Speeches, etc.

Margaret Thatcher

Interview for Daily Express

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Venue: No.10 Downing Street
Source: (1) Daily Express , 21-22 October 1986 (2) Thatcher MSS: COI transcript (5/2/222).
Journalist: Paul Potts, Daily Express
Editorial comments: 1000-1110. The interview was published in two parts, 21-22 October 1986. A transcript of one section of it can be found on the Press Office file on the interview, 5/2/222 ff9-11.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 2104
Themes: Conservatism, Defence (general), Defence (arms control), Education, Employment, General Elections, Foreign policy (USA), Foreign policy (USSR & successor states), Health policy, Labour Party & socialism, Law & order, Local government, Leadership
(1) Daily Express, 21 October 1986

Maggie vows to take on the Left

I'll break classroom wreckers

Mrs Thatcher is to take on extreme Left-wing councils to bring order and standards back into the classroom.

In an exclusive interview with the Daily Express yesterday she promised tough action to protect children from being brainwashed and to keep political indoctrination out of the playground.

And she spoke of her “horror” at the antics of hardline Labour councils such as Brent, London, which is spending £5 million on sending 180 anti-race “spies” into schools.

A secret Cabinet committee is working on a Tory-led classroom revolution. Among the ideas being discussed:—

• A nationally required basic syllabus to be incorporated in the new GCSE certificate to ensure standards in English, arithmetic, reading and writing.

• A new deal on pay and conditions for teachers with the possibility they may be employed on fresh contracts by the Government instead of by the local authority.

• Handing real power to head teachers, governors, parents and pupils to run the schools free from the interference by local politicians using direct Government cash.

• Greater competition and parental choice with [end p1] a move towards more of the old-style direct grant schools.

The proposals are all up for inclusion in the Tory election manifesto.

The Prime Minister's determination to get to grips with State schools will lead to the biggest shake-up since the war.

After decades of central government being kept out of education, Mrs Thatcher has decided she must act to boost standards and reassure parents.

“You must put a fantastic amount of emphasis on education because that is where most of us get our opportunities,” she said.

“We are having a look at the whole framework in which it is conducted.”

She stressed that although the taxpayer had to fund the system, the Government had very little power to control it.

She went on: “This is exercising our minds very much because centralisation is not the thing we wish to have. But you have got, nevertheless, to make jolly certain that children are taught certain things and are taught them properly.

“It is ironic that the reason central government did not take these powers was to avoid the very political indoctrination which is occurring in some schools.”

Mrs Thatcher was careful to point out there are a lot of good schools: “You have to see how to preserve the best and tackle some of the other things.”

She compared the political abuse of schools by some councils with Hitler 's attempt “to try to manipulate a whole generation of children by brainwashing.”

She explained that it was against this climate that the 1944 Education Act deliberately kept power over the curriculum away from government.


But Mrs Thatcher continued: “Now because of that we are in a position where some children are politically indoctrinated because that is the way of some local authorities.

“The very thing we wanted to avoid is the very thing that has come about and at the moment we do not have the powers to stop it.”

Asked about the Brent saga and other Left-wing councils, the Prime Minister said: “I share the horror of people who do not like that sort of policy or programme.”

Maggie dismisses early poll rumours

Prime Minister Mrs Thatcher yesterday gave her clearest warning that she will not be hustled by speculation into a General Election next spring.

I do not believe the British people like you to go to the election too early and that is certainly not my intention, she said.

Mrs Thatcher, who pointed out that she does not have to go to the country until June 1988, was asked about the effect of Election talk on the financial markets. She replied: “I just hope things will calm down a little bit.”

With Mrs Thatcher due to answer Prime Minister's Questions in the House of Commons today for the first time since July, she stressed there is a full year's Parliamentary programme ahead.


Mrs Thatcher also spoke for the first time about relations between the superpowers.

And she emphasised her support for the stand taken by President Reagan against Soviet demands for an end to the Star Wars programme.

Ronald ReaganHe was absolutely right. I support him 100 per cent” she said warning that any attempt by the Kremlin to try to drive a wedge between America and Europe “would not succeed.”

She confirmed that she hopes to go to Washington for talks with President Reagan probably next month. [end p2] Daily Express, 22 October 1986

I am here to stay for a fourth term

On a rainy autumn morning in her private study at Downing Street, Mrs Thatcher had a surprise for those expecting her to stand down within two years of the next election.

