Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

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

1986 Jul 8 Tu
Margaret Thatcher

Interview for The Guardian

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Document kind: Interview
Venue: No.10 Downing Street
Source: Thatcher Archive: COI transcript
Journalist: Hugo Young, The Guardian
Editorial comments: 1020-1120.
Importance ranking: Key
Word count: 8313
Themes: Autobiographical comments, Commonwealth (general), Commonwealth (South Africa), Conservatism, Conservative Party (organization), Defence (general), Education, General Elections, Environment, Pay, Taxation, Trade, Foreign policy (Asia), Foreign policy (development, aid, etc), Foreign policy (USSR & successor states), Health policy, Labour Party & socialism, Law & order, Local government, Leadership, Sport, Terrorism, Strikes & other union action

Hugo Young

Can we, Prime Minister, start?

Have you ever been there? [South Africa]

Prime Minister

Yes.

Hugo Young

When did you go there and in what circumstances?

Prime Minister

I went there when I was Secretary of State for Education, because we have a joint observatory there. As you know, for optical observation, you do not get very good results in astronomy in the northern hemisphere, so there really are three main observatories in the southern hemisphere, one in Chile which the United States has a partnership in. We have one with South [end p1] Africa, which I opened. It is on the Karroo and there is another one which I also went to in Australia. So it is part of our scientific effort. I went there to open it and obviously I did a number of other things as well while I was there. I think it was about 1972.

You have to be very careful in saying that just because you have been to a country and seen a certain number of things that you have seen it, obviously. You have got to be very careful. I have seen the operation of it in some respects, because obviously we gave a party for all backgrounds, all colours, and there were some people who did not come to that which surprised one, but you know, the first thing you see when you get off at Johannesburg Airport as you go into a hotel there is totally non-colour-conscious. You go up in a lift and there is everyone, all colours, all backgrounds. You go into the dining room, there are all colours, all backgrounds, and so your first impression of South Africa from that viewpoint is rather different from what you have been led to believe, and then you get out. Of course, by that time a certain number of things with petty apartheid had gone, but then you come across other things which remind you very vividly that things are different there.

Hugo Young

The EPG Report begins these chaps saying: “None of us was prepared for the full reality of apartheid.” That was obviously [end p2] after much touring of the townships. I mean, that is an experience you have not had.

Prime Minister

I did not go to Soweto myself. I did meet some people from Soweto, but I am not suggesting that just because I have been there I know all about it. You just asked me if I had been there. Yes, I have. I have seen both sides. I have seen it on occasions when there was no apartheid and I have seen it on occasions where there is apartheid.

I do not like apartheid. It is wrong. I like valuing people for what they are, not for their colour or their background.

Apartheid is wrong and it has to go, and it is going and I have seen President Botha when he came over … I did receive him. He came down to Chequers and we had, I think, a whole day discussing things, including internal things in South Africa for a very long time, and we had then a long discussion about enforced removals, because this was a thing which was totally and utterly particularly repugnant to us and, as you know, we had a long correspondence about it and long discussions, and as you know, those have been stopped now. And a number of other things have been stopped. So things are coming in the right direction. Naturally, one wishes them to come faster. So the objective is [end p3] the same. It is how to achieve the objective.

Hugo Young

What leverage do we have by mere persuasion, particularly when the main characters of the drama will not even see our Foreign Secretary?

Prime Minister

I am sorry, that is absolute nonsense. When you say the main characters to the drama will not see the Geoffrey HoweForeign Secretary, President Botha is seeing the Foreign Secretary. He was always going to see the Foreign Secretary.

Hugo Young

But he wants to see him on this trip and that has not been permitted.

Prime Minister

But the question is you have to try to arrange a date. I run eight, nine, sometimes twelve engagements a day. I cannot always just fit people in when they happen to come. I have to turn some of them down.

But let us look on the positive side and not try to make every single difficulty in this country, difficulties which do not exist. President Botha will see Sir Geoffrey Howe; of course he [end p4] will. The question is arranging a date which is mutually convenient and, after all, even British Cabinet Ministers will go on holiday you know.

Hugo Young

But it was a bit humiliating that the trip was set up so publicly and then Botha just let it be known he would not actually see the Foreign Secretary.

Prime Minister

Would you have known any of this if it had been dealt with very quietly—look, let us not announce anything until we have got a date which is suitable to both? It was known that President Botha would see Sir Geoffrey Geoffrey Howe. Sir Geoffrey has lots of other preparatory things to do. He also has a lot of other engagements. He is constrained about when he can go there. He is President of the Foreign Secretaries of Europe. We have Mr. Shevardnadze coming here on July 14. He too is constrained.

