Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

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

1987 May 19 Tu
Margaret Thatcher

General Election Press Conference (launching Conservative manifesto)

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Document kind: Press Conference
Venue: Conservative Central Office, Smith Square, Westminster
Source: (1) Thatcher Archive: CCOPR 311/87 (2) BBC Television Archive: OUP transcript (3) ITN Archive: OUP transcript
Journalist: (2) John Simpson, BBC, reporting
Editorial comments: The manifesto launch was due to begin at 1100. MT was accompanied on the platform by Whitelaw, Lawson, Hurd, Ridley, Howe, Young, Younger, Tebbit and Fowler. The BBC Television Report begins with a summary of the manifesto. Fragments from ITN rushes follow the main ITN Report. Much of the media reported the the contents of the manifesto to the virtual exclusion of the press conference. There are a few more words from MT in IRN News Report 19 May 1987: "Health Service policies are doing very well indeed for all people. We shall continue with them during the lifetime of this Parliament. We have an unrivalled record".
Importance ranking: Key
Word count: 3236
Themes: Parliament, Conservatism, Defence (general), Education, Employment, General Elections, Health policy, Law & order, Liberal & Social Democratic Parties, Leadership
(1) Opening statement by MT

If anyone hoped to attack the Conservative Party for running out of ideas after two periods of office, this Manifesto puts paid to that. The Manifesto falls into two parts. The first sets out the achievements of our first eight years, achievements which have brought about the transformation of Britain. But we are not asking people to vote only for our achievement in the past. We are asking them to vote for our commitment to the future. So the second document ‘The Next Moves Forward’ is a weighty document in every sense. It sets out the real radical policies for the next Parliament.

Our first theme is investing in the future of Britain. We shall build on policies which have made Britain the fastest growing economy among the major European countries; restored honest money; and cut strikes to their lowest levels for fifty years. We will continue along this path—maintaining sound finance; cutting taxes; and reducing inflation still further. These are the policies which have created a million new jobs since the last election and which are now reducing unemployment. [end p1]

Our second theme is “power to the people” . We intend to spread ownership of homes, shares and pensions even more widely than we have already done. We shall continue to sell State industries back to the people. We want to extend greater choice in services like housing and education so that parents can choose their children's school, schools can opt out of local authority control, boroughs can opt out of ILEA and council tenants can choose new landlords. There are also proposals to encourage the provision of more homes to rent.

Other parties wish to keep such matters under the control of bureaucracy. Tories trust the people.

Our third theme is that only an economically successful nation can provide the resources for high standards of public and social services, such as health and police:

— Our Manifesto lays out programmes for further improvement of the Health Service, in particular reducing waiting lists and building more hospitals. In the past, Labour Governments, well-meaning but beset by financial crises, have had to cut back on health programmes.

— A police force with strong government support is needed to tackle crime. We propose further to increase police numbers, bring in tougher sentences and provide the backing which some anti-police Labour councils shamefully deny them.

Our fourth theme is that a strong defence policy is the best peace policy. [end p2]

Nuclear weapons have prevented not only nuclear war but also conventional war in Europe. Only a strong defence policy which includes nuclear weapons can defend us from Soviet military power. Labour, Liberals and the SDP would all take chances with Britain's security; we won't.

These are our policies. They are clear, realistic, imaginative and based solidly upon past achievement, and they are geared to people's needs. [end p3]

[(2) BBC Television Archive: OUP transcript]

David Dimbleby, BBC

The parties each brandished their manifestos today, the policies on which they each hope to be elected in three weeks time.

Mrs Thatcher claimed the Conservatives' was the most radical programme ever put forward by a government after eight years in office. She promised more power to the people, including tax cuts and major reforms in education and housing.

The Labour leader, Neil Kinnock, said tonight Mrs Thatcher's attitudes would lead to beggars in the streets and young boys on the run, a situation that would need a writer like Dickens to do them justice.

The Alliance leaders too were quick on the attack. David Steel said the Tories should be judged not on their manifesto, but on their record, and accused them of threatening the national quality of life by dividing the nation.

The SDP leader, David Owen, said he understood Labour had drastically slimmed down their manifesto, a case of the less said, the less to argue over.

Tonight, we'll be looking at both manifestos in some detail and talking to the two party leaders. First, the Conservative proposals, drawn up by Mrs Thatcher and the so called “A Team” of senior government ministers. The Prime Minister said the manifesto showed that after eight years the Conservatives hadn't run out of ideas.

[film of press conference begins] Mrs Thatcher was flanked by ten of her senior ministers. The manifesto she presented contained two documents, one setting out the Tories' record over the past eight years, the other with proposals for a third government. It's called “The Next Moves Forward” . [end of press conference film]

They promised to reduce the basic rate of income tax to 25 pence as soon as prudent. More privatisation is planned, including the electricity and water industries. To reduce unemployment, the Conservatives will guarantee places on training schemes to school-leavers under 18 and to those unemployed for over six months. Those under 18 who choose to remain unemployed will not be eligible for benefit.

