Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

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

1987 Jan 30 Fr
Margaret Thatcher

Interview for the Press Association

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Document kind: Interview
Venue: No.10 Downing Street
Source: Thatcher Archive: COI transcript
Journalist: Chris Moncrieff, Press Association
Editorial comments: 1050-1130.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 3953
Themes: Autobiographical comments, Autobiography (marriage & children), Civil liberties, Defence (general), Employment, Industry, General Elections, Monetary policy, Energy, Trade, Foreign policy (USSR & successor states), Labour Party & socialism, Liberal & Social Democratic Parties, Leadership, Media, Society, Terrorism

Chris Moncrieff, Press Association

…   . what you would like to achieve when you go to Moscow in March?

P.M.

It will not consist of immediate achievement. It will consist of talking about the longer term, both in arms control—and of course, this has an immediacy as well about it, the longer term—and also about the longer-term relationship, because when you are talking about relations with other countries, important as arms control is, that is not what it is all about. I mean, the fact is that you have much more confidence in a country if you think that they are taking measures to improve their human rights, if they are taking measures which allow more people to come out and travel, and slightly to free-up their economy.

Now that is a matter for them and it is very interesting to me to see—and I think to the whole world to see. I think the Soviet Union has come to a stage when it knows that its present system is not producing the goods and the standard of living the people want. It is quite clear they know that, and they are trying to sort out what to [end p1] do about it. I think, therefore, it is a particularly interesting time to talk to them, because you know the critical thing with communist countries is communism, by definition, consists of control by the government; second, no other government, save a communist government is permitted; third, if you free-up things, are you undermining that control by the government and therefore undermining communism? And that is the fundamental equation——the fundamental question to which they have to find the answer.

But, you know, even a communist society cannot keep out all news of the outside world and so even they have to take that factor into account.

So it is a most interesting time to be going, for the arms control, for the longer term. Let me put it this way: I hope that we will be the nation that has the continuity in government and the continuity in leadership that I think is really rather necessary at the moment to the Western world, when you face a time when, by their constitution, the United States has to change Presidents. They have changed in the Soviet Union and are likely to have Mr. Gorbachev for a very long time. This is just at the time when we want similar continuity, some continuity of experience going through in Europe.

Chris Moncrieff, Press Association

I think Tim Renton is making a speech later today in which he says from his visit there that the Kremlin is putting its money on a Tory victory and regards Labour as, he says, foolish, unbelievable and losers. I mean, you would go along with that, I take it? [end p2]

P.M.

I am never never never complacent, Chris MoncrieffChris, never. I am a fighter and I fight every inch of the way. I believe no public opinion poll about what is going to happen at the next election. I only know one thing: I battle every inch of the way, every minute of the day, whether there is an election or whether there is not. When there is an election, the only thing I know is to fight and fight on.

Chris Moncrieff, Press Association

On that score, do you think that Labour's repeated warnings about an impending and massive balance of payments crisis is actually damaging the country?

P.M.

No, because I think they make so many exaggerated claims and no-one believes them any more. And who are they to say anything about the way in which finances are run?

The fact is that they have not got any financial crisis to point to during the whole of our stewardship; they are making exaggerated claims, and the Autumn Statement indicated that we expect, after seven and a half years of tremendous surplus which has given us a surplus of about £20–£21 billion, then with the sharp fall in the reduction (sic: production?) and price of oil which has been well below what it was when we came into office, yes we do expect a balance of payments deficit; that was indicated in the Autumn Statement. But to go overboard about it and exaggerate it is ridiculous. [end p3]

Bernard Ingham

That is after £20 billion …   . balance over five years or so.

P.M.

That is what I said. Yes … and then we have said we do after that expect next year to go into balance of payments deficit. That was in the Autumn Statement.

Chris Moncrieff, Press Association

Are your inflation hopes on course? Can you see zero inflation in the foreseeable future?

P.M.

We shall work towards that. At the moment, as you know, inflation is going up slightly, partly because of the great strength of the deutschmark, which means that we have to pay more for certain things, and of course, unlike most other countries, we have mortgage interest in our retail price index—most other countries do not have that—and that gives us, unfortunately, a slightly higher retail price index than we would wish.

Inflation is a thing that you have to fight the entire time. You never let up.

Chris Moncrieff, Press Association

You mentioned optimistic remarks about employment yesterday morning. Do you now believe that the downward trend is lasting? [end p4]

P.M.

I hope so. I hope so. In the short term, I do not forecast unemployment.

