Speeches, etc.

Margaret Thatcher

Speech to Scottish Conservative Party Conference

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Venue: City Hall, Perth
Source: Thatcher Archive: speaking text
Editorial comments: MT was expected to begin her speech at 1900. Sections of the speech have been checked against the Conservative Party Election Broadcast of 27 May 1987 which consisted wholly of extracts from it (see editorial notes in text).
Importance ranking: Key
Word count: 4268
Themes: Conservatism, Conservative Party (organization), Conservative Party (history), Defence (general), Economic policy - theory and process, Employment, Industry, General Elections, Monetary policy, Privatized & state industries, Health policy, Housing, Labour Party & socialism, Community charge (“poll tax”), Liberal & Social Democratic Parties, Religion & morality, Social security & welfare, Trade union law reform, Famous statements by MT


Thank you for your spirited welcome.

Four years ago, we launched the general election campaign from this very hall.

You gave us a great send-off.

And when the election came, it wasn't a bad result!

The people won.

This time we want to do better still—in Britain as a whole, and here in Scotland. [end p1]

The Scottish Conservative Party is in good heart and in great shape.

Thanks first, to you, Mr. President, and all you have achieved in your two-year period in office.

Thanks also to our Party Chairman, James Goold.

We were all delighted when a little earlier this year, he became Lord Goold.

He will be a powerful Scottish voice in the House of Lords. [end p2]

And I want to thank also Malcolm Rifkind for his outstanding work as Secretary of State for Scotland—and his first class team of Ministers in the Scottish Office.

In the Conservative Party, we've always drawn many of our leaders from Scotland—and there is no-one for whom we have more affection or admiration than Lord Home.

It's marvellous to have Alec with us, at this conference. [end p3]

The Way Ahead

Mr. President, this election is about the successes of the past and our vision for the future.

The achievements of our first two terms are the springboard for even greater achievements in our third term.

There is only one party in this election which knows what it wants to do and has the courage to tell the people about its plans for the future. Indeed, it seems that the Conservative Party alone is interested in the future. [end p4]

The other parties shy away from policies.

They talk only about the paraphernalia of politics—black sections, tactical voting and hung Parliaments.

Don't be surprised.

The other parties are inhibited from talking about policies.

The Liberals and SDP, because they wish they had more.

And Labour, because they wish they had fewer.

So from the Labour Party expect—the “Iceberg Manifesto” —one tenth of its socialism visible, nine-tenths beneath the surface. [end p5]

And from the Liberals and SDP, the “Blurred Manifesto” —easy reading for those with double vision.

But from our party, there will be no flimsy manifesto, no hidden manifesto.

Our Conservative Manifesto will present a full programme for a full Parliament in the full light of day.

And when it is published on Tuesday, you will see that, far from running out of steam, we're just coming up to full steam. [end p6]

Mr. President, Conservative policies are not for the benefit of politicians but for the benefit of people. [end p7]


Let me Start with local authority rates—which will mean an end to rates for all householders in Scotland.

This last week, Parliament passed the Bill to abolish domestic rates in Scotland.

They said we couldn't do it.

They said we wouldn't do it.

We did it. [end p8]

I don't pretend it was easy.

As you know, we had been trying for years to find the best way of replacing the intolerably unfair burden of domestic rates, under which you in Scotland have suffered more than most other parts of the United Kingdom.

Indeed it was in response to your needs in Scotland that we finally decided on the introduction of the community charge.

For those who are hardest pressed, there will be a generous rebate. [end p9]

We were determined: — that the cost of local government should be more fairly spread; — that relief should be brought to those—often the widowed and the elderly—who have been shouldering too heavy a share of the burden; [end p10] — that most people should contribute something to the cost of local services; — that local authorities should become more accountable—and more responsive—to the communities they serve; — and that businesses, the wealth-creators and the job-creators, should no longer be at the mercy of spendthrift local councils. [end p11]


As I look across the floor of the House of Commons this week at the leaders of the Opposition parties, I wondered to myself:

Why on earth do they all look so gloomy?

So depressed?

So down in the mouth?

It must have been something they ate.

Because there's a lot to be cheerful about.

This Government has an achievement second to none. [end p12]

Honest money has been restored.

Inflation is at its lowest levels for twenty years.

