Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

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

1989 Feb 22 We
Margaret Thatcher

Interview for Vanity Fair

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Venue: No.10 Downing Street
Source: Thatcher Archive: COI transcript
Journalist: Gail Sheehy, Vanity Fair
Editorial comments:

1105-1155. This interview originaflly appeared in Vanity Fair.

Importance ranking: Minor
Word count: 7554
Themes: Autobiography (childhood), Arts & entertainment, Education, Conservative Party (history), Labour Party & socialism, Foreign policy (USSR & successor states), Voluntary sector & charity, Autobiographical comments, Media, Higher & further education, Women, Conservatism, Society, Social security & welfare, Housing, Secondary education, Privatized & state industries, Strikes & other union action, Economy (general discussions), General Elections, Industry, Foreign policy (general discussions), Defence (general), Law & order, Foreign policy (USA), Trade union law reform, Autobiography (marriage & children), Leadership, Executive

Interviewer

There is usually a formative experience for politicians that stimulates their political consciousness. Was there such a youthful experience for you?

Prime Minister

In general terms, yes, but it is difficult to pinpoint it to particular periods. The background, as you know, Alfred Robertsmy father left school at thirteen, he had to go out and start to earn a living, in those days you had to. Nevertheless, he had an extremely good brain and read and read and read but he was the kind of person who found it difficult to work for anyone else and therefore wanted to start up on his own. [end p1]

But starting up on his own, and Beatrice Robertsmy mother had also been a dressmaker and also had started up on her own, and with all the hard work that that entailed, it never stopped him reading, reading, reading. So he was in fact one of the best self-educated men and I think that this you only learn when you become a parent yourself. You tend to try to give your children what you have not had yourself. You know there is a lack there somehow and so therefore it was everything, in the education, in the cultural sense, it was not only reading, it was not just reading the library books which we did regularly, it was not just knowing about current events, it was knowing all the background.

The Hibbert Journal, which is a philosophical journal, a very philosophical journal, came into our house, when I was older I read it. My father read it. But it did not just stop with the things you would learn at school. We constantly discussed things with my father, there were things going on in those days, it was the recession, it was the rise of Hitler, but also it did not stop at that.

My father's family, they were musical, Alfred Robertshe had a good bass voice, Beatrice Robertsmy mother had a contralto voice. One of my great-uncles actually made organs. So we had the musical side as well so when I just started to touch the piano as a small child and they thought one might be musical straight away one started to learn music. [end p2]

If there were some players coming with a travelling theatre one was taken to see a Shakespeare or small opera. If a chamber and music club [sic] to which we belonged, if a chamber quartet came or a singer, we went to see that.

Now I am telling you this background because it was a thing which I think my father and my mother too, because they were desperately anxious for us to have all of that, because I think he was very much aware that he had not had it and so by doing that, and on a Thursday evening for example my father would take me, they were what were called University Extension Lectures, and someone came I believe from Nottingham University and taught us all about current affairs, international affairs, set in the perspective of history, and we went and we asked him questions afterwards.

Now I do not give you this for the detailed thing but just to show you that the only way I can interpret it now as a parent is trying to give me absolutely everything for complete and total kind of understanding. So that must have been extremely formative and coupled with the idea which was instilled into me very early that you do not follow the crowd because you dare not do anything else. You make up your own mind.

If I asked: “Please could I do something, everyone else is doing it, you know?” You do not follow the crowd, you must make up your own mind and that was instilled very early. Now that is the background, was it formative? Of course, the most formative we could possibly have had. [end p3]

Of course one enjoyed looking at the political scene in the perspective of history and I had a marvellous history teacher too, we were taught history in those days, real history, in the sense that not merely battles but the movements which had happened throughout history. You started with Roman times and therefore you were able to see things in perspective. You must be able to have a perspective to history, you must. Otherwise how do you know the history of liberty, how do you know how hard people fought for it, this concept that we take is ideal, it is practice that we take so much for granted.

I constantly was therefore interested in what was the political sense. When I first started, I will never forget the 1945 election, never. This remarkable, brilliant man, Churchill, such a man of action, such a man who someone said: “could use words as soldiers” and elevate people's motivation, determination, will, resolve to do things which otherwise might have been impossible.