What I do know and what I said yesterday is when I am asked the question: “Don't you think we are moving into a time when we are always going to have two or three million unemployed?” I say: “In the longer term, no!”

At the moment, part of the reason is we are in the middle of a new technological revolution which means that all our manufacturing industry, investing heavily in new equipment as they must to survive, can produce far more output with far fewer people.

But that is not a new situation. We faced that at the end of the last century, beginning of this, with agriculture. We faced it in factories. You will remember Luddism, because people said: “Machines are taking away our jobs!” but those very machines enabled us to produce new things which ordinary people could buy; cars; the whole kitchen revolution. I have only to mention those two things—the cars, the kitchen, the television, the radio revolution, all were new things we were able to produce and new jobs which could not have been foreseen.

Now, new jobs are still being created. We have things which did not exist in our parents' time. We have all kinds of services: leisures centres, sports, tourism, travel. These things are bringing new jobs, new possibilities of purchase, new things to produce. After all, we make a living out of one another, so in the longer run new technology has usually brought new jobs. It has also brought, let us face it, a lower working week. After all, our parents used to work—well, we used to work six days a week. Then it went down to five-and-a-half days a week; in many cases it is five days a week. [end p5]

The other second factor which is a particular factor for the United Kingdom is that in the 1990s the whole size of the working population changes. We will have gone through ten years where, because of the birthrate years ago, we have had far more school-leavers coming on to the market wanting jobs than we have had people retiring. That will change in the early 1990s: fewer school-leavers and more people retiring, so you are going into a fundamentally proportionate smaller population of working age and that, again, will have its effect, and for that, of course, still to give a good standard of living to people who are retired, you do need to take advantage of maximum investment and maximum production per person.

So that is the longer-term thing, but in the shorter term we have different problems to cope with and it depends how far, as indeed does the balance of payments, our businesses—whether they be industry or commerce—take advantage of the opportunities that are now available, but I must say for that I am fairly optimistic.

There is a new spirit. I notice it enormously as I go out and meet industry. Much of industry is flourishing. Others …   . even in flourishing times, you have ups and downs. The oil industry is having a “down” , because the price of oil is right down, and what is good news for other people who buy oil is bad news for the oil industry and bad news for exploration.

Some of the electronics industry are just having a hesitation in growth, because some of them are producing things for which we have got to near-saturation point on the market and you are having a time when you have to create new products to get a market again. But that is business. Why I say: “That is business!” , that is the consumer. It is what the consumer chooses that sells. [end p6]

Chris Moncrieff, Press Association

On the General Election, I know you said you are never complacent, and of course you are not; do you think that Mr. Kinnock and the Labour Party have now blown it with their defence policy and their activities of their left-wing councils and so on?

P.M.

I think their policies are so fundamentally unwise, so fundamentally wrong, in the two great areas—which is security of the nation, whether in defence or the attitudes of some of the left wing to the police, and in fundamental finance, where you have got to be prudent and conscientious and sound—and when their policies are fundamentally wrong, as they are in those two areas, I think people know it.

Also, they are fundamentally wrong, if I might say so, in a third area which is of a different quality. Their policies are to take more and more control to Government. That is why they do not like to sell council houses. They would rather control the lives of the people who live in them by controlling council …   . That is why they do not want more people to own shares, more people to have a little bit of capital of their own—because all of that gives people independence, and they do not want them to have independence.

They want to carry on their doctrine, which is a doctrine of class struggle. We are getting to a stage … I don't know whether you saw from Social Trends yesterday, that the opportunities for people of whatsoever background to kind of move into a different area, to move kind of up in society, more and more moving into the middle class, are being shown and class struggle is becoming more and more [end p7] irrelevant. You do not look at it in that way. We do not. You look and say: “Look! It does not matter who you are, where you come from, we want you to have opportunities so that you decide how much effort you want to put in and your family benefit and you benefit accordingly!”

No. If you take that, there are three areas where they are fundamentally wrong and, I think, at odds with the British character.

Chris Moncrieff, Press Association

I think you said you would like to see Labour wiped off the political map.

P.M.

It is not wiped off. I would like to see socialism eradicated from the Labour Party, which is quite different. Socialism dominates it now. Socialism dominates the Labour Party and is dominating it more and more.

Do not forget that the Soviet Union is the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. I would feel very happy if the outside world could have confidence that socialism would never again come to power in Britain and it would transform the way people see Britain. It would transform the numbers of people, increase them, who are prepared to come and put their money here, their investment here, on a long-term basis, because we—like the United States—would not be in danger of being taken over by a socialist party.