Julia Somerville, BBC

Changes planned for education include allowing parents and school governors to opt out of control by local education authorities and be funded directly by the Department of Education. Inner London Boroughs will be able to leave the Inner London Education Authority and run their schools themselves. A national curriculum will be introduced. Head teachers and school governors of all secondary schools and many primary schools will be given control over their budgets.

David Dimbleby, BBC

On housing, the Tories say that after giving people the right to buy, they'll now give them the right to rent. Controls on landlords will be relaxed to stop homes standing empty. Council tenants will be given the right to set up tenant co-operatives to run their estates.

Julia Somerville, BBC

More trade union laws are planned. Union members will be protected from disciplinary action if they refuse to join a strike they disagree with. There will be no legal immunity for industrial action to enforce a closed shop. Legislation will be introduced to empower individual members to insist on a secret ballot before a strike. All members of union governing bodies will have to be elected by secret postal ballot at least once every five years. [end p4]

David Dimbleby, BBC

The Conservatives say they'll complete 125 major hospital building programmes over the next three years. They'll improve screening facilities for cervical cancer and breast cancer. The present rating system will be abolished. Rates will be replaced by a new charge on each member of a household. The redevelopment of the inner cities is a high priority. Urban development corporations will be extended to reclaim and redevelop derelict land. The task force scheme will be expanded to promote more employment and training in inner cities.

Julia Somerville, BBC

Law and order also figures prominently. There will be more police on the streets, tougher laws to curb offensive weapons and it'll be possible to refer criminal sentences that are thought to be too lenient to the Court of Appeal.

David Dimbleby, BBC

On defence the Conservatives confirm their commitment to the Trident programme, but reaffirm their support for arms control negotiations. Other measures include a new body to examine complaints about sex and violence on television and plans to extend pub licensing hours.

MT

The second document, The Next Moves Forward, is a very weighty document in every sense. It sets out the real radical policies for the next Parliament.

Julia Somerville, BBC

After this morning's manifesto launch, it was back to Downing Street for Mrs Thatcher. She won't start campaigning up and down the country until later in the week. Our correspondent, John Simpson, will be with the Prime Minister throughout the election. He reports now on the way her campaign is being planned, starting with today's appearance.

John Simpson, BBC

The manifesto was ready, the slightly awkward slogan, The Next Moves Forward, picked. All that remained was to see how Mrs Thatcher planned to run the election. Her officials would prefer her to stay aloof and presidential and leave the opposition to slug it out. But right from the moment she appeared, it was clear that Mrs Thatcher had no such ideas. She ran the press conference like she runs her Cabinet.

MT

[film of MT arranging colleagues for photographers] Shall we all look left?

John Simpson, BBC

Photographers clambered on photographers to snap her with the manifesto, and she knows how to treat the cameras. Sir Geoffrey Howe, for one, has never shared her enthusiasm for them.

MT

[film of MT asking Geoffrey Howe to stand out of the way of cameras]Can you just stand there …

John Simpson, BBC

She was the ringmaster, the mistress of ceremonies, spotting the would be questioners and fielding almost everything they asked herself, even though she had half the Cabinet there for precisely that purpose.

MT

We have an unrivalled record. Norman, you should be saying all this.[laughter on the platform] … I'm so used to answering at the despatch box. Come on. [end p5]

John Simpson, BBC

We're a team, she said. It was a team where she kicked all the goals and made all the saves. But she did seem to be pulling back just a little from her promise to stay on as player-manager into the distant future.

MT

I intend to do my level best to win a third term, and for that we shall work, to coin a phrase, on and on and on every day, until the end of polling day.

John Simpson, BBC

Mrs Thatcher is not, we can take it, intending to stay magisterially above the fray in this election.

[(3) ITN Archive: OUP transcript]

Journalist

At the start of her campaign for a third term, Mrs Thatcher needs to convince the country that she hasn't run out of ideas. But pictures come first in this campaign, the Press manfully resisting the temptation to tip the pyramid over. That finished, Mrs Thatcher, accompanied by a slightly expanded version of the ‘A-Team’ which wrote the manifesto, laid out her stall.

MT

If anyone hoped to attack the Conservative Party for running out of ideas after two periods of office, this manifesto puts paid to that. It sets out the real radical policies for the next Parliament.

[Break in tape]

MT

The Health Service policies are doing very well indeed for all people.

[Break in tape]

MT

Tories trust the people.

Journalist

One of the main themes, she said, was ‘Power for the People’. And this idea of taking power away from local authorities and giving it to the individual runs through the manifesto, most notably on education. To improve standards, a national core curriculum is to be introduced, so that all five to sixteen year-olds study the same subjects. At the same time, school governors and headteachers will be given control over their budgets. And to bypass local councils, schools will be allowed to opt out of local education authority control. In London, whole boroughs will be able to opt out of the Inner London Education Authority, all highly controversial changes.

Man

You increase the inequality in the system. You benefit a few by giving them the chance to opt out of a system. The middle class schools expand, the sink schools go down further.