And then the kind of total rejection. I will never never never forget the shock of that day. There were about three weeks between the election and counting because all of the votes had to come in from the Forces, just not forget it. It is one of the most inexplicable, inexplicable events of history. [end p4]

So the other formative period, which I might call five years of socialism, in which it seemed to be that far from having the controls which we had to have in wartime because we all had one objective - victory - and therefore you all succumbed willingly to rationing, etc. It seemed then as if we went into a period of control for the sake of control over people. And of course one was fighting that very vigorously and that period, some of the books which I had read actually and was reading about that time, or before then, before then, we not only got books from the library, we had friends who lent us some of the latest books, were some of the books about communism, about the practice of communism, right in that early period.

Interviewer

Really, that early, and you had a child living with you did you not?

Prime Minister

I remember one called … Jan ValtinValtin, Out of the Night, which was a book about the actual practice of communism in the Soviet Union and we could see that socialism was just a version of communism. [end p5]

Interviewer

Did you talk about this at all?

Prime Minister

Oh yes, oh yes, very very formative. And I always remember my father saying: “Look if you see something that really needs some help, some positive, practical help, it is not enough to get up and make a speech in the market place about it”. That is what some of your political opponents will do, they see something wrong, they get up and make a speech in the market place, “It is wicked, this person is poor”, etc.

Now just remember that in the things that we believe in, you go round and you try to do something about it yourself. Because as you start to do better yourself so you must start to help others to do better, that was very much. Now all of that is formative, very formative.

Interviewer

Your father had a confrontational style, did he not?

Prime Minister

Now, I noticed you said that. No, he did not have a confrontational style. You see there are so many things that you put in there that are totally unknown to me, but very hurtful and I think some of them are just plain wrong. [end p6]

Interviewer

Good, let us get to them.

Prime Minister

My father had not a confrontational style. He believed in what he was saying but he always said, and I learnt it from him: “These are the fundamental principles and this is what flows from them.” I would not have called it confrontational. He could, and I remember him doing it, he had very clear views. I can remember I went with him to Rotary to some of the discussions because he was a Rotarian, and very proud of being a Rotarian because that is service before self and that is what he believed in.

He was serving the whole time. In every voluntary movement he was there. This was part of what he believed in.

I remember we had a speaker, it was not a great dinner, it was a supper with a speaker speaking. All of a sudden you know the then President thanked the Speaker, he had done the formal thanks and then said: “Alf, would you like to say something?” Now no notice at all, a thing I dread even now, but you can do it: “Alf would you like to say a word?” and Alf, my father, got up and made a quite superb speech about the post-war period and I can remember it to this day. [end p7]

It was really a great compliment to the Rotary Movement that one of the first things Hitler did was to stop it, he could not stand anything really voluntary, springing from this idea that people themselves could have responsibility and take action and service before self, and this was a very great compliment to Rotarians, we must never forget it that we were the language, the constitution, the history of liberty. Not confrontational - fundamental.

Now fundamental is a word you have to be careful about, fundamentalist is different, but basic, basic principles, but not confrontational at all. Certainly if you get into debate, you see me in the House, I am driven to be confrontational because yes you have to stand up for what you believe in. [end p8]

Interviewer

Moving on from that, you are renowned for your “Iron Woman” exterior, quite rightly, but I wondered were you always like that or was it necessary to develop?

Prime Minister

I think it is this: you do not follow the crowd; you make up you mind what you want to do and then you try to persuade other people to go that way.

Let me put it this way: when Solzhenitsyn came out of the Soviet Union, he gave some of the most fascinating fundamental interviews and his books, you know, The First Circle, were remarkable. He gave a remarkable interview on our television, we all watched it avidly, even though he spoke in a different language. His eyes, his gestures, spoke. And then he gave, after that, when he went to the States, a very interesting lecture - I think it was in Madison Square. What he said - and this kind of sprung out in print to my eyes almost in neon lights - “You think that you in the [end p9] West have freedom of the press and freedom of speech. Let me tell you, you have the censorship of fashion!”

There are certain things which if it is not popular to say, or which if it is not acceptable because other people try to intimidate you out of saying it or imply that no reasonable cultured person would say that and are you not old-fashioned, then you are intimidated out of saying them.