You see, if I might put it another way, in the whole of my life in politics there has been a battle in the Labour Party between the left and what we call the more moderate people. When I came in, [end p8] Gaitskell was fighting to eradicate Clause 4, which is the one which has just been reaffirmed, which means the Labour Party stands for the nationalisation of the means of production, which is all your manufacturing industry; distribution, your railways, all forms of distribution, controlling your retail; and exchange.

Now, Gaitskell never got rid of that and so they have gone further and further towards that and each time they have got in they have nationalised more and more. More and more controls; prices, incomes, exchange controls.

Now, that battle has been going on and everyone has been expecting that one day the Labour Party would split, but what they were expecting was what really should have happened—that the moderates in the Labour Party said to the left wing: “We have had enough of you! You are out! We are going to turn ourselves into a moderate party with none of that socialist Clause 4 communist stuff!”

That is not what has happened. The militant left have become stronger and stronger, both in the Labour Party, parliamentary-wise and in their candidates and we see it working where they are actually in power in local authorities and, unfortunately, the more moderate people split off and it was a split in the wrong place. They should have stayed in the Labour Party in my view and really fought to turn it into a moderate party and made the left split off. But as it was, they weakened the moderate element in the Labour Party by leaving it and they left the field open for the extreme left.

Chris Moncrieff, Press Association

Can I ask you, are you saddened by the departure of Alasdair Milne from the BBC? [end p9]

P.M.

That is not a matter for me. I am not commenting on it.

You know full well the BBC is run by charter and it is wholly a matter for the BBC. The appointment is for them and the future of people is for them and it is not for me to make any comment. The strength of the BBC's reputation is its independence in accordance with the terms of its charter. They are all down there and it is not for me to get embroiled in it at all; indeed I will not become embroiled in it.

Chris Moncrieff, Press Association

Some senior Tory backbenchers are—going back to the election—cautioning you, I think, to go later rather than earlier for an election. I do not know whether that is the sort of voice you heed more than most.

P.M.

Look! You know there has to be an election by June 1988. Each time you come up to a possible time for an election, you look and you say: “Well, shall we take it now or shall we carry on?” and so I cannot tell you what will happen as we look and take all the circumstances into account. But as you know, I have always taken the view that I think election fever starts too early. I think it is bad, and I do not think people expect you to go too early.

Chris Moncrieff, Press Association

May I ask whether you are looking forward to the wedding? [end p10]

P.M.

Of course!

Chris Moncrieff, Press Association

Can you tell me, has it been decided whether it is going to be in Dallas or in London or have you got a date?

P.M.

It is going to be in London, yes.

Chris Moncrieff, Press Association

It is going to be in London. I do not know whether you can give a date, can you?

Bernard Ingham

We have given the date.

Chris Moncrieff, Press Association

Have you given the date?

P.M.

Yes. It has to be a Saturday obviously. February 14th.

Chris Moncrieff, Press Association

I did not know you had given the date. Do you long to join the ranks of those of us who are grandparents? [end p11]

P.M.

Oh yes! You know, do not jump too fast! Let us say it opens up new possibilities. Of course, I would adore to be but you really cannot just say that. They are not even married yet!

Chris Moncrieff, Press Association

How is Dulwich coming along, may I ask?

P.M.

It is coming along all right. We go down there sometimes. Of course, you know we are not fully completed in what we wish to do, but it is getting on and if we have a little time this summer we will be doing a little gardening.

Chris Moncrieff, Press Association

Are you a great do-it-yourself person yourself or is Denis?

P.M.

We do go down. We have been down, I mean, several Saturdays, and done quite a bit of do-it-yourself. First, because I enjoy it; secondly, because you always do in your own home; and thirdly, because you usually want things done when you are down there on the Saturday, so you go out and if you have not got the tools you get the tools and you try to get on with it.

It does in fact take you longer. Some things you have people in to do and the rest you do yourself.

It is getting on quite well. There is not a great deal more to be done before we come to the end of the first phase, although you [end p12] are never completely satisfied. There is always a good deal of maintenance to do, but by and large we have got things in the place where we want them to be. That is something and things have now got a right place to be.

You always need more storage accommodation. There is never enough.

It is not long since we sold our house in Chelsea. I was very unhappy during the sort of six months to a year when we did not have our own home because you always want your own warren to go to. You always want your own bolt-hole to go to and Denis ThatcherDenis missed it particularly. Even though you are not there, because we are here, you always can go down. The beauty of it is it is so close. Providing we are not travelling in the rush hour, we can be there in fifteen minutes and be there for an evening or a half-day.

