …

Prince Michael of Greece, Parade

QUESTION PARAPHRASED: Nature plus training?

Prime Minister

Training …   . nature plus training, cemented by habit. Habit matters. You know, you could not get through a very busy life unless a lot of things were routine and habit.

Prince Michael of Greece, Parade

QUESTION PARAPHRASED: The figure who inspirated [sic] you most was your father. How?

Prime Minister

I remember the day when there were not … there was no television. I remember the first day we had a radio in my house. I was about ten. It was a new, novel thing, so I can remember a time before either, and that time before either was a time when you made your own amusement and found your own way of using time, not only by work, but with and talking to people.

We took an active part in our church. My father took an active part in everything voluntary. We had a shop. We were used to people. It was never any trouble to me to go up [end p4] and talk to someone in the sense, you know, if we were …

Prince Michael of Greece, Parade

QUESTION PARAPHRASED: Contact with the people.

Prime Minister

I had a contact and my father had not been able to have a good education—you could not get it in those days unless your parents had quite a certain amount of money; it was not easy to get through to university, though scholarships came later—but he was a very intelligent man and I think sometimes he was the best educated man I ever knew in the sense that he read widely, enormously widely, and he saw that I had, really, everything he did not have. All right, I showed an aptitude for music at the age of five. Right, off I went to start to learn the piano, and we took part in singing and oratorios, so music was very much a part of our life. We went to a lecture on current events in the evening because I was interested and there was someone from the university close by who used to come and give these lectures, and he came with me. He read, and I went to our library every Saturday morning, and my father was on the local council—he was the Chairman of the Libraries Committee—but my father could not go because he was busy in the shop, and so I used to go and see the librarian. I had to get two books every Saturday—one, either current affairs or biography and something which would have been something much more fiction or for my mother one of the things of the time. You see, I read them and my father read them, and we discussed [end p5] them, and sometimes I think television has stopped the discussion between …   .

Prince Michael of Greece, Parade

QUESTION PARAPHRASED: Absolutely.

Prime Minister

He always took me out. If anyone came to the town, either to the town hall or to open something, I was always taken with my father, so I was always taught … when I said: “Oh, can I do something, some of my friends are doing the same thing?” and he would say: “You never do something because your friends are doing it. You do it, either because you want to do it or it is right to do it and it does not matter if it is different from what your friends are doing. You make up your mind and you persuade other people to follow you!” It was a tough upbringing!

Prince Michael of Greece, Parade

QUESTION PARAPHRASED: Did he follow politics closely?

Prime Minister

Yes … in the thirties … there were problems of unemployment in the thirties. It was the rise of Hitler. We knew what was happening to some of the people under Hitler's regime. All of this was discussed. In those days, the shop stayed open quite late at night. The local doctor would come in; the local town clerk; lots of people came in and they would [end p6] talk about these things in the shop. I knew what was going on. We would talk about it in the shop. We talked. They did not only come in to buy groceries. We just stood around, if it was on a Friday and a Saturday night, and we talked about things.

Prince Michael of Greece, Parade

QUESTION PARAPHRASED: The best way.

Prime Minister

And some had actually travelled in Europe or the Rotary Club had been to visit Germany and found some things very disquieting, and then all of a sudden, we had a message from a friend in Austria about what was happening there after Hitler went in and we knew about all of these things because they were talked about at home and we read and discussed and discussed with other people.

Prince Michael of Greece, Parade

QUESTION PARAPHRASED: Power is lonely?

Prime Minister

Yes, it is lonely. It is lonely, because quite a number of people want to run away from decisions or have it both ways.

Prince Michael of Greece, Parade

QUESTION PARAPHRASED: In such a position can you have friends you trust? [end p7]

Prime Minister

Well, I have a family who are absolutely marvellous. Yes, you have to have one or two friends whom you can trust. Some of them are your closest colleagues obviously.