Look! The positive thing is that President Botha will of course see Sir Geoffrey. In his capacity as President of the Foreign Ministers of Europe, he will of course see him. Now why try to raise all sorts of difficult problems? Why do you not go on the positive side? [end p5]

Hugo Young

When he does see him then, what positive objectives will the Foreign Secretary be trying to secure?

Prime Minister

If you look at the communique from Europe, you will find that he will be trying to do everything he can in discussion to see if there is more we can do to help to bring about the essential negotiation. After all, Rhodesia had had sanctions for fifteen years. It was not solved by sanctions—never could possibly have been. It had to be, in the end, solved by negotiation.

Hugo Young

But they had the support of South Africa, Rhodesia. South Africa has no equivalent.

Prime Minister

South Africa has colossal internal resources, a colossal coastline and whatever sanctions were put on, materials would get in and materials would get out, and there is no way in which you can blockade the whole of the South African coastline, no way.

Hugo Young

So is there no economic pressure which, in your view, would have any effect? [end p6]

Prime Minister

Well, you are talking about government economic pressure. I think the thing which had a great deal of effect is when South Africa, quite a rich country, was not able to repay some of her debts in time. I think that probably had as much effect as anything, coming when it did. I say “as much effect as anything” because do not forget the tremendous effect that people within South Africa fighting against apartheid, industry, some of the political parties, have already had, and the feeling in South Africa that things have to change. That other thing, the financial thing, came on top of the changes which were already occurring and I think that probably had as much influence in making people realise that we cannot go on like this and in trying to persuade them to move faster.

But please do not underestimate the work that industry and many people who have been fighting against apartheid in South Africa for years and years. Do not underestimate the effect they have had.

Hugo Young

The question is whether government, your Government, European governments, can and should add to that economic pressure. [end p7]

Prime Minister

I personally think it would have been very much better—I am not talking about economic pressure; I am talking about how to bring about negotiations—if other countries had not attempted to isolate South Africa. After all, when we want to influence or reconcile differences between the Soviet Union and ourselves, we say let us have more contacts. You even put it in the Helsinki Accord. You even talk about Basket 1. But with South Africa, no. We did not take that view at all. That was wrong in my view. I think we should have had more contacts with South Africa. I think we should have been able to influence her more. I think she would have been able to see how multiracial societies do work in other countries. They do, of course, have certain problems. Heaven knows, we have seen that they had problems in Kenya and in Uganda. But there would have been much more influence to come our way and much more quickly and we would have been able to encourage them much more. That would have had much greater effect.

Economic effects? General economic sanctions will not bring about internal change with a country like South Africa with colossal internal reserves, with ways of getting their materials out, with people willing to take them and sell them through third countries on to world markets. They will not work.

Also, you have to consider the psychological effect. You have to consider the kind of people you are dealing with. They are very tough, they are very determined. [end p8]

You saw Helen Suzman 's extremely good article in “The Times” today indicating what we have always known, that economic sanctions on South Africa, far from facilitating or bringing about change if imposed by governments, would in fact get a different reaction from them and make them more resistant to change because some of the moderates who really have been, both black and white, working for change, some of them might say: “Look! We have done a great deal. We have it in mind to do a great deal more, but we have to do it in a way in which the change can be managed and if you are just going to hit out at us, then by just hitting out at us you are introducing a new factor and then we would have to realign our policies and think things out against a different background!”

Hugo Young

So are you saying then that there is no form of hostile pressure which is appropriate?

Prime Minister

Now let me say what I am saying and make it clear.

There is no case in history that I know of where punitive general economic sanctions have been effective to bring about internal change. That is what I believe. That is what the Labour Party in power believed. That, I believe, is what most of Europe believes. That is what most western industrialised countries [end p9] believe. If that is what they believe, there is no point in trying to follow that route.

What is the other route? The other route is negotiation and there is a third thing. You take the people, when you are arguing with them, through step-by-step, because punitive economic sanctions on South Africa, if you started that, I do not know quite where it would end, and the retaliation that South Africa could do on some of the Front Line States, I just do not know where things would end.

There is a third factor. People tend to use some economic sanctions as a signal or gesture to South Africa, as a kind of mark of disapproval of apartheid, and that is a different aspect. That in a way is the way they have been used, save defence sanctions which we have operated. As you know, they have not been wholly effective. We have operated them scrupulously. Even those have not been wholly effective although they are mandatory. That is that if you have got a regime that is doing things and has a system of which you disapprove, you do not sell them the weapons with which they can pursue that policy. That is of a different order altogether.

