Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

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

1988 Mar 23 We
Margaret Thatcher

TV Interview for Turkish TV (coming visit to Turkey)

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Venue: No.10 Downing Street
Source: Thatcher Archive: COI transcript
Journalist: Ali Birand, Turkish TV
Editorial comments:

1635-1700. Embargoed until 4 April 1988.

Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 3784
Themes: Leadership, Autobiographical comments, Women, Executive, Media, Foreign policy (Middle East), Foreign policy (Asia), Foreign policy (Western Europe - non-EU), Foreign policy (USA), Foreign policy (USSR & successor states), Defence (arms control), Defence (general), European Union Single Market, Foreign policy (general discussions), Trade, European Union (general), Economic, monetary & political union

Ali Birand, Turkish TV

You are the longest serving Prime Minister, at the same time you are the leader of a very male-oriented Conservative party. Now what is the secret, what makes you so special? What have you done that the others could not do?

Prime Minister

It is always very difficult to ask a person themselves “What is the secret?”; maybe others know it better than I do. I can only tell you what we did.

I believed passionately in certain things, in certain principles, in certain ways that Government should behave: that they should never run away from the difficult problems even though it might be difficult in the short term to tackle the fundamental problems, and so when we came in we knew we had to turn Britain round: we knew we had to get the finances in order, we knew we had to free things up and we did all that and we stuck to it. I think what has been different is that when things began to get extremely difficult - as they often do when you are having to take fundamentally difficult decisions - we did not just stop because people did not like what we are doing. We say, “Look, in the long-term this is right and we are going to go on” and of course then in [end p1] the longer term they saw it was right and we are now reaping the benefits. So the thing was, we did not run away when the going got rough.

Ali Birand, Turkish TV

You do not like U-turns.

Prime Minister

No, you do not do a U-turn from what you believe in.

Ali Birand, Turkish TV

Is the Mrs Thatcher of 1970's different from the Mrs Thatcher of today?

Prime Minister

Of 1979? Of 1970? I suppose yes, one is bound to be. One is a good deal older, one has been through a great deal and I think what has happened is that you have got a good deal more confidence. Before one had tremendous belief in what one was doing. Now one knows it works. That gives inevitably a good deal more confidence and a lot more experience. And having been through so much, you are in a position to say to other people when it gets tough for them, “Look, you have got to tackle it, it can be done provided you stick to it”.

Ali Birand, Turkish TV

Do you feel changed?

Prime Minister

I do not feel very much changed but I notice that other people's attitudes - particularly overseas - have changed to oneself because of what we have been able to do in Britain. [end p2]

Ali Birand, Turkish TV

How did the power and the pressure affect you?

Prime Minister

I have always been able to stand pressure and I think the secret of being able to stand it is to believe in what you are doing. It would be difficult to withstand pressure if you hadn't any faith in what you are doing. If you have, the adrenalin flows. Yes, sometimes there are difficult weeks, there are difficult days but so long as you have faith in what you are doing, you can take whatever happens.

Ali Birand, Turkish TV

How did you perceive this largely male-dominated political world? What are the idiosyncracies of it - this male club; what makes them tick?

Prime Minister

One does not quite look at it like that. One gets on with people because you have similar interests, because when you talk to one another, you understand the terms you use in a kind of shorthand. You start from knowing the same things and therefore it is common interest in a common subject, then you do not think in terms of men and women, you think in terms of a subject. And don't forget, I was not the first woman Prime Minister anywhere else in the world; Golda Meir blazed a trail in Israel, Mrs Gandhi blazed a trail in India, and so it was not terribly unusual by the time I came.

Ali Birand, Turkish TV

Are you, as some people would claim, a dominating person? [end p3]

Prime Minister

I think by the time you have had to do some of the things I have had to do, inevitably you become - even if you were not in the beginning - a very strong personality. I think if you know what you want to do, you become rather more than just a Chairman of Ministers, you become a leader. You know the decisions you want to get and you strive to get them but you listen always to argument because that might modify policies a little bit although it will not change the actual direction.

Ali Birand, Turkish TV

The last word; you have the last word.

Prime Minister

Do I have the last word? Sometimes they have the first one, the middle one and the last one but there is a lot in between all of those. We do argue things out. We argue them out very closely because that is the way I work. We should miss things if we did not discuss things. Several minds are very much better than one because you bring everyone's experience to bear on a particular subject. Someone might find a whole different aspect of something from their experience, from their thought which you had not thought about! And you say “Oh, my goodness! Now we must take that into account, now what does that mean?”

