Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

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

1986 Apr 21 Mo
Margaret Thatcher

TV Interview for Granada Television

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Document kind: TV Interview
Venue: No.10 Downing Street
Source: Thatcher Archive: COI transcript
Journalist: Peter Allen, Granada TV
Editorial comments: 1730-1830. The interview was in two parts: the first section (twelve minutes on Libya) was embargoed until 2130 on 21 April 1986, the second (fifteen minutes on UK politics) was embargoed until 1800 on 22 April when it was shown on Granada Reports.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 4234
Themes: Conservatism, Industry, By-elections, European Union (general), Foreign policy (Middle East), Foreign policy (USA), Housing, Labour Party & socialism, Local government, Local government finance, Leadership, Society, Social security & welfare, Terrorism

Peter Allen

Prime Minister, can I begin with a basic question: do you believe in this country we are safer because of that raid on Libya?

Mrs. Margaret Thatcher

I think we are safer in the long run from terrorism because, you know, we'd had a long period of terrorist acts, we'd also had a long period of the United States saying to Europe—‘you really must take some action, peaceful action’ and we haven't done enough. If you know a terrorist knows that he can use force indiscriminately against your people anywhere at any time and that he will never be met with force in defence of our own interests, then he will go on doing it and more people will lose their lives in the longer run.

P. Allen

Well, can I examine the net effect of that raid: Gaddafi, for instance, apparently lost an adopted child during that raid, there were other innocent civilians killed as well, that's not going to make him less inclined to terrorism.

Mrs. Thatcher

No, and it's one of the things that one is always very concerned about, but when people who use force against you, when you have to use force against them, it's not natural for us to use force, we do it very reluctantly, we do it with deep concern and we only do it because we know that in the longer run if terrorism meets with appeasement, terrorism will mount and go on increasing and there will be more and more innocent victims, that is the story of the battle against force the world over. We are slow to use it and that's why people are shocked and it is right that they should be, but appeasement would be worse. [end p1]

P. Allen

Gaddafi has spoken to the IRA, we heard the Government describing over the weekend, surely the net result of all this is at the least likely to be that the IRA is promoted towards further violence in this country because of what happened in Libya.

Mrs. Thatcher

No, look, I think—I hope as a result of that raid that quite a lot of damage will have been done to either terrorist bases where they train people and they do train people for terrorism, never forget that, never forget the terrorist scenes you've seen on our television, they wilfully train people to kill and maim indiscriminately, so obviously you try to go—or the United States have tried to go for those camps to diminish their capability to do that. And, secondly, it must have had some effect on reducing the will of some people to continue with such a policy. Don't forget Gaddafi uses indiscriminate terrorism the world over, but particularly on Americans and Europeans and those are the people who've suffered most from terrorism.

P. Allen

Can I take you through the logic of what you've done, or what you agreed to do with President Reagan: it appears to me that the only thing which would stop retribution by Gaddafi or his agents is the fear that you would strike again if necessary and indeed harder, now is that a fact?

Mrs. Thatcher

I do not know what will happen, I don't know quite the effect of the result of this raid, but I do know that you cannot just watch terrorism mounting. Over the last year there have been some nine hundred victims of terrorism. This man uses State-sponsored terrorism against innocent people. If he knows he can do so and people will never use force in their own defence he will go on and on and say—ah, they're afraid of me, I am above them defending themselves, they dare not do it. That would be very, [end p2] very bad indeed for many, many innocent people in this country, across Europe and across the world. Terrorism is a kind of warfare, it must be defeated.

P. Allen

But are you saying now, you, if Gaddafi comes again and tries … and we have evidence linking him to terrorism, then again we will strike—?

Mrs. Thatcher

I hope that Europe will take more action, it has taken some more action. Don't forget Europe has refused for a very long time to take some of the actions which we ourselves have taken. We in fact excluded … expelled the Libyan Peoples Bureau after the murder of Yvonne Fletcher in London, expelled them all. We broke off diplomatic relations, we do not supply Libya with any defence equipment. Now if the whole world would do that, if they'd cut out the Libyan Peoples Bureaux, that is where so much of the terrorist acts are planned. … interruption

No, no, no, not until I have gone on, just supposing the whole world would stop supplying Gaddafi with arms, the Soviet Union as well, just supposing we could get more action peacefully, then we would probably have more chance of stopping him by peaceful means, but you must in the end retain the right to defend yourself by force in face of force.