As full of zip as the day she first became Prime Minister, she revealed her sights are already set on a fourth term.

Convinced the next election is as good as in the bag, the 61-year-old leader wants to take the Thatcher Revolution, based on popular capitalism, into the 1990's.

If the manner of her “confession” was tentative, there was no mistaking the intention. And judging by the way she is looking, only a fool would bet against it.

When I asked about a fourth term, or calling it a day shortly after a third, she told me: “I think you would be right in assuming the broader time.”

The game continued as she added: “I think you would be right in not assuming two years. One would like to go through because I do think continuity is going to be extremely important,” she said breaking the hearts of a few would-be successors in the process.

But it is not the ambition of a power-hungry politician which keeps her going just the unswerving belief that she can change forever—and for better—the British way of life.

“I feel we could begin to break through into the kind of Britain I wish to see.

“A nation whose people are stronger in their own independence, their own security by virtue of building their own lives and being able to save enough out of their own property.”

With a laugh and a clasp of her hands she added: “Yes, there is a lot to be done.”

Earlier there was another shock for those who reckoned they had worked out the Thatcher battle plan.

They can forget all about softening the image, pulling the claws of the Iron Lady and expecting her to wear a sunshine smile to win a few votes.

“No one can accuse me of being weak” she said. And then, with a hint of menace, added “Whereas I think some accusations of weakness might stick elsewhere.”

Throughout the interview Mrs Thatcher never mentioned Mr Kinnock by name, instead referring to him as “this one,” presumably as opposed to “the other three” she has seen off over the years.

But mention the Labour Party, and she did not miss a chance.

“Anyone who is prepared to give up our weapons unilaterally I do not regard as having the security of Britain in the forefront of their minds. Or as their first objective.

“Never give up anything unilaterally if you are really interested in the security of your country.”

As far as the Russians are concerned: “There has to be no softly-softly stuff. No pussyfooting about. We must have hard realistic negotiations.

“If we are weak then it could come to open conflict and even more likely they would threaten and we dare not fight because their forces would be so superior or there would be the danger of them having a type of weapon which we did not possess.”

And just for the Soviets' information, she intends to keep up the “very realistic” approach during her Moscow summit early next year.

Also likely to produce an earthquake high on the Richter scale is a question about boredom and the electorate.

“I think when it comes to it most people want stability and continuity. They want to know that the Government is strong, that the Government knows where it is going. They respect that and they would far rather have it that way.

“As for boredom, do you say that a company that has a fantastic production record gets boring. Of course, it doesn't. It produces policies, relevant to the times and in keeping with its fundamental beliefs.

“We believe sufficiently in the British people to want to give them more freedom not less.

“If you were to ask almost anyone in this country what is the characteristic of Britain, they would say, “Well it is a free country isn't it’.”

The Thatcher camp is also convinced that the Prime Minister takes an enormous amount of personal flak because she is winning the policy argument.

The phrase they use is “playing the woman, not the ball.” As Mrs Thatcher said: “The issues at any election are enormously important and will assume more and more importance because an election is about the issues, the whole policy, philosophy and the vision of the future.

“They do not want to talk about the issues because they are so important.”

As for the constant jibe that she does not care, Mrs Thatcher retaliated, “We have just broken through that on the broad general figures. They all want to get away from them but on the figures we can beat them all ends up.

“At a personal level I think I have just got used to it. Certainly they are not going to deflect attention from the issues.”

With a hugely successful Tory Party Conference behind her, and a new Parliamentary year looming, Mrs Thatcher is more convinced than ever that her cherished election hat-trick is on the cards.

“I do not believe there will be a Labour Government. When we take out and look at their policies fundamentally, I believe the things that we believe in are really in tune with what the British people want.” [end p3]

And Mrs Thatcher will rely on the philosophy which put her in the history books to keep her there.

“The issues will be very, very stark. Not only on defence, not only on the rule of law but the whole, fundamental aspect.”

Mrs Thatcher is doing her best to keep open her election options by dampening down expectations.

“I do not believe the British people like you to go to the election too early and that certainly is not my intention.

“I really do not understand why people are getting so excited. I suppose it pays some people to try to convey that impression.”

