Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

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

1988 Jul 27 We
Margaret Thatcher

Radio Interview for BBC Radio 2 Jimmy Young Programme

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Document kind: Radio Interview
Venue: BBC Broadcasting House, Portland Place, central London
Source: Thatcher Archive: COI transcript
Journalist: Jimmy Young, BBC
Editorial comments: 1100. MT was back at No.10 by 1218.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 7020
Themes: Social security & welfare, Society, Voluntary sector & charity, Family, Agriculture, Taxation, Trade, Trade unions, Foreign policy (Australia & NZ), European Union (general), European Union Budget, Economic, monetary & political union, European Union Single Market, Science & technology, Defence (general), Civil liberties, Race, immigration, nationality, Conservatism, Conservative Party (organization), Religion & morality, Famous statements by MT (discussions of)

Jimmy Young, BBC

Good morning, Prime Minister!

Prime Minister

Good morning!

Jimmy Young, BBC

I have devoted quite a lot of the programme to Europe, because I think it is a very important subject and I really do think that we are at something of a crossroads.

We are being exhorted on television and newspapers to prepare for this thrust into Europe in 1992. The other day, a leading industrialist said to me - he said to me at No. 10 if the truth were known - “The trouble with the Prime Minister is, she only has one foot in Europe!” Now, is that true and if it is, why? [end p1]

Prime Minister

Of course I have at least one foot at home. I represent Britain in Europe and it is my job to get a fair deal for Britain in a Europe which is coming closer together and it would be something very strange if I had both feet and my head in Europe and were not answerable to the Parliament here, which I am.

So I do not think it was at all the right comment to make and he would probably be the first to complain if he did not get a fair deal.

Jimmy Young, BBC

What is it that worries you most about us becoming part of a fully united but what some people are now referring as a federal Europe? Is it that we may lose our national identity, our sovereignty, our ability to make decisions on matters which we consider vital to this country? What is it that most worries you?

Prime Minister

I think some people are being very superficial when they say: “Look! There is a United States of America; why don't we have a United States of Europe?”

The whole history of the two countries is totally different. People left Europe to get away from it and they went to America to become part of a very very great country. They went for liberty, they went for self-reliance, but they went with a common purpose. [end p2]

Europe has a totally different history. It is a history of many different cultures and many different languages, many varied histories, and just look at the difficult language problem! Just look at the different stages of development! It is not possible to have a United States of Europe.

What is possible is for the twelve countries of Europe steadily to work more closely together on things we do better together, so that we can trade more closely together and have fewer formalities across borders - but not to dissolve our own infinite variety, our own nationality, our own identity.

I think Europe will be stronger because it has Britain in as Britain, France in as France, Spain in as Spain. I do not wish them to dissolve into some common sort of neutral personality.

Jimmy Young, BBC

So what do you think then when the other day Jacques Delors, President of the European Commission, said: “Within ten years, eighty percent of all economic and social decisions will be made not at Westminister, not in any national parliament, but by the European Community!”? In other words, we would lose control over the vast majority of social and economic decisions affecting this country.

How, does that worry you? [end p3]

Prime Minister

Yes, I think Jacques Delorshe was wrong. I think he went over the top, and I do not think he should have said it.

I cannot see as I go to the Council of Europe and start to talk with other Heads of Government, any Head of Government whom I am with going back from one of those meetings to his own parliament and saying: “Well, boys! You are not going to have any more powers in the future! All of the decisions are not going to be taken here - they are going to be taken somewhere else!”

I cannot see proud France saying that; I cannot see Germany saying it; I cannot see Spain saying it. Can you? No, of course not! Neither can I! And therefore, I do not think it helps to talk in that way at all.

In the end, any change of treaty has to be agreed by each of our parliaments and when I go to Europe, I am answerable to my own Parliament and therefore to my own people for what I do, and I think it was quite absurd, because it frightens people. They are proud of being British - so am I! People are proud of being French.

Jimmy Young, BBC

It is very interesting that you say that, because he did not stop there. He did not stop at social and economic decisions. He went much further. He said: “Within seven years, national parliaments must give way to an embryo European Government.”

