Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

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

1989 Nov 27 Mo
Margaret Thatcher

TV Interview for BBC1 Panorama ("What Future for Thatcherism?")

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Document kind: TV Interview
Venue: No.12 Downing Street
Source: Thatcher Archive: COI transcript
Journalist: David Dimbleby, BBC
Editorial comments: 1640-1800. Questions paraphrased for reason of copyright. Full text avaiable on the CD-ROM.
Importance ranking: Key
Word count: 8156
Themes: Parliament, Conservative Party (organization), Defence (general), General Elections, European Union (general), Economic, monetary & political union, European Union Single Market, Foreign policy (Central & Eastern Europe), Foreign policy (USSR & successor states), Foreign policy (Western Europe - non-EU), Leadership, Conservative (leadership elections), Famous statements by MT (discussions of)

David Dimbleby

[Question paraphrased for reason of copyright:] First question about leadership of your party, since likely to be a challenge and your recent comments about it. Would an election for leader damage party at the moment?

Margaret Thatcher

I don’t think it’s good for the Party and I don’t think it’s good for the country, but every year since I’ve been leader, the Chairman of the 1922 Committee calls for elections soon after the House has reassembled for the new session and every year my own nomination has been put in, so there’s nothing unusual about it and every Member of Parliament has the right to be nominated. So it’s not unusual, it’s not unthinkable and I think one should take it as a perfectly normal election.

Dimbleby

[Question paraphrased for reason of copyright:] But first challenge to you in fourteen years.

Thatcher

Yes it is. But each time I’ve had to be put in and nominated. One isn’t, you know, elected leader for ever, it’s only for a year and then the nominations have to go in again, so it’s not an unusual procedure to me at all.

Dimbleby

[Question paraphrased for reason of copyright:] Why ’s bad for the country?

Thatcher

I think at the moment uncertainty about anything connected with the Government is not good. It is because we’re behind in the polls and anything that’s uncertain adds to that. But never mind, it will soon be over and I wouldn’t in any way like to use that to hinder anyone who wants to stand, indeed I wouldn’t hinder them for anything.

Dimbleby

[Question paraphrased for reason of copyright:] You mean bad for you not the country. Many people would like me to be interviewing Neil Kinnock tonight.

Thatcher

Well, would you like to?

Dimbleby

[Question paraphrased for reason of copyright:] Polls saying that.

Thatcher

No, I don’t think it is and I think one has to be aware that we’re not going to have an election tomorrow, nor next year, probably not even the year after that, so it’s a very, very long time to go.

Dimbleby

[Question paraphrased for reason of copyright:] Damage to the country then to due to other things - the economy, outside world? In view of the country? [end p1]

Thatcher

No, it is at the moment, I think uncertainty is damaging but nevertheless this will soon be over and that argument must never, never be used to stop anyone from taking up their fully legitimate rights.

Dimbleby

[Question paraphrased for reason of copyright:] If you don’t get necessary majority on first round, will you fight a second or pull out?

Thatcher

Mr Dimbleby, I’m not speculating about what may happen in an election and there’s no point in it, the election will come about and we shall see and I expect it’ll be over in about a fortnight.

Dimbleby

[Question paraphrased for reason of copyright:] A fortnight is beyond first ballot, are you saying it will go to a second?

Thatcher

No, I’m always naturally cautious in my forecasts.

Dimbleby

[Question paraphrased for reason of copyright:] Would significant number of abstentions information you?

Thatcher

No, no, Mr Dimbleby, there’s no point in going on in trying to prophesy what will happen. I don’t believe in crystal balls and I do just remember that your own wasn’t very good on election night.

Dimbleby

[Question paraphrased for reason of copyright:] I am trying to pin down your determination, whether you are absolutely determined, come what may, not to leave premiership unless beaten.

Thatcher

As a person who wins the election will be leader, we’re talking about the leader of the Party, the person who wins the election will be the leader of the Party and I really can’t see what the difficulty is.

Dimbleby

[Question paraphrased for reason of copyright:] Reports over weekend of MPs who might vote against you or abstain being threatened by the Party with deselection by their constituencies if they back Anthony Meyer. Do you disassociate yourself from those reports?

Thatcher

Totally and utterly. I saw the reports, I don’t believe that they are true, it is always for the local association whom they choose. It always has been, and we at the centre and I in particular as Prime Minister, know I mustn’t interfere in any way. Indeed, to interfere in any way would actually be counter-productive. They’re very jealous of their independence and rightly so. No, this is a perfectly normal election and it must be treated that way. As I indicated at first, I have had to put in my nomination every year because one is only elected or nominated as leader for a year and then you come up again.

