Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

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

1987 Feb 18 We
Margaret Thatcher

Interview for Woman magazine and BBC Radio London

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Venue: No.10 Downing Street
Source: Thatcher Archive: COI transcript
Journalist: (1) Michael Freedland, for Woman (2) Michael Freedland for BBC Radio London
Editorial comments:

1030-1130. Michael Freedland’s interview with MT was in two parts: the first (around 90 per cent of the whole) was for Woman magazine, the second (a brief discussion on Israel and Jewish questions) for BBC Radio London.

Importance ranking: Minor
Word count: 7466
Themes: General Elections, Conservatism, Women, Family, Housing, Arts & entertainment, Autobiography (childhood), Religion & morality, Autobiographical comments, Autobiography (marriage & children), Parliament, Executive (appointments), Defence (general), Education, Secondary education, Employment, Social security & welfare, Health policy, Leadership, Foreign policy (USSR & successor states), Civil liberties, Foreign policy (Middle East)
(1) Woman magazine interview begins

Michael Freedland

I will not ask you to give me the date of the next election, Prime Minister.

P.M.

No, I can't!

Michael Freedland

Are you looking forward to it though?

P.M.

Looking forward to an election? In some respects, yes. You like getting out and about a good deal more, but there is quite a lot of tension about it you know each day, because you get the press conference in the morning and you know that will dominate the mood right up to lunch time and you have to prepare very carefully, and then you know so much hangs on it. So inevitably, [end p1] there is even more tension about that three-week period than there is about any other. It is vital you do not make any mistakes; it is vital that you make the correct judgments; it is vital that you get your message across; and you are constantly thinking: “Is there anything else that we can do that we are not doing and could we do it better?”

Michael Freedland

Is it an exciting time for you?

P.M.

I think this is the eleventh. Yes, it is exciting, but I always think they tend to take a certain shape.

Three weeks to our American friends sounds astonishingly short, to us, it seems astonishingly long, because during the early stages it is quite difficult to get people interested and also, all of a sudden their television programmes are different, so by the time it comes to the end, you know, they are thinking they have seen a bit too much of politics and want to get back to some more of the ordinary things.

So the beginning: it is quite a long way and people are not, all of them, quite so interested. And then it really works up until the last ten days are very very hectic indeed. [end p2]

Michael Freedland

And then, there is always that statement by either the Prime Minister or by one of the leaders, who says: “I rest my case at that particular point!” and you think: “My goodness, it has been quite quick really!”

P.M.

In retrospect, things often look quite quick, but as you go through them it is comparatively slow to start, and yet you have got to start right in, because otherwise you are not going to get all about the country.

Michael Freedland

Are you pleased that the date of an election is in the gift of the Prime Minister?

P.M.

I do not know that I am pleased or not. I accept that it is. I have never thought of anything else.

It always has been during my life and I suppose when you are in power you do prefer it that way, because the reason we are here is that we believe passionately in the things we are doing and therefore, above all, we want to carry on doing those things, because we believe they are right for Britain. [end p3]

Michael Freedland

Why do you think you have been so successful?

P.M.

I have no idea. I am not sure everyone would say I have been so successful.

Yes, we have won two elections. Yes, we hope to win a third, but I do think this:

The message has never changed; the policies have not changed. People know where they are with us. They can see that what we are doing is producing results, and I think in their hearts of hearts people know that we will never take a soft option because we believe it is popular. We will only do the things, however difficult, because we believe that in the long run they are better and they are better for people. They give more responsibility to people. They give more power to people. They disperse property more widely. And I think that fundamentally that finds an echo in the hearts of most people, including many of those who so far have not voted for us. It sounds right and I think they know it is right.

Michael Freedland

Going from that and looking into another Parliament, and because of the readership of “Woman” magazine, what are you offering women? What is in your [end p4] shopping bag as far as looking to help, say, in another four-year term?

P.M.

What do we offer women? Women are taking advantage of the opportunities, you know. They really are.

Actually, a bigger proportion, I think, of women work now than used to and a bigger proportion, I think, of women go back to work - usually with a part-time job - when their children have left school. It gives them an extra income; it gives them an extra interest; and many many others turn their talents and abilities to work for the great voluntary services.