Are you surprised at the speed with which these proposals seem to be arriving at your doorstep? [end p4]

Prime Minister

No, I am not. Monsieur Delors is President of the Commission and naturally, some of them would like to have more and more powers for the Commission. As a matter of fact, they are getting more administrative powers, but I think they would like to have more and more. He is a very very able person, but I know full well that when he talks to the European Parliament or in Europe he says things much more extreme than he would say to me.

Jimmy Young, BBC

What you seemed to be hinting there was that this was a case of bureaucrats building up bureaucracy.

Prime Minister

I think there is a great tendency to do that and it is one thing that I am very wary of. Indeed, as I said in a very forthright way in the last Council of Europe meeting - the last Heads of Government meeting that we had in Hanover - we wanted more freedom of goods to move across Europe, but Europe started not to have more and more regulations, but to have fewer but simpler but clear regulations, so that goods could move across, and I thought that the Commission were in great danger of trying us all up with far too many regulations, and that was not what they were there for. [end p5]

Jimmy Young, BBC

So, do you see it then as your task to resist what seems to be - and there certainly is a big lobby going at it - this rapidly developing movement towards, if you like, the downgrading of our national decision-making, of our national government, in favour of European decision-making and a single European Government?

Prime Minister

I think there is a fairly clear demarcation.

There are some things which it is better that we do together for all of us, because we are more powerful if we do them.

For example, if Europe as a whole - the Community - negotiates on trade matters with, say, the United States, with China, with the Soviet Union, we are very very much more powerful negotiating on trade and getting rid of any barriers to trade, for example in Japan, getting rid of any barriers to trade with the newly-industrialised countries, if we do things together. That we can do together.

I think we are much more powerful if we do our agriculture together, although we have not managed that very well and we are having now to cut down the surpluses because it is affecting both our own economy and the economy of other countries, but the things we do together we shall do together, but we shall still retain our whole separate identity. Let that not be in doubt! [end p6]

Jimmy Young, BBC

But you see, one thing which you have not fully answered for me …

Prime Minister

I am sorry! I do try to answer! What is it? Come on, let us argue it out! What is it?

Jimmy Young, BBC

You are going to come to a crunch pretty soon. Are there no circumstances then in which you would agree to the vast majority of the social and economic decisions being handed over from this country to Europe, nor to a European Government being superior to and in a way taking over from, if you like, Westminster?

Prime Minister

No circumstances in which I would do it.

When I go to the European Parliament, as I do, to report when we have been President of Europe, it is just not like a national parliament at all.

First, you do not have a common language. There are twelve different languages and it is all interpreted at the same time.

You do not have the same cut and thrust of debate there that you do in our Parliament, and do not forget: democracy grew - and we are the mother of parliaments - and there is no way in which I would hand over the vast majority of decisions. [end p7]

There is a way in which we go, as you do with any country you make a treaty with, and say: “We will do certain things jointly!” but doing them jointly means that you go there and you thrash them out and you do negotiate, but that means that you recognise the other person, other countries. They have to have a fair deal for their people and we have to have a fair deal for ours. That is quite different from handing over all powers to another parliament.

Jimmy Young, BBC

You have mentioned the United States on several occasions. I just get the feeling that some of the very pro-European, the pro-federal Europe lobby, if you like, would like to see Britain to Brussels and Strasbourg as, let us say, Florida is to New York and Washington - but you cannot see that?

Prime Minister

You cannot! You have one language in the United States. They speak one language - thank goodness it is English; it has made it easier for us and the rest of the world, but it is just totally different and the origin of the United States is totally different. [end p8]

Let me tell you! They spend far too much time talking about these airy-fairy ideas: “Let us have European Union!” I say: “What do you mean, because I cannot see any of you dissolving your own countries into a United States of Europe, it is just totally different!”

What they then do not do is get down to the practical consequences of making further progress now, so we are really are in many ways very different. They talked for a long time about European unity and I said: “What do you mean? Do you mean a United States of Europe?” “No. We mean European union” “What do you mean?” I have rather got them out of that.