Dimbleby

Why do you think you’ve been challenged?

Thatcher

I don’t know, that’s not a matter for me to say.

Dimbleby

[Question paraphrased for reason of copyright:] Uncertainty on your backbenches about your performance as Prime Minister?

Thatcher

Well, I hope not. It hasn’t really done too badly, it has after all won three elections in a row and the whole position [end p2] of Britain has been transformed for the better, where as far as the economy is concerned, when everyone has a better standard of living than we ever dreamed of ten years ago, a better standard of social services and been transformed as far as the reputation of the country is concerned. So I would hope that they’re not dissatisfied with that.

Dimbleby

[Question paraphrased for reason of copyright:] What about your long term intentions, Prime Minister, because confusion over that. You said at beginning of month, in reply to a question, it wasn’t likely you would fight a fifth election if you won a fourth. Then at the very end last week you were saying that by popular acclaim, you would remain. What actually do you intend?

Thatcher

Mr Dimbleby, whatever I say will be misinterpreted. I was giving an interview to a Sunday newspaper and they asked me the question, “Will you fight the next election?” “Yes,” and then “Would you go on to, is it likely that you will go on to a fifth?” and I thought very quickly in my mind, goodness me, the next election is another two and a half years to go before we have it, and then for the following one another four to five years, so I stay another six and a half years, that’s quite a time. And then I said well perhaps I really didn’t know or perhaps it wasn’t likely. I found that that was misinterpreted as “Maggie will go soon after next election.” Nothing could be further from the truth, it would be totally false to fight an election on that basis. People rang me up, they came to me, they lobbied me and so the real position is quite simply this, I shall stay as long as the electorate and my own Party wish me to do. Not a moment longer, but I hope to stay as long as that.

Dimbleby

What do these people say who came to you?

Thatcher

That they thought that it had really made my own position rather difficult, because in a fourth election people would say, “Well, she’s going to give up soon,” and therefore they thought that it would compromise the chances of the Party. So I make it perfectly clear that I stay as long as the electorate and my Party want me to. The electorate comes first, obviously, because they decide the result of the General Election and the Party in fact determines it, as I’ve indicated, because every year my name has had to go in, to continue to be leader of the Party and I think really, Mr Dimbleby, that strengthens one. You should never take these things for granted and the fact that it’s had to go in and the fact that it has been nominated again and again, strengthens one’s position as leader and I hope that after this election, that it will strengthen it again.

Dimbleby

[Question paraphrased for reason of copyright:] Summarising your position – you have given several answers. Is it that if you win next election, you will remain unless defeated by your party in a leadership election of the kind likely to take place have in the coming week?

Thatcher

The first thing is to win the next election then I will go on as long as the Party wishes me to, as long as the Party wishes me to, and I hope that they will wish that for a long time. On performance. On performance. Please let’s not twist it anymore, you know that bit of Kipling: “you have your words twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools”? I’m not suggesting you’re a knave, but everything I say you know, has so much magnifying glass put on it, that in the end it is unrecognisable.

Dimbleby

[Question paraphrased for reason of copyright:] But it is an important issue because if at an election people think you might not stay long as PM it could well affect the way they vote.

Thatcher

That’s precisely what they feared and that’s—they said someone used the phrase, “Oh, you would be lame duck,” which I duly explained in the United States, I’ve never been a lame duck and I don’t intend to start now. I love the work, I work extremely hard, I think we have been very successful on behalf of Britain and I hope they would take that view.

Dimbleby

[Question paraphrased for reason of copyright:] If you stayed till election after next you would be seventy-one or seventy-two and also be longest serving British Prime Minister since the 18th century. You relish that as long as Party wants you to go on?

Thatcher

I am very fit. I’m fortunate, I love the work, but it’s not for me only to judge, and, I say, it’s first for the electorate and then for the Party. I like the work, I would like to continue and I would like to continue as long as possible. I’m very much aware of the trap you put to me before the last election, when knowing that they could come up with something like that, if I suggested that I was not going to go on, they then said “On and on and on,” and that really wasn’t very nice.

Dimbleby

I thought it was you that said, “On and on and on”?

Thatcher

Well, I really think that’s under cross examination. I stay as long as the electorate and my Party wishes me to and I hope that that will be quite a long time and I would not be adverse to breaking another record for the length of Prime Ministership.

Dimbleby

[Question paraphrased for reason of copyright:] And what you said in very long interview in Sunday Correspondent about new generation ready now to take over, which made me think that in your own mind you were coming to the end of a decade and thinking perhaps time had come to go, that should be discounted?