P. Allen

The reason I tried to interrupt was because when you were talking about help being offered to Libya, it's surely a fact that we indeed train Libyan pilots in this country.

Mrs. Thatcher

Yes indeed, there are I think a very few being trained at the moment. We have taken the view that if everyone would do economic sanctions we also would join in, there are nevertheless some things that we do without waiting. We felt we had suffered so much, we expelled the Libyan Peoples Bureau, we broke off diplomatic relations, we refused to supply any defence equipment and we cut down a great deal [end p3] of credit, international trade. We are having a look now at training those pilots because I'm fully aware of the argument that though you train them for civil aircraft they could also be used for military aircraft and that is one of the things we're having a close look at now, I don't like doing it.

P. Allen

Before I move on, can I just try my question once more: the logic of the situation appears to me to be that you have to be prepared to sanction another strike against Libya if Gaddafi doesn't stop his terrorist actions—true or false?

Mrs. Thatcher

We have to try, we have to try by other means, the more successful we are by other means, the less you need to use force in self-defence.

P. Allen

But if necessary?

Mrs. Thatcher

If necessary, what will you say—supposing another nine hundred or a thousand or even more people are the victims of terrorism. I remember the feeling in this country when Yvonne Fletcher was murdered, I remember seeing that policeman's hat left there in St. James's Square for some time because no-one dare go to get it in case they too were fired at from the Libyan Embassy in this country, I remember— [interruption] I remember the strength of feeling, I remember the strength of feeling and I say to you again—if you want more terrorism mounting over time indiscriminately from dictators then appease them. You must always—and you're entitled to—you must always retain the right to defend your people by force when you are met with relentless indiscriminate force. I hope that will not happen, I hope it most earnestly, but I think we ought to be prepared jointly to take more action by peaceful means than so far we have. I'm prepared to go further myself by peaceful means. [end p4]

P. Allen

Some innocent people died in that raid, indeed some hostages died in the sequel to it, were you aware of that danger when you took your decision?

Mrs. Thatcher

Yes, one is always aware of that danger. When you fight people who in fact use force against you, unless you are a total pacifist which is a possibility, then you are always aware of that, but if you don't, if you're afraid to do that, if you appease a terrorist, if you appease a bully, he'll go on bullying, appease a tyrant he'll go on using force. There were nine hundred victims of violence, of terrorism last year. Please remember some of those as well.

P. Allen

The essence of this argument seems to me a practical one, in view of the deaths of the hostages, of the innocent civilians in Libya, in view of the reaction at home, in view of the reaction abroad, isn't there a suspicion in your mind that you made a mistake?

Mrs. Thatcher

No, there is not. Do remember some of the acts of terrorism, the taking of the hostages, you don't seem even to criticise it, the taking of hostages. …

P. Allen

What I criticise is whether your action has actually helped to solve the situation.

Mrs. Thatcher

The taking of hostages is an act of terrorism. Some of them have been taken over a year, the taking of hostages is an act of terrorism. When they in fact killed those hostages it shows again the kind of person with whom you're dealing. You remember the tremendous bomb in the Lebanon where over three hundred and five people were victims, that is far more than we lost in the whole of our Falklands campaign, you remember some of the hijackings, you remember the scene in St. James's Square, you remember some of the IRA attacks we've had over here, the IRA is helped by Libya, are you suggesting to me that [end p5] we stand by and do precious little in the face of those mounting attacks. [interruption] Yes, I believe, I believe that a limited attack on Gaddafi, on the terrorist camps, on some of the military camps fully justified to meet the force that we have met, with force on the basis that they use was justified, that it will be better in the long run for the defeat of terrorism than just appeasing a dictator and I realise that we've had a lot of experience in this country of terrorism, we've also had a lot of experience and lost a lot of lives because we didn't … appease, because we did appease dictators earlier and because we didn't take the requisite action earlier.