They talk about monetary union. I said: “But you do not even have free movement of capital about Europe - we do! And we do not stop people from moving capital about Europe. It has been a great benefit to us! People know if they bring their capital in, they can get it out or they can get out the interest on it. We do not have foreign exchange control. It has been of great benefit to us!” The only other countries that do not are Germany and Holland. France has foreign exchange control, so does Spain, so do all the others. [end p9]

So here they are, talking in an airy-fairy way about monetary union and I say: “Well look! As a first step you had better have free movement of capital! You had better drop your foreign exchange control!” You had better tell your central banks that they hold other European currencies in their reserves instead of just dollars and gold! Talking about dealing in this thing called the Ecu, which is a measure of all the currencies; we do all that, so we are streets ahead of you in practical steps which are possible. You are not doing that and saying you are much more European because you are talking about some airy-fairy concept which in my view will never come in my lifetime and I hope never at all!”

I am proud of being British. I think Britain has something unique to contribute to Europe - so do some of the other countries - and I do not think you try to get standardisation - variety is much better.

[end p10]

(Music)

Jimmy Young, BBC

We were talking about your vision of Britain's role in Europe and your very strong feeling that British should be British and Britain should remain, although in Europe, very much Britain.

Let me quote to you something that Ted Heath said last week. He said: “The fact is if you are going to abolish all these frontier problems, but if you are going to have different VATs throughout every country, all the obstacles still remain!” He went on; he said: “The issue of a Central Bank was actually settled back in 1972 and what is more, it is a tragedy it has not been brought about. Our future lies in Europe, our jobs lie in Europe, our defence lies in Europe and our political future lies in Europe!” and he said: “And that is what matters to me!”

Now what do you say to that?

Prime Minister

Quite a lot!

We are not going to abolish frontiers, we are not going to abolish boundaries. We are making it easier to go through frontiers and boundaries of states. No Head of Government has said: “We are going to abolish those boundaries!” Of course they have not! You make it easier for goods to pass through them. They now have a single form to fill in instead of the seventeen or eighteen that they used to have. You will make it easier for people to go through them, because we shall all have a passport in common form - a British passport in the same form. [end p11]

Jimmy Young, BBC

I wonder if you could explain that to our listeners who cannot see it, because I was quite surprised to see that. Let me just explain to you, listeners: The Prime Minister has got a new, what we call the new “European Community Passport”. What you are pointing out is that it has still got our symbol on the front?

Prime Minister

That is right. This is not a European passport. This is a British passport which is the same form, the same size, shape, the same details, as a French passport, a German passport, because we are all having our passports in a common form, so that when we go through it goes straight through a computer and they can look straightaway at it and see whether you are a person on the wanted list for drugs, terrorism or anything.

Jimmy Young, BBC

But it is still a British passport?

Prime Minister

Yes, it is a British passport. Look on the front of it: “The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland - Passport”. Inside: “Her Britannic Majesty's Secretary of State requests and requires in the name of Her Majesty to allow the bearer to pass freely without let or hindrance.” So it is not abolishing our nationality or our boundary or our borders. It is allowing us to travel more freely across those borders, so that is one point. [end p12]

VAT. Do you know they do not have all the same taxes in every state in America. They have different taxes according to their different requirements and their different history, so we do not go in to have a standardised Europe. Certain things have to be standardised and those things we shall, like safety regulations. You want to know, if you buy toys for Christmas for your children, that they have all got certain safety regulations. People who make computers want to know that they have not got to make them to four different standards - we will all go on to the same standard.

But it is not necessary to arrange all your money and your taxes in the same way. Historically, we are different. The French have always had VAT on food - we do not - and I see no reason to move to a standardised thing there.

A Central Bank means that you have in fact to surrender many fundamental economic decisions to another country, and that I will not do, if it is a true central bank. It may be something they call a central bank which is not that at all.

Jobs: we are doing quite well with jobs here and are getting more jobs here because we are a part of Europe certainly, but people are pouring into this country with their investment. For Japan, English is their second language. It is easier for them to start up here. America - it is easier for them to start up here and use this as a springboard to export to Europe. It has certainly been very good for us, but they are coming here because of our traditions and because we are British. [end p13]

Defence does not depend wholly on Europe. Our defence depends upon NATO and Europe would not be free today unless we had hung on and the United States had come across - and Canada - to help free Europe, and it is NATO which is our shield and sure defence, not Europe.