For many years, I have always thought that far more - particularly in the electronic media - far more people thinking in the Socialist way went into the electronic media and therefore you have, I think, sometimes had a kind of selection of things, a selection of programmes, a selection of discussions, a selection of news and I have often thought about it and you see, sometimes in universities - and you saw it and so did we - that even with the universities, some of them depend totally on freedom of speech which should be deep into their very philosophy. They will demonstrate. They will not have someone going there.

Interviewer

And they shout them down. [end p10]

Prime Minister

And they shout them down and they demonstrate and it is a kind of intimidation against freedom of speech.

Interviewer

Yes it was, yes.

Prime Minister

Now that means you have got to stand up extra specially for what you believe in and thank goodness there are some people who always will.

I remember when I was Secretary of State for Education, it was period where you had problems on your campuses, my goodness I had them here. Was it a formative period? I'll say! When I became Leader of the Opposition, I said no-one could have had a better training than to have been Secretary of State for Education in that period where they would demonstrate and they still do. They have no arguments. They shout, they shout, they shout.

When you actually get on to television, they assert. Courtesy is not their most enduring or abiding or obvious characteristic. They shout and I had coach-loads of them come and they shouted and I thought: “I am not going to be beaten by this!” Alfred RobertsMy father would have said: “If you do this, you have lost the argument!” Anyone who shouts or abuses as they do, has lost the argument. [end p11]

There was that period. To some extent, this is why the selection of news, the selection of opinions … here one gets the whole concept of what is going on and this is why sometimes I have to look at the News, because the selection of these things can give you a totally different impression and it is the most powerful medium.

I have had to learn to be combative to get it across and of course when you are a woman and combative - it merely means you stand up for what you believe in - they say you are an “Iron Lady”. Let me tell you, if you had not got a spine which was strong and firm and a will which was strong and firm, we would never have got through, because it is so much easier to get through and be accepted by putting across the other things. But you know what happens. You saw what happened in New York.

Have you ever run a philosophy which says: “We must pay out masses and masses of benefits - that is the most important thing of all - and in fact, we must drive out the people who actually create the wealth for us to pay by taxing them! We have got to pay out masses of benefits, but these people who help to create the wealth? Oh really, they have ulterior motives. We have nothing to do with them!” So they go broke! They will not accept that the strength of a nation is in the talent, ability, effort, conscientiousness of its individuals and it is not only the people at the top who have [end p12] the great inventions, the great enterprises - it is the wealth and health of the nation, using the “health” in almost the Biblical sense, that the health of the people is the talent, the effort, ability, the willingness to work, the willingness for self-improvement. We were taught to improve ourselves by self-effort. That is what makes and builds a nation. That is why America is there. People did not go there for subsidies and food stamps - there weren't any! They went there for liberty - pioneers - and in the doing of it, they had to stick together and they would not have survived unless the able and strong and conscientious had turned round automatically to help the weak.

Interviewer

Is this the way you see society? As held together only by the rule of law and by the productivity of the best and the brightest striving against one another?

Prime Minister

Yes, but in a very highly sophisticated society. That really was the beginning of the pioneering age and, of course, you had to look after your own rule of law and you have to have certain rules by which to live. [end p13]

You get a much more sophisticated society now than any known. The sophistication society has come about really in the last 150 to 200 years. You must therefore have as a matter of citizens, some basic rules. You cannot possibly have people starving or without some form of help or shelter, so you simply must have basic social services.

The difficulty is to pitch them at a level which does not in fact undermine the incentive to do things for yourself, because let us face it, you are not living off the Government - you are actually depending upon your neighbour to look after you - and the real equation there is: “I will look after my neighbour, of course, when he is unfortunate or in difficulty, but equally, he will use his talents and abilities to look after himself if he can and if I call on to hard times, he will look after me!” There is a fundamental agreement between individuals that that is what you do and that is what freedom and responsibility means. It is George Bernard Shaw: “Freedom incurs responsibility!” That is why he went to say very tellingly. “That is why many men fear it!”

Interviewer

You mean many men fear freedom?

Prime Minister

Many men fear responsibility … that is why many men fear freedom, yes. [end p14]

Interviewer

Because it implies responsibility!

Prime Minister

But you cannot really accept the freedom unless you are prepared to accept the responsibility.