Now, there is a fourth argument. I am not sure whether it is the fourth or the fifth! There is a fourth argument, I think, in which people, if I might say so, seem to me confused, although they perhaps might make the same allegations to myself, that it is moral to put on economic sanctions. I must tell you [end p10] I find nothing moral about people who come to me worried about unemployment in this country, about people who come to us to say we must do more to help Africa, particularly black Africans. I find nothing moral about them sitting in comfortable circumstances with good salaries, inflation-proof pensions, good jobs, saying that we as a matter of morality will put x-hundred thousand black people out of work, knowing that could lead to starvation, poverty and unemployment and even greater violence. That to me is immoral. I find it repugnant that some of the people would sit there and say that to me. It is a very powerful argument with the …   . community sitting round here, nice conference centre, nice hotels, good jobs, and you really mean to tell me that you are going to move people around as if they are pawns on a chequer board and say that is moral? To me, it is immoral.

Hugo Young

But how do you explain it and how do you read the motives of those black leaders in South Africa, Bishop Tutu and many others, who actually are in favour of economic sanctions?

Prime Minister

I do not have to read them. I can tell you that there are many many people in South Africa, black South Africans, who hope to goodness that economic sanctions would not be put on. [end p11]

Hugo Young

How do you know that?

Prime Minister

You heard Chief Buthelezi say so. He said it in this room. Seven million Zulus. He said it on the door of Downing Street. I have heard it too from some other people here in this room.

Hugo Young

I am sure that is right. Equally, Tutu and Mandela and all these, the ANC and the UDF, all that represents a very large segment of opinion which you reject.

Prime Minister

I totally reject it, because I find it very difficult to know how they can turn round and say: “Put our people into acute difficulty. They have got good jobs, they are looking after their children. Pursue a policy which can lead to children being hungry!” I find it very difficult, very difficult indeed, how they can also pursue a policy. Have you looked at how goods are going to get into and out of Zimbabwe if you close Beit Bridge? Well there are some people whom economic sanctions would suit because they are the people who are the source of alternative supplies. It would of course suit them. I do not suggest that that is a factor in their thoughts, but you close Beit Bridge over the Limpopo, how are you going to get things into [end p12] or out of Zimbabwe, Zambia? That is the maize route. When there was drought, that was the route through which maize went to keep people alive. It is the route out for copper. It is the route in and out and then people say they will come to us for further aid. How are you going to deliver it?

You know the difficulties in Mozambique … you can go through from the coastline there from the rail track. You know the difficulties there. Many of their railways are not very effectively run because there are attacks there by the RENAMO. They are internal problems in Mozambique, not caused by anything like apartheid.

There are internal problems in Angola, not caused by anything like apartheid.

Internal problems in Uganda, not caused by anything like apartheid.

So you start this thing. I literally sometimes go through with them: “Do you know what you are suggesting we do? Have you looked at it? Have you looked at the poverty, the hunger and the starvation?” just when we are, after all, trying to give things to Africa to see that she does not suffer in that way.

South Africa runs the best economy in the whole of Africa. You wish all of the people of South Africa to inherit that economy and not to ruin it.

Have you looked at the three million people who could be turned back who come into South Africa to work, who remit their [end p13] earnings to other people?

The longest journey starts with the first step. I do not know where it would end. Please, I am not going to be the one who causes fantastic starvation, unemployment and misery in South Africa when I believe what it would cause is misery and starvation and not solve the problem.

Hugo Young

Going back one stage, you said that one of the arguments involved the need to make a mark of disapproval of apartheid. Now, that need not …

Prime Minister

… signals and gestures … that to some extent is what we have done. But that is why we agreed, when Europe agreed on the package of measures before I went to the Commonwealth Conference and why there were signals and gestures. The Commonwealth wanted some things extra so we did them, Krugerrands … it took us some time because we had, you know, it is contrary to GATT, and one had to make certain it would be all right and then at the same time we put the extra gold coins in and we have done no promotion of tourism and various other things which are gestures and are a way of the Community saying: “Look! This is a mark of disapproval!” but to go to cause mass unemployment there, the …   . effect that it could have and causing much more unemployment here, which is [end p14] the very last thing I want.

Another thing people have not worked out, which they should have done, is that South Africa is a source of fundamental strategic raw materials. Platinum in quantity comes from only two places—South Africa and the Soviet Union. Are people who said there is a moral question suggesting that the world supply of platinum should be put in charge of the Soviet Union?

We are wanting three-way catalysts for improvement on the environment. Platinum is one of them.

Some of those things, chemical chrome, vanadium and then of course gold and diamonds, also that would have a fantastic effect on the economy of the Soviet Union. They would have much more power.

To me it seems absolutely absurd that people should be prepared to put increasing power in the hands of the Soviet Union on the grounds that they disapprove of apartheid in South Africa. It is absolutely absurd. We have to look at our stockpiles; we have to look at our defence. We also have to look at the fact that there are 800,000 people in South Africa who have a right—either have British passports or who have a right to British passports—who could come here.