Jimmy Young, BBC

You have widened the discussion a very great deal with going into defence matters.

Prime Minister

But you asked me about defence, you asked me about jobs!

Jimmy Young, BBC

I am not complaining at all!

What I was going to say is some people accuse you of being half-hearted in this business of having only one foot in Europe because they say you are willing to take the benefits of the trade and the commerce - you like the good bits - but you are not willing to make a full social and political commitment to Europe.

Prime Minister

What do you mean, “a full social and political commitment to Europe?” Here you are, Jimmy, doing just exactly what I complained about. Talking about airy-fairy words. What do you mean? [end p14]

I am committed to the kind of Europe which I have in fact described, because I think that is a much stronger Europe than a Europe where you are trying to dissolve nationalities, boundaries, borders, and with infinitely different history trying to say: “Well, we have all got to be the same!” That, to me, would be a grey, unattractive Europe.

I am committed to Europe - and committed to it politically - in this sense:

The cradle of democracy is in Europe. The cradle of the great religions came to Europe and became the importance of the individual, the importance of the freedom of the individual - came and flowered in Europe. The importance of liberty, the importance of a rule of law, flowered under Roman law and then, as it went to the Eastern Roman Empire in Constantinople.

So all of these great concepts - liberty under the law, democracy - came from Europe.

All of the great scientific achievements turned to the advantage of people came from Europe. You had many of them discovered in other countries - the turbine discovered in China, the compass discovered in China, gunpowder, but they did not in fact use to turn it to the advantage of the people - it just became something for a few people. [end p15]

The great flowering of science, the great flowering of the arts, all took place in Europe and, of course, I am the first to say that on many things Europe should speak with a single voice and we do speak strongly with a single voice, but I do not go on to say that that dissolves the British nationality. Britain will always have her own part to play in Europe.

Jimmy Young, BBC

Let me ask you what is probably, as they say, in the modern jargon, “the bottom line”, because these things are being said, Jacques Delors is saying them.

Don't you think that there is going to come a time - and it seems to me as if it is going to be in the fairly near future - where even at the risk of being called a “Little Englander,” and I have no doubt you will be, will you not have to set out very clear limits now as to how much of our economic, political and social life we are willing to see taken over by the Community? The only reason is so that nobody could come back later on and say that you did not in 1988 say: “This far, but no farther!” [end p16]

Prime Minister

Because I am very practical and we go and negotiate and when we have problems to deal with, such as like the agricultural policy, in which they got in a terrible mess - ridiculous! - paying to grow enormous surpluses and mountains of butter, beef, wine lakes. You do not pay anyone else to produce goods whether or not there is a market for them, and we took the lead in tackling that, because we are very practical.

They got their finances into a mess - a terrible mess. They were just spending and not budgetting, as the rest of us have to, so we tackled that.

I was the first person to say, when they were talking about freer movement of people and goods, and we got a Minute put in the Council of Ministers saying: “But you simply must have border control to stop terrorists, to stop movement of crime, to stop movement of drugs! These you have got to check!”

Jimmy Young, BBC

So you are saying you are already spelling out what you will and will not have?

Prime Minister

I am already spelling out. That is why you cannot get rid of borders, because one thing that worries people more than anything else is crime, drugs and of course they want to see that you have got proper checks at borders, so we are already spelling it out. [end p17]

But may I make it quite clear I really was very much with de Gaulle: this is a Europe of separate countries working together and it is just as laudable an objective, just as idealistic to say: “Look! Let us work together!” as it is to try to say: “Let us dissolve our nationality, our borders, into one Europe:” it would not work. Europe has only been single under tyranny, not under liberty.

Jimmy Young, BBC

So is this then the underlying reason, Prime Minister, why you replaced Lord Cockfield with Leon Brittan? I mean, have you in other words issued a strong signal to our European partners you feel this rush to Europeanism is too fast, is accelerating too much and you want to slow it down so we can take stock of where the Community is leading us?

