Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

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

1989 Jun 12 Mo
Margaret Thatcher

Speech to Nottingham European Election Rally

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Document kind: Speech
Venue: Albert Hall, Nottingham
Source: Harvey Thomas MSS (VHS cassette): OUP transcript
Journalist: -
Editorial comments: 1926-46.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 2355
Themes: Agriculture, Conservatism, Defence (general), Employment, European elections, Taxation, European Union (general), European Union Budget, Economic, monetary & political union, European Union Single Market, Labour Party & socialism, Liberal & Social Democratic Parties

The European Elections: why they are important

Mr Chairman, Ladies and Gentlemen.

There are just three more days to go to the European elections. [end p1]

Don't make the mistake of believing they don't matter, that you can leave it to others to vote.

You can't. There's too much at stake. As in a General Election, Thursday is about Britain's future. [end p2]

In three General Elections you voted for our sort of Britain. On Thursday, we need you to vote for our sort of Europe. A Europe which reflects what we have achieved in this country over the last ten years: [end p3]

— lower taxes

— wider ownership

— less trade union power

— more jobs

— above all, the freedom to live your life under the law as you choose not as someone else tells you to. [Applause.] [end p4]

If our supporters don't turn out and vote, those achievements could be at risk. And we would be taking the first step back to the failed policies and dismal days of the 1960s and 70s.

Labour, with the help of their socialist friends in Europe, would start to creep in again through the back door bringing with them: [end p5]

— more unnecessary regulations

— more taxes

— more burdens on business

— more powers for trade unions

— more of everything that led to Britain's decline.

What a prospect!

Could it really happen?

Only if we fail to vote in sufficient numbers on Thursday. [end p6]

In the present European Parliament the Conservative and Centre Right majority is wafer thin.

A swing of just eight seats across Europe would tip the balance to the left—and decide the politics of the Parliament for the next five years. [end p7]

Five years ago—at the last European elections—three out of every five Conservative supporters thought they could leave voting to someone else.

And the result? Labour won fifteen extra seats.

On Thursday we need all your votes to keep, indeed increase, our majority in the European Parliament. [end p8]

That's why we need every single Conservative supporter, every opponent of Socialism, whether in England, Scotland or Wales, to turn out on Thursday—this Thursday—and vote for our Conservative candidates. [Applause.]

I think you got the message, but just to make sure—

Are you with me?

[Audience: Yes]

Will you help us get the vote out? [Audience: Yes] [end p9] [MT frowns and holds hand upped to her ear. Louder cries of ‘yes’ from audience.]

That's better. Well, good.

Britain's role in Europe

Meanwhile, let's remind ourselves and the country of what we Conservatives stand for in this election.

We believe that Britain is in Europe to stay. Not like Labour. [end p10] They don't know whether they want Britain in or out of Europe. In the present European Parliament over a quarter of Labour's European MPs want Britain to leave the Community.

It was a Conservative Government under Ted Heath which had the vision to take Britain into Europe. And it's a Conservative Government which [end p11] has made such a success of our membership.

Our links with Europe have been the dominant factor in our history. Not just geographically, but culturally. The ideas of democracy, human rights, the rule of law. Music, the arts, the sciences. These are the hallmarks of a civilisation which shaped not only Europe's future but that of the world. [end p12] Britain's destiny lies in Europe and our membership makes Britain stronger. And Europe stronger too. [Applause.]

But—let us be clear—we didn't join Europe to be swallowed up in some bureaucratic conglomerate, where it's Euro-this and Euro-that and forget about being British or French or Italian or [end p13] Spanish. [applause]

We're British and we've proud of it. [applause] Proud of our traditions, [applause] proud of our national character, proud of our Westminster Parliament. We want to preserve them. And we shall.