P. Allen

Final question on this subject, and it's an omnibus question, if you like—your critics would say that on three counts the decision was wrong—Gaddafi is now stronger as a result of the bombing, terrorism in this country is more likely and the third point, that the alliance might well be weakened, the alliance with America might well be weakened because of Europe's reaction to their request.

Mrs. Thatcher

Yes—I do not believe that Gaddafi is stronger, I believe the world knows what he is like and I believe that quite a number of nations were prepared for the United States to take the action but perhaps weren't prepared to stand up and be counted in the same way as we were. The United States defence is vital in the defence of the free world, without the United States and without Britain Europe would not today be free. I believe the alliance is stronger because someone was prepared to stand by America, knowing that she was trying to strike a blow against terrorism. I think you are wrong. Of course I know the agonies, of course I had to go through the agonies of making the decision, of course I understand people's initial [end p6] reaction, we are slow to use force, democracies are, but, you know, if you just let dictators and tyrants win there would not be freedom in this country or elsewhere. America put 330,000 armed forces in Europe to help to defend us as well as her, that's more than the whole of our regular forces, because they are here they are subject to terrorist attacks, she asked to use her aircraft, her pilots to defend her forces and her people as well as us over here. It seems to me reasonable that we should have said ‘yes’ to the United States to keep this great alliance going—what would seem to me to be wrong is to deny them under those circumstances of mounting terrorism, the failure to take action in Europe would have been wrong, to have denied the United States the use of her planes and her people or limited action … but I know the agonies I assure you.

Second part of interview begins

P.Allen

Before we start talking about this part of the interview, Prime Minister, you will be appearing of course at the official opening, the launching, of the Liverpool Youth Centre; something actually is happening down in those docks. Any thoughts on that?

Prime Minister

Well, I wish you well. I know those Albert Docks. I think that the Merseyside Development Corporation did a wonderful job with them and now you are going there with your new centre. You are taking high technology to Liverpool and that will give them a great source of new confidence. I really wish you well in all your endeavours.

P.Allen

Splendid. Thank you very much indeed. Right. Off we go. As I say, I will not delay you very much longer.

If we could look at the May elections and indeed the two by-elections which are coming up soon, Mrs. Thatcher, at the moment, if Fulham is anything to go by, you are unpopular in the country or shall we say the Government is unpopular in the country. Do you accept that? [end p7]

Prime Minister

I hope and believe that the result will be different when it comes up to a general election, when people then are answering a different question; they are saying: “Well, now what kind of government do we want in the coming years? Do we think this government has done a reasonably good job?” and I am sure they will answer “Yes” if they look at it reasonably. So we have a different question to be answered at general elections. I think mid-term you do have a number of problems, but again, let me point out that, you know, the standard of living in this country has never been higher; production has never been higher; investment has never been higher. So that does augur well for the future.

P.Allen

Would you accept that there are two classes in Britain, the haves and the have nots? The haves are doing all right, but the have nots are not doing very well at all.

Prime Minister

No, I have never accepted these simplistic things, not in any way. There are people who are trying to do their level best for themselves and their families; people trying to take advantage of opportunities; some trying to start up new businesses. They come from all kinds of backgrounds. They are not haves and have nots. They are people, all equally important, all different, all trying to use their talents and abilities, each in their own way. Don't just divide us into haves and have nots like that. It just is not right. Each of [end p8] us has our own personality. Each of us has our own self-respect. Each of us has our own identity.

P.Allen

Nevertheless, there are certain people in this country who are doing quite well at the moment and certain people who are not doing so well and those are often congregated in the inner cities. When I talk about the have nots, I merely reflect, I believe, the way people often feel in the north of England, that predominantly the have nots are in the north.