Prime Minister

No. In fact, in our Presidency of Europe, we said: “Look! We have achieved a number of things in Europe, but one of the reasons we went into Europe was to have a very much larger market for our goods - there would be about 340 million people - but that has not come about because you have put up so many barriers to the free movement of goods or people and you have lorry quotas, you have [end p18] had cartels for air fares, you have different standards for computers, different safety standards, different noise standards, different standards on cars. You are deliberately putting up barriers to stop our cars coming there or to stop the toys going across or to stop computers or you are having artificial regulations. That was in the original treaty. Now let us get on with it!” And it was we who did that because we are a natural trading nation.

So we actually were ahead. In practical things, you will frequently find we are ahead, but when it comes to dissolving borders, it was we who said: “No, you cannot do that!” So we have been very practical.

Lord Cockfield has done wonders. He was a member of the Cabinet which I had the privilege to lead. Very very valuable, and I knew he would be superb in Europe and we would never have got on as far with freer movement of goods and people without him, but if I might say so, he is a marvellous person, done wonders. He is well over seventy and it was time for someone else to have a chance to take it forward.

Jimmy Young, BBC

But some Europeans are saying, with respect Prime Minister, that Leon Brittan has been sent over to “slam the brakes on”. [end p19]

Prime Minister

That is absolute nonsense! Leon Brittan is extremely able.

I believe in sending some of our best people to Europe. Leon has had even wider experience in a way than Arthur CockfieldArthur, though Arthur's was different and quite outstanding. Leon has been a Home Secretary. Now that is very very important for the reasons I have indicated. We have got to have more and more cooperation on terrorism and crime. He was at the Treasury as Chief Secretary, so he knows about budgetting. That is good for Europe - they need to know about living within a budget there - and he knows all about the Department of Trade and Industry, because he served there. That is a fantastic record and he is a tremendous advocate, as you know, a very distinguished barrister. He will fight our corner and he will fight Europe's corner and he will come to the right kind of decision.

I believe in sending some of our best people into that Commission because I think it is important for Britain.

Jimmy Young, BBC

I suspect you would like to slow down this rush towards Eurobanks, wouldn't you, and Eurocurrency and the whole Federal Europe ideas?

Prime Minister

Slow it down! I say! Why don't you define what you mean? Stop talking in words which when I say: “And precisely what do you mean?” you cannot say! [end p20]

It has been used, let me tell you, a European Central Bank. Mr. Pöhl, who is the Governor of the German Central Bank, said it means the economic policy would have to go to your European Central Bank, there would be no say in either Heads of Government and no say in it by the Commission. I guess that shook the Commission, but that is what it means. It means surrendering all your sovereignty over inflation to a European Central Bank.

Jimmy Young, BBC

In fact, you will not do that?

Prime Minister

No - and neither would they, neither would they!

So then they talk about it and they say: “It does not mean that. We will have something we call a European Central Bank, but it does not mean that!” so I say: “But you have already got a European Investment Bank. You have already got a bank of international settlements!” and this is where we differ.

I do not like these suggestions that they cannot define. I say: “Define your targets and we will see if we can work towards it, because then we know precisely where we are, but in the meantime, while you are talking about central banks, just drop your exchange control!” [end p21]

Jimmy Young, BBC

Do you think the Community has lost its way, has lost its sense of direction, that they have got so caught up in these ideals that they have taken their eye of the ball?

Prime Minister

We in Britain do not let it lose its way. We have them all the time - great big speeches - and then we say: “Right! Now let us get down to the nitty gritty! What are you going to do about the free movement of capital?” So, with 1992 coming up they said: “Right! We will get it by 1990” I say: “Right! That means exchange control going! Right! We will get it by 1990 if we can!”

So you see, we are the practical ones. We were the ones who first sorted out the budget. We are the ones who have now sorted out agriculture. We are the one who are now sorting out the free movement of goods, investment.

Jimmy Young, BBC

You are really making it sound as though Britain is setting the pace here.

Prime Minister

Britain is very influential in doing the things which it is proper and right and in the interest of all our peoples to do! [end p22]

(Music)

Jimmy Young, BBC

We have dealt extensively with Europe. Now, at home!