But there are those who see it very differently. [end p14] They dream of a European super-state run from Brussels by people who claim to know what's best for us. And they have their supporters in Britain—in the Labour Party—who think it's for politicians to tell people how to run their lives, instead of leaving them the freedom to do it themselves. [end p15]

Chairman, that's not the Conservative way. We believe that willing and active co-operation between independent sovereign states is the best way to build a successful European Community. [Applause] We want to work with our friends in Europe at the things we can do better together than alone. [end p16] We know that Britain, and everything she stands for, is more powerful and influential when we do so. That's true for example for trade. By acting together, we are stronger when it comes to negotiating with other great centres of economic power—the United States, Japan, the newly emerging countries of the Pacific. [end p17]

But that doesn't mean that Europe should run our lives in every detail. We don't need Europe to tell us what to do in those areas of our life which we can run perfectly well ourselves—our industrial relations for example, our social security, our health service, our education and taxation. These are things for our own Parliament. [end p18]

It's a family of nations that we seek, working more closely together but each cherishing its national identity, its character and its own way of doing things. [end p19]

Conservative Achievements in Europe

Let's recall some of our Conservative achievements in Europe.

We've got a much fairer financial deal for Britain than the one Labour left us with.

Indeed since 1985 alone, we've got back five billion pounds for Britain. [Applause.] [end p20]

And if it hadn't been for us Conservatives, Britain would now be paying nearly twice as much to Europe as we are today. We led the way in getting down the food surpluses.

The Common Agricultural Policy was swallowing up ever more resources—not to pay over to the farmers, but to finance food mountains and wine lakes. Labour said it was a scandal. [end p21] But they just talked about it. We acted.

And now the surpluses are shrinking fast. That's good news for the consumer, good news for the taxpayer. And good news for the British farmer too. He's the backbone of country life. [Applause.] The farmer's the back bone of country life and now he has a sounder basis for the future. [end p22]

We were the first to raise the scandal of fraud, which is costing the taxpayer and the consumer billions of pounds. Now steps are being taken to put a stop to that. [end p23]

We held out against attempts to impose VAT on our children's clothes, on the food we eat and on the fuel which heats our homes. And we won.

We stopped attempts by other countries to impose a new European tax on savings. It took us a time. We fought and fought and fought. And in the end, we won. [Applause.] [end p24]

All of that and more we've done. People know that we Conservatives stand up and fight for Britain's interests in the Common Market.

And what happens? Labour wring their hands and protest that we're far too combative. What do they want? A doormat? [Applause, slow to start.] [end p25] Then they say that we're isolated. As if being isolated in fighting for what is right for your own country were a cardinal sin. Sometimes you have to stand alone and give a lead. [end p26]

To coin a phrase (with which Mr. Barron—or should I say “CJ” —will be familiar) I didn't get where I am today by not fighting Britain's corner. [Applause.]

And whatever lofty phrases some other countries use about European Union: when it comes to the nitty gritty, they fight their corner too. [end p27]

And yet when we do the same, they argue that we're not good Europeans. Not good Europeans? When anyone takes that line, just ask them this.

Which country is the second biggest contributor to the Common Market's budget?

Which country keeps 70,000 of her armed forces in Germany to help Europe's defence? [end p28]

Which country has the most open market of any in Europe? [MT puts cupped hand to ear and leans towards audience which replies: “Britain” .] You can see it in our high streets, in the goods we buy. [end p29]

And when it comes to keeping the rules, which of the main European countries has been the subject of fewest complaints? [Audience replies: “Britain” ] Britain of course. We play hard but we play by the rules.

When it comes to what you do in practice, you'd find it difficult to improve on Britain's record. [end p30]

1992 And All That

So we Conservatives go into this election with a solid record of achievement in Europe, achievement for Britain—but also opportunity for Britain.

No opportunity is greater than that represented by 1992 and the completion of the Single Market. [end p31]

For years we have spoken of Europe as a Common Market.

Indeed, that's a central part of the original Treaty of Rome.

We were promised a Common Market when we joined in 1973. But despite fine words, many of the old barriers remained. [end p32] Less visible perhaps but no less inhibiting. That's why Britain was so active in setting the target of 1992 for sweeping away the barriers. There's still a lot to do. [end p33]

Look round Europe, and what do you see? Governments which still subsidise their industries, which have still not yet opened their financial and other markets to us as we've opened ours to them, countries which still resist competition.