Thatcher

No, I don’t think, it’s one of my tasks and it’s one of the tasks of any leader, any general manager, any chairman to see that there are always people there who could follow him or her. There may be an accident, one never never knows. You always have to see that there are people and that’s why you’re constantly bringing people on, constantly giving them experience. Life is very uncertain, that is part of my task and I’m happy that there are people there who could take over, but that’s all there is to it, it’s not a wish on my part to go.

Dimbleby

[Question paraphrased for reason of copyright:] Are you looking to someone of next generation to succeed you, rather than one of your own generation?

Thatcher

Mr Dimbleby, that’s not for me to choose. It would be for the Party to choose when that time came. It really isn’t for me to choose. In electing leaders or in choosing candidates, you have to be very much aware that it’s a particular electorate concern, either the constituency or the Party, and they choose.

Dimbleby

Of course the other …

Thatcher

I think I have one vote as a member of parliament. [end p3]

Dimbleby

[Question paraphrased for reason of copyright:] Other feeling in the Party arising from the confusion as to your intentions, which you have now cleared up, was that it was very unlike you so to sow confusion in the first place, because normally you are clear about your intention. Perhaps you had rather lost your touch in the way that you put this?

Thatcher

No, no, I thought in my mind that would be about another six years, that’s quite a long time—and I was very very much aware of just before the previous election, when people hadn’t liked the “on and on and on,” so really if you say that you are prepared to go on as long as you wish, I think that is about right.

Dimbleby

Do you regret …   .

Thatcher

As long as the electorate wishes and as long as the Party wishes.

Dimbleby

[Question paraphrased for reason of copyright:] A mistake to speak as you did to the Correspondent?

Thatcher

No, I don’t think so, I think it was the interpretation that is put upon it that is the problem, which was totally unintended and I am very aware that the longer we talk about it the longer people will try to read things into it that aren’t there.

Dimbleby

[Question paraphrased for reason of copyright:] The longer they will have to read your mind, which they are trying to do.

Thatcher

I would have thought we could have stopped about three minutes ago with the answers we had already given and move onto something much more interesting.

Dimbleby

[Question paraphrased for reason of copyright:] One thing in MPs’ minds, as they come to vote about your competence to lead the Party, is question of your style of leadership, feeling you are sometimes, perhaps often, high-handed with colleagues in way you run the party. I want to ask is it true—I don’t want to go into Nigel Lawson ’s resignation—that after Nigel Lawson ’s resignation senior party members came to lunch at Number Ten and told you in words of Kenneth Baker, “to get your act together”. Have you changed the way you do things as a result of that approach from your senior backbenchers?

Thatcher

No such words were ever used. I was amazed at the reports of that lunch when I saw them, and I wondered if I had been at the same luncheon. How do I lead? I don’t think, first … I don’t think competence can be called into question when you have been elected once and re-elected twice, so you have won three elections, and when the way in which you have led has enhanced Britain’s reputation abroad and increased her prosperity at home, so I don’t think competence is called into question. Yes, I do lead from the front, yes, I do have definite ideas, yes, they are based on fundamental conviction and I firmly believe that is the way to lead. It’s called leading from the front, yes, I am firm about convictions and I hope other people are too, but we do have very lively discussions because that is the way in which I operate, very lively discussions, and we come to a conclusion and then we have collective responsibility, it is a firm way of leadership, leading from the front and that is the only way I know and it has done very well for my country.

Dimbleby

[Question paraphrased for reason of copyright:] Then why did newly appointed chairman of the Conservative Party come out of the lunch and say, people did say “get your act together”—and they go on—“she listened [end p4] and that is important too” …   .

Thatcher

No …

Dimbleby

[Question paraphrased for reason of copyright:] You did not receive such a message?

Thatcher

I heard no such phrase of “get your act together” to me. What we are all concerned about is that the whole Party is united, that was the context in which that was said and we were all concerned about it, of course.

Dimbleby

[Question paraphrased for reason of copyright:] Was chairman of the Party trying to give an impression backbenchers were telling you something which they didn’t dare to or perhaps didn’t want to tell you?

Thatcher

No, Mr. Dimbleby, no. I don’t know where you get some of these ideas from, you try to read things in that are not there. It was a lunch which had been arranged a long time, the main members of the executive came and talked, as they come, sometimes more of them come, they come altogether or a few of them come. No one is afraid to express their view, of course they are not, they all freely express it. What we were all concerned about at that lunch was that the Party should be seen to be absolutely united, that matters more than anything else. Please let’s get onto some policy issues, they are very very much more interesting.

Dimbleby

[Question paraphrased for reason of copyright:] But your position as leader and relationship between you and ministerial colleagues constantly on the agenda through re-shuffle in summer, the Chancellor’s resignation, and when chairman of the Party— no fool and no beginner in politics, is reported saying “they told her to get her act together,” must be taken seriously. Not a— a casual remark by some unknown backbencher, it is by the man, who, in his own words, you have charged with winning the next election.