But my whole belief has been … Look! You try to give opportunity and you do not sort out whether it is for boys or for girls; it is the opportunity that is there. Yes, of course, there are certain prejudices still to overcome. There are far many more women in the City than there were - women are good with money - and there should be far more than there are. It takes a time, but young women are taking advantage of it. They are accepted because they are doing well, and so they are, in fact, taking advantage of it.

None of that will alter the basic fundamental fact of society that the family is the basis of the life of our country and yes, many many women wish to do as I did. When they have their families, they wish to be [end p5] with them during the early years - they know the importance of that influence; this is the first influence on the child, the way you bring the child up. The way it learns; it learns to speak; it learns what to do, what not to do; it learns the love and affection; and that, for many women, is a very very difficult time because they have got one child, possibly two, and naturally they wish to be with them but also they wish - many of them - to keep in contact with the career that they had been pursuing, and you can do it with cooperation ... ... it is much easier if you also have other members of the family living close by. But it is quite a problem for some women to make the necessary arrangements to enable them to do perhaps part-time work and still keep in touch with their career - and they do it very very well.

Michael Freedland

Could I take you up on a point you said about women being very good with money?

How else could that talent be exploited in ways that it is not at the moment?

P.M.

Well, I think it can be exploited in, as I say, first doing more of the jobs connected with money, whether it is in industry or whether it is in the City or whether it is in commerce. [end p6]

You see, every woman who is a housewife is a manager. She has decisions to take. What she is going to do each day. How she is going to cope with financing the food, the clothes, possibly how much for energy and possibly how much you put away for contingencies, and how much you save. So, in fact, she is perhaps the single largest economic factor in the United Kingdom. It is to her many of the industries have to appeal. She decides whether she likes something, whether she will buy this or whether she will buy that; what is the value for money. Upon what she buys for the family the future of a factory will depend, and they have got to win her trade by pleasing her, by the way the food is packaged, by the way clothes are designed, by the way furniture is designed. So she is enormously important and I often think that we could do with more women in design particularly of kitchens. I say this, having got a new kitchen.

Because I tell you what happens. Sometimes, a kitchen will look absolutely fine, absolutely marvellous - “Doesn't it look nice!” - and then you will start to work in it and the cooker is not in the right position; the tops to the kitchen are not right to put hot saucepans on; they have not got something to take away the cooking smells; and you think: “Gosh! I wish I could have got into designing this sooner!”

Women could also do quite a lot in architecture for the house; quite a lot in the lay-out. The needs [end p7] of families will vary. They vary at different times. Sometimes you like one nice big room instead of two small ones. The first thing you do when you buy an old house is to knock two rooms into one, so you have got one good big room, and if you have got children, you want a small room, somewhere to do their homework in; the needs change, but I find more and more that families like one good big room where everyone can be together.

But I have not the slightest shadow of doubt that we made, I think, a great mistake in the post-war period, so anxious were we all, of all parties, to get a lot of housing up, that we put up, I think, too many tall blocks, and that does make it difficult to bring children up you know.

Michael Freedland

I would love to think of you, when the time eventually comes for you to leave this place, taking a job designing kitchens.

P.M.

Kitchens? Bathrooms, yes.

Michael Freedland

Would you like to do that? [end p8]

P.M.

I do not know. I am naturally interested in design. I always have been, and I have had design seminars here, because if things are not designed right people do not buy them. You know, you look at a car and the first thing is do you like the design? You expect the engineers to make it function. It has got a function and it has got to look good and it has got to be good value for money.

This is where the whole of your trade and commerce and your success … do not forget I was born and bred in trade and married into industry ... ... and this is where the wealth of the nation is.

Michael Freedland

Have the values of Grantham been brought to Downing Street do you think?

P.M.

I certainly think the values of Alfred Robertsmy father - the ones which are as old as the hills. They are not Victorian; they are far older than that.

My father was Chairman of the Finance Committee at home and the same values … care with other people's money. Making up your own mind what is right and doing it; do not follow the crowd. Decide what you think it is right to do and then try to lead it. That has stayed with me all my life. [end p9]

Michael Freedland

I wonder if I could interpose at this point …

P.M.

And you take responsibility and this is always the thing. You must take responsibility yourself. This is what human beings are all about. This is the dignity of the individual. You are given the right and the freedom to choose, to make choices, and you exercise responsibility in making those choices.