And as long as the Conservatives stay in office, money will stay honest. Beginning of section checked against Party Election Broadcast, 27 May 1987:

We are now in our seventh year of economic growth. It's put us at the top of the growth league of major European countries—after years in which we were at the bottom. This British economy today is one of the strongest in the world.

Britain is on the move again. End of section checked against Party Election Broadcast, 27 May 1987. [end p13]

And manufacturing industry too is doing well. Business optimism among Scottish manufacturers is at its highest level for thirteen years. Beginning of section checked against Party Election Broadcast, 27 May 1987:

Output is up.

It's exports are up.

Over the country as a whole, manufacturing productivity has gone up—at a faster rate than any other country—faster even than Japan. That gives me special pleasure to say. End of section checked against Party Election Broadcast, 27 May 1987.

And profits from manufacturing are at their highest level since 1973!

That's good news.

Profits provide the investment for the future. [end p14]

And Tories don't run up vast national debts.

We run up vast national assets.

This year they've reached £110 billion net—second to Japan, I'm sorry to say, but watch out!

That income from investments abroad will be available when the North Sea produces far less oil than now.

Already they bring in over £4 billion year.

No wonder Britain's stock is rising.

Industrial relations have been transformed, because of the changes we have made in the law on the trade unions. [end p15]

We have given the trade unions back to their members.

And we've had the lowest number of strikes for almost fifty years.

Tory freedom works.

People have more money in their pockets—to spend or to save.

You've only got to look at the supermarkets and shopping centres to see that living standards are higher than ever before in our history.

Britain is prosperous again. [end p16] Beginning of section checked against Party Election Broadcast, 27 May 1987:

And because Conservative policies have brought about growth,

There is more money available for the Health Service, for social benefits and for the one million extra pensioners.

By every test, we have done far better for the health services than Labour did.

Lbour talk about spending more money. We do the spending.

They day we Conservatives took office, £8 billion a year was spent on health.

How much do you think it is today? £21 billion this year, an increase way above inflation End of section checked against Party Election Broadcast, 27 May 1987. [end p17]

And yesterday, as you may have seen, we had a ding-dong in the House of Commons, about waiting lists.

Now, of course, we all want to get them down.

That goes without saying.

The question is—which Government is best at it?

And let me tell you.

The facts show that Labour Governments increase waiting lists, Conservative Governments reduce them.

Yes we want them down further.

And we have just allocated another considerable sum of money, £50 million for that purpose. [end p18]

But don't measure only by money.

Measure it by what our marvellous doctors and nurses have done. Beginning of section checked against Party Election Broadcast, 27 May 1987

One million more patients a year are being treated in hospital.

Three and a half million more are being looked after as out patients.

That is the Conservative record on the health service. (Applause.) End of section checked against Party Election Broadcast, 27 May 1987.

Heart bypass operations are up three fold.

Cataract by fifty per cent.

I could go on.

What a pity our opponents don't praise the Health Service instead of running it down. Beginning of section checked against Party Election Broadcast, 27 May 1987:

I don't doubt that Labour means well by the Health Service. [end p19]

But the plain fact is that every Labour Government causes an economic crisis.

It then has to cut back.

And on what?

On hospital building and on nurses pay, that's what they did.

Labour cut nurses pay in real terms during its last period of office.

We've increased nurses pay by 30 per cent on top of inflation. (Applause). End of section checked against Party Election Broadcast, 27 May 1987.

So their good intentions count for nothing. Beginning of section checked against Party Election Broadcast, 27 May 1987:

I have heard many say that the National Health Service is safe with us.

I say that the National Health Service is safe only with us. End of section checked against Party Election Broadcast, 27 May 1987. [end p20]

And again, because we have been able to produce sound economic growth, our record on looking after pensioners is second to none. Britain's spending on the elderly, including pensions, is among the highest in Europe—higher than Italy, Holland, higher even than prosperous West Germany.

And we're quietly pleased about that, because we appreciate how much those pensioners did for us.

They had a habit of saving, so it is vital to keep inflation down, otherwise their savings will be eaten away.

This has been a savers' government. [end p21]

Don't take it from me.

Take it from “the Scotsman” , Friday 8 May. “The savings market is booming.

Now the saver is king” .

Mr President, that is just an excerpt—A short one from our unrivalled record of achievement in the last eight years.