Roy Hattersley, the other day, said: “The thug with too much money and too little conscience is the monster which has mutated from Mrs. Thatcher's open advocacy of selfishness and greed!”

How do you answer the charge that your policies do in fact encourage selfishness and greed?

Prime Minister

Not in any way! My policies encourage personal responsibility. That you are first of all responsible as a person, as a human being, for your own actions and responsible for self-reliance and looking after yourself and responsible to your family for teaching them all the best you know and the family responsible for their children. That is elevating the human being to being a free person, to choose what they do, but the other side of the coin of freedom is personal responsibility and I think it is a very laudable and praiseworthy objective to want to do better for your family by your own efforts, and if all families did that, we would have a very much better society and fewer people to look after, because there are always some people who are thoroughly unfortunate or disabled, and because it will be a responsible society. [end p23]

What is wrong in wanting to do better by your own efforts for your family? Selfishness, greed? But you know, the trade unions are the first to go on strike for more money - or used to be. If they earn more money by extra work and extra productivity - excellent! It is if you want something for nothing that you get selfishness or greed.

Jimmy Young, BBC

What of the accusation - and I read it only the other day - that it is “your philosophy of ruthless individualism which has in fact created the ruthless individual!”?

Prime Minister

Nonsense! The individual has freedom of choice. Surely that is what the sanctity of the human being means, that is what human rights mean? There is a fundamental right to liberty. A fundamental right to choose what you do, subject always to not hurting other people, subject to their right of liberty. That is absolutely fundamental. There is nothing ruthless about it. That is why it is freedom under a rule of law. That is why you restrain people from harming others. [end p24]

If I might say so, the people who are ruthless - totally ruthless - are those who deny freedom of choice to the individual, who deny private property rights and who have only force and coercion - the very system which even Mr. Gorbachev is coming away from. That is the ruthlessness that says: “It is not the individual who matters. You have got to subordinate what you want to the diktat of the state.” That is socialism, which I totally reject. I say it is the state's job to serve the freedom the individual, but to protect that freedom by a rule of law so that life is a two-way business. Freedom incurs responsibility and acting within the law. That is why the rule of law is vital.

Jimmy Young, BBC

You have used the word “responsibility” several times in the last few minutes and certainly you use it a great deal.

Do you ever feel that there are some people under your Government who are well aware of their entitlements, they are well aware of what they should be getting, but who have in some way not taken on the responsibility which they should? [end p25]

Prime Minister

Yes, I think that is happening. I think that there are claimant societies urging people to claim as much as they can - they say from the Government. That is nonsense! The Government has no money. When they say that, they are saying: “I have got a claim on my neighbour, because it is my neighbour who pays!” and the neighbour is the person who works jolly hard. Sometimes, he might not even be able to get high wages because more and more jobs are highly skilled. He is prepared to go out and work hard and pay his dues. In other words, he is the chap who is prepared to rise to his duties and responsibilities.

Jimmy Young, BBC

I did not necessarily mean at claimant level, because what we are actually seeing now is somewhat of a phenomenon. We are seeing quite well-off young people in quite well-off parts of the country who, if you said: “Well, I will cut income tax; I will leave you with more money in your pocket!” they seem to say: “Oh, that is very good, Prime Minister. Thank you very much for that!” But when you say “responsibility” or “give to charity or whatever”, they do not seem to do that - they seem to go down to the pub and get drunk and beat people up. [end p26]

Prime Minister

That is a very strong rule of law and I could not be harder on that than I am, but money in your pocket: is it wrong? It is what you do with the money that counts.

Are you really going to take away freedom from everyone because a few will abuse it? You simply cannot possibly do that!

Jimmy Young, BBC

I suppose the point that I am grasping for somewhere here is have you unleashed something which this country perhaps is not used to? Perhaps they are not used to being responsible for looking after their own money, making their own arrangements and so on.

Prime Minister

Look! The overwhelming majority of people are. Look at the number who have savings accounts in building societies - an enormous number. Look at the number who are owning their own homes. Look at the number you can see in council estates, the home ownership. Look at the way in which they look after them. That is learning more and more responsibility and more and more pride.

