Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

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

1987 Mar 31 Tu
Margaret Thatcher

TV Interview for BBC2 (visiting Moscow)

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Venue: Ministry of Foreign Affairs Press Centre, Moscow
Source: Thatcher Archive: COI transcript
Journalist: Charles Wheeler, BBC2 Newsnight
Editorial comments:

1815-1845 MT gave individual interviews after her Press Conference.

Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 1211
Themes: Foreign policy (USSR & successor states), Civil liberties, Foreign policy (USA)

Charles Wheeler, BBC

Prime Minister, you have spent many hours here talking to somebody that many people consider to be perhaps the most interesting man in the world at the moment.

Could you give me your personal impression of him as a man and as a leader?

Prime Minister

It is the same impression I had when Mikhail Gorbachevhe came to Chequers.

He can discuss anything, debate in a very interesting way, lively way, very direct way, no jargon. That suited me, because I like to debate the same way.

You can be absolutely direct to him and he to me, without there being any offence taken at all.

I think as a leader all of those things matter, but what matters infinitely more than all that is that he has had the fantastic courage to say: “Look! This [end p1] system is not working properly. We have got to change it and this is the direction in which we are going to go!” That is difficult in any society. In a society as rigid as the Soviet society it is utterly outstanding and remarkable.

Charles Wheeler, BBC

Do you get the feeling you are dealing with an honest man?

Prime Minister

Yes, very much so. He had to be honest, first to make that assessment and second, to decide that way to go.

Charles Wheeler, BBC

This means that you do have more reason to be more trustful of this particular leadership than perhaps previous leaders?

Prime Minister

Certainly more trustful than of any previous Soviet leadership.

Charles Wheeler, BBC

Listening to you both and watching you both from a distance, I got the impression that you are really in some ways rather alike. You are both people of very [end p2] strong views; you both want to change society. Would you agree with that? Am I wrong?

Prime Minister

It was something which had occurred to me, because I had to do quite a big change in Britain, although not as big a change, anything like the one which he has embarked upon, and you know, at one stage I said: “Look! It took me several years to turn the British economy round!” because it is not governments that do it; it is the people that do it under the leadership of government and under the changes in background that you make and what happens in the first two years is it tends to be the things that go wrong that happen first. For example, if you are keen on quality control and you throw out any goods that are not good, then your production figures will be down for the first few weeks or months, and I think they are very much aware of that. They are very much aware that in the first two years not all of the good things will show and some of the problems will show, first because some people are a little bit afraid of extra responsibility. Hitherto they have been told everything to do; now they are going to have some&em;not a great deal, but some responsibility&em;and that makes them a bit fearful. [end p3]

Charles Wheeler, BBC

He has acknowledged this in speeches. He is trying to make this a more efficient society clearly. Do you think he is also trying to make it a more humane one?

Prime Minister

I think he realises that if you just get everything basic, whether you work or not, then there are some people who will just sit back and not work very hard and really, to alter that you have got to give incentives, and he is doing that. It is from each according to his ability, to each according to his work. You have seen that phrase.

Now that suits very well people who want to work harder and will work harder, and they are making tremendous strides under that system. We have spoken to many of them. And it will stir those who did not work hard. So it really is quite a change in the economic motivation.

When it comes to the larger economic freedom, you are talking about how much they have and I rather understand that 50&pcnt; of their orders will still come from the State and the other 50&pcnt; they have got to go out and find, which again is a challenge, and for people who have been told what to produce, how much and when, it is quite a challenge. [end p4]

Charles Wheeler, BBC

That is the efficiency part of the question. Do you think he is trying to make it more humane as well?

Prime Minister

I am not quite sure you are using the word “humane”. I think it is in a sense an open society, much more open, and when you get a more open society then I think you inevitably get more freedoms which is the sense in which you are using the “humane”, and I think that it is easier now, which I believe from what evidence I have so far seen, easier to go to church and have more freedom of worship, easier to have more freedom of speech, and I think that is the outstanding thing; people are openly discussing things that they would never have discussed before.

Charles Wheeler, BBC

Dr. Sakharov we saw a few minutes ago, said he thought that the West in its own interest should try to help Mr. Gorbachev's reforms succeed&em;the West. Do you agree?

Prime Minister

Yes.

Charles Wheeler, BBC

How? [end p5]

Prime Minister

I have been asked that, but before I came I had looked very carefully at the speeches and discussed matters with a number of people who had been here and had come to the conclusion, which has been reinforced since I have been here, that it was in the West's interest if the people of the Soviet Union were going to have a better standard of living and a more open society. That was not only in there interest but it was in the West's interest as well.

You asked me how. You said “humane”. I would put it a different way. It is better for all mankind, because it has more of the things which we take for granted and which we had not realised that other people had not got, and the freer it gets the more open it gets, the more trust and confidence you can have, because things are more openly discussed and you can find out the facts more easily. It has not been easy to find out the facts you know in some respects.

Charles Wheeler, BBC

Finally, Prime Minister, sooner or later you will be going to Washington. Are you going to talk to Mr. Reagan about Gorbachev in these terms?

Prime Minister

Oh, I should not change the terms in which I spoke of him according to who I spoke to. These are my views. [end p6]

Charles Wheeler, BBC

Do you think you can persuade him that there is this change that you have experienced and seen?

Prime Minister

Oh yes. President Reagan is a very easy person to get on with. He is a very honest person and I think it may well be that he has come to precisely the same conclusion about Mr. Gorbachev, because he too has had conversations with him and I have had conversations with them both, and I am sure that he would come to the same conclusion that it is in the interests of the West that there is a more open society in the Soviet Union and that it has a higher standard of living. There would be no difficulty about that, because those are my views; they are the views I give to anyone who asks me, including the President.