Prime Minister

You know, the north used to be the very rich part of the country. Go round and look at some of the houses; go round and look at some of the former factories and you will see that the north used to be the very very wealthy part, and you can still see signs of that and you can still see parts in great prosperity, some industries really flourishing; others, because a lot of them were heavy industries, not flourishing so much and of course, textiles really had to alter its whole policy and modernise and has done so. So the north has changed a very great deal. A good deal has moved south, but there are pockets of unemployment—more than pockets—there are areas of unemployment in the south.

But you talk about people doing well. Some are doing very well in the north. I hope that a lot more people will do [end p9] well. What I want is a lot more people to do well by their own efforts; to start up new businesses. A lot of us who cannot start up businesses on our own depend upon their success. Yes, I want more people to do well. I want us to applaud them. I want us to cheer them. I want us to say: “We want more of you! Because the rest of us depend on you!” I want us to say: “Look! The industrial revolution started in the north. They did not wait for a boost. They were the boost!” Oh, there is a tremendous lot going for the north, and if we see that tremendous spirit of enterprise which started Britain off in the forefront of the industrial revolution, then we shall go ahead again.

P.Allen

You see, the fear is that in your enthusiasm to promote, as you say, the people who would start businesses, the go-getters, the dynamic, you have forgotten the weak.

Prime Minister

I think you will find that the benefits which the weaker ones have are better than they have ever had before. I think you will find the training opportunities, the help to those who want to start up on their own, are better than they have ever been before. I think you will find that the more you want to help the weak, the more you have got to rely on the able and the enterprising and the strong to create the wealth. Those two are not at odds with one another; they are part of the same [end p10] whole society. Britain gets wealthy in proportion as her citizens are able and effective and enterprising. It is they who create the wealth. We tax it. We tax it on behalf of the whole of society and we distribute some of it, quite a lot of it, to those who are weaker, but not just for them to live on benefits, but for them to be retrained, for them to have enterprise allowances, for them to have loan guarantees, for them to have a chance, but never never think that the strong and the weak are parts of a different society. You want more strong, more effective, more enterprise, more endeavour, if you are to help the weak, the better.

P.Allen

If you look at that scenario from the inner city, it does not seem to make any sense. There are not any strong people much left in many inner city areas of this country. Liverpool, for instance.

Prime Minister

Well, I remember going to open a new factory in Plessey in Liverpool not very long since and I remember the management saying to me: “We have got a policy to try to come and help in these areas!” I remember going to Salford University, where they have splendid schemes of helping industries with research, doing very very well indeed. The Merseyside Development Corporation also is doing very well. Yes, there are problems with inner cities. Yes, money has been poured into them, but it does not help if you have high rates and high [end p11] expenditure; it frightens off business because business has to compete.

I sometimes worry that the money we are spending there is not met with what I call sufficient commitment to alter the whole philosophy and the whole ethos of inner cities. You know, spending money is not enough. You have got to get the enthusiasm, you have got to get the involvement of people, and I remember coming up to Toxteth just after those riots and talking to a fantastic number of young people. Their problem really was that they did not feel themselves involved, so please, it is not only a question of money. It is someone taking enough interest in these young people and it is, you know, sometimes small businesses who say: “Well, can we take on an extra one?” and that is what we have tried to do. We tried to do it with the Young Workers Scheme, we tried to do it with the Start-up Scheme. To say, someone who is running a business: “I know that youngster. I'll give him a chance.” That is not only money. It is commitment on the part of the youngster. It is involvement on the part of the person running the business. That is what I am interested in.

P.Allen

Yes, you are talking about attitudes in the inner cities towards the kind of ideas you have and you said that they were negative. [end p12]

Prime Minister

I am talking about more self-starters in society. You know, people saying: “What can I do to help?”

P.Allen

Perhaps it is because they feel disenfranchised. I know you find this point difficult to accept, but there are a lot of people in the inner cities. That is why Militant has grown, for instance, surely to goodness; it is because people have said: “Look, this system is no good for me!”

Prime Minister

No, I do not believe Militant has grown that and people are rejecting Militant. Militant … I have seen Militant. Militant and what I would call the extreme left is more concerned to control people's lives, to say: “You must depend upon me for your job, me for your flat, me for everything!” That is not our way. We are more concerned to give people opportunity to run their own lives.