I could give more.

But I don't like to think of those long faces on the Opposition benches getting longer still.

I stopped watching when their chins passed their ankles. [end p22]

Of course, there is more to be done.

There always will be, whether it be in the Health Service, education, housing or jobs.

This week the United Kingdom unemployment figures fell for the tenth month in succession.

That was good news.

But the figures for Scotland were less good at first glance.

We'd hoped to do better than a fall of 300 at this time of year.

Especially when the fall in March had been the largest for nine years. [end p23]

But the long-term signs for Scotland's economy—and therefore for Scotland's jobs—are good.

Insteady of propping up old industries indefinitely we have smoothed the path for new trades, new skills, new endeavours to replace those parts of older industries which could no longer compete internationally.

Scotland has excelled in developing those industries which are the bedrock of a modern advanced economy. [end p24]

Scotland has one of the biggest concentrations of the electronics industry in Western Europe, worth some 43,000 jobs.

A Glasgow Herald feature on East Kilbride's 40th anniversary as a new town, said “… New industries are coming in at the rate of one a week; expansions by existing companies are at the rate of one a fortnight” .

East Kilbride “has moved from being a quiet country village to the production centre of the world's most advanced heart pacemaker in less than two generations …   .” [end p25]

And if Scotland can attract industries like the new electronics, they can attract other industries too with a potential for growth.

These industries come here—not only because of financial inducements which Scotland can offer, although they are considerable.

They are drawn here — by your universities, — by the skills of your work-force, — by good communications, — the quality of your environment — and the quality of life. [end p26]

That's modern Scotland.

And when we think of new jobs, we musn't think solely of manufacturing industry.

Edinburgh is a major centre for the financial services industry, which provides some 75,000 jobs.

I recently read in the Scotsman the headline “Crisis looms in capital” .

I wondered what on earth had happened, until I read on.

In fact, business is so booming in Edinburgh.

There is simply no prime office space left in the centre of the city.

That was the crisis. It could have been better put! [end p27]

But I was more encouraged by today's headline: “Turning the spotlight on initiative and success” .

That's the stuff.

And if you have any doubt, just look at the fifty top performers among Scottish companies.

Between 1983 and 1985—in other words, since the last election—more than half of those fifty companies had a growth in profits of over 200 per cent; and a third of them over 300 per cent. [end p28]

They ranged from newspapers, the Glasgow Herald and The Scotsman; to civil engineers, < Henry Boot; to Racal; then two leather companies; six textile firms; and companies in the building and contracting industries.

The spirit of enterprise that built Scotland's great industries in the past has re-awakened.

The spirit of enterprise that carried Scottish skills to the far corners of the globe is re-emerging here at home.

I wonder how many people fully realise what a profound change this is. [end p29]

Popular Capitalism

For much of the 20th Century, it seemed that Socialism was advancing and Conservatism in retreat.

Even a few Conservatives began to fear that socialism would triumph—that the future would be one of nationalised industries, central economic planning, municipal housing and the gradual, disappearance of the Entrepreneur, and of almost anyone who did not either work for or depend upon the Leviathan state. [end p30]

How old-fashioned that depressing vision now seems!

It has the smell of the late nineteen forties about it—the atmosphere of shortages, rationing, the black market and the endless restrictions, like the thousand threads which bound Gulliver.

I know all that seems like a prehistoric vision.

But that's how it was.

The brave new world of socialist planning and controls had arrived.

Freedom was on the retreat.

Today, it is Socialism which is in retreat and Conservatism which is advancing. [end p31]

Conservatism is advancing not because it is being imposed on people; but because people are finding that what we stand for is in tune with their own hopes and dreams.

It doesn't strike them as a political dogma, but simple commonsense, that people should want to buy their own home, set aside something for their old age, have shares in companies they work for or buy from, and do the best for their children. [end p32]

When Socialists try to stop them doing these things—for instance—to stop them buying their council house, they wake up to the fact that at the very heart of socialism is the instinct to order other people around—when what the people had always wanted and believed is what this party is about.

Now look at Conservatism in practice.

This Conservative Government has been engaged in a crusade to bring property within the reach of every family in the land. Our dream is that what was once a privilege of the few, should be the expectation of the many.

And it is a dream coming true. [end p33]

Two out of three homes in the country are now owner-occupied.