Michael Freedland

I would like to ask you a question, interposing here. I would like to go back to the question of women's issues in a minute, but it brings a point that I just now thought of.

When we met before the 1979 election, I asked you whether in fact you were looking forward to living in Downing Street. I wonder if you remember what your answer was at that time?

P.M.

No, I cannot remember. Tell me!

Michael Freedland

Your answer was: “I could never afford to live in Downing Street, so I will not do so!” [end p10]

P.M.

Yes, I think that what I believed was I think what quite a lot of people believe - that this whole house is house - it is not! 90% of it is office accommodation because it is the office of the Prime Minister, and we have a small flat upstairs, and I think that I had thought then that perhaps one would have to hire a cook and a housekeeper and so on, which I have never done. They are not provided, and I wondered how in the world I was going to get on by sort of running the flat and doing things.

The fact is that you can do it and the fact is, as I soon learned, because the first six weeks I stayed in Chelsea and it was much more difficult because first, the car had to come for me in the morning which again was a nuisance; secondly, there had to be more guards about. Here, automatically the place is guarded. And so I moved in here and it has worked and I do not have a cook. I have a marvellous lady who comes in every day - weekdays - to help and we prefer, when we get up there late at night, just to flop down and talk and then if we want a poached egg on toast or a cup of coffee, one goes into the kitchen and does it, and it all works, but it works because we are both extremely busy and also because my secretary is marvellous and my lady who comes in each day is wonderful. But I think that one thought that one would have to actually take on more physical [end p11] help - and that would really be very very demanding.

Michael Freedland

Do you like living here?

P.M.

I love it! It has become so much a part of my life, but it is something you never never take for granted. Every time I walk in the front door, Jimmy is there smiling. Jimmy opened the front door to you today. He is marvellous. You walk into the atmosphere. Every time I come in, I feel the history of this house. I feel the decisions that have been made here, and I just love it.

Everyone tells me we have made it more “homey” than it was, without spending a lot of money.

Michael Freedland

How?

P.M.

Well, first, we have got more pictures from the museums and national portrait galleries and they have been marvellous.

Secondly, as you come through that long bit, the lighting was so harsh, and we have got some side tables with small side lamps on. [end p12]

Michael Freedland

Where is this?

P.M.

The corridor through from the front to the back, and as you come through the ante-room there is, again, a table with a light on. Now that little ante-room, the room at the bottom of the staircase, when I first came here used really to look rather like a man's club. There was a rather horrid big screen up; there was one of those wooden settees, but covered in leather - a wooden frame covered in leather - and it really looked rather shabby. It did not have that lovely bureau bookcase that we have there now. So we have altered all of that and now it looks really rather like a nice furnished room. We have got the small dining table. That is not a dining table; it is for people to sit and write. And we have got the portrait of Winston ChurchillWinston up there and we have got a very beautiful model boat of Nelson which was given to me, and we have got this lovely piece of furniture which one of the museums let me have and, again, we have put side tables and lamps on so that it is nice for people to come. The atmosphere before was like a man's club, a little bit shabby, and not at all attractive furniture. So we have done that.

We altered the front hall. We have got two historic portraits up in the front hall, because I wanted, when people came in, for them to feel instantly [end p13] “This is a house of history! Here in the last 250 years has been the centre of British history!” and as you walk in that front door, you must know that it is a house of history.

Michael Freedland

So is this the woman's touch?

P.M.

I think it is.

And then - you look at the rooms we went in - when I came here, there was very little on any horizontal surface. Nothing on the mantelpieces, nothing on the side tables, so again, we went out and about and we have the museums … we have masses of things in their basements … have very kindly let us have things. Outside in this anteroom, if you look, we have three display cabinets filled with the best of English porcelain. It came from the Victoria & Albert, I think basement. They have masses and masses of it. And of course, when it is here it is shown and shown to people.

The two big ornaments in the big pillared room, they are beautiful. They come from the British Museum. They were not on show there; they are on show here.

And we had no silver here. That comes from the British Museum. That is a lovely piece of English furniture. Look at the glasswork. I found that in Admiralty House - not used. I found that mirror in [end p14] Admiralty House, not used. It gave depth to a room.