Thatcher

Will you please tell me and show me where that was said by Kenneth Baker?

Dimbleby

[Question paraphrased for reason of copyright:] In The Times, The Telegraph and the Guardian, all three. I have read all three carefully and no question … and he hasn’t withdrawn it, that that is what he said.

Thatcher

I recognise absolutely no such thing and I think that Kenneth Baker would take that view too. I recognise no such thing. You say my leadership has been on the agenda—of course—ever since I have been leader and since we have been leader we have had a whole philosophical basis of conviction for our policies, we have sorted out the policies on the basis of that conviction, we have been firm and steady in implementation. We say the same things—I say the same things in private discussion as I say in public and that is true whether I am negotiating internationally or here. People know that and they respect that and they respect that kind of leadership, and if we are talking about what we have seen in the press, I was absolutely delighted—although somewhat surprised the other day—to see that there had been a poll across Europe, an opinion poll, that if there was to be a president of Europe, who that president should be, and it was not François Mitterrandthe President of France, it was not Chancellor Kohl, it was Margaret Thatcher. And they pointed out I am probably the only person who doesn’t want the job, because I don’t wish it to be a federal Europe. But I would say, you have attacked me quite a lot, I would say that that is a measure of the respect which Britain and her present leadership commands abroad and that is good and I don’t think it is a cause for [end p5] criticism. I think it might even be a cause of recognising that it has done a lot for my country.

Dimbleby

[Question paraphrased for reason of copyright:] Prime Minister, do you think, and it may be hurtful to you, but do you think perhaps abroad people think better of you than, since you quote feeling in Europe, the sixty six per cent of people here who feel you should go before next election, as reported in the Sunday press?

Thatcher

Mr. Dimbleby, at the end of the election day—last election, you were in charge of the BBC reporting. You started off the evening with words to this effect, “Well, it looks as if it is going to be a close run thing. The Conservatives have won but with a very much reduced majority of twenty six,” That was your crystal ball then; you are trying to have crystal balls now. The next election will not be yet, when it comes it will be about policies for the future on the basis of achievements of the past, the achievements are considerable. Yes, they were of the sort that was admired abroad as well as of the sort that did very well at home, and we shall always have constructive policies for the future. We had the best manifesto last time, we will have the best manifesto next time. Let me sum it up in this way, our record in the Eighties has been good for Britain on the economy for her people and good for her reputation abroad, some of the things we stood for have been instrumental in helping to bring about the changes in Eastern Europe, the Nineties are going to be a fascinating, interesting decade, and I hope the Conservative Party with me in the lead, will be there to shape that future.

Dimbleby

[Question paraphrased for reason of copyright:] Well, you have right to tease me about BBC’s poll on election night—I won’t bandy polls, it was you who first raised the European polls about you.

Let’s move on to the European question, which is also about your leadership setting British role in fast changing Europe. We have all seen events in Eastern Europe, Eastern Germany in particular, with promise of free elections by end next year. Many in this country worried, as people in France are worried, as, indeed, even people in Germany are worried about the prospect of a united Germany. Both French government and Germans think that is a good reason for speeding up “the uniting of Western Germany, of the Common Market”. [words in quotation marks are those used by DD] What should we do? What do you say to those fearful of an enlarged Germany coming to dominate Europe?

Thatcher

Well, we met, as you know, all heads of government in Paris at President Mitterrand ’s invitation, because he’s President of Europe at the moment, and we discussed this matter and you know the result. We said that we did not think that the changing of borders was on the agenda at the moment. We thought the most important thing is to get democracy in all Eastern European countries and across the Soviet Union, and when that is fully and genuinely in place, not just the first ballot, but different parties so they can choose between parties and a firm rule of law behind it, because that’s just as important to democracy and it has been fully and properly implemented, then we shall really be in a very different situation altogether from that which faces us now. And then perhaps the question can be raised in accordance with the, you know, the Helsinki Final Act in 1975, where thirty-four countries signed it and we agreed not to violate one another’s borders but that they could be changed by peaceful agreement. So that was a very clear lead and I repeated it again in the United States and I don’t think you can foresee what will happen. You know we couldn’t have foreseen ten years ago that this would happen now. I think we can take it step by step, taking very sure steps with each one and the most important thing is not to jeopardise or do anything to make it more difficult for democracy to happen, both in what are called the satellite countries of Eastern Europe and in the Soviet Union and, until then, [end p6] that would take place against the background of the security both of NATO and of the Warsaw Pact. Because if you’re getting very great change, you really want it to take place against a background of stability and we discussed all this and that was the view which President Mitterrand put in his own press conference at the end and which I put in our press conference and also after the press conference I had when I’d spent four and a half hours with President Bush about his meeting with Mr. Gorbachev and about various regional issues as well.