I hear people talking about economic sanctions and, of course, they could turn round and retaliate against everything that goes from here also against possessions there and pick them up for a song. I go through these things with some people when [end p15] they start to call for sanctions and they say: “No-one told us, no-one explained to us!” and I say: “All right, do you realise what would happen? Supposing you are working on some big piece of engineering equipment for South Africa and you are out of a job in areas where the last thing we want is more unemployment” and at the end of that …   . they will not work to bring about internal change. They will not.

So how do you? Yes, there are marks of gestures and that is what we have done, but I do not know anyone in the western world in positions of power who is suggesting punitive general economic sanctions.

Hugo Young

But they are least suggesting perhaps bigger gestures?

Prime Minister

They are suggesting bigger gestures. So all right. Supposing you start with fruit and vegetables. 95,000 people, black families, out of work. Moral? No social security. Moral? Up would go the price here. Some of it would be sold out of the coastline through third countries, remarked and perhaps come in at a higher price.

The retaliation that we could have against things that we export to South Africa, and so we would get more here. What is moral about that? [end p16]

I do not think that they literally think of the effect and they do not think of the effect upon all those people in South Africa, black and white, who are earnestly working for the end of apartheid.

There was an article in the “Sunday Telegraph” yesterday—perhaps you saw it—on the woman's page. A woman who has been working for the end of apartheid for years. She simply says: “What are you trying to do, turn us into an Ethiopia?”

Hugo Young

You said a week or two ago: “If I were the odd one out, and I was right, it would not matter, would it?” Do you really take that indifferent view to allies, Commonwealth people and so forth?

Prime Minister

Let me put it this way. There are many times when I have to put arguments that no-one else actually puts. Sometimes, those arguments will change their mind if their minds can be changed by factors and by reason. Sometimes they will not, because sometimes an argument has no effect against emotion. To that extent, I understand it. To that extent, we put on some sanctions and some signals and some gestures.

I have argued with many people and many say to me: “Look! No-one else has literally gone through the actual effect commodity by commodity, fact by fact, the effect on country by country.” [end p17]

I sometimes get the map out and say: “Look at it! Where are your routes into Zambia, Zimbabwe?” You know, many things are suggested without working through the full effect.

Does it matter if I am alone? If you are alone, you only operate really by persuading and your only way of persuading is really by argument.

Hugo Young

Are you winning the argument?

Prime Minister

Look! In the world in which I live, sometimes yes, you win the argument. Sometimes people do not express their own views, knowing you will express yours, mine. Not mine, but the views which I have come to by looking at it, and hope to goodness that you win your argument. In the world that I live sometimes there is a public view and sometimes a private view, so often mostly my own converge and I think … look, when I started to put the case there were many people saying “sanctions, sanctions, sanctions” . Then you started saying: “What do you mean?” and then you go through some of the things I have been through with you, and then you go through and you say: “Look! Other people took the same view when they were in power as we did. They voted in the United Nations as we did.” [end p18]

Hugo Young

But the internal situation has changed in those ten years, in South Africa. Political upheaval has got much greater, the weakness of government has got greater.

Prime Minister

And apartheid has been reduced. I need hardly go through the things with you. There is practically no apartheid left in sport, as you know.

Hugo Young

Due to the boycott.

Prime Minister

Well, due to a boycott, due partly to a boycott. Not an economic sanction, a political thing. Apartheid in sport has practically gone, almost certainly gone. The act on prohibition against mixed marriages has gone. One or two people said: “Oh that is nothing!” As a matter of fact, it is a thing which I think signals the end of apartheid sooner or later itself. We have got to get rid of pass laws. The pass laws are going and identity cards do not have any difference—they should not have any difference—between the races.

Enforced removals, totally and utterly repugnant to us. I had a long talk with President Botha and said: “Look! They are utterly repugnant to us!” They are now gone. [end p19]

There are certain other things which one hopes very much will soon go. Obviously the Group Areas Act. They are starting to go, because there are grey areas where it will not work. The job reservation has gone. Industry is breaking down apartheid.

You may say that is necessity. It is necessity, because you have to train more people up to skilled occupations and to manager. They have.

The accusation against South Africa is not that there are not many black people with professional qualifications and of considerable substance. There are. I think now that there are about as many black people matriculating as there are whites. All right, there are a larger number of them. The accusation is not that there not professional highly qualified, highly cultured, some people of very considerable substance. The accusation is that being all that, they cannot live where they wish in the towns, which is to us utterly repugnant and that they cannot take a proper part in the government of the country, and those are the things to which you have got to address your mind and your action, and if you really want to persuade them, I think that we have done really quite well by persuasion, particularly in the last eighteen months, on those things, but by non-economic ways, and we should go on that way.