Yes we do have vivid, quite lively arguments - of course we do - and of course sometimes they modify a policy because if you did not take them into account then the policy would not work as you wanted it to. But you know the general direction you want to go in and then most of the people in a party are of a same mind and the [end p4] differences are very minor.

Ali Birand, Turkish TV

Do you ever relax and if so how do you do it? How do you cope with the stress?

Prime Minister

I do not think I am a very relaxing person. I have so much work and the work does not get any the less that I do not have a great deal of time. With a woman it is easier. I mean there are certain things in running a house that you just have to do and they are very practical and turning to do practical things in connection with daily life, you know, is a great antidote to any strain and I think it is something which is available to women which is very rarely available to men so obviously one turns to doing those things. One would go out for a walk, particularly sometimes to think things out. One would sit down and read, one would listen to music, one would go to music concerts, one would go to a theatre - all of those things - or if one is on holiday - I used to love to go on holiday where there were mountains. They just somehow get things back into perspective. Or you go and see - as we shall see when we come to Turkey - and hear some of the great examples of history, of past buildings, past civilisations, past problems. I think you know, some of the rulers in the past, some of them were rather despotic. When you think of the fantastic buildings they built, the imagination, they thought big. They had available the most marvellous architects, the most wonderful craftsman.

We have just been to the Suliman exhibition. They had the most fantastic craftsmen there - those beautiful mosques were [end p5] built - they were bold and so we are both fortunate in that we have a tradition to inherit and therefore we have a duty to add to it. Now we shall add to it in a different way. But again, whether you are walking among the mountains or whether you are walking among the paths of history, it puts things into perspective and that is always a good thing for a politician.

Ali Birand, Turkish TV

How about your relations with the press; do you feel you are being fairly treated by international press and by the …?

Prime Minister

Really my relations with the press are very good. Of course there are some that are wholeheartedly against me; it is a free society. But equally there are some who are wholeheartedly for everything I am doing. So sometimes you read some and you are miserable and you read others and you cheer up, so I really have no complaints.

Ali Birand, Turkish TV

In all those years, you met many world leaders. Who impressed you most. With whom do you feel closest?

Prime Minister

It would be very difficult and almost invidious to pick out one. I knew Golda Meir, I admired her very much. I could talk very easily to Mrs Gandhi because I think she and I both understood the loneliness of our position and I was grief stricken at her death.

But then one gets on with people in a way both sides of the political divide. I got on very well with Chancellor Schmidt although his outward politics are different from mine. I used [end p6] sometimes to say to him “You know, you are just not a Social Democrat, you are as right-wing a Tory as ever I have met!” He would say, “Shhh, don't tell anyone,” but his economics were similar to mine and I had a great admiration for him. I get on very well with Chancellor Kohl because he and I again agree very well with Chancellor Reagan (sic), but I also get along with Francois Mitterrand, because he has similar views on defence and is quite unhesitating in expressing them and I get on very well with Mr Chirac. Mr Ozal and I get on very well and, of course, I get on very well with President Reagan and Vice President Bush and George Shultz and Casper Weinberger, but I knew President Reagan long before he was President and he knew me long before I was Prime Minister and again there is a similarity of view. As you know, I get on very well with Mr Gorbachev; I admire him greatly, I admire him because of the bold, courageous, visionary things which he is doing.

Ali Birand, Turkish TV

Exactly. I was going to ask you that. You once said that you could do business with Gorbachev.

Prime Minister

Yes, I think I was the first person to say that because we invited him over to Britain. We could see that this was a rather outstanding person and he made a terrific hit in this country. Very good.

Ali Birand, Turkish TV

Now your approach is changing …?

Prime Minister

Not in the least. This is a man who has strong ideas, bold, [end p7] who is carrying out a historic reform in the Soviet Union and I was the first publicly to support him and I am wholeheartedly in support of everything he is doing.