Dimbleby

Well, that’s a complex answer.

Thatcher

Oh, I think it’s very straight forward.

Dimbleby

[Question paraphrased for reason of copyright:] Take elements of the answer one by one. Whether it’s on the agenda. President Mitterrand, Chancellor Kohl, many commentators, President Bush, talk about prospect of united Germany and are obviously beginning to think about it. Are you saying it’s not on the agenda or it is but you don’t want to say anything about it?

Margaret Thatcher

No, I’m saying that at a meeting chaired by President Mitterrand attended by Chancellor Kohl and all the other heads of government of the European Community, we decided that we were not raising the issue of borders at present, that we were standing by the Helsinki position which thirty-four countries had signed, and that the most important thing was to get democracy, genuine democracy, in each and every one of those countries. That was President Mitterrand ’s summing up and Chancellor Kohl was there. When we have democracy in each of those countries and it has been working, we shall have a very very different world and all kinds of matters will come to the fore then, but the first thing is to get democracy in those countries.

Dimbleby

[Question paraphrased for reason of copyright:] There was an agreement statement, true, but the decision about a united Germany is not in your hands or France’s hands. It’s a matter for Germany. Chancellor Kohl says “It’s clear to us,” I quote him, “that developments in Germany and in the other part of Germany make it urgently necessary”—his words—“urgently necessary that we push the process of European unity forwards”. In other words he has a positive view. Europe must do something. Francois Mitterrand says the same, we must speed up the move towards a united Europe.

Thatcher

I think you’ve changed the question. You’ve gone onto a different question, arguably that’s because you intend to go onto a different question. There are twelve member countries of the European Community and what you’re talking about now is the kind of Europe that we want to see. That we are all members of that Europe, we’re all members of that Community, we are there because we believe in the European ideal, is not in doubt, but talking about the kind of Europe we want to see. Now I do not believe and I don’t think most of most of my countrymen believe in a federation of Europe, in a united states of Europe. I do believe that it will get far further and have far better results if we co-operate together as twelve sovereign nations voluntarily co-operating together on things we can do better and with retaining for ourselves things that we can best do ourselves. That I think is the vision which appeals to many people. There’s no similarity at all between Europe and the United States of America. Everyone went to America to get away from Europe or to get away from other countries, they went to create a new country to be part of a melting pot of the United States of America, to form one country. They have. The history of Europe is very different, many many different languages, each with their national character and a very firm national character. You can’t put that, I think, into a melting pot, you can co-operate as friends to work more closely together. [end p7]

Dimbleby

[Question paraphrased for reason of copyright:] You say that is different question, but from Chancellor Kohl ’s point of view and President Mitterrand ’s it is the same question. What they’re really saying is it now seems possible there will be a united Germany once again, therefore we had better move fast to tie Germany into a united Europe, and so to move faster to fully integrated united Europe of the kind they want, and admittedly Britain doesn’t.

Thatcher

Look, at that meeting in Paris we agreed not to raise the questions of borders and because we want democracy in each country, including East Germany, including Czechoslovakia, Hungary and Poland already have it, and other countries, we think it best to concentrate on getting that. You will have heard people from Eastern Germany wanting that, you’ll have heard that President Mitterrand said that we want it against a background of NATO and the Warsaw Pact. The other things will be raised later, but let me just say this. Germany, West Germany, the Federal Republic of Germany, is part of Europe. There’s no doubt about that. She is part of the European Community, so why raise the issue? It seems to me just a little bit insulting to Germany to indicate that she is not anchored into Europe.

Dimbleby

[Question paraphrased for reason of copyright:] Germany herself raising the issue in the words of Chancellor Kohl.

Thatcher

No, Chancellor Kohl made perfectly clear the Federal Republic is a loyal member of the European Community. It was one of the founder members, it is a fundamental part of the European Community, that is not in doubt. You also have other agreements that we’ve signed, the Helsinki Agreement, there’s also the four-power arrangement under which Berlin is governed and there are various other things. When we have got democracy in each of those countries we shall be moving into another world, we shall have done perhaps the most important thing, brought human rights and liberties again in accordance with the Helsinki Agreement to all peoples, then we can have a look at that, but at the moment it is the Community of the twelve working more and more closely together, and our big task to which we in this country are devoted is to see if we can get a single market, a common market, whichever you like to call it by the end of 1992. That’ll be a very big move forward. There are already special arrangements and always have been for goods in from East Germany, she’s already treated separately in that respect.

