Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

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

1986 Nov 19 We
Margaret Thatcher

TV Interview for ITN News at One

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Document kind: TV Interview
Venue: No.10 Downing Street
Source: Thatcher Archive: COI transcript
Journalist: Leonard Parkin, ITN
Editorial comments: MT was interviewed live, around 1300. Her next appointment was at 1320.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 2745
Themes: Autobiographical comments, Education, Employment, Industry, General Elections, Public spending & borrowing, Foreign policy (Middle East), Foreign policy (USA), Health policy, Labour Party & socialism, Law & order, Local government, Leadership, Terrorism

Leonard Parkin, ITN

Hallo and good afternoon from No. 10 Downing Street, where in a moment, I will be talking to the Prime Minister, Mrs. Thatcher; a timely interview, you might think, when sensitive political noses are twitching at the thought of an early election, although Mrs. Thatcher herself may think quite differently.

(OTHER NEWS HEADLINES NOT TRANSCRIBED)

Leonard Parkin, ITN

Mrs. Thatcher, I suggested a moment ago that noses are twitching at the thought of a General Election and it seems pretty clear now that whatever you say and what I ask is going to be judged in that context.

Are you affected now by talk of a General Election?

Prime Minister

I think election fever is being talked about much too much. I do not believe in dashing into an early election. We have a good majority. People know we were elected for a good long term, and [end p1] I think they expect us to carry out the main part of our programme; and so, at the beginning of the Queen's Speech, I said: ‘Right! We have a programme for a full Parliament and I for one hope we shall carry it out!’

Leonard Parkin, ITN

It is seen as a very thin programme and one that could be ditched fairly easily if you decide to go to the country.

Prime Minister

Well, I would not say that. I think the most important thing of all is the Criminal Justice Act. It is a Bill; I hope it will become an Act; and I think that law and order looms very very high in people's list of priorities.

Leonard Parkin, ITN

When an election does come, what are going to be the main issues?

Prime Minister

The main issues will be absolutely fundamental ones, about first, how you run the economy, and as you know, it is expanding well. We have had three months of good unemployment figures in the sense that they have been falling. The standard of living is higher than it has ever been, but it is more than that. It will be about defence, where there is a clear-cut issue. You know our view: we need an independent nuclear deterrent and nuclear deterrents kept [end p2] the peace both against nuclear war and conventional war for forty years.

It will be on trade unions, because what is proposed, as far as the Labour Party is concerned, is to deprive the ordinary member of the union of the right to go to court on a secret ballot.

It will be about privatisation and whether Opposition, if they were to carry out their policy, would deprive people of their equity stake in industry.

It will be about wider share-ownership, which is our policy, and all of those things and many more, and the way in which we have run the Health Service better than any previous government, and I think myself that education will loom very large.

Leonard Parkin, ITN

We will come to some of those things in a moment, but you have talked about eliminating socialism completely as a second force in British politics.

Is that a practical proposition and is it a right one to aim at?

Prime Minister

I have never thought that socialism, as it goes further and further left—and it is—is really in tune with the British character, and I have always longed for the time when we had two main parties—Government and Opposition—which both believe fundamentally in the same things: freedom under the law and backed up by a free enterprise society—rather similar to two fundamental [end p3] parties in the United States, but both believing the same fundamentals.

The fact is that once the Conservative Party took over the Welfare State and ran it rather better than our opponents, there really was only one place for Labour to go and that was further and further left, and that is why they oppose so much the wider ownership which is right at the root and heart of our policy. That is why they want to nationalise everything. That is why they want to control everything. That is why they would like more people in council houses. They want to control people's lives. We do not believe in running it that way.

We want them to be much much more independent to run their own lives and with the resources from their own earnings to do so, so it will be absolutely fundamental—on the kind of society and also on defence.

Leonard Parkin, ITN

Could the Labour Party survive another defeat at the polls, do you think?

Prime Minister

Well, I just hope that we will win the next election with a good majority and I would hope the following one, because by that time the spread of ownership will be much wider; people will have got used once again to freedom and a responsible society and I do not think that they would have any truck with socialism. You see, [end p4] it goes further and further towards an East European kind of society and I think and firmly believe that if those who look at us from overseas were convinced we would never have a socialist government of the kind you see in Labour council chambers now, if they thought that was never a possibility and they could be sure of it, sure we were a reliable ally, our whole prospects would be transformed, and that is what I want.