Prince Michael of Greece, Parade

In politics?

Prime Minister

Yes.

Prince Michael of Greece, Parade

QUESTION PARAPHRASED: Outside politics? People who help you sample non-political worlds?

Prime Minister

Yes, you have quite a number of those too. You need that as well, but there is so much which you must not say and you know you must not say and you have not to say it.

Prince Michael of Greece, Parade

Exactly.

Prime Minister

Because you see, it is not as if you are judged wholly on what you say. You are up against people who deliberately set out to twist what you say to make it mean other things, and that I am afraid is part of the job, part of the world in which one lives. [end p8]

Prince Michael of Greece, Parade

QUESTION PARAPHRASED: Do you read what critics say about you? Do you care?

Prime Minister

Sometimes, sometimes not. Sometimes … I never mind fair criticism, that I must know, but sometimes there is such personal, hurtful, deliberately waspish, calculated comment. That I do not read. I know some of the people who write it and I just do not read it because I know they are writing it to upset me.

Prince Michael of Greece, Parade

QUESTION PARAPHRASED: Is it not particularly difficult for you, knowing exactly what you want, but facing a public opinion which sometimes does not agree? Do you move to the middle or …

Prime Minister

I think it is often that public opinion has not had the facts presented properly or has not had the arguments properly put or the other thing … yes, sometimes there are obviously a number of people who will come to different conclusions, and then you debate and discuss with them. But again, it goes back to what my father told me. You make up your own mind what it is best to do and you do it, and then you try to convince other people. [end p9]

Prince Michael of Greece, Parade

QUESTION PARAPHRASED: You are an extremely well organised person because you could not manage otherwise. Do you delegate a lot or …

Prime Minister

Well you could not do this job without having …   . and there are what, 18 or 19 ministers who are head of departments and obviously they have to run it, but then, we obviously have to run not merely departments, we have to run a coherent strategy, and yes, I have to do a lot of checking and a lot of work on my own and a lot of persuading and a lot of leadership.

Prince Michael of Greece, Parade

QUESTION PARAPHRASED: You said you do not have time to relax, but don't you need to?

Prime Minister

I think at the end of a very difficult day. Perhaps sometimes on a Friday, you get back, it might be 10 o'clock, it might be later, and then you could sit down and work, but at time, because you are not quite under such pressure on Saturday … then you will just sit down and just have a drink and talk, and that is very useful, but you see, the burden that we have to take here I think is greater than most people realise and this week I have been in Parliament three days, with questions two days, with a statement one day, with a speech another day. [end p10]

Prince Michael of Greece, Parade

Plus the crisis.

Prime Minister

Plus the crisis, yes.

Prince Michael of Greece, Parade

QUESTION PARAPHRASED: The drama this morning.

Prime Minister

Plus the crisis, plus everything.

Prince Michael of Greece, Parade

So how do you relax? Can you?

Prime Minister

Tomorrow, I shall be in someone else's constituency doing three things tomorrow morning. I shall be in my own constituency tomorrow afternoon and evening. So we have our own constituency to look after; we have Parliament …

Prince Michael of Greece, Parade

The Government?

Prime Minister

The Government and also, you not only do government, but you have to keep contacts with a lot of other organisations as well, so you are out making speeches and you are out doing other things as I am tomorrow. [end p11] And then, you have all the overseas visitors. King Hussein will be coming in later this evening. And really, you could not get through without your team, but you will have just sometimes to take your mind off it. What do you do? You go for a walk. That is marvellous. It does not matter if it is raining or blowing. You get the air into your lungs and you walk in the garden, at Chequers yes. That is marvellous. Or you must also sometimes just sit down quickly—I don't do it very much—and watch certain things on television. Otherwise you will all of a sudden hear things that don't mean anything to you, and they are related to some television programme and you have got to know what people are talking about. And then, you have to read. You must always recharge the batteries of your mind.

Prince Michael of Greece, Parade

Do you have time to read?