So yes, I have had to fight and therefore of course you stand up and fight but you stand up and fight for the most fundamental reason of all: that you believe that this is the right way for the human individual and for the family and to protect the dignity of the weak. You do not just look at someone who is poor as someone that has to be given money. They still have their dignity. People have their self-respect.

Interviewer

People in Veer Court (phon), for instance, if you could see that … did they have any responsibility for themselves? Could those children with the parents &dubellip;

Prime Minister

It taught me something which I did not realise at the time until years later. You absorb things you know and they go somewhere in the computer of the mind, which is the most able computer, and you bring them out to look at them years later and learn from them. [end p15]

Yes, those were slum conditions. Those children used to run about and I can still see quite a lot of the happiness! Does that seem strange to you?

Interviewer

No! I know what you mean. They did not know they were poor!

Prime Minister

They were happy. They ran about. They were not necessarily clean, but they had a happiness and you talk about Veer Court. It was a community and they would stand together and maybe they did have a kind of tremendous affection and love for their children it seemed to me and years later, one thought - and it is a lesson we learned, I think, almost the world over - do not break up a community that is a community. They do help one another. They can teach us some things in knowing everyone else and what a pity that we did not kind of keep the community together and not put them one into a house here, one into a house there. But we learned from this. Everyone knew everyone. Of course, if you walked past a row of houses: “That is Mrs. Jones' house, that is Mrs. Smith's house!” and you know her and she was at the window and you pass the time of day and you never are lonely. And when you take that [end p16] community and you put it up like that into a block of flats, you come down on a lift shaft. You do not pass Mrs. Smith and Mrs. Jones who used to pass the time of day - and they can become isolated.

Yes, there are back-to-back houses in some of the towns. That was just a small area. I do not think we could quite have done it there, but if you had taken two houses and knocked them into one so they could have decent things and rebuilt all mod cons.

But let me say that I learned so much in thinking afterwards of the positive things which they had. They did not have the loneliness; the children, the happiness with which they played. I have not the slightest shadow of doubt there were many things that went on behind closed doors that we never knew about. But they had something.

Interviewer

Were you sometimes envious of them? You worked so hard!

Prime Minister

No, no! Not in any way! I was much older than my years because I could talk, obviously, with my father's and mother's friends all about these things which fascinated me and really was very much older than my contemporaries. [end p17]

Interviewer

That is interesting … and Grantham have friend there and said that you used to ask questions when guests would come in a formal, almost parliamentary manner. They were amazed!

Prime Minister

But do not forget, even the language they use is ex post facto judgement. They were not to know at that time that I was going into Parliament!

Interviewer

But you did, did you?

Prime Minister

No, I did not at that time. I could not have thought of it, because one things was I was always going to have to earn my own living and earn it hard and there would not be a penny piece … private income was something which one maybe saved a little bit out of one's own money, but whatever you had you had to do it yourself. I remember Alfred Robertsmy father saying to me: “When I first came to Grantham” - because he was born in Northamptonshire - “to help in a grocers shop,” I think as a manager as a young man, a small grocer's shop. He said: “I am paid fourteen shillings a week!” Twelve shillings went to board and lodging, one shilling I saved and that left me one shilling to spend!” [end p18]

Saving was ingrained you see and, again, Beatrice Robertsmy mother was the same. This I only give you to give the background but because of all of this I was very much older than my contemporaries, interested always in the older conversation because it was much more interesting.

Interviewer

When the girls did sometimes make fun of you for being so advanced and so engaged in public life, did it hurt then or even then did you …

Prime Minister

Well, I did not know that they did.

Interviewer

You did not know.

Prime Minister

Maybe you do not know what goes on behind your back. Thank goodness! It hurts when you do!

I only know that I was interested in those things, interested in debating.

I suppose, obviously, one was different because one was older and I do not think one should make, really, very much of it. But some of them also were very interested. [end p19]

I will tell you another thing. People who come from the country have a deep sense of the real things that matter and I noticed it very much indeed. Anyway, they had things that I did not have. Some of them were fantastic at sports.

Interviewer

That was not your cup of tea?

Prime Minister

No. I did a certain amount but some were absolutely fantastic at sports. Some of them were fantastic at art. I could do drawing and design and detailed drawing, accurate drawing, but I could not do a portrait or anything like that. Some of them were very talented in art.