Leonard Parkin, ITN

Well now, some of your senior colleagues are talking on those lines already and I suppose people might be forgiven for thinking that a General Election has started already. There is Mr. Tebbit talking about the loony Left, the poison in the rose; there is Mr. Ridley talking about socialist councils have been stinking and rotten.

Is that the kind of political language—which seems a little bit over the top—that you can go along with?

Prime Minister

Mr. Parkin, some of the scenes I have seen in Labour councils have been right over the top. Some of the scenes I have seen on picket lines, I never expected to see in this country.

It is not that we are saying they are over the top. It is, in fact, that they are over the top.

Leonard Parkin, ITN

But is that an example of the sort of rough language that we are likely to meet when the election comes, whenever it does? [end p5]

Prime Minister

So long as Labour councils in power behave that way; so long as we see those scenes on the picket lines. It is not rough language; it is rough action that people are seeing, the rough action of Labour councils in power, and of course, you have a duty not only to put your own policy, all the positive stuff—and I find that very much easier to put as you know because I am naturally a much more positive, constructive politician, that is what I am here for—but it is also one's duty to point up the alternative.

I would probably use very measured language again, because it tends to be my habit and custom, but what I see sometimes on our screens is not measured at all.

Leonard Parkin, ITN

Now you, I suppose, would claim various successes, as you just have done. You have got inflation down; you have passed trades union legislation, but you are left with this enormous albatross of three million unemployed and this is what you are going to be judged on is it not?

Prime Minister

I think it is only one factor on which we shall be judged, because I think people have a pretty shrewd idea of some of the problems.

For example, we have seen a technological revolution. I do not need to talk to you on television about that; you see it, you use it. People who work in industry have seen enormous changes; [end p6] they have seen the whole age of the silicon chip and the changes it has brought about; they know we can produce far more goods with far fewer people and therefore we have to extend business in new spheres.

We are lucky that we have a good fuel economy with oil and coal. We are lucky that we have a very very good financial sector in the City which earns us a great deal of money. We are lucky that manufacturing industry is coming up. We are lucky we are getting more small businesses and more self-employed, because that is where the new jobs are going to come from. We are lucky that there have been created a million new jobs in the last three years. That is going in the right direction.

It is not yet showing quite on the unemployment registers as it should because, as you know, the population of working age is still increasing and will be for another two or three years; but the last three months on the unemployment register have shown the right trend and a million new jobs in the last three years. Had I predicted that at the time, people would not have believed it.

So we are going in the right direction by efficient, responsible, flourishing industry and people working together and less ‘them and us’. That is all in the right direction.

Leonard Parkin, ITN

But that enormous rump of three million people unemployed from the old industries are going to be with you for ever?

Prime Minister

No, not for ever. It will depend how quickly we change and [end p7] adapt. Do not forget, in a way, we have seen this in history before—when mechanisation came into farmwork, when it came into the factories—but with mechanisation and with new inventions came all sorts of new industries, and we must be right up front on those, and we are doing quite well on the electronic industries, although I would like to see us doing better.

Leonard Parkin, ITN

After Mr. Lawson 's public spending statement, one had the feeling that you have given up the whole idea of trying to have the Government spend less of our own money; that this is one area in which you have failed and the Lady now in fact has turned.

Prime Minister

No! Please! The lady has not turned.

If you look at the public spending, you will see that as the national income goes up, we are now spending a smaller proportion of it for public spending, which is quite right, because it is right that when people work harder and longer—and some of them do two jobs—that they should have more of their own money to spend. Anyway, they spend it better and they work rather more for their own families than they do for the State. So proportionately, it is still coming downwards.

We did decide to spend some more on health—an extra £600 million over and above what we had spent—the demands were enormous. The research comes on and brings new remedies.

And we have also, as you know, decided to give the teachers—because they are very important in education—really a deal that [end p8] is extremely good indeed. If they accept it, they will have on average 27%; more than they had under the Labour Government over and above inflation.

Leonard Parkin, ITN

Is that not going to open the floodgates for other public service sector jobs?