Prime Minister

Well, I do read. I read late at night to take things out of one's mind to put something else in, and I read sometimes at week-ends. Mostly, I think, you tend to read when you have got a fresh lecture or speech to make and you want to read all round your subject or you read in greater depth or all of a sudden, someone you know has written a book about a period of history you are interested in. I remember last year being given the most beautiful book about Abraham Lincoln and his speeches. It was fascinating. [end p12]

Prince Michael of Greece, Parade

Gore Vidal?

Prime Minister

No, no. Gore Vidal was a fictional book. This was a book of pictures of Abraham Lincoln, a quite extraordinary book, various pictures, someone had compiled all the photographs of him. It was a big book. All the photographs, and then you got some of the speeches that he had given throughout at that time of his life. No, I did read the Gore Vidal. I find that something that is part-history, part-fiction, is very difficult.

Prince Michael of Greece, Parade

I don't like it when …

Prime Minister

No, I like to know it is one thing or the other.

Prince Michael of Greece, Parade

QUESTION PARAPHRASED: My favourite reading is the complete political correspondence of Queen Victoria.

Prime Minister

Oh yes.

Prince Michael of Greece, Parade

QUESTION PARAPHRASED: … published under Edward VII in many volumes. [end p13]

Prime Minister

Yes, I know it exactly.

Prince Michael of Greece, Parade

QUESTION PARAPHRASED: Best English I have ever read and so interesting.

Prime Minister

It is fascinating, I entirely agree, but they wrote much more.

Prince Michael of Greece, Parade

And so well.

Prime Minister

… and literature and grammar and a style was very important to them.

Prince Michael of Greece, Parade

QUESTION PARAPHRASED: You do not see a difference of qualities between men and women in politics.

Prime Minister

No, I think the difference is in personality far from the differences between the male and female in the issues that I have to deal with.

Prince Michael of Greece, Parade

QUESTION PARAPHRASED: You don't think … [end p14]

Prime Minister

I don't know. I think women tend to be very practical.

Prince Michael of Greece, Parade

QUESTION PARAPHRASED: Far better judgment of people than men.

Prime Minister

Possibly.

Prince Michael of Greece, Parade

Quicker.

Prime Minister

That is part of your inherent make-up and you do not know really how to allocate it between personality and the …   . it is something that is so much a part of you that you do not quite know.

Prince Michael of Greece, Parade

I asked you about danger. You live in danger.

Prime Minister

Yes, but you do not think of it all the time.

Prince Michael of Greece, Parade

Constant danger.

Prime Minister

You do live in danger, but you cannot think of it all the [end p15] time. I mean, now and then something happens which makes you realise, or you notice that security seems to be particularly high today or on a particular day. You have no time, really, to think about the constant danger. You have got to get on with the job, you really have to.

Prince Michael of Greece, Parade

Yes, I suppose you have no time to think of danger.

Prime Minister

No.

Prince Michael of Greece, Parade

QUESTION PARAPHRASED: More difficult when you think of danger to the people around you?

Prime Minister

That is right, or people who are also in danger because they know you or because you visit their house or go to their factory or something like that, or because they helped you in your work and they are devoted and you are very conscious of their devotion and how much you owe to them—a fantastic amount—and you are devoted to one another, because in a way you are all in the same thing. You are not being deflected from doing what you have to do by the danger. There have been many before us who have taken the same view, otherwise we should not be here. [end p16]

Prince Michael of Greece, Parade

QUESTION PARAPHRASED: Some are better than others at inspiring devotion.

Prime Minister

Possibly, possibly. Perhaps it is more thought for others than talent.