And the Eminent Persons Group did not recommend economic sanctions, as you know. [end p20]

Hugo Young

But the tone of the Eminent Persons Group was that the situation was a great deal more urgent than would seem to be met by the very minor gestures which you are in favour of.

Prime Minister

I do not think that the things we have said the South Africans have done can be called minor, but they did not suggest that economic sanctions were effective measures, general economic sanctions. The whole thing said effective, and people said what is effective?

I think that we have been effective in some of the things that we have been doing, have gone along with the gestures and signals, because I recognise that people want to do something more than words, but I do not believe that punitive economic sanctions will bring about internal change. I know of no case in history where that has happened. It did not happen in Rhodesia.

Hugo Young

But even the gestures, you are not very keen on?

Prime Minister

I do not think that the gestures are very effective. We withdrew our military attache from South Africa. That means we do not get as much information as we should otherwise, but often, you know, you argue against the big things, the really damaging [end p21] things; things that really would cause unemployment, and then, of course, well you do accept much smaller things, as we did.

Hugo Young

Yes. Let us move away from South Africa.

Prime Minister

But have I got the point across?

Hugo Young

Absolutely. Very powerfully.

Prime Minister

I find it astonishing, utterly astonishing, that with one hand we are doing everything to help Ethiopia, we are doing everything to help relieve poverty and starvation in Africa, we are doing everything to get the right seeds, the right husbandry—at the same time we are suggesting that you turn people who are in work out of work, that you add starvation, poverty, unemployment to the problems you have already got. And then, when people call that moral, I just gasp.

And other people, Bishop Tutu, I understand that he said he would not see Sir Geoffrey HoweSir Geoffrey. Bishop Tutu asked to see me. Of course I saw him. I very much enjoyed talking to him. [end p22]

Hugo Young

But you did not agree with him?

Prime Minister

No, but we got just a little bit more understanding between us and if we went on talking, I think we would again.

I do not just refuse to see people. Of course I see them. Of course, I wish that we had seen more of one another, because I wish that we had had a policy of trying to influence South Africa by more contacts with her. I think that it is this policy of isolation run by people who say it is moral to isolate, although they do not take the same view human rights, that it is right to isolate the Soviet Union, although she has very little human rights for anyone.

I wish that we had gone the other way. I was not successful in getting that accepted because you have enormously heightened emotions. Where you are dealing with emotions in politics it is very difficult to overcome them by reason.

I do obviously talk to Kenneth Kaunda. It was under Kenneth Kaunda's chairmanship that we took over the problem of bringing Rhodesia to independence, proper independence, under what we hoped were democratic principles.

We will have a Commonwealth Conference and emotions will be running high, and when that happens you just have to sit and let them run high and try to keep very calm yourself because it does not help if you also let your own emotions run high, even [end p23] though they feel that they run high. You have got to sit and keep very calm and you have got steadily to bring out facts. Look, how many of you have states of emergency? How long have you had them? How many of you have detained people without trial? How many from time to time had censhorship? How many of you have excluded people on racial grounds from some of your countries?

Hugo Young

Do they get irritated with you when you start talking like that, sort of patronising?

Prime Minister

That is not patronising. That is just putting facts to them where the Commonwealth has been strong enough to endure all these things. Patronising! What is patronising about putting the facts? I try not to be. It is not for me to be patronising, not for us to be patronising to South Africa either. We do not live there.

Hugo Young

Got a big stake there.

Prime Minister

We have a big stake there. Nothing like as big a stake as all of those people who live there whatever their background and [end p24] we can still get through if we will. We can still help to bring about negotiations.

Heaven knows, the view that I have taken on violence has not varied, whether it be violence in Rhodesia, whether it be violence in South Africa, whether it be violence with the PLO, whether it be violence with the IRA, and although the IRA is totally different, they have all democratic rights. Their point is they do not like the result.

Hugo Young

Can we move on, move back home?

Prime Minister

Yes.

Hugo Young

That was very interesting indeed. I just wanted to talk a bit about conservatism now. You have set up a group of six people to work towards the next manifesto. I want to ask you how much you are just going to be fighting on a record or how much you can define and what are the pillars of that definition of a third term of Thatcherite government? [end p25]

Prime Minister

No, I am not just going to be fighting on a record. A record is one's earnest that one has tried to put certain principles into practice and like every aspect of life, those principles have to be redefined against contemporary needs. The principles still hold and will always hold and if I might put it this way, perhaps it sounds trite, but some of the truths are trite: it is Government's job to maximise the liberty of the people under a rule of law and therefore to make your government systems serve the liberty of the people, and not to extinguish them. In other words, the Government is servant of the people and not their master.

Now that means that Government has to be extremely strong in things which only Government can do. Very strong in defence. Very strong to make the resources available for law and order and the structures, although it cannot do that alone. It has got to be in cooperation with people. Very strong to try to keep your finances sound and your currency sound. I think strong to see that there is a basic social services safety net, so that people do not really have to worry if, through terrible misfortune, they fall on hard times.