Dimbleby

[Question paraphrased for reason of copyright:] I am talking about something different, not the practical working arrangments where you are proud of Britain’s record, but questions that people watching you tonight have in back of their minds, which is that there seems to be a fundamental difference of approach. Both the West Germans and the French and indeed some others, Lord Carrington the former Secretary General of NATO and your former Foreign Secretary, for instance, now look realistically to a time when Germany may no longer be a full member of NATO, when there may be a neutral Germany, because otherwise there can’t be a re-united Germany, and are saying therefore it is important we go as fast as possible towards a more united Europe.

Thatcher

I don’t know what the future will hold. I do know that we need a strong NATO and we’ll continue to need a strong NATO in order to ensure that our freedoms and justice are defended, that people must not think of disbanding that in any way, that had we had a NATO in 1930, [end p8] that I do not believe there would ever have been a Second World War.

Dimbleby

What with the Americans remaining in Europe?

Thatcher

The Americans remaining in Europe, with having the Americans in Europe, and a very very active alliance with people being staunch in being part of that alliance and part of collective security. You never know where the next problem may arise and you must always keep your defence sure. Therefore the difference between us is this. I am charting the way ahead, the way in which I think we should go for the next few years, keep a strong NATO, negotiate between NATO and the Warsaw Pact to get your weaponry down, so that neither President Gorbachev nor we in NATO need have any worries about our defence being secure. That is important. Against that background concentrate on getting democracy in each and every country. This is the way ahead. When that has happened and been in place for several years I can’t foresee what will happen, but I know we’ll have a strong defence. If we’re successful we’ll have democracy. That will be a tremendous leap forward for East-West relations and for the world, and for all those people. If we take it a step at a time each step is firm and sure we’ll be able to deal with it, but to talk about the break-up of NATO does no-one any good at all—least of all the defence of our freedom. We have to keep that and Germany is a staunch member of NATO and she signed the last communique in May and we shall meet again on December 4th to hear President Bush ’s report of the meetings that he’s had with President Gorbachev. So I don’t know what will happen and I don’t think crystal balls will be able to tell us. What I do know is a strong NATO, a European Community. And when you say what is the relationship between the other East European countries, if I might gently point out, I was the first in the Bruges speech to point out that the European Community is only one manifestation of Europe, that Warsaw, Prague and and Budapest were just as much European capitals. If people had read that speech they would have found a very great deal in it which in fact was quite prophetic. And then I also said I think first in the House of Commons, how should we conduct ourselves with this new freedom which is the most exciting thing that we’ve seen, the new freedom and the speed. And I said, “Look, the mechanism already exists. We have as a Community association agreements, we have one with Turkey, we have one with Malta, we have one with Cyprus, each of them are different, tailored to the country.” But that is a kind of agreement. We have co-operation agreements for example with Yugoslavia, we have trading agreements, for example with Poland and Hungary. We have agreements with other countries like the Nordic countries, Sweden, Norway and also Austria, Finland and Switzerland, trading agreements, so the whole framework is there for us steadily to have closer relationships. There’s a totally different agreement as it happens with East Germany. And we were the first I think to give aid to Poland. The framework is there, but if you want to bring about change successfully keep the framework stable and do not destabilise it.

Dimbleby

[Question paraphrased for reason of copyright:] You’re a believer in the nation states. Germans and French want to move away from that concept of nationhood towards a more United Europe, and one reason they give - the French certainly - is that it is important for the future security—we’ve had two world wars in this century—that Germany should be anchored. On a ship in a gale you put out two anchors and that there’s the anchor of NATO, and perhaps the anchor of a further unity in the Common Market. That’s what they’re saying, and you say we have these nations states and they can all get along well together, but doesn’t that ignore central problem posed by a re-united Germany?

Thatcher

The defence of the West is not done in the European community. It never has been, the defence of the West is in NATO [end p9] and even France is not militarily integrated into NATO, she has her own separate defence, and anyone who’s been to France for their bi-centennial or their annual military parade on Bastille Day knows that the French are very nationalistic minded, and the Germans are very German, and the Spanish are very Spanish, and the Italians are very Italian. Europe will be the stronger if we negotiate with one another, not try to dissolve those characteristics but working together. It is very difficult to tell what are the views of the French people, they would take different views, but I do note that if it came to a presidency of Europe it was me that they suggested would do it best. And it’s I who believe in full co-operation in the European ideal. The European ideal came not from a Europe which was ever under one whole tutelage, but from a Europe which was different, from a Europe which was varied, from a Europe where people in some parts, when they were oppressed in some part, they could freely move to another part and they did. It has been suggested in one of those fascinating books, you know “The Rise and Fall of Empires” by Paul Kennedy that it was this fact that Europe was never totally one unified monolith as some other empires were, it is responsible for her variety, for all of the ideas which were free to come and for the European ideal. It’s just as much an ideal as anyone else’s, perhaps even more so.