But that country is strong because of its military strength. That is the only reason it is strong; its military strength which has made them a military Superpower. It has got that military strength because it has had the kind of Communist dictatorship which has been able to hold people down. To get the military strength and then say to people “Aren't you proud your country is one of the two Superpowers?” and all of a sudden things fall apart and they realise that seventy years of Marxist Leninism which promised them a higher standard of living, a higher standard of technology, a higher social standard. It did not do any of those things and so he realises that you cannot keep the world's message out of the Soviet Union and he has to change it, and I wish him well and I will support him through thick and thin, but, at the same time, there is a very powerful military machine. They are very powerful. I do not see any change in the military machine. We will negotiate and are, and again we were the first to support the negotiations. We were the first in fact to station the Cruise missiles opposite the SS20's and we will negotiate toughly. We will not trust good will, we will verify because negotiating on a basis of mutual respect - and please understand that matters enormously - mutual respect, knowing the other's strength, they knowing your strength, tough negotiations, seeing that all the time your defence is sure because they have a right to defend their position just as much as we have ours.

That is a much better basis and then you see whatever [end p8] happens; just supposing Mr Gorbachev and I are always going to be in our respective positions, just supposing it fell apart and it did not happen as he wishes it to happen, then our defence is sure in NATO. That has been my message to NATO. Be prepared for whatever may happen because these days it takes such a long time to produce new weapons, design them, produce them, that if you make a mistake now it could in fact hamper everything you can do in fifteen years time. That, I assure you, is a much stronger basis for progress than any other: mutual strength, mutual respect, tough negotiations and that is what we have got and therein lies the hope on both sides.

Now I believe that Mr Gorbachev will win through. Yes, I do. I believe he will win through and I believe therefore that we will be able to - I believe he will win through on his internal reforms, gradually do further more and more arms reductions. We have to watch at every stage that your strength is balanced and therefore we have to look next at conventional weapons after the start of reductions.

Ali Birand, Turkish TV

With your tough position you have, as President Reagan is phased out, now do you feel that you are becoming the new leader of the Western Alliance?

Prime Minister

America is bound to be the leader of the Western Alliance in the strength of her country and the strength of her enterprise, the strength of her liberty, the fantastic spirit of freedom in her people which really has not faltered. We in Europe are gradually strengthening together because don't forget, we have actually [end p9] slightly more people in the Community and certainly in NATO than they have in the United States. Our national income is not yet quite as big but it does not lag that far behind in total though the standard of living for each person is not as high. So we have to play a much more vigorous part than we have been doing.

We in Britain have always played a vigorous part in the defence of liberty this century and that is our tradition to carry on. But Europe is exciting now. 1992 and 1993 are very exciting indeed when we get the single market and I think Britain has had something to do, Europe is tackling her problems because that has been our message to Europe. So really the future is optimistic and NATO, it was a very good meeting. Yes, one's own contribution was very lively, very forthright, very determined, yes we did get what we wanted because the reason I can afford to welcome what is happening in the Soviet Union is because our defence is sure. And so yes, it is optimistic, and it is optimistic for Turkey too.

Ali Birand, Turkish TV

Will it be your first official visit?

Prime Minister

It is my first official visit. I came once to what is called the Bilderberg conference in Izmir before I was Prime Minister but apart from that I did not go outside Izmir and I have not otherwise been to Turkey.

Ali Birand, Turkish TV

So it will be for the first time your going officially to Ankara and Istanbul. [end p10]

Prime Minister

That is correct. The first time I am going to Ankara and Istanbul officially or unofficially.

Ali Birand, Turkish TV

I hope you will go to the covered bazaar and do some shopping because it is beautiful. I don't know if they will put it in your …

Prime Minister

I do not think we have much time for shopping.

Ali Birand, Turkish TV

So be it. What do you expect to achieve in this trip to Turkey? What will be your message?

Prime Minister

I hope we want to demonstrate that the friendship between Turkey and the United Kingdom is alive and flourishing today. I have great admiration for the policies Mr Ozal is pursuing and again the courage with which he is pursuing them, they are both similar and we can discuss them.

I have great admiration for Turkey as a member of NATO. She is an extremely important member of NATO and we all recognise that. I look back at Turkey's history - I have been re-reading it - we all had the tremendous admiration for Atatürk, I have just been to the Suliman exhibition, and it is the future I am thinking of. But you know the future is founded on the past and the past associations are very considerable and it is a good basis to build a future. The world is shrinking. There is much much more cooperation in the world than there was twenty, thirty years ago. We tried, [end p11] long before I was born, immediately after the First World War, then we tried after the Second World War.