On voluntary gifts, voluntary giving has gone up enormously and you know that when you have these great voluntary giving occasions on television or on radio. Even taking inflation into account, voluntary giving has gone up twice over and above inflation while we have been in power. [end p27]

Yes, people are giving to others, but you are saying you must take away the fruits of people's earnings because the state knows better how to spend it than they do.

There are certain things in a very sophisticated society the state must do. Defence is one, law and order is another, seeing that young people have opportunities through education is another, seeing that they are able to get health care whether or not they can afford it - all of these things - and seeing that everyone contributes to a basic pension, the second pension, to look after themselves.

It is no part of my duty to say to people: “I am such a marvellous person that I, who only have the same amount of freedom as you do, know much better how to spend your money. Therefore, I must take it from you!” because when you do that they do not have the incentive to work hard.

Jimmy Young, BBC

Let me tackle it another way!

Your basic belief is that people should stand on their own two feet, get rid of the nanny state and so on.

Prime Minister

And so they should, if they possibly can! [end p28]

Jimmy Young, BBC

Right! You have encouraged a more, if you like, aggressive pursuit of business. You know, some people will unkindly say the more aggressive pursuit of money. Do you think some of the aggression which you encourage to revitalise the economy has rebounded into this hooliganism which we see at all levels of society?

Prime Minister

I do not like the use of the word “aggressive” there, because aggressive is something that, really, you look at in defence terms and we are a defensive nation.

Yes, I do encourage the pursuit of effort, enterprise, earning your own living, having the pride to stand up and say you are self-reliant, but just look how free enterprise works! Look at the great big chain stores. They only succeed by producing what the people choose to buy at a price they can afford to pay, so let me make one thing clear:

Capitalism and competition can only succeed by pleasing the consumer, because otherwise they go broke. You call it aggressive marketing. [end p29]

Jimmy Young, BBC

Well, it is aggressive marketing, isn't it?

Prime Minister

If I have got good products, yes. How are people to know about them? All right! But it is enterprise and people work in enterprise and people are proud if their company is doing well, because they are pleasing the consumer and they are meeting the consumer's needs and that is much better than saying: “Nationalised industry! Take it or leave it! No choice! Cannot go anywhere else! We go on strike and you have had it!” That is aggressive and arrogant and insensitive and terrible!

Jimmy Young, BBC

Let me try you on another tack.

There seems to be a lack of discipline in society. I expect we could probably agree on that anyway.

Now the teachers yesterday - there was a big article in “The Times”, you may well have read it - were setting the blame on parents. How, do you, like the teachers, blame the parents - you were talking to me just before we went on the air about the noise in the House of Commons yesterday - do you blame unruly MPs in the House of Commons for setting a bad example? Is there a lack of moral leadership by Church leaders? Where would you put the blame? [end p30]

Prime Minister

You would never put the blame on any single group or person. We each have a duty in a free society to uphold the standards of that society and preferably to improve them.

So many people use freedom, freedom just to criticise anything that goes wrong and you get all the criticism.

It also is the responsibility to uphold all those freedoms we have won.

Of course, parents have a responsibility to children. Children are the most precious trust one could have and they learn their habits of behaviour and conduct long before they go to school. Of course, the prime duty is for parents to bring them up. Of course, the prime duty of the Church is to hold everything that Christianity or Judaism stands for. That is where our standards come from. The law of “Love thy neighbour as thyself!” was in the Old Testament as well as the New. Of course the Church has a part.

Of course, the teachers have a part. There are some children who, unfortunately, just come from homes where they are not looked after as they should be and we all feel deeply about it. To whom can they turn? Only to their neighbours or to the Church or to the teachers.

But you see, all these things have to reinforce one another.

Jimmy Young, BBC

But you think they are not doing so at the moment? [end p31]

Prime Minister

No. It is no earthly good saying: “It is someone else's job and I can opt out!” No-one in a free society can opt out.