If it had not been for the action taken by this Conservative Government, hundreds of thousands of people would not be owning the home they do. [end p34]

The same is true with shares.

Not that long ago, the back pages of the Financial Times were thought to be, of interest only to a small band of financial experts.

Not any longer.

People who work for British Gas and British Telecom want to see how their shares are doing.

And so do millions of others up and down the country who also bought shares in these and many other companies—privatised de-nationalised, by this Conservative Government. [end p35]

Has privatisation worked?

Ask the employees—of British telecom, British gas, the TSB—and for example, in the National Freight Consortium, which was privatised in 1982, in an employee buy-out.

An original £1 stake is now worth £46 and about 6,000 employees have holdings worth more than £12,000 each, with a sizeable number approaching £100,000.

Mr. President, that is selling the family silver back to the family. [end p36]

How has all this been brought about?

Certainly not by Socialism.

Indeed, the Labour years were years of nationalisation.

Nor by consensus.

The very opposite: because the Liberal and SDP parties, who love to talk of consensus voted against the privatisation both of British Telecom and British Gas.

It happened because we, the Conservatives said: “This we believe, this we will do.”

And we did it.

And the people loved it.

Mr. President, popular capitalism is on the march. [end p37]

The other parties—Labour, Liberals, SDP and the rest—would stop it dead in its tracks, and throw it into reverse.

Not the Conservatives.

And so I make this pledge to you.

If we win this election, as I hope and believe we will, then, at the end of our third term, there will be still more families owning more property.

More homes, more shares, more second pensions and more savings. That will be our task. [end p38]

Of course, there will always be people, who, in the name of morality, sneer at this and call it “materialism” .

But isn't it moral that people should want to improve the material standard of living of their families, by their own effort?

Isn't it moral that families should work for the means to look after their old folk?

Isn't it moral that people should save, so as to be responsible for themselves?

Isn't it moral that people should have means to support the charities which they believe in? [end p39]

To everyone in this hall, and to most people in the country, all this is obvious.

Why then is it a matter of political debate?

Because Socialists and the Pseudo-Socialists think they know how to run your life, better than you do.

But there can be no morality without freedom of choice.

That is why there is a strong moral case for reducing taxation. [end p40]

It is right and good that we should take responsibility for our families.

The desire to do better for one's family is one of the strongest and best motives in human nature.

And it is for Government to work with that grain in human nature to strengthen the strand of responsibility and independence. — it benefits the family — it benefits the children — it is the essence of freedom — it is a human right.

To work against that grain is to stand morality on its head.

It is the very reverse of a moral crusade. [end p41]

Beware the scares

Mr. President, the Conservative Party is the only party fighting this election, not on hot-air promises but on the basis of solid achievement.

Our opponents will therefore switch their attack and engage in a campaign of scares and smears.

How do we know?

Because this is precisely what they did last time. [end p42]

In May 1983, Mr Hattersley said: “In a year's time … inflation will be in double figures again” .

It wasn't.

It isn't.

Mrs. Dunwoody, then on Labour's front bench, said last time: “If the Tories were allowed to win this election they would within five years end the National Health Service” .

You've just heard our fantastic record on the Health Service, unrivalled by any previous Government. [end p43]

And Mr Kinnock himself, just two days before polling day, said: “It is now clear … that a Tory Government would … increase taxes” .

And the truth?

We cut income tax.

And he voted against the tax cuts.

Four years ago, it was already clear that the Labour Party had lost its grip on reality.

Nothing's changed.

Nowhere is a clear-headed approach needed more than in standing up for the defence of our country. [end p44]

Strong for Freedom

How fortunate we are to have George Younger as Defence Secretary.

He commands respect the world over.

But from Labour, on the subject of defence, there is a sudden eerie silence.

We used to hear regularly about Labour's non-nuclear defence policy.

About how Mr. Kinnock was going to explain it to the United States and our other NATO allies.

And gain their acceptance. [end p45]

But now all is quiet.

Not because the policy has changed.

But because they have discovered how deeply unpopular it is.

And they want to hush it up.

Denis Healey gave the game away—as usual.

He told us that the Kremlin are praying for a Labour victory. [end p46]

Who could blame them?

Think what a lot of trouble it would save them.