MT

You mustn't just think that people who live in these areas haven't got the same feelings, the same aspirations, the same hopes, the same determination for their children. Of course they have. They're not to be pushed around. [end p6]

Journalist

Housing is another area in which Mrs Thatcher wants to give more power to the individual and the market. In the private sector, they're going to try to encourage more private letting by introducing new forms of tenancy, which will allow landlords to charge nearer the market rent. In the public sector, council tenants will be given the right to form co-ops and opt out of local authority control. In run down areas, Housing Action Trusts, appointed by central Government, will take over housing from the council. But the biggest change will be replacing the rates with a new Community Charge, which will mean rises for some.

Nicholas Ridley

Obviously, a single person will pay less, because hitherto most single people have been paying for a household, if they're in a single household. So there's those changes to family numbers. Equally, five earners living in a house are going to pay much more than they've paid before, and that is what everybody wanted us to do.

Journalist

On trade unions, too, the Tories are proposing further measures to strengthen the power of the individual member, and so weaken the power of the union. It's proposing pre-strike ballots and protection for members who refuse to join a strike. The closed shop is also to be further weakened. And in a clause which could have been designed to deal with Arthur Scargill, it says all members of trade union governing bodies will have to be elected once every five years by secret ballot.

Man

Basically it's following the Tory philosophy of bringing the unions more and more under state control. But the most important element, really, is the introduction of a trade union ombudsman, a legal beaver, who will be able to initiate action against the trade unions through the courts by himself, without waiting for complaints to come to him.

Journalist

On jobs for the economy, the Tories repeat their commitment to getting the basic rate of tax down to 25p. They also promise to expand existing job experience and training programmes, so that anyone under eighteen is guaranteed either a job or a training place. If young people don't take the offer up, they will lose their benefit. There are also new guarantees of help for the long-term unemployed, but no target for getting unemployment down.

MT

If anyone has a genuine recipe for unemployment [sic], then I wish they would put it into operation, but they know, as we know, you can't give targets for getting unemployment down specifically, because it's business that creates jobs.

Journalist

On home affairs, the manifesto promises more police on the streets, stiffer sentences, and new immigration laws to make it more difficult for people to settle here. With the manifesto also promising new moves on privatisation, a tough line on defence, and [end p7] continued control over public spending, the Tories were essentially offering a development of existing policies. The message they wanted to get over today was that they were competent but not complacent. The message that came over, though, was confidence. There was no question of the programme being negotiable with the Alliance in the event of a hung Parliament.

MT

We do not expect to be put in that position. We shall work extremely hard until the end of polling day, as we always do. We take nothing for granted. We should in fact place our own policy before Parliament, assuming that in any event we believe we shall have a majority, but we believe that we should be in any event the largest party. We should place our own programme before Parliament, for the consideration of Parliament, whether to vote for it or against it.

Journalist

But how much of that Parliament would she be around for?

MT

Our first thing is to win a third term. I expect to be very fit towards the end of that time, but those decisions will have to be taken then, not now.

[Fragments from ITN rushes] [end p8] [MT and colleagues pose for photographs]

Man

… moving its way up the Cabinet pecking order.

Photographers

Prime Minister! Prime Minister!

MT

How shall we do it? Shall we all look that way first?

Photographer

Can we see the manifesto please, ma'am?

MT

Yes. Now, we're going to turn to the centre.

[Break in tape]

Norman Tebbit

I know government sometimes seems a very slow business, not least when you're in the middle of it. At the end of the week, you may wonder how long it will take to achieve your aims. But then you look back over a longer period, and suddenly realise the extraordinary extent and pace of the change in our past eight years.

[Extract from promotional video]

MT

[making a speech]

Our duty is to safeguard our country's interests and to be reliable friends and allies. The failure of the other parties to measure up to what is needed places an awesome responsibility upon us. I believe that we have an historic duty to discharge that responsibility and to carry into the future all that is best and … [end p9]

[Break in tape]

MT

Some of the schools in the inner city areas will be among the first to want to opt out. Kenneth.

Kenneth Baker

Prime Minister, the proposals on education in the manifesto represent a very radical reform package indeed, and a major task for the next Parliament. They'll include not only the National Curriculum, which will have an effect on levering up standards, we'll also be pushing ahead with the delegation of budgets to school heads and governing bodies, a very, very important measure. We will also be increasing parent … parental choice, and that's the question you specifically asked about, on opting out. We will allow for schools, parents, and governing bodies working together to opt out of local education control if they want to. They would become independent charitable trusts, and this is going to be available to all secondary schools and the larger primary schools. And I would just re-echo what the Prime Minister has said when she said that I don't believe that there will be a divide which …

[Break in tape]

MT

Home Secretary.

Douglas Hurd

Yes, it will need a new Bill. The … it's … We believe that harmonious relations in our cities and between the different communities depend, among several things, but one of them is a fair and firm system of immigration control. All the time, we have to look to see if there are loopholes, if there are new developments, new pressures, which may need changes. We introduced visas last year, and after a great—for five extra countries—after a great deal of commotion that has really settled down quite well. We're now coping with the problem of the greatly increased number of people claiming refugee status. We shall have to go on to deal with a number of other loopholes which have emerged. For example, there isn't a law at the moment blocking …

[Break in tape]

MT

… when we have completed further measures of privatisation, that will be the time to …