Michael Freedland

You have been ransacking these places then?

P.M.

Those things were not used. I said: “Come on! We can use that in No. 10!” So off we went, and then all of the silver that I have in the dining room is on loan to us from people who had it in their vaults or in the bank and they have loaned it to us.

It looks like a house that is lived in.

Michael Freedland

Do you have time to devote to the housewifery chores? I am not suggesting you get down on your hands and knees and polish floors, but the concern of running a house.

P.M.

... ... one will do that just that, yes, and I enjoy it. You have to do a certain amount, because at the beginning of the week you want everything in its right place. Towards the end of the week, it all gets in the wrong place, and you have got to have a Sunday evening where you get it back in its right place, otherwise you will never keep a check on things. Have you lost something? Have you mislaid it? So you have got to [end p15] start the week with things back in their right place and now and then in the Recess we have a grand turn out, always, every Recess. A grand turn out, so that papers get back in their right place and things, but you have to. You will never keep an orderly household unless you do, but I quite enjoy it.

Michael Freedland

Have you actually moved into the Dulwich house?

P.M.

We have been there sometimes. We cannot get down a great deal, but I can go down there any time if I want to go down from here. If we had a week-end where I was busy in London, I could go down there and stay there instead of here, and have been, and in the Recesses, and Denis ThatcherDenis can use it too if he wishes. There is still quite a lot to be done. There is always in a house. You tell me anyone who has totally and utterly finished with the house. There is always something to be replaced, something to be cleaned, something to be moved around; will it look better that way?

Michael Freedland

You must be fairly close to your next-door neighbours in Dulwich. [end p16]

P.M.

Oh yes we are, very close. One has been used to living in London. Look! If you live most of your life in a town house, you are actually attached to a next-door neighbour!

Michael Freedland

How do they take to having the Prime Minister living next door?

P.M.

I do not think they mind.

Michael Freedland

I am sure they do not! But have you socialised with them?

P.M.

Every time we have been there, we have been really getting things right, either in the right place or just somehow getting things right and getting the curtains right, getting the cover right, getting the cushions right, getting things in the right cupboards because you know when you move in you tend to get things stowed somewhere and then, really, for the next three or four weeks or so you want to get them stowed in the right place and to know where there are and therefore the things you do not use go right at the top for storage [end p17] and the things you do use have to be in the right working positions … and we have a lot of books down there, which we love.

Michael Freedland

I must congratulate you on your son's wedding last week.

P.M.

Wasn't it marvellous! It was lovely!

Michael Freedland

Now, did you for a moment forget you were Prime Minister?

P.M.

Yes. One was not thinking of that at all. It was not in one's mind, so one must have forgotten about it. It was not in one's mind. In one's mind, the whole thing was the wedding. Everyone … we had put a great deal of effort in trying to see that it was properly organised so that things would go without a hitch.

Michael Freedland

I was wondering whether, on an occasion like that, whether in fact you wish you were just an ordinary mother. [end p18]

P.M.

I was. I was just the Mark Thatcherbridegroom's mother.

Michael Freedland

You do not ever wish that you did not have responsibilities of state as well as those?

P.M.

No. Responsibilities of state have become a part of my bloodstream and I can no more divorce my life from them than one can divorce oneself from one's bloodstream.

Michael Freedland

Is that hard on the family do you think?

P.M.

Is it hard on the family? I think they have got very used to it too, very used to it. I mean, they know full well that one's duty has to be paramount. They know that, and yet people say: “What happens if there is an emergency?” I can tell you what happens if there is an emergency, if someone is ill. It happens to politicians all over the world, men or women. If all of a sudden, a man politician's wife were ill or a child and he could not do something, was seriously ill, everyone understands immediately. You understand. But of course you cannot come today. Of course you have to [end p19] put it off. On the other hand, if it is a big thing, there are 800 or 900 people to whom you are speaking and they say: “Now look! You have got to go!” someone else will come in and see that things are all right while you are there. It does not matter whether you are man or woman. If there is something in the family, a family kind of disaster, illness or crisis, everyone understands, everyone covers.

Michael Freedland

When you had the crisis a few years ago, when Mark was missing for a time, and you had the world's sympathy at that particular moment, was it hard suffering in the public eye?

P.M.