Dimbleby

But it’s not an ideal that’s shared.

Thatcher

Oh, but yes it is shared. Now who says that everyone wants to go into a United States of Europe? I would doubt that very much indeed. Certainly it is quite clear from the debate in the House of Commons on what are called the Delors Stages Two and Stage Three that we could not possibly accept those.

Dimbleby

[Question paraphrased for reason of copyright:] French and Germans keen to speed up the process of a United Europe, and you have a meeting at Strasbourg soon where this is going to be discussed. I want to ask you this—just suppose that the French and the Germans decide that they will go ahead, towards the EMU, monetary union, that they will have a central bank, that they’ll do the things that you believe shouldn’t happen, can Britain stop that happening, or will we just sit by and see Europe go off in a different direction?

Thatcher

Well, may I just take your question in two parts because there were two? You’re talking about a speeding up, what I would say, more co-operation in Europe, you’re calling it a more united Europe. There’s one task we have immediately ahead, that is the Single Market by 1992, and sometimes you know people talk about the middle distance, but do not in fact get on with the problems that are immediately ahead and that is very much so now. We in Britain wanted the Single Market by 1992 and we’re way ahead. We’re way ahead in implementing the directives which are necessary to bring that about. So when it comes not to talk, but to practical steps, we in Britain are in the lead and we’re well in the lead. There are sixty-eight directives that should have been implemented by June. We have implemented sixty-five, so we’ve only got three that we haven’t implemented. France has nine that she hasn’t implemented. Denmark and the Netherlands have twelve they haven’t implemented.

Dimbleby

But where does this get us, Prime Minister? I don’t understand where it gets us!

Thatcher

I will tell you in a moment. The others go between twelve and thirty-three that they haven’t implemented. Where this gets us is to say that where we have an agreed policy to have further close co-operation by 1992 and it depends upon deeds and not on words, we in Britain are in the lead, so no-one can say that we’re not active, very active [end p10] Europeans.

Dimbleby

[Question paraphrased for reason of copyright:] We don’t want to go any further after 1992 and French and Germans do. I mean, it may be words but nevertheless it’s not that far away.

Thatcher

Let us get that 1992 first, it would be a colossal change. Now we then come on to the European Exchange Rate Mechanism. We are already in the European Monetary System, we have been for a very long time, our currency’s calculated in the basket of currencies and our reserves, some of our reserves are placed with the European Monetary System. We have indicated we’ll join the Exchange Rate Mechanism when our inflation is down and the other conditions, which we laid down, a lot of which depend upon the other states achieving, have all been implemented, so the question is whether we then wish to yield up or put to a body in Europe of twelve European bankers, none of whom is elected, the running of our budgetary policy, our monetary policy and our economic policy. Are we going, a sovereign country believing passionately in democracy, having a national parliament absolutely central to everything we do, going to allow someone else to tell us what our budgetary policy should be, what our monetary policy and therefore the broad lines of economic policy?

Dimbleby

It seems to be the direction the others are going.

Thatcher

One moment! We had a very thorough debate in the House of Commons from all sides, whether is was the Opposition, whether it was the central parties, whether it was our Party. All sides agreed that these things are central to our national parliament and we would not and could not hand them over to a non-elected body, not accountable to anyone. I also feel … (interrupted)

Dimbleby

But Prime Minister …   .

Thatcher

Look, just let me finish please, because I feel very strongly … (interruption) yes, I know.

Dimbleby

[Question paraphrased for reason of copyright:] You’ve gone on quite a long time on this point. I want to bring you to what another and equally important, interesting point.

Thatcher

Yes. I just wanted you to know that we too have ideals, but our ideals offer increasing democracy and dispersing responsibility, not, having got a democracy with these powers accountable to our electorate, to taking those powers and putting them to a non-democratic body, not accountable to anyone. That would be wrong, especially when Europe is moving towards democracy. For the Western countries to move away in that respect, would be a retrograde step.

Dimbleby

[Question paraphrased for reason of copyright:] This may not be a Party political matter, as you say. In debate in Commons there was agreement this was not right, agreed on both sides. My question is: can Britain prevent all that happening or will we become isolated within Europe, on the margins of Europe as some now say? Is that the future that we should now be thinking of in the European context? [end p11]

Thatcher

I think as people discuss more and more those Stages Two and Three, which are very sketchy, which have not been worked out-and they haven’t been worked out-because I think the full measure of what they are demanding, the full yielding up of sovereignty and the non democratic accountability, will become manifest. Already, as you know, we have put in a different paper, a different way ahead, it has been welcomed by such people as Karl Otto Pöhl of the Bundesbank, perhaps one of the most successful and most successful currencies in Europe.