Modern communications are bringing us closer together but also an understanding I think among leaders of all nations that you really have to do much more consultation, that you have to work together and also - if I might put it this way - an understanding I think on the part of most peoples that foreign affairs are not something that happens the other side of the world. It is something that can affect what happens in your own town or village or in the next street and so it is bringing us together. There are still many many problems, there will be. The great empires have gone and therefore the great disciplines that kept the world together, and therefore you have got a lot of fragmentation, a lot of smaller nations and with the great strength of great empires you have got nationalist movements just tensing their muscles again, and one has to try to accommodate some of these things without breaking down the closer cooperation and the forward movement which in the last half of this century before we start the next millenium, we are really beginning to achieve.

Ali Birand, Turkish TV

I do remember you were upset at one point that Britain could not get the contract on the second bridge for the Bosphorous, are you aiming for the third one now?

Prime Minister

We were upset about that because we had the first one and because we had tried so hard for the second one and because indeed we put in a very great contract, of course we would like the third [end p12] one. These are things which matters will have to be discussed.

Ali Birand, Turkish TV

Do you believe that Turkey has a place in the EEC? Are you going to back her application because Mr Ozal, I am sure, will ask you when you will be in Ankara. What will you be saying to him?

Prime Minister

Well, Turkey has made her application and it is now being considered. Do not be too upset if it takes quite a time to consider. It took us a long time for our application to be considered and also it took Spain and Portugal a long time. It will be gone into most thoroughly by the Commission and then when we have the Commission's report we shall look at it and of course we shall interpret it in accordance with our traditional friendship.

Ali Birand, Turkish TV

What are the areas of cooperation with Turkey? Do you think that you have something different?

Prime Minister

There are two: we both believe in a strong defence; that is very important, we are both running a similar kind of economic system and that is very important because the Economic Community is a market economy community; that is its whole philosophy, that is its whole belief that when you get a freedom of movement of goods and peoples then you do in fact get the maximum standard of living and the political freedom is backed up by economic freedom. Now we both believe those. Otherwise of course we have tremendous richness and variety in the Community and that is why we could never have in Europe a United States of Europe; our history is different, and what [end p13] we have to aim for is ever closer cooperation and friendship between countries that have a different history which are learning to live together. That is every bit as strong a bond as trying to strive for something which would not be attainable.

Ali Birand, Turkish TV

Is Britain going to be backing the Turkish application or will you take your time?

Prime Minister

I have really given you my view upon that. It will take some time to negotiate but you must not be put off by that. It does because you just have to go into almost every aspect of life: agricultural, the manufacturing, the financial and I say when we get the result from the Commission, I am sure we shall interpret it in accordance with our traditional friendship with Turkey.

Ali Birand, Turkish TV

When you think of Turkey, do you have any specific place or role that you wish Turkey would play within NATO or outside of NATO boundaries.

Prime Minister

Turkey strategically is in a very very very important position. Turkey historically is a country that was used to having an imperial role. Countries that were used to having a big imperial role tend to be outward looking. Their views are not confined, their feelings are not confined to within their own borders, their vision is much wider, and because of Turkey's great imperial past, you will find she is a country with very much wider experience and that she has an outward looking role. That too we have in common. [end p14]

Ali Birand, Turkish TV

Last time we met, you did not like very much when I put a question about Turkey&slash;Greece, but now I think the relations are getting in a different mood.

Prime Minister

I hope so. Isn't it part of the greater, the wider understanding that I was talking about earlier that whereas sometimes earlier for years people have clung to their enmities, to their resentments, to their differences, that there are a number of places in the world where one hopes that they are going to say for the sake of future generations, “Let us see what we have in common and what arrangements we can reach which will make it better”? It does not necessarily mean that everything is wonderful immediately but it means that you have realised that there is something bigger to work for and that is important.

Ali Birand, Turkish TV

The last thing I want to ask you: one of the many things that you have in common with the Turkish Prime Minister Mr Ozal, you are both looking forward to another term in office. Is this going to go on and on as you said until the 21st century?

Prime Minister

You take it a term at a time because for us a term is about four to five years. You take it a term at a time and as you achieve the end of each term, already there are peaks which have yet to be climbed. I mean we are already thinking of what needs to be done in the Parliament after this. When you are in Government, five years is very short, when you are in Opposition it is very long so it is best not to try to get into Opposition again.