Each person has some something - each and every person has something. None of us have it all.

Interviewer

But the earlier attacks on you when you were Prime Minister were vicious, talking about your fishwife act in the House.

Prime Minister

Fishwife? [end p20]

Interviewer

Did you not see that? I was reading old Hansards and someone said: “I really do not appreciate your fishwife act!” and “jumped-up woman” and “Philistine” and things. These must have hurt enormously?

Prime Minister

This is the attitude, the attack, of the Left to intimidate. These are the tactics of the Left. You see them in communism, when they would get a person who disagreed up on a platform around a crowd and they would hurl insult after insult after insult until they attempted to reduce a person to jelly - and they hated me because I was not reduced to jelly!

This I learned early were the tactics of communism.

Interviewer

How early did you learn?

Prime Minister

I remember before I went to university there were some things coming out and do not forget facism and communism are forms of tyranny and dictatorship. You see the intimidation. You see, as I go to a factory, they will gather round and they will shout and they will be jolly certain that television will take that shouting rather more than anything positive and constructive that I am doing, and they are trying to intimidate one out of it and they hate it because I stand up. [end p21]

Let me tell you what they called “Philistine” - enabling a person in a council house to buy their own house, enabling a person who works in business to pay lower taxes so that he can save of his money so that he can become independent of those who would like to use council housing to dominate and control the lives of others. They hate us to reduce tax. It means more freedom for the individual. They hate us to denationalise companies because they could use nationalised companies in fact for their own purposes either for jobs for people or they could use more public for jobs and they could go around to some of the council houses and say: “Look! You rely on us to have a low rent and to get a job with the local authority!” They did not want liberty, they did not want freedom, they did not want the dignity - the spark of divinity - that is in everyone's liberty and they saw that I was going for the root of socialism.

The mark of the socialist is that he does not want the citizen to have freedom of choice or freedom. The only person he wants to have freedom is himself: freedom to impose his will on a person who is made of the same human clay as he is. And they saw I was going for the jugular. For the people. Not for me. This has been my mission. Why should I have been shoved around by socialists if they got into power and therefore why should anyone else? [end p22]

It does not matter who you are, you have some dignity, talent and our job is to bring that out.

Do you know they tried to kill grammar schools paid for wholly by the State. Why? Because you must not test a child for its aptitude or ability - it will make the others fail. Stupid!

And what is their thing? No-one can have anything unless everyone can have it. We would never have had any progress.

Interviewer

No. We would all be wallowing around.

Prime Minister

And so of course they got up and they did this classic socialist, left-wing intimidation - and they still do it - and I saw it and lived through the Coal Strike here when the socialists, Scargill-like miners, did everything to intimidate those who went to work. They threw bricks through the windows of people who went to work. Their children were jostled at school. The wives were jostled in the supermarket, and you saw some of the terrible criminal cases, one where someone hurled a rock down on a taxi actually taking a man to work. Just understand what you are up against when you are really up against the Left. And if we had not stood out against it, well. … [end p23]

Interviewer

But look at you now! You have survived all of these attacks.

Prime Minister

I have to fight every day still. I still have to fight.

Interviewer

And yet you are beautiful now. It was the talk of the Reagan Administration. People used to say to be nasty: “The best man won!” or “She is the strongest man in the Cabinet!” Now they all talk about how beautiful you are. Has something changed or is it the record of the ten years of sticking to your principles or do you feel more confident now in your role as a senior leader?

Prime Minister

I think after ten years - after seven or eight - you felt more confident, but for the first six years one had to go really as an act of faith that what we were doing was right.

Interviewer

That long? [end p24]

Prime Minister

Well yes, because you had to try to stop inflation. We have got a problem with it again now. You have to take off some of the controls and you always get the most difficult things happening first and you always get more people saying: “I voted for you, therefore I want something!” You say: “That is not what democracy is all about! I cannot give everyone everything they want. It is up to each one of us to look to ourselves for our standard of living!” I have got to try to be reasonably fair and I have got to try and inspire people to create the wealth, the enterprise, that gets you jobs, that will give us the strength and the resources to help others, including those in the Third World. The difficulties always come out first and the first two years were very very difficult.