Prince Michael of Greece, Parade

QUESTION PARAPHRASED: What do you dream of doing after politics? Memoirs …

Prime Minister

I think that one will have to put down … there is one thing in putting it down, there is another thing about whether it should be published, but I think one has a kind of duty to put down some of these great things that one has lived through and the feelings and difficulties one encountered at the time and the problems of the decisions, and I just think one really ought to do that. I mean, it is one thing putting it down for publication a long time hence—how far one would publish immediately I don't know—I think it is very important to be loyal to your political friends. I mean, the thought that you would not be is to me horrific you know.

Prince Michael of Greece, Parade

Yes, what you can say or what you cannot say. Do you keep a diary? [end p17]

Prime Minister

I do not keep a diary, no. I have known too many people keep diaries in politics. I am always a little bit wary of someone who keeps a political diary in politics.

Prince Michael of Greece, Parade

Why?

Prime Minister

Because I wonder if the diary is for publication, and therefore I wonder if it is written totally dispassionately.

Prince Michael of Greece, Parade

Prime Minister, no diary is ever written for oneself.

Prime Minister

Well, this is the view I have. Obviously, everything that I do in the day is known, but you can write down things to remind you of your thoughts and impressions but I always feel that diaries themselves of politicians … are written for publication and be written, as I say, rather less than from a dispassionate viewpoint.

Prince Michael of Greece, Parade

Of course it is passionate.

Prime Minister

So I don't write one. I have not got one. [end p18]

Prince Michael of Greece, Parade

QUESTION PARAPHRASED: Value of a diary not so much to record what is said or happened, but to keep the atmosphere …

Prime Minister

Feelings …

Prince Michael of Greece, Parade

… the flavour, atmosphere of a day …   .

Prime Minister

Practically everything I do, a note is taken. If you have a meeting, you get a note, and you have only to read those and you know the flavour and back come all the memories flooding in. The combination of the photographs and the notes of the meeting … they flood back … and also, some of the letters you have written to you about things. I do keep some of those because some of them are so marvellous. So there is plenty of material if you have got a reasonably good memory too.

Prince Michael of Greece, Parade

But you have the nature of a writer somehow?

Prime Minister

I don't know.

Prince Michael of Greece, Parade

And what is your philosophy? [end p19]

Prime Minister

My philosophy?

Prince Michael of Greece, Parade

If you have time to afford one.

Prime Minister

Philosophy in what way?

Prince Michael of Greece, Parade

QUESTION PARAPHRASED: In life. What motivates you? Belief in God? Your mission? Devotion to your work? A combination …

Prime Minister

… belief … I mean, basically it is the good Lord gave me certain talents and it is up to me to use them and I am fantastically lucky to be using them in the job that I want to do best and there is also a great feeling that you can make a contribution to the present and to the future. There is some magnetism about being absolutely at the centre of the thing, something which draws you to them, and as I say, God gave me the talents; it is up to me to get the best out of them and really, what drives one and motivates one is that if only you could get your policies such that they draw more of the best out of people than the worst then you are going the right way. Really, the policies to enable people to live up to their own best. I mean, they have got to do that. In a free society, life is a matter of choice and it is that we set the framework and the rules for which people can make their own choices because [end p20] that is the essence of freedom and the law … a rule of law is what enables the people living together to make choices because they have to make choices with regard to the right of other people to make their choice.

Prince Michael of Greece, Parade

QUESTION PARAPHRASED: You said that being in the centre of affairs is magnetic. Have you not noticed sometimes colleagues intoxicated by power? Not a danger?

Prime Minister

Intoxication is always a bad thing. Never get intoxicated with anything and every day, when I walk into the House of Commons to answer questions or to do a speech, I say to myself two things: keep calm, concentrate. I do not have very much to eat before I go in, I would not dream of having anything to drink—I mean any alcoholic drinks—I do not have very much to eat because you want the blood to go to your head and not to your digestion and I would not dream of having a drink.

Prince Michael of Greece, Parade

QUESTION PARAPHRASED: You have a certain rhythm of …   . habits so you can cope with everything?

Prime Minister

May I slip down? I leave you in here to sort these things out.