Pressure from the markets and political opportunism may force her to run in the spring. Wiser heads prefer to wait until the autumn. Some even want her to hang on until 1988.

In the end Mrs Thatcher will call an election when she thinks she can best win it.

And when she does she is going to take an awful lot of stopping.



Mrs Thatcher promised to keep up the Government's huge and expensive campaign against drugs.

While expressing her concern about smoking and alcohol abuse she warned: “Drugs are really dreadful.

“They are in a class of their own. We have to fight and fight and keep fighting and do everything possible both overseas and at home.

“I am also very concerned that young people should not smoke. The connection now between cancer and smoking is there.”

And on alcoholism: “Anything to excess, of course is bad, and obviously we must do what we can.”



If there is one area in which Mrs Thatcher intends to make strong leadership an issue it is defence.

It seems she can hardly wait to bring her own nuclear strike down on Labour's Ban the Bomb defence stand.

She pointed out that the Soviet Union had never abandoned its policy of expanding worldwide Communism.

“There will not be open conflict if we are strong,” she insisted.



“I honestly do not think that when it comes to the General Election the voter will be fickle.

“Just look at Socialism in action. You see it in Brent, you see it in Haringey, you see it in Liverpool.

“What it says is we do not care two hoots how high is the tax we put on you, whether by taxation or rates. We are going to do what we want. We, they will say, are the masters now.

Although Mrs Thatcher insisted throughout that she is in no hurry for an election. It is clear the battle lines are already being firmly drawn.



Mrs Thatcher described the recent lowering of unemployment as “very cheering,” although she wanted more evidence of a firm, downward trend.

“The baby boomers of the late 1960s are all wanting jobs now and not as many people are retiring.

“That is why it has not had such a big effect as it should have had.”

(2) Thatcher MSS: COI transcript:


Paul Potts, Daily Express:

Can I ask, with that election obviously in the air, and I wouldn't want to ask you...


All I know is that by June 1988 there will have to be an election. There's a long time to go before then. There's a whole year for legislation.

Paul Potts, Daily Express:

The reason I ask you that Prime Minister is, how bothered are you that some of your financial policies are being blown around a little bit, presumably by a certain nervousness in the markets that there may be a Labour Government or that there may be an election.


I don 't think there will be a Labour Government, because when I think we take out and look at the things fundamentally, I believe passionately, as you know, that the things we believe in really are in tune with most of what the people believe in. They won't always vote for us because sometimes their traditional loyalties are elsewhere. But you know, in my time in Parliament, again as I said in the speech, the present day Labour Party is not the Labour Party when I entered Government. Indeed, you've only got to look at Gaitskell and what he fought for. Gaitskell fought the unilateralism in the Labour Party. This one is the unilateralism in the Labour Party. Gaitskell fought Clause 4, the nationalisation of the major production industries of the British .... because he said its not in tune with the hearts and minds of the people. This one has reaffirmed Clause 4.

Paul Potts, Daily Express:

With a new name.


With a new name. Harold Wilson had a paper, a trade union paper “In Place of Strikes”. But it was Callaghan who fought that. And its the present Labour Party which wants to abolish, to repeal the trade union laws which we bought in and repeal the right of the ordinary guy and chap in the union to take his case to the courts of law. That is a totally different Labour Party than the Labour Party that most of the people and I was brought up with.

Paul Potts, Daily Express:

Is there any way you can combat this election fever, whatever word you want to use, that is upsetting the markets, and for instance not helping sterling and not helping...


Yes . The way I am trying to do it now.

Paul Potts, Daily Express:

Basically you haven't made up your mind, full year to go, until this Parliament's up.


There’s a whole year, for example, of legislation that we want to do. I don't believe that the British people like you to go for an election too early. I really don’t.

Paul Potts, Daily Express:

Do you accept there is an element in the market at the moment of uncertainty from this? Given the pressure on sterling etc. Or do you think its other factors?


I think the oil price is a factor. We had a very, very good party conference, and I think … well I just hope things will calm down a little bit. As I say, I do not believe the British people like one to go to an election too early and this certainly isn't my intention. I suppose it pays some people to convey that impression.

Paul Potts, Daily Express:

Perhaps when Parliament gets going again, people get busier and people’s minds may wander.


Things haven't exactly been unbusy during the recess.