It started to show through in 1982 that it was going to come right and by 1983 people remembered so much the terrors of socialism - the terrors - when those extreme left-wingers in the union dominated everything; dominated the hospital service. I wish they would remember that now. Could not even get the dead buried because the grave-diggers went on strike.

So they gave me a second chance in 1983 and by the time it came up to 1986 we were starting to get unemployment down, the enterprise was starting to work because my worry had been by the [end p25] time you have lived under socialism - and even my party became tainted with it - and had to get permission for everything … you had prices control, an income control, a dividend control, you could not set up a factory … you had to get not only planning permission which everyone has to get, but no, you had to get a certificate … could you start up there … so you were not allowed to start up where you wanted to - you had to go where you were directed. Managers could not manage because there were so many controls and my worry was: have they been under this so long that they will have forgotten the habit, the custom of enterprise?

By 1986, I knew they had not. It was beginning obviously to work. [end p26]

Therefore one can increase the confidence. I was doing the same thing on the overseas field. We had a totally unfair burden to bear in Europe on our contribution. The agricultural policy was not right, I started right in on those right at the beginning. I started right in on defence because you know there were certain people prepared to be weak about it. If you value your freedom you are prepared to defend it and you must continue to be prepared to defend it because you never know what is going to happen. I learned that from Winston ChurchillWinston.

We started right in on defence. We started right in even though we believed in trying to get down direct tax and trying to cut expenditure and not doing everything for people that they should do for themselves. It was better for them to have more of their own money to spend in their own way. [end p27]

We still knew we had to spend more on defence and more on law and order, and so we did. We started to give the police a decent wage, decent equipment, raise their morale and thank goodness we did because what you are now up against is the problems of human nature.

So we did all this and it began to show through. And then all the things which I had been saying, the same sort of fundamental basic principles: you get your finances right; you get your incentives for enterprise right; you simply must enlarge opportunity, that is very important for youngsters you know, enlarge opportunity, look to see they are getting a good education and training for various things are available because there is more talent than we are using and so this has been the great thing of this particular period, enlarging opportunity in education, enabling people to get out of being council tenants if they so wish.

It is working and, if I might say so, I have learned because of my father's teaching that you never follow the crowd, you never fear to say what you believe. And this is why, because what I do at home I do exactly abroad. I do not feat to say: “Yes, we do need nuclear weapons”, that is what has kept the peace. I never fear to say it.

Interviewer

You have a subtle hand to play now don't you with General Secretary Gorbachev in that he … [end p28]

Prime Minister

I do not have a subtle hand to play at all. Believe me it is not subtle at all. I am delighted that Mikhail Gorbachevhe has realised that communism does not give a higher standard. It is only freedom, it is only if you get more freedom that you will get the discussion, the enterprise, the initiative, to build up something on your own and he realises that.

Interviewer

Have you given him a Thatcherism implant? It could come to your words.

Prime Minister

Yes, but he has had seventy years of people being told: “You do not do anything unless you are told, and if you do do it without you being told you will be punished”. And they had no history of liberty under the Tsars. You see it took us years and years and years to come to the full liberty and they are trying to telescope in a short period.

Now I do not know what is going to happen. I do not know what is going to happen in the Soviet Union. I do everything to say that I believe it absolutely right, freedom is the only thing that gives you two things: both the larger, higher standard of living and the dignity, which is the only thing that makes life worth living. [end p29]

But it is going to take them, just as it took me quite a time from a much higher base of liberty, it is going to take him. But I do not know what is going to happen or when he is going to get through. What I do know is that they have massive weapons, one new submarine every thirty-seven days, massive conventional, and their strength and their reputation as a super-power has depended totally on their military strength, totally. That is the only reason why they are a super-power and they are not going to give it up easily.

The whole training of their defence forces is for attack and now they are trying to turn it round to defence. I do not know whether it will work. What I know is that if by any terrible chance he does not get through and a hardliner comes back in, every person who has longed for liberty the other side of the iron curtain, plus every person this side, will know that the defence of liberty is sure because I have never let go, neither has the United States and neither has NATO.

Your defence of liberty lies not in the rightness of your cause but in your preparedness and your resolve so it is not difficult at all.