When we go down now it is always to do something. It is not to sit down.

Chris Moncrieff, Press Association

What do you miss most about being a public figure that you cannot do because you are a public figure? I mean, for instance, shopping or whatever.

P.M.

I think when you go out to shop—and you do sometimes—you cannot just sort of wander round and have a look and sort of compare one shop with another. You have got to go: “I want this!” and you try to get it in the minimum time, and of course, quite rightly, it takes much much longer, because a lot of people come up to you and [end p13] that is very nice. It means that you cannot sort of wander round and have a look for shopping and if people did not come up to you, there would be something wrong.

Chris Moncrieff, Press Association

You have not made any more forays in disguise? I believe once you went out.

P.M.

I never tried that again. It is not worth it.

Chris Moncrieff, Press Association

You were identified, I think, weren't you?

P.M.

Yes, rumbled! “Oh hello, that is Mrs. Thatcher!” “Oh, hello!” .

Chris Moncrieff, Press Association

I know “retirement” is a word that is probably anathema to you.

P.M.

Yes, absolute anathema.

Chris Moncrieff, Press Association

Do you have visions of going into the House …   . [end p14]

P.M.

It is to Denis ThatcherDenis too. I mean, we have sort of worked all our lives. I suppose it is the only way we know how to live.

Chris Moncrieff, Press Association

Do you see yourself eventually being in the House of Lords?

P.M.

I am not thinking in that way at all yet. I love the House of Commons.

Chris Moncrieff, Press Association

You see yourself there for many years to come, I take it?

P.M.

I hope so!

Chris Moncrieff, Press Association

I do not know if I can just revert back to the Zircon film which is going ahead. Your views about that are well known. I do not know if you would like to express them again?

P.M.

In order to have a strong defence, you have inevitably to keep some things secret. Most people in the population understand that and they are willing to accept that you have to keep some things totally confidential. Unfortunately, there are some people in our society who try to crack those secrets and publish them. In doing [end p15] so, they help the potential enemy, and let there be no doubt about that. I have total contempt for anyone who reveals secrets, whether for money or any other reason.

Chris Moncrieff, Press Association

Is there anything further you would like to say about Terry Waite? I mean, there is nothing much more to say, is there, really?

P.M.

We have no more news of Terry Waitehim. As you know, our ambassador obviously makes as many contacts as he can and Lambeth Palace appears to have its own contacts.

He is a person who sets out to help anyone who thinks he can constructively help and it is because he works independently of government that he commands, I think, universal respect and admiration.

Chris Moncrieff, Press Association

You have not been in touch with his family at all, I take it?

P.M.

We have not been, no. We are in touch, obviously, with Lambeth Palace. I think they have more direct news. They have more news for his family, but I am sure his family, like every person like that who does those marvellous things, their family usually support them 100%; and are very proud of them. [end p16]

Chris Moncrieff, Press Association

I will just hark back if I may. I do not think we have actually mentioned the Liberal SDP Alliance.

P.M.

Do we need to?

You know what happened this week? When they were appearing in a cosy chat on television—everything is united and wonderful—and they were in fact at the same time going through different lobbies in the House of Commons, one supporting the Government, one against the Government! It is not an alliance. It will never be because both in the Liberal Party you have a different range of views and in the Alliance you have a different range of views.

Chris Moncrieff, Press Association

Do you find it surprising that David Steel's excuse for this is that he was pointed in the wrong direction by his whip, when most people outside would expect him to be listening to the debate and making up his mind on the strength of the arguments?

P.M.

I think it is better not to try to make excuses.

Chris Moncrieff, Press Association

Do you regard them as a threat at the next election? [end p17]

P.M.

I believe that the issues at the next election are going to be very clear-cut and it is our task to get over that they are clear-cut, and I do not think there is room for a muzzy way, which would lead to total uncertainty. You would not know where you were with anyone. You would not know what the policies were. You would not know what was going to happen next and it would be a sort of horse-trading deal day after day. That is no way to run a country.

Chris Moncrieff, Press Association

So we take it that you are not in the business of doing deals with anybody should this event come about?

P.M.

I hope to have a good majority.

Chris Moncrieff, Press Association

If we do go into the rounds of speculation about that, a hung Parliament …

P.M.

I was tackled by this the whole of the last election and I said: “Look! We are going straight out for a clear win!” That is the only way, I think, to have a confident Britain with a clear way into the future.