It was agony, because every time I got back I would say: “Any news?” and every time I went out, and the longer it went on the longer I thought: “Well my goodness! Mark ThatcherHe has been five days in the desert. How can you survive?” But he had got his car near a bush and they had done everything right. And then I had a telegram saying the car had been seen going into Mali and so it was all right and so there was a fantastic relief, and then, the following morning, I turned on the radio - the first thing I do in the morning is turn on the radio for the news - heard the six o'clock news and the lead item on the news was the reports about the [end p20] Prime Minister's son yesterday were totally ill-founded. It was not known at all where he was, and I said to Denis Thatchermy husband: “Now look! One of us has got to get down there to see” - because we had been told before the race that there were helicopters which would do searches and they were all organised - “and one of us has got to get down there to see everything done is that is possible. We have just got to get on to London Airport to see what the first plane is. You get up and I will start to see what we have got.”

Someone else, one of our great friends, who has a plane, also heard and by seven o'clock had rung up and said: “Look, you know our little plane. It is available. The pilot is there. It is ready for take-off!” and my goodness me, you know what friendship is! He did not have to do that. He did not have to say that, but the family and ours have known one another for a long time. And they went down and D T then went down and you know the end of the story.

Michael Freedland

Yes, but what I was asking actually was, was it harder suffering like that in the public eye?

P.M.

Yes, yes, it was, because there was no hiding place you know. [end p21]

Michael Freedland

Do you ever feel sorry for your husband?

P.M.

Do I feel sorry for him? “Sorry” is not quite the word. Sometimes Denis Thatcherhe is absolutely marvellous. You know, on-one else had done that job before.

Michael Freedland

Exactly!

P.M.

And he has kind of set the way to do it for the future. Absolutely marvellous. And sometimes I think he would love it if we could spend more time together - so would I. He loves it when we can - so do I.

But he has realised … after all, it was he who said to me: “Look! You are never going to be able to get away from politics, never!” in the early days of our married life … “never, so I think you will have to go back. It will be such a waste if you do not!”

He has been an enormous help, because being in business and industry, he sees things from a different perspective. Being in the sports world and having played a large part in the sports world, he also knows that world, so it has all been very complementary, and believe you me, he is in such demand, and they all love him. He goes and he is so natural. [end p22]

So do I ever feel sorry for him? “Sorry” is not the world. I feel immensely proud of him and I do just feel that it is a marvellous partnership.

Michael Freedland

Are you hurt, though, by some of the things that are said and the play a few years ago, and that sort of thing?

P.M.

Yes, of course. I am afraid this kind of thing happens rather more in this country than in most others and I never know why, but it does. We have learned to live with it and really to treat it with a certain amount of contempt, because that is what it deserves.

Michael Freedland

Getting back to the political issues and the political scene, and the role of women, there was a lot of criticism in the House yesterday; only twenty-seven women MPs, and the country led by the first woman Prime Minister who has not done very much for bringing more women into politics. Do you regret that there are not more and that perhaps you have not done more?

P.M.

I have always wanted more. We have not the same number of women coming forward for seats as we have men [end p23] and then, they have to go through the selection process and usually every constituency will take two or three women on their selection list and often we can get them interviewed and after that they are on their own, you know, as to whether they are chosen or not.

I think it is thoroughly reprehensible and a great sorrow and a great waste that after years and years of top education of women and years and years of the emancipation of women that we have not got any more in the House now than there were in the Thirties.

I think I may know partly the reason why. It is connected with what I said right at the beginning.

Most women get married, most women have a family. Now, I was lucky. Our home was in London. My constituency is in London. My work is in London. But I do not think that I would have been so ready to come into politics when the children were young if my home had been in York, in Glasgow, in Truro, in Wrexham - a long way away in other words - because I would have missed terribly the children when they were young and I would have felt guilty, and that, I think, is part of the problem. And so women tend to be out of politics unless they are so dedicated to it and have their parents nearby who can help, for quite a time. Then they take it up later and they perhaps have lost the habit of speaking and you know, women are much shyer than men about speaking, they really are. Women have much less self-confidence in proportion to their [end p24] ability than men have in proportion to a similar ability and this is why I am so anxious to keep them going part-time in something, so that you always keep the contact, so that when they are ready then to come into politics a little bit later there are plenty of openings.