And these days you see, just as society is more sophisticated, so are your weapons. In 1939 we were not prepared but at least you could get, your aeroplanes are not so sophisticated, your tanks are not so sophisticated, computers were unknown, your weapons were not so sophisticated, you could build them up in a much shorter time. We could not now. [end p30]

If you make a wrong mistake now, as I say to everyone, if you make a mistake and you do not modernise your weapons or get the latest, most up-to-date, along with the research and development into the deployment stage, into production, you make a wrong move now, you think, ‘Ah, we need not bother!’ you can in fact harm future generations for fifteen years. They are not properly able to defend their liberty in the face of attack. That is what it takes.

Interviewer

I understand, I understand your position. What did you learn about leadership from President Reagan, if anything?

Prime Minister

Ronald ReaganHe never, again, never feared. Now I think he had had to fight the unions too.

Interviewer

Yes he had.

Prime Minister

Now the unions, this I learned with the unions, my task, union bosses were some of the most difficult, dictatorial, bosses that exist. They were not interested either in giving their union members liberty, we had to do that. [end p31]

You do not go on strike unless you take a ballot and you jolly well have to see that the ballot is a free and fair one. Now Ronald Reaganhe fought the unions, he fought, it is not trade unionism, true trade unionism, you had to fight the trade union boss who would just call people out from their livelihood, without consulting them necessarily.

Now he had to fight them, the same experience as mine. He had to fight people who only thought: “Ah, we have got a promise, throw more money at it” and what they were really concerned with was getting more and more done by the state and letting the average person have less and less and less of the fruits of their own work. So that you diminish the citizen and enlarge the power of the state.

He understood and knew this, so we were absolutely right, he understood a new defence, so we believe the same things.

Interviewer

You were there I believe in the States at the time of the Challenger disaster and I think you made a comment about how extraordinary you thought it was that President Reagan was able, in one speech, to comfort and calm the nation. [end p32]

Prime Minister

It was fantastic. They had that remarkable quotation from the Canadian pilot, you know: “Slip the girdle of the earth”. It is a marvellous poem, “the moment they slip the girdle of the earth,” which was wonderful to say at that time and also very much the mark of Ronald Reaganthe man right in the middle, and he wanted to say a word to the children. The children had seen this terrible thing happen. The words that came out were sheer genius, he said: “Look, I must say to you that in life some of these terrible things do happen but if we had not had people of enormous courage, prepared to risk these things, we should never know the things that we now enjoy. So just honour them but I am afraid that it will make you realise the tremendous sacrifices that some people have to make so that we can have the things that we take for granted”. It was genius.

This poem, I do not know who found it, “slip the girdle of the earth, the moment they slip the girdle of the earth.” It was one of the fighter pilots you know, when he is up there seeing. And then this sheer genius that there must be something for the children who have seen.

Interviewer

Did it give you the idea that it would be important to drop everything and turn up when there are disasters to pull the country together? [end p33]

Prime Minister

You do turn up, but that was not only a disaster, that was testing and reaching out to the frontiers of the unknown which man must always do as part of his genius, part of his ambition, part of his talent.

Interviewer

Exactly.

Prime Minister

Look, I mean some of the early scientists did it and some of them had to be, some of them not had to be, some of them were almost intimidated out of the results of their own scientific discoveries. You know, the Galileos of this world, intimidated by the closed minds that has gone on for years.

No, when there is a disaster, you are natural. Look, you have a family yourself, you know the agonies, you feel them.

Interviewer

Being a leader who is a woman has seemed to present no hardship to you. You seem to have outwitted all the clich&eacu;s, you seem to be able to use your feminine wiles when it is useful to you. How does it make a government different and better to be run by a woman? [end p34]

Prime Minister

I do not know, I have never run one as a man! I just do not know, to me my mind is always on the job that has to be done so as long as I am tidy, you represent your country, you must look reasonably tidy.

Interviewer

But you have extra advantages, or you have made them advantages.

Prime Minister

Yes, but I tell you what I cannot stand is when people sometimes say: “She is the only man in her Cabinet”. I say: “She is not, she is the only woman”. Because you see when they say she is the only man in her Cabinet, what they are saying is a man can stand up to things better than a woman. That is not true.