Now that has been reinterpreted as keeping a national health service going. We have done far better with it than any other previous government, but perhaps I can best put the next point this way:

If you are looking at the strength of another country [end p26] and trying to judge it as to its strength and its character and its future, would you say that a country is stronger if its people for every problem they have run to government for a solution and say: “Please tax me more and take away more of my powers and let us put them over to you!” or do you think it is stronger if its people say: “There are certain things government can do and you must be strong to do that!” ? But the real strength of a free people, the real character of a country, then depends upon people taking the responsibilities which attach to liberty, being enterprising themselves and finding their own responsibilities for their families, finding their own solution. You would not hesitate to give me the answer. It is the second one whose people are strong, who are enterprising, have initiative, who take the responsibilities of freedom along with the virtues it gives, and so I have to go in the next Parliament, yes, towards that vision, much more towards it, much more to seeing that people, because of their own responsibility, the responsibilities of liberty and strength because they are prepared to do it, they have much more property of their own—not only their house, but more shares, more savings. They decide what they do with it, but they have the capacity to save from their income.

In the United States, you must save and become a capitalist out of income. We still have not got quite to that stage to anything for my liking. I have got to keep people here who are enterprising and who can create the growth of tomorrow. We have [end p27] got to try to diminish by the approach the envious society, because know that we only get the prosperity we need by the wealth creators, and they have to be kept here.

Hugo Young

Can I just interrupt you for a second, because I accept all that …

Prime Minister

It is quite fundamental.

Hugo Young

After seven years it is extraordinary to me how that message has still not got across even in the Tory Party. There was a poll of Tory people alone, and only 13%; of the Tory voters actually wanted tax cuts and about 60%; of the people were saying: “I may not vote Tory because I do not like what they have done to education and health!” so you have got a long way to go even in your own party to get this message across.

Prime Minister

You know, an awful lot depends in polls on the way in which the questions are put and what people think they ought to say, and often you will find some things played back which have been in the media before, but let us talk about these tax cuts. [end p28]

When someone comes to me and says: “Let us not have any more tax cuts” I just say: “I bet you have got quite a good income. I bet it is well over average and I bet you have done reasonably well out of existing tax cuts, but just tell me, do you really think it is right for the school-teacher on £150 to pay £40 a week away and so she is dealing with about £108 or £100 a week?” And she comes to say: “I have not got enough net take-home pay, therefore I want a big increase in pay.” Do you not see the two things are related?

Hugo Young

But there are …   . the schools in which she is teaching.

Prime Minister

Yes indeed, but do you not see some of the people who say we do not want tax cuts are simultaneously demanding an increase in wages and salaries, vary increases [sic] in wages and salaries and given them an increase in net take-home pay, and that is also happening in industry, and the only way in which we can give people an increase in net take-home pay without it working through into industrial costs and stopping us from selling goods abroad is by tax cuts, and I still think that people on below-average earnings—average earnings and below pay too much away and so do they, and some above, because they then go and demand more increases in wages and some, really, on very very good incomes. Because some [end p29] of the people who come to me and say: “No more tax cuts!” are managers. Had an increase on average of 8.9%; last year.

You know, it would be very much better if some of these people forewent their pay increases and said: “No, I do not want any increase in net take-home pay from now!” but that is not the way they work when it comes to considering some of their own future. They work for their families.

Can I just say there is one other thing I have got to keep in mind, very much in mind. We need growth. We need more small businesses, we need more products. In the end, though I need hardly say it to you, the fundamental principle is you succeed or you earn a living by making things for someone else which someone else will buy, or by creating …   . which someone else will buy, and that is really the long and short of it.

Hugo Young

Can I bring you back to taxing?

Prime Minister

Oh yes, that also is what I was going to say, and if you cannot sell your products abroad you do not get the jobs. 30%; of our income has to be exported to live with 55 million people here. Has to be, and if we do not keep our costs down and our design up and our service up, and if we do not get the new products, then we do not get the increased prosperity and we do not get the jobs. [end p30] What I have to keep very much in mind is that our top rate of tax used to be 98%; under Labour, is now 60%; under us. In the United States, if their bill goes through, their top rate of tax—let me take it the other way—their average rate of income tax is going to be 15%;. Their top rate of tax is going to be 27%;, still with relief for mortgages etc. Our bottom rate of tax at the moment is 29%;.

Hugo Young

Is it a final objective to get it down to 25%; by the election?