We've got to ensure that those subsidies and restrictions are swept away too. Otherwise you won't create fair competition. [end p34]

We must create a market that is really open for enterprise, that responds to the wishes of the consumer, not to the demands of the producer.

And that's why we must increase competition, deregulate and steer clear of anything which makes Europe's industries less able to compete in the world. [end p35]

Yes, we must have common standards and requirements. But that shouldn't mean uniform products, it should mean universal access.

To trade with a country, you don't need to govern all its actions. And that's why we don't need a Social Charter for Europe as a whole, as I heard Christopher ProutChristopher saying earlier. We've got our own—employee share [end p36] ownership is much better than trade unionists in the board room. [Hear, hear and applause.] Let's remember, with our version of a Social Charter we've created more new jobs in our country than any of our European partners have been able to create in theirs. [Applause.] Yes, we believe in a Social Dimension. [end p37]

But For us the Social Dimension means more jobs, more choice and greater prosperity for all.

The dismal alternative

Chairman, what do the other parties have to offer? Well, Labour's manifesto is so puny, it's difficult to tell. [end p38]

And how could a party which has changed its mind on membership of the community at least five times in the last ten years ever command respect within it?

Labour leaders ought to know that when it comes to arguing a country's cause you can't just suspend the meeting, use bad language and then refuse to answer questions. [Laughter and lord applause.] [end p39]

Labour are fighting in Europe for the very socialist policies which brought Britain to its knees in the 1970s and which have been overwhelmingly rejected in three consecutive General Elections. Policies which, if they were implemented throughout Europe, would have the same disastrous consequences as they had in Britain. [end p40] They want to impose additional burdens on industry, making it less competitive in the world's markets. Far from creating jobs here, the result would be to move them from Europe to South East Asia.

Labour wants control for the sake of control, bureaucracy for the sake of bureaucracy—all the things which Britain had under [end p41] Labour's rule until the Conservatives sent them packing.

Chairman, for the Socialists a Europe of the 1990s would be the corporate State writ large.

The results are all too easy to predict. Britain would lose all the great gains we have made in the last ten years. [end p42] Lose the great wave of investment from abroad which we Conservatives have won for Britain just because we have cut the burdens on business, cut taxes and got rid of trade union domination. Because of that companies are pouring into Britain giving new jobs.

We haven't rolled back the frontiers of socialism in this country to see them re-imposed from Brussels. [end p43]

As for the Liberals and Social Democrats, they've almost given up here in Britain and transferred their main hope of getting a member elected to Italy. [Laughter and applause.] Chairman, I've heard of a Spaghetti Western, but never of a Spaghetti Scotsman. [Applause.] [end p44]

The Conservative Vision

We Conservatives are the only ones who go into this election with a clear vision for Britain and for Europe. We stand for an enterprise Europe, not a socialist Europe. [end p45] We stand for limitation of government—whether it be from London or from Brussels—not extension of government.

We want a Europe which keeps its markets open to the world, including to Third World countries, not one which is inward-looking and protectionist. [end p46]

We want a Europe which competes rather than subsidises.

And in this very uncertain world, where recent events have shown us that Communism remains ready to impose its rule by force of arms, we need a Europe which believes in strong defence through NATO, with both conventional and nuclear weapons. [Applause.] [end p47] This is what the recent NATO Summit reaffirmed—and what all sixteen NATO countries support.

But not Labour. You'd have thought China might have taught them something. But no. They persist in the same old reckless unilateralist policies which would [end p48] jeopardise Europe's defence.

But enough of Labour's follies at home and abroad. What we Conservatives want is a Europe which appeals to the enthusiasm of our young people. They look to us to create a Europe of larger vision, larger heart and larger [end p49] mind, which leaves its citizens room to breathe.

Chairman, if we take the right decisions and pursue them, I believe we can look forward to a new European century—an era in which the power and influence of Europe can be greater than the founders of the Community could dream. [end p50]

A free and prosperous Europe, rich in culture, relishing diversity, proud of our shared experience, drawing wisdom from our history and vitality from our youth. A Europe that can be an example to the world. [end p51]

And we Conservatives will make it so. A Better Britain, A Better Europe and a Better World.

That's why we want your vote on Thursday.

Applause.