I remember coming up to Liverpool, seeing the marvellous housing development of small houses where people had been able to have some say in the planning of those houses. They had done just exactly as I would. They have got a big room on the ground floor and a jolly big kitchen, two bedrooms upstairs and a bathroom, but they had just arranged it as I would. The window looked out on to the garden and one good-sized room. They all knew one another. They were tremendously proud. They had been involved. But you know, the Liverpool Council stopped that. That was not their way. That is our way, to involve [end p13] people.

Militant and extreme left socialism wants to control people's lives …   . not to bring them. …   .

P.Allen

People turn to Militant as a reaction against what you are offering.

Prime Minister

As I was going round Liverpool I just said to the person driving: “Stop the car!” because there was really a block of flats which looked appalling. I do not know how much they had spent on it, but they had not spent it well. I went around another one. I opened a Netherly Comprehensive School, a new big one …   . when I was Secretary of State for Education … it had a good head teacher … everything in the buildings … all the buildings …   . the equipment …   . and it had enormous blocks of flats and houses around. I went round last time I was in Liverpool. They were boarded up. People did not like them. A lot of money has been badly spent because it has not been spent in a way which creates a community.

People, you know, use the bulldozer too much. They took long streets of houses where people knew one another, as if they turned them up into blocks of flats and expected people still to have the same relationship. It is not only the money you spend. Such a lot has been spent, but such a lot has been spent in a way which creates new problems, because it did not have regard to the feelings of people for whom those things were being provided. [end p14]

P.Allen

Can I just finish with two quick questions?

Prime Minister

Of course!

P.Allen

One; what any council which runs Liverpool is going to be after, and probably other inner cities as well, is money. They are going to say: “Look, we do need funds. Whatever you say we need funds!” Is there going to be anything extra?

Prime Minister

They have had a lot. They had a very great deal. We have done almost as much for Liverpool as we possibly can, but you have got to have commitment and endeavour and if you have a place run by Militant and run by the extreme left, it is not the sort of place where you are going to get new businesses to go and start up. That also is a fact that one has got to take into account, and they have got to welcome new small businesses; they have got to welcome new bigger businesses. Not to say: “You are capitalist!” It is capitalism that creates the wealth which enables us to help others. So you do need commitment as well and treating people as individuals and not just talking about them as if their personality did not matter at all.

P.Allen

Final question. You have talked quite a lot in the last few minutes about the way people in Liverpool are reacting to [end p15] your policies. I wonder, is there a danger after the number of years you have spent in Downing Street, that you have lost that touch you once had with what people actually think? Things have gone wrong recently. British Leyland, Westlands, Libya you have come under heavy criticism. Is there a danger that you are out of touch?

Prime Minister

There is a fantastic amount that has gone wholly right. Industries are becoming much much more efficient. That gives you a good base from which to expand. As I indicated, the standard of living is good, more people owning their own houses, more people are becoming independent. That is the kind of society that we want to build.

We have put far more into the Health Service. Of course, you could go on putting more and more than any other people. Yes, the wealth is being created. In the last three years a million new jobs have been created. Things, economically, are going right. Do not take the fall in inflation for granted. It had to be worked for.

So all of those things are going right. Westlands should never have gone wrong. British Leyland, I think had we gone the way we wished to go, would have created more jobs, more jobs in the Midlands and elsewhere, but nevertheless, people did not wish to go that way.

I do not regard patriotism as refusing to have help from overseas. After all, Britain went the world over taking her ability and talent the world over and I think it a great [end p16] compliment to this country when others choose to invest here. But people would not take it and if they would not take it, then you just had to say: “Well all right, we will have to find another way!”

P.Allen

The question was: because those three things have all gone wrong, have you a feeling that you have lost touch?

Prime Minister

We have not lost touch. I am out just as much as I ever was. I know that I have to take some difficult decisions. None of the easy ones come to me. And you speak about the recent one and I repeat again: never appease a tyrant. It will be worse for you in the end if you do. That is the lesson of history.