Mind you, they do fantastic work on local councils, fantastic work as magistrates, fantastic work in the voluntary services, they really do, but we would like more in the House.

Michael Freedland

I think the suggestion is that possibly you have not brought enough into Government.

P.M.

Look! You choose your Government on ability. How many have we got? We have Janet Young, Lynda Chalker, Edwina Currie, Peggy Fenner has just left us. Who have I missed out? Angela RumboldAngela … I have just promoted Angela ... ... so that is four out of about twelve. It is a third. Yes, I would like more. There are one or two more who will soon come in, will be ready to come in.

Michael Freedland

Does it take a long time, even after your election as Prime Minister, to be totally accepted as a person rather than as an unusual ... ... [end p25]

P.M.

As a phenomenon?

Michael Freedland

Yes. I did not want to. …

P.M.

People tend to regard you as a phenomenon. A phenomenon is not human; isn't it irritating? They come in and look at you as a phenomenon and you sit down and talk and they go out and you are a person. It is much better to be a person than a phenomenon. Phenomenons are not easy to live with you know!

No, no, no. Anyway you can often break the ice. Women can often break the ice more easily. I mean, we do.

Michael Freedland

Were you surprised that it happened to you? In the Conservative Party of all parties?

P.M.

Looking a long time ago ahead I would have said: “I do not think this will happen!” because at that time there had never been a woman Cabinet Minister, but you know, people start to say: “Do you think that there will be a woman Prime Minister, a woman Secretary of State for Defence, a woman Chancellor of the Exchequer?” [end p26] and that is the wrong way to look at it.

You see, you do not actually elect women Prime Ministers or women Secretaries of Defence. You elect a person, and when a person comes along who is right for that job, it is the person who is right for the job, and the fact that they are either men or women is secondary. You have to look at people as personalities. Is their personality right for the job? And so, you will find women holding all sorts of offices, all sorts of places.

I have a second problem as well as not enough in the House. We are constantly looking for more women to fill jobs on nationalised industry boards and various other things, but some of the women who are so prominent in business and run businesses so successfully often, like a lot of men, have not the time to do some of the public work. That also is a problem.

Michael Freedland

Do you think that there is a particular woman's need in, say, defence policy? Do you think that comes into it?

P.M.

Defence matters to women enormously. First, if there were ever a war, you get the fundamental break-up of families with husbands and the brunt of the danger is borne by young men. Every time I go round one of the Commonwealth War Graves cemeteries - I go round the [end p27] stones - nineteen, twenty, twenty-one, twenty-five, perhaps someone a bit older, thirty-five, thirty-eight, and that is why strong defence is absolutely vital, to see that you do not have it happening again.

Peace means a fantastic amount to women.

Of course, you have women also in the services, which is a fundamental thing: that you defend; your strong defence is your best guarantee of peace.

You know, tyrants attack weak countries. They do not attack strong ones.

Michael Freedland

What about education?

P.M.

Education. I am eternally grateful that I spent three or four years as Secretary of State for Education.

I think it is one of the things which for years has been bedevilled by too many theories and the theories did not all turn out right, whereas in the days when we had less theories about education and we just got down to teaching children the arithmetic, the writing, how to express yourself, how to write letters, the best of literature - some marvellous things this country has done - the basic science. Yes, often in large classes. I was taught in a class of forty you know when we were at primary school. We were taught well. [end p28]

I have always been worried that at about the age of eleven, when children have come out of primary school, which are usually nice small schools where you know everyone else, you know teachers, and that is a very vulnerable time as you are going into the development stage, you are going into puberty, you are kind of catapulted into a very large school and sometimes you may not know a lot of children there and all of a sudden the kind of security of the world around you is lost, and I tried very hard to keep a number of smaller schools - not only grammar schools which I think have been for many of us the ladder from the bottom to the top; we have only got 155 left; I wish we got more proposals for more, because it does not matter what your background is, if you got through to a grammar school it was you who had got yourself there, so it really was a fantastic social mixer, a fantastic opportunity. But I was always passionate to keep some of the other smaller schools.