Dimbleby

Welcomed, but wasn’t entirely accepted by him, it has to be said.

Thatcher

Welcomed, yes welcomed, and I think you will find that quite a number of people will look at it much more closely, but, Mr. Dimbleby, I am accountable to the people of Britain through Parliament. I believe that what Parliament said in that debate was absolutely right. I believe it, I am accountable to it and that is what matters to me. I believe Britain is right. I do not believe that we, whose Parliament started by having control over the executive in matters of money, will ever yield that up and I think our arguments will become the stronger as people see what they are really doing.

Dimbleby

[Question paraphrased for reason of copyright:] Does it matter to Britain if she becomes semi-detached from a fast unifying Europe?

Thatcher

It matters that Britain keeps her politicians democratically accountable to the Parliament at Westminster whose … was sat throughout the whole of the last war and upon whom the hopes of Europe rested.

Dimbleby

Why can’t you have a more democratically elected European Parliament that decides some of the things?

Thatcher

I know the European Parliament, I have spoken there. It is not what we understand by a Parliament. Nor do I believe you can ever have one with about nine or ten different languages. You don’t have the debate, the ready debate. I remember I spoke there about my presidency and than Monsieur Delors spoke, and he said something completely different there to things he had ever said in the room next door just upstairs here to me about that presidency. We started the Single Market, we did the first forty five directives, it was a very good move. He spoke in a totally contrary way, and I said to him, “You said nothing of that to me nor at the press conference!” and then because I had the right of reply, I did reply to him in exactly the same combative way that I would have replied to my own Parliament, standing up for Britain, standing up for my viewpoint. and I must say this is the natural come-and-go, cut-and-thrust of Parliamentary debate to us.

Dimbleby

Well, they might learn it!

Thatcher

The Parliament rocked backwards, they had never seen anything like it before, but Parliament is to discuss. I went to Spain on a visit. I went to their Parliament. I had to see their Opposition. There are eleven parties in their opposition. I saw eleven leaders of the Opposition. Each made a speech lasting … there were three points, they asked me three questions, it took quite a long time. At the end, the last one, the eleventh one, said to me, “Thank you for coming, Mrs. Thatcher, we don’t often have the chance to question a Prime Minister and we are very pleased to question you”. I said, “But doesn’t your Prime Minister come to Parliament to be cross-examined?” “No, about three times a year to make a statement”. Our [end p12] Parliament is central, it is the mother of Parliament …   . (talking together) …   .

Dimbleby

[Question paraphrased for reason of copyright:] Can’t allow you to conduct us on a tour of all the European Parliaments, Prime Minister, must just put a last question …

Thatcher

Ours is best.

Dimbleby

[Question paraphrased for reason of copyright:] Are we not now facing, in terms of your feelings about Europe and perhaps the House of Commons agrees, the old situation summed up by Winston Churchill in those famous words, “When we have to choose between Europe and the open sea, we will always choose the open sea”? Isn’t reality we are now getting left behind because of events in Eastern Europe, because of events in Eastern Germany, the French and the Germans—the two other key partners—want Europe to go and you are saying “We the British people must not go down that road!”?

Thatcher

No, we are not choosing between Europe and the sea. We are choosing between the British Parliament and putting powers to some group of people that is non-accountable and I believe that more and more our view will prevail as people look at it. Our ideals of Europe, I believe, are far higher than wanting to compulsorily kind of bring people together when it is against their best instinct and what is more, Mr. Dimbleby, you will never get a fair … fair rules by which to play. The way Italy conducts her affairs is totally different from the way we do. The way Germany can get things sewn up behind the scenes because her industry is owned by banks is totally different from us. The way France conducts her affairs is totally different from us. To attempt to try to get something on a fair basis when those things will still continue isn’t real. Take the ideals that were created in Europe! It was coterminous Christendom—our law is founded on Roman law—our democracy was found on the democracy of ancient Greece, our Industrial Revolution came from Europe turning science to the benefit of the people and so on, the artistic Renaissance …   . literature in all its infinite variety. What is called “civilisation” in the world is founded on what is called “civilisation” in Europe. It was never by trying to have Europe in one particular unity, but on its infinite variety, co-operating together. That has served the European ideal well in the past, it will serve it best in the future!

Dimbleby

Prime Minister, thank you very much.

Thatcher

Thank you.