Prime Minister

It is an objective to try to get it down and it is an objective we need, because otherwise people who are supremely inventive, supremely enterprising, whether in industry, whether in commerce, whether in that fantastic entertainment cultural world which gives us so much earnings and also enriches our life so much, authors, playwrights, actors, musicians, they can so arrange their affairs that they are based on the United States and not here. Top scientists, a lot of industry's scientists, oh yes, again when I solemnly explain all this—if I did all this on television it would take hours—but I have to do it. [end p31]

Hugo Young

Taking that point. On one or two points about the public sector though, if you had a third term, what do you think the education …   .

Prime Minister

Look! I believe we are going to get a third term.

Hugo Young

What will the education system look like in five years' time?

Prime Minister

We have got to get in many places, particularly in inner cities, if I say alternative schools to some of those the local authorities are running. You know about political indoctrination in some of the inner cities. Well, I could show you examination papers, I could show you books, they come to me. Parents come to one. They dare not talk about it. They say please do not talk about it because they will take it out on my child at school. How do you deal with it?

People forget education is delivered through the local authorities and they have a lot of the policy and we do not have control over the policy and in many ways we recoiled from having too much central control over policy. That is because our [end p32] limits [sic] to the way in which you can do that.

We also have to look—and please do not jump to the conclusion that I have found necessarily a way … we found necessarily a way to do it—these are some things we are considering. In some schools and in some areas, our education is nothing like as good as France or Germany. I say in some schools or in some areas. That is not true of all schools in all areas. Some local education authorities are doing excellent educating. I went up to my old school yesterday. It is fantastic. The buildings are good, the equipment is good, the teachers are good, the opportunities are fantastic, and as I look and see the education system that that education is running, it is using its resources well, it is delivering an excellent education. It is not our job to upset excellent education where it is being delivered. That is why you cannot just suddenly say change the whole thing. That is why you have to get, as I say, the more choice into parents in the state system.

Now, they will be teaching. I said every child takes science up to sixteen, yes, vital, so that you have got the fundamental knowledge in at that age, so that if they want to pick it up later it is all there. They must not really be able to drop a fundamental subject at too early an age.

Now, we are talking about a core curriculum. I sometimes look at on the Continent where they have not only a core curriculum but a core syllabus so that you can be certain that [end p33] the children are everywhere being taught certain things and in a certain way. That would be an enormous leap for us to take, and what we are considering is whether we should take that leap—only a core—because my generation still recoils from having a system which any government could manipulate and yet we are faced—my generation will be very conscious of that—and yet we are very conscious that some children are not getting a proper education in learning and teaching.

There is a report out today on teaching English. English, arithmetic. They had the same problem, actually, in the States where they had research into it. Of course, they found that they had, in the universities, to run something called “Boneheaded English” because youngsters coming up were not sufficiently adept in English and they did research on what works and the result of it is fascinating.

But what I am saying is hitherto we had a 1944 Education Act as amended and it set down certain things set by Government. The only thing that a government has authority on over the curriculum is that religious education must be taught and ironically enough, that is one of the things which also is not done well, and the power over the curriculum otherwise does not rest with the government at all.

I am saying that in spite of the principles which I have said and the fears, we have to deal with the situation in which some children are not getting the good education which is every [end p34] child's birthright, and we have to look at that, and it is not something that one wishes to tackle by stopping local authorities who are delivering an excellent education, because some of them are delivering such a good education that it is better than any. DS sic: DES?] could not deliver an education, it is small, but you have to encourage those things. The direct grant schools are marvellous things, like the Girls Public Day School Trust.

We also have to look to see whether some head teachers are now allowed enough latitude on the management of the resources of their school.

I am not suggesting that we have answers to all of these things. I am suggesting that we are addressing our minds very much to them. We do not even know whether the money that we allocate goes into education or not and if it does go to education, it may go to things, it may go to indoctrination rather more than to teaching them things they ought to have. It may go not to supplying the books; it may go to not keeping the buildings in good repair, which I am very conscious of.

It is one of those reassessments, trying to keep one's fundamental principles, of government can set and has to be strong to set the framework. From time to time the framework alters and we are having a look at the framework in which others … because you have to go over to others … to encourage all ways the people who are most interested in teaching and learning for the sake of giving the children an education, and enlarging their horizons, [end p35] because you cannot just say, “Well, this child is going all his life to be something … to go to the local factory etc.” You do have to show the wonders of the world, but in showing the wonders of the world too and the wider horizons, you must not forget that they have to be equipped for the ordinary business of living and to learn.

Hugo Young

Are you really confident that you are going to get this third term?

Prime Minister

I believe we shall get a third term. I fundamentally believe we shall get the third term.

Hugo Young

And will it, in the end, rest on the appeal “Do not let Labour ruin it!” ?