You see, we were doing very well, starting to do extremely well and what were going to be the new secondary modern schools … we called them high schools … we were getting them up to do something different from the grammar schools but do it as well and again, because they were smaller, children had the opportunity to take a leadership role in that school as well. If you had, say, three schools, with three, four, five hundred in, then obviously you had more [end p29] possibility of being, you know, head girl and prefects, more leadership role than in a very large school.

Some education, let me say this, at the moment is excellent, absolutely first-class; better than we had in the sense that there is a wider variety of subjects, the equipment is better and wider visions and vistas open up, always on the basis of the good fundamental. Some of it is excellent, and where something is good, you leave it. It is excellent.

It is where it is not going well, where children have more indoctrination than education; where they go up from one form to another without anyone knowing whether they have really absorbed what they were taught in that form and, you know, if you do not absorb the early arithmetic and the early reading, then you are not going to get on later - and we are now having to start and tackle that and give more power to the parents and governors and start to tackle a problem which the 1944 Education Act ducked.

What about the curriculum? Who is responsible?

You do not want to have to do everything centrally, but it is expected that Government takes some responsibility for the education of children and therefore, we are coming to the conclusion that there has to be a basic core syllabus; that we can be sure that every child comes out knowing these things, otherwise they are hindered for life. [end p30]

Do you know what we are finding with some of the longer-term unemployed? That they have almost forgotten literacy, even if they knew it when they left school. That some of them cannot read or write properly - a small proportion - and we are having to turn round and start to do it again. I say: “But these people had eleven years compulsory education! How could it possibly be that they came out of school not knowing some of those things? That they were not told that you have to turn up at the right time in the morning, stay the right time? How can it be that some of them have had eleven years and have not worked?” but then, of course some schools … I think partly it is you get truancy and you get bad behaviour, which is not always the teachers' fault, and the teachers have a very difficult time in some of these city schools. You cannot expect the teacher to make up for what sometimes the parents should have done, but you know, it is much more difficult in a very very large school. Some youngsters want to get into a smaller one where they know that each of them counts.

Michael Freedland

What about unemployment and the effect that has on women? [end p31]

P.M.

I think it is bound to have an effect on anyone. I think it is far better that when this does happen to you that you are in a family and have the support of a family, because then you can talk about it and can talk to other families, and also I think that it gives you a little bit more faith in yourself if you are in a family, and then, as you know, we are now taking everyone in after six months unemployment to talk about things, because again we are finding that in the midst of unemployment there are a lot of jobs going which require skills - that there are not enough of those skills - and so what we have got to try to do is take some of these young people and some of the older ones and say: “Look! We have got to retrain you! If you are not getting a job, we have got to retrain you for some of these skills!” and this is where one is finding one has had to go back and do some of the basic education work.

Then, we are starting up job clubs - I think we have got about a thousand job clubs now - where they go under some supervision and, again, they have the refresher course and off they go and they are given some support … go along and have interviews … “How did you get on? Can we give you any help for the next interview?” In other words, we are taking the human dignity angle and hoping to give them back some faith in their own ability, and if they have not got the skill, then we [end p32] can train them. We are spending a fortune on training, a fortune. It is a pity that spending a fortune on it, we cannot somehow match the jobs that are going with the people who are wanting them.

Michael Freedland

What about social services?

P.M.

Social services. I think one of the great successes of this Government is that because the policies are right we have managed to get growth in the economy for six years. That has given us both the ability to have income tax cuts, the ability to have to borrow less for Government and the ability to spend more on the social services - all three, because you have kept going the people who can create the wealth and build up businesses.

And yes, we have spent a good deal more on the social services:

Pensioners: there are now a million more pensioners than there were, and we have kept faith with them on inflation. When we have had inflation, we have made up the value of the pension, and because inflation is lower their savings keep their value and we have managed also to accommodate the extra million pensioners and have managed it well. [end p33]

Those who have not got jobs, actually their standard of living is higher than it was because the supplementary benefit is higher than it was.

On the Health Service, let me put it this way: the Health Service is never financed by Government - nothing is - it is financed out of the pockets of the people out of their earnings, and I think we have got it about right. There is a lot more to be done. There always will be but the day I walked in here the average family in the United Kingdom paid £11 a week towards the Health Services - paid that in income tax, value added tax, customs and excise; it amounted to £11 a week for the average family in Britain. Now, with the amount we are spending on the Health Service, they have actually to pay a lot more - it is £26 a week.