Frequently in life it is the woman who is left with everything when tragedy happens and she has got to turn round and earn a living for her children and look after her children and you will find enormous strengths in what is the feminine, no it is not the feminine, it is the womanly, womanly is much better, you will find enormous strengths in women throughout the ages as the matriarch of the family, enormous strengths. [end p35]

Interviewer

It is written about in proverbs, the ideal wife, and she takes care of everything, she does the entire budget, she does the savings.

Prime Minister

Yes, “the price of a woman is beyond rubies”, you find in Kipling, “the female of the species is more deadly than the male”. So it is nothing unusual, it is just that people have got this strange thing that to be strong you have to be a man. The woman is very strong in defence of her children. It is a greater strength than any that is ever known. So there is nothing unusual about it.

I was very lucky in that I could never have left my children if we had lived a long way away and come to serve in Parliament. I was lucky, Denis Thatchermy husband's work was in London, on the outskirts, we lived in London and I got a constituency in London so I was always there. And then when things came at a time when children were … I was Secretary of State for Education, it was very difficult for Carol Thatchermy daughter when she was at university. But the big jobs came when the children were off-hand as it were. So it just fell right.

Interviewer

When you were first elected to Parliament they were just six? [end p36]

Prime Minister

They were six but we lived close by and I have never had to up sticks and leave the family on Monday to come down to Parliament and get back on Thursday night or Friday. I was always within reach, always could get home.

Interviewer

There is so much in our political tradition that teaches us that power corrupts and I wonder, you dominate the political scene, you dominate the party, you are now the senior leader of the Western world, are you worried at all that this goes to your head?

Prime Minister

No, my whole philosophy is to give power back to people and that is what we have done. When you reduce tax you are giving them more power over their own earnings. When you take seventeen, eighteen or is it nineteen industries and denationalise them, government has less power over them, back to people to run them. The education reforms, it is power away from government up to the school governors. That is constantly more power back to the people, constantly.

Interviewer

Yes outside, but in your inner circle are there as many people now who can say to you: “I think you have gone too far?” [end p37]

Prime Minister

We have very very lively discussions, of course we do, that is the way I always learnt, you have to argue.

Interviewer

But you have ten years on them now, how can they say very much?

Prime Minister

Of course they can because they have got their own department and they have got to put their own views and they might disagree.

Interviewer

Do you welcome it, do you like to be challenged?

Prime Minister

Oh, we have very lively discussions, yes. This is the way we learn to get through and that is the way, if you do not have a lively discussion, you will not know the arguments the other way.

Interviewer

What figure in history do you find your closest counterpart? [end p38]

Prime Minister

I just do not know. I do not think you could ever …

Interviewer

I know you do not think of yourself in any way as a monarch, but there is a natural tendency to think of you in the role of Elizabeth I.

Prime Minister

A monarchy is very very different. It really was, those were the great religious, difficulty at times. No, I do not think, I just do not know. If you think of the figures in history who really had to fight for what they believed in well you go back to the history of liberty do you not, you go back to the person who really had to fight for what he believed in and I could not begin to compare myself with him, was Abraham Lincoln.

But you find some list of people having to fight for what they believed in, but I could not think of one particular one.

Interviewer

Would FDR be in any way, since he was able to carry the country through and turn it around even though he was a different political consciousness, he was an improvisational politician who was &dubellip; [end p39]

Prime Minister

Abraham Lincoln had some fantastic speeches, his Gettysburg speech was marvellous. His first and second inauguration speech were fantastic, marvellous, he I think was nearest to being able to use language to inspire people, nearest to Winston ChurchillWinston.

Theodore Roosevelt had some remarkable speeches too, absolutely remarkable.

Interviewer

He also was able to sometimes walk softly as long as he carried a big stick.

Prime Minister

Yes, he had some of these remarkable phrases. I do not think that one can, but Franklin Roosevelt had again the marvellous phrase: “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself”. I cannot think of the precise words but it went on to say that fear, it paralyses the very action needed to take you through. That is the meaning of what he said and it was quite remarkable and he did get through and he was a great friend of Winston's and he was very courageous in the early years of the war because he understood what really was at stake.

Eisenhower did some remarkable speeches. Eisenhower understood communism. [end p40]

Interviewer

You have been so generous, I am just delighted.

Prime Minister

Thank you for taking all of the trouble and I hope it has helped you.

Interviewer

It has helped me enormously.