They would see Britain's independent nuclear deterrent surrendered.

And they wouldn't have to give up a single nuclear weapon themselves.

Not one.

They would see our American allies told to remove all their nuclear weapons and bases from Britain.

But they would keep all weapons and bases in East Europe. [end p47]

They would see NATO's strategy and cohesion fatally weakened.

While their defences would remain intact.

Yes, Labour's defence policy would be the answer to the Kremlin's prayers.

In any case, in this election, our job is to spell out the truth. [end p48]

And the truth is that Labour remains the Party of one-sided nuclear disarmament.

The truth is that you cannot claim to be a loyal member of NATO while dissociating yourself from its basic strategy.

The truth is that Labour's policies would mortally weaken the United States' commitment to Europe.

The truth is that Labour policies would take us a giant step towards a neutral Britain, increasingly under the shadow of Soviet military might. [end p49]

Mr President, we Conservatives are not prepared to take risks with Britain's security. We know that nuclear weapons have kept the peace in Europe for forty years. They have prevented not only nuclear war but conventional war as well.

A strong defence policy is the best peace policy.

And that is why we are modernising our independent deterrent with trident.

Lbour and the Liberals and the SDP would cancel it. [end p50]

That is why the Conservative Government deployed Cruise missiles.

All the Opposition Parties—again, Labour and the Liberals and the SDP—voted in the House of Commons against deployment.

Yet it is the deployment of Cruise and Pershing missiles in Britain and Europe which has brought the Soviet Union back to the negotiating table.

And now we are seeing progress.

An agreement later this year which would free Europe from the threat of Soviet Medium and shorter-range missiles is a real possibility. [end p51]

People know that our policies offer the best hope for peace and security.

They know that Britain's defences are safe only in Conservative hands. [end p52]


Beginning of section checked against Party Election Broadcast, 27 May 1987

Mr President, for the next few weeks we will enjoy or endure all the Razamatazz that accompanies a democratic election.

The polls will confuse us daily.

The politicians of all parties will talk, argue and canvass. End of section checked against Party Election Broadcast, 27 May 1987.

They will lay out their wares. Some will warble their signature tunes, others put on their most persuasive smiles. [end p53]

Then their voices will fall silent and the British people will quietly cast their votes in the only poll that matters. Beginning of section checked against Party Election Broadcast, 27 May 1987

Mr President, no-one can take the British people for granted.

No-one can be sure of their votes until the very last one has been counted.

We never assume success.

We try to deserve it.

But we work for it. (Applause.) End of section checked against Party Election Broadcast, 27 May 1987. [end p54]

The Manifesto we shall launch next week is a Manifesto not for a Government, but for a people.

It will speak of extending freedom, widening choice, opening doors of opportunity for people to acquire new training, new resources, new scope for ownership and leadership.

It will be a Manifesto for our times.

No doubt our opponents in the opposition parties will lay out their policies with fanfare. But we shall have two inestimable advantages over them. [end p55]

Our policies are in tune with the deepest instincts of the British people.

And we can point with pride to our stewardship of the last eight years. Beginning of section checked against Party Election Broadcast, 27 May 1987

The British people have seen the greatness of our country—which in 1979 was in a slough of despair and defeatism—revived and restored. (Applause.)

Today Britain is a stable, prosperous and well-governed country with a proud presence in the world. [end p56]

What are the alternatives?

A vote for the Liberals or the SDP?

That's not a choice but a step into the unknown, into a no-man's land of confusion, uncertainty and Parliamentary chaos.

A Labour Government?

That's not a choice.

It's a nightmare.

But it's a nightmare that must be taken seriously, because Apathy, overconfidence, indifference, complacency, going for the soft option—all these could bring it about. [end p57]

Our Conservative Achievements were hard won.

We didn't run away from difficult choices.

We didn't fudge the issues.

And when there was a crisis, we didn't back down.

Don't take all that for granted. Beginning of section checked against Party Election Broadcast, 27 May 1987

All the improvements in the well-being and strength of our country have only been possible because we have had a strong government with sound policies and a decisive majority in Parliament. (Applause.) [end p58]

In this election there is so much at stake.

We look to your help, your strength and the people's support to elect a strong, decisive, united, Conservative Government for the third time. End of section checked against Party Election Broadcast, 27 May 1987.