What we are concentrating on now is not only on the extra amounts that are going each year, but saying: “Please! Are we sure we are getting value for money? Are we sure we are managing it?” Because we find some health authorities can get far more operations and patients treated out of the money than others can, so we are looking at that and you know, we have just allocated £50 million and we have asked regional authorities what they could do with some of that money.

What we want to do is to get the waiting lists down, and so the first £25 million has been allocated. Sometimes it is to more operating theatres; sometimes it is to a mobile theatre where you can do daytime [end p34] surgery or work with lasers, and that first £25 million we believe will manage to get 100,000 people off the waiting list which is very good, and then we will allocate the next.

So it is just like a woman managing. It is not only the amount of money you have got. It is people will say: “She is a good manager! She can stretch it further!”

Michael Freedland

How much longer would you like to continue as Leader of the Conservative Party?

P.M.

Well, I am very anxious to do at least one further term …

Michael Freedland

Complete term?

P.M.

Well, I would like to do a complete term.

Michael Freedland

Would you like to tell me who you would like to succeed you? [end p35]

P.M.

No. That is not for me. My job is to see that I have enough people in the Cabinet to have three or four possible successors and then it is for the Party to choose.

Michael Freedland

Prime Minister, can I ask you a question about your relationship with the other party leaders?

P.M.

It is a working relationship. It has to be, and it is, and there is no difficulty about a working relationship.

Michael Freedland

What about the charge that David Steel made to me last week that you do not listen?

P.M.

How else does David Steelhe think I answer questions, even whether they are good or bad? (2)BBC Radio London interview begins [end p36]

Michael Freedland

What do you intend to ask Mr. Gorbachev when you meet him about Soviet Jewry?

P.M.

Well, of course, as I always have, I will say: “Look! I understand there are a lot of people wanting to come out. We do not understand in the West why you do not let out those people who want to leave and I hope that now you are doing things, letting out more dissidents - there are still more to come out - allowing more people out - we welcome that, and we hope that it will continue because it will bring great joy to many many families who are still divided and who would like their relatives from the Soviet Union to be able to leave and join their families elsewhere.” [end p37]

Michael Freedland

Are you going to be raising questions of some of the names that are constantly brought to you?

P.M.

We always raise the question of some names, but I think you have to, and indeed, a number of them have been allowed out as you know, and very successfully, and that has brought great joy to many many people.

Michael Freedland

Just over a year ago, you met Mr. Peres in London; then you went to Israel last April. You came back with some very flattering things about the clean streets of Israel.

Is this a personal relationship you have built up with him? Do you think you will be able to have a similar relationship with Mr. Shamir?

P.M.

I admire Mr. Peres very much. We have talked together over the years for a very very long time. I understand some of his problems and his difficulties and he understands mine, and I think that, you know, with some people, what I call the chemistry is right or the alchemy is right, and that certainly is so between Mr. Peres, both as Prime Minister and as Foreign Secretary and myself, and it is a great plus factor, because it [end p38] enables you to get on good terms very very easily and quickly.

Michael Freedland

Relations between Britain and Israel probably have never been better. Do you agree with that?

P.M.

I was very honoured to be the first Prime Minister of my country to pay an official visit to Israel and I think, perhaps because of past history, we all wondered how it would go, but you know, it was wonderful from the very time I arrived there as people were out in the streets and somehow it was not me, it was the Prime Minister of Britain. That is whom they were welcoming, and there was just something about it that somehow they were glad to see the flag of Israel flying by the side of the Union Jack.

Michael Freedland

Final question about relations between Israel and the rest of the Middle East.

Are you optimistic?

P.M.

I am always hopeful, always, because I know the difficulties of this problem; but we all have to try again and, as you know, I am a great admirer of King [end p39] Hussein and have great faith in his courage and he is always ready to make another effort and whenever I go and see Ronald Reaganthe President of the United States, which is quite often, I say: “Come along! We really must try to get something going for Israel again and for the Arab-Israel situation, for the Arabs in the Middle East and for the people of Israel and for the West Bank!” and always, you know, we know exactly where we are and always, if things have flagged just a little bit, he is always so responsive and says: “Yes, come along! We will try and get something, a new impetus, a new effort!”