When we went to Toronto at the Economic Summit, what struck me about that remarkable city - it is enterprising and bold and everything else, but it is extremely clean; no litter in the streets, no graffiti, very little crime. Now that is everyone in that city rising to their responsibility. I said: “Now, look! We must analyse success! Now why?” and they said: “We have many different groups in this city, many different groups of people, many different ethnic groups, many people who have come from different parts of Europe and they each keep their societies and each school is very proud of its reputation. ‘You do not let our school down!” Weren't those girls from Worthing marvellous? “We come from Latvia, Lithuania, Poland! You do not let our people down, so you behave well!”

You cannot blame any one person, but each has to accept, yes, this word “responsibility”. Do not blame society. That is no-one. Just say: “Is there more I can do?” You hear me say: “We would not have dirty streets if people did not throw down packaging, did not thoughtlessly throw it down.” It is so much better if we live in a clean and tidy society. It is very much better when families take responsibility for their children. It is easier for the teachers. Nothing is more difficult for a teacher than to try to teach an unruly class, but do remember there are some children who do not have a good start in life and that is for the rest of us to try and make it up. [end p32]

Jimmy Young, BBC

But you are saying that we are not responsible enough, are you?

Prime Minister

I am saying that I think for years we got on to the wrong tack. It was partly socialism. Everything, you know, “It is the Government's fault!”

In a free society, you have to look to see if you are rising to your own responsibilities.

What really made me very cross was when I used to hear people saying: “Well it is society that is at fault!” I said: “And who constitutes society? It is you and me and everyone else! That is a way of passing the buck to someone else. Why don't you look and say: ‘Well, am I doing as much as I can?’”

Jimmy Young, BBC

Did you not once say there is no such thing as society though?

Prime Minister

Well, who is society? You say society is to blame. It is you and me and our next door neighbour and everyone we know in our town, in our school, in our business. [end p33]

Trade unions started as friendly societies. My goodness, they were proud and had tremendous standards and some of them still have, but they rose to their responsibilities and you know, in a small town where everyone knew one another, if you saw someone having a difficult time you all helped.

Society is a concept - people we know about.

Jimmy Young, BBC

Let me ask you one final question which has nothing to do with Europe or with the social life in this country for that matter.

Your political beliefs have always very strongly reflected your personal believe, haven't they? They are an extension of what you personally believe.

I just wonder, when you eventually retire, whenever that is going to be, do you think Thatcherism as such - because it is so personal to you that that is what it has become known as - do you think it is here to stay or do you think people will perhaps breathe a sigh of relief and return to the cosy less abrasive politics that we used to have? [end p34]

Prime Minister

It is not Thatcherism. It is much older than that, but you see, when we came to power, people thought: “Ah, the ratchet of socialism. Socialism is inevitable. The Government will take more and more powers. More and more things will be done by Government!”

All of a sudden, people rebelled when they saw what that meant. When they saw that it meant handing over to a few people who dictate to use what we can and cannot do, but it had not been fashionable to put the view which I was putting.

The view which I am putting is the view of the dignity of the individual; it is the view of giving them more and more opportunity and spreading more opportunity. It is the view of spreading private property so that everyone has some. The view of, yes, accepting your responsibilities. The view that free enterprise only works by pleasing, by giving the person what they are prepared to pay value for. It is the importance of the individual and recognising that the community becomes strong when you have a society strong in the sense of responsible individuals. [end p35]

That is common sense. It is based on human rights. It is based on human responsibilities. It is based on the fact that I have a duty towards my neighbour to look after him if he is unfortunate and he has a duty to do the same for me, and I rise to that responsibility, gladly, willingly. It is the price of my freedom and that I understand.

That is far older than Thatcher and it is because it strikes a chord in the hearts and minds of men and women that they say: “Yes, we believe it!”

Jimmy Young, BBC

It was a great pleasure to talk to you again, Prime Minister, and I wish you well on your forthcoming trip. You are going to do what, the Far East and Australia?

Prime Minister

Following in your footsteps. I am going to Australia for the Bicentennial and to re-establish the great links between Australia and Britain, to revivify them. [end p36]

Jimmy Young, BBC

It is a great pleasure to talk to you.

Prime Minister

It is a great pleasure to come.