Prime Minister

No, I think we have said that this is only because we are getting a fundamental restructuring, both in duties of teachers—they are being defined for the first time—and also a complete restructuring of the profession. We are very anxious that those who make teaching a career, they should be paid better, paid more if you are head of a department, paid more if you are a deputy head teacher and a head teacher.

If we are going to get the very best people into teaching, they have got really to see really good incomes at the top—and well on the way up too.

So it is not just an ordinary salary increase. It is a fundamental change and I think most teachers will welcome it.

Leonard Parkin, ITN

Mrs. Thatcher, you are back from the United States, apparently well satisfied with how Ronald Reagan described his relationship with Iran—these secret arms sales to Iran. [end p9]

I think the ordinary man-in-the-street here is a bit puzzled as to why you have no reservations about this when 14%; of Americans say that they believe him, the rest do not. Mr. Shultz himself, the Secretary of State, has reservations about it, almost to the point of resignation, one hears. Why not you?

Prime Minister

I believe we have led the way on how to deal with terrorism. We never never will give arms or pay ransom for hostages. We never have and we shall not, and that is the right way to go about it, and indeed, if ever one were to do so, then all that you would do would be to encourage the taking of more hostages.

I know it is a tough line, but it is the right one, and I am very much aware of the people who have hostages still in the control of the terrorists. I am aware of their anxieties.

That is our line. That also is the Ronald ReaganPresident's line.

Leonard Parkin, ITN

But it is one that many people think he has given up on.

Prime Minister

He reaffirmed that on television and said that was not why a very small load of arms went to Iran.

So he says that his policy is the same as ours and do not forget that he very quickly supported us. He was in the lead on supporting Britain on taking action against Syria, so as I indicated before, the policies are the same. [end p10]

Leonard Parkin, ITN

Can I just, in the few minutes we have got left, turn to something which is being spoken of as the biggest threat mankind has ever had to face—that is notwithstanding nuclear weapons—I am talking about Aids.

Is there any truth in the suggestion one hears that this Government has been dragging its feet on Aids because of your distaste for the whole subject, that you perhaps feel that being explicit in telling the public what it is all about would be somehow quite offensive?

Prime Minister

No, we have not been dragging our feet on Aids. You will have seen the major booklet which we got out which tells a great deal about it. You will have seen some of the advertisements in the press.

I think it was right to think very carefully before deciding to do a leaflet drop on every house. I think perhaps a few months ago that might not have been accepted in quite the explicit way in which it will now have to be made and doubtless we shall get some complaints about it.

You see, on this matter, Government cannot stop you from getting Aids, but most people could stop themselves by taking appropriate preventive action.

We shall have to be very explicit, because I think that it is only when people realise the full enormity of the problem that is facing us that they will be prepared to have things coming through [end p11] their letter-box which otherwise they would have found unusual and I think we were right to think very carefully about it.

Leonard Parkin, ITN

Just one minute we have got to go. Can I just ask you this: do you mind being perceived in some people's minds to be an unpopular sort of person? I saw a poll the other day which described you as lacking compassion for the less successful, remote, unsympathetic, unconcerned. Does this bother you?

Prime Minister

Well it is just not right and you would not be human if it did not bother you, would you?

Yes of course it does, because I know it is not right and most people know it is not right, and I do not know how to put the right view across.

Leonard Parkin, ITN

Why do you think it is then that if you feel that this is wrong, that people are getting the wrong idea about you?

Prime Minister

I tell you why I think it happens: because when you are here you have to take some tough decisions and they are lonely decisions, although you take the big ones obviously with your Ministers and things like the Falklands with your whole Cabinet. [end p12]

We had to take a decision with a group over Libya. People did not understand it at first. I think they now understand it.

I have to take many tough decisions. We have to take decisions sometimes to close factories, to close businesses, or not to rescue them, and they say: ‘Oh you are hard! You do not understand!’

I understand that you cannot go on shoring up factories that are not efficient.

I understand that in the long run people's hope for a job is to get flourishing factories, flourishing business.

But the short-term decisions would appear hard. Actually, they are the kind of decision which does make it much better for you in the longer run.

Freedom incurs responsibility; that is why many men fear it and many women fear it. I cannot run away from it, but you do it because you believe implicitly that that is in keeping with the character of Britain and in keeping with the pride in Britain and in keeping with giving people the chance to build for themselves, under the kind of framework we create, a better future.