Prime Minister

Oh look! Much more than that. It is all the positive things I believe in. Do you know …   . you heard me mention George Bernard Shaw before. Liberty incurs responsibilities; that is why many people fear it, why many men fear it. Yes, some do fear [end p36] it. Some would rather live on with the state deciding where you will live, what job you shall have, and do not forget there are some people—and this really is the essence of communism and extreme left wingism—who are that way because they want to control people's lives, first because it gives them enormous power, and second, because they think that you can do it better. They forget that what happens in every society is it will dwarf and diminish people and if you come to a nation which dwarfs its citizens you will find that with small people no great things can be accomplished.

Hugo Young

But have you not, after seven years, changed the state of the argument and the consensus so much that it actually does not matter much if Labour gets in because a lot of the ideas that this government has put in have really been absorbed by the Labour Party?

Prime Minister

If Labour were to get in, they would have a bigger proportion of extreme left wingers than any I have ever seen in my twenty-six, twenty-seven years in Parliament and in all my life in Parliament I have watched where they were left with a handful to them growing in each Parliament increasing numbers. Look at Bernie Grant in [end p37] Haringey, the news today. What they are doing with the syllabus in schools, what they are insisting is being taught to the children. I believe it would be catastrophic, it would be disastrous, it would be the end of the character of Britain, which is the thing to me which matters.

Hugo Young

…   . who on the whole are full of reasonable people who are moving as fast as they can in your direction are not representative of …   .

Prime Minister

You know and I know that extreme left wingers are being selected to stand in many many Labour constituencies and they are getting adopted and they would be a bigger proportion and let me just go through some of the things.

You have seen their defence policy. You cannot say you are going to belong to NATO and reject its fundamental policies on nuclear. You cannot. It is absurd. That is sixes and sevens. And if that is their policy and it will be, then I think it is devastating to the freedom and strength of this country.

Inflation, the battle is never never won. It has to be re-won every year.

Law and order, the battle too is never won. It has to be re-won again by firmness, by seeing that the numbers of police [end p38] are available, by seeing the equipment is available, by encouraging people to set up neighbourhood watches, all the time by encouragement.

Hugo Young

They have not encouraged any of that on the law and order side have they?

Prime Minister

Have you seen some of what the Left says about the police? Of course they have.

Hugo Young

Gerald KaufmanKaufmann.

Prime Minister

Oh, more than Kaufman. You have seen some of the GLC things about the police. Well, we abolished the GLC. Practically no-one has noticed. They fought it all the way, the abolition. No-one noticed it has gone. Go and look at some of the things they say about the police. Look at the Bernie Grants.

Have you seen socialism in action? Of course you have …   . down in Wapping. You have seen it on the picket line. Intimidation. You have seen the leaders say: “Yes, we condemn violence!” but they condone the tactics which they know lead to violence. [end p39]

They do want much more control over people's lives. That is why they fought against the sale of council houses. That is why they fight against denationalisation. That is why they fight against tax cuts—because they do not trust people enough. I believe they are fundamentally against the character of Britain.

I do very strongly about it. Can I put it another way? The moment that the Tory Party took over the responsibility of the Welfare State and did it better than Labour, because we have a sound financial background … from that time, the Labour Party had only one direction in which to go—further and further left—and that is the way in which it has been going, so you look at what some of them say, but you look at what happens at Wapping, you look at what happens still when some of the trade unions are on the picket line, the intimidation is done and they cannot and do not eliminate it. You look at what some of the leftists say about the police. They cannot and do not eliminate it. You look at what they say about Militants and then you find that they are right in the heart of their candidates.

No, this has to be brought out.

Yes, I am against that kind of socialism. It is more socialist than other socialist party in Europe in my view. Yes, I do believe it would fundamentally affect the character of Britain and I fight on our positive ground—freedom under the rule of law—and interpreting that generation after generation, but leave responsibility in the hands of the people is so fundamental to me, [end p40] and you ask me and I say do not let Labour ruin it. It is a big enough positive message to put across and we will do it.

Hugo Young

One of the features, if I may say so, of all your time as a political leader has been conviction politics. You are very proud of conviction politics and you have stuck to all sorts of things and you said it again today, but what I want to ask you is have you ever been wrong about something?

Prime Minister

I expect so.

Hugo Young

What?

Prime Minister

I am sure I will have been wrong about things.

Hugo Young

Have you changed your mind about them?

Prime Minister

I am sure I will have been wrong about quite a lot of things because there is a lot of timing in politics. But after all, [end p41] no-one who is trying to win starts off by setting out …   . I am sure I will have been wrong, but I do not believe I will have been wrong about the fundamental things.

I can think of some of the things which we were right about and not able to put through but that is not really what you are asking.

Hugo Young

If, as a way of preserving all that has been achieved, you thought it could be done better under a different leader, would you stand down?

Prime Minister

I am far more interested in achieving the things in which I believe in than I am in my own personal future. Far more interested.