Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

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

1989 Nov 24 Fr
Margaret Thatcher

TV Interview for TV-AM (visiting Washington)

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Venue: Washington DC
Source: Thatcher Archive: COI transcript
Journalist: David Foster, TV-AM
Editorial comments: Between 1540 and 1635: time set aside for press conference but British interviews were probably done at the same time.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 1179
Themes: Conservatism, Defence (general), Foreign policy (Central & Eastern Europe), Foreign policy (USA), Foreign policy (USSR & successor states), Leadership, Media

Interviewer

Prime Minister, you have said there is a danger when ice breaks up, you have cautioned against moving too fast. Bearing in mind the momentous events of the last three weeks in Eastern Europe and the news today from Czechoslovakia, is there a danger at the moment that events are moving too fast?

Prime Minister

There is a difference between people saying they want freedom, demonstrating for it, and actually drawing up a constitution which has multi-parties with different political philosophies that you can freely vote for and that backed up by a proper rule of law, with justice, independently administered by impartial judges and by economic reform.

Now Mr Gorbachev has been there quite a time. As you know, economic reform is taking a long time and so is the provision of a basic law, the sort of thing we are used to but which is totally unknown in Communist countries. [end p1]

So I think one must not confuse with the wish, the desire for freedom, with setting up the whole structures and constitution of liberty—that takes a time and one wants to see it fully implemented and to make certain that it is irreversible.

But in the meantime, you must keep your defences strong and indeed I firmly believe that you must always have certain minimum defences sufficient to deter any would-be aggressor from any quarter. And in politics, as you know, the unexpected can happen.

Interviewer

With regard to the events today in Czechoslovakia, five weeks ago they would have been unexpected.

Prime Minister

Totally unexpected. At first it was really a puzzle why Czechoslovakia was not among the first to demand increased liberty because we all remember the Prague Spring and Mr Dub&cek and how things were snuffed out in those days. But it is just a new era. It was Mr. Gorbachev who saw and had the courage to say: “Communism is not working, we must change, we have no option but to change” and then who said: “The countries in Eastern Europe, let them choose their own form of government, provided they stay in the Warsaw Pact” . [end p2]

That really opened the doors and they were then able to try to reproduce in their countries the kind of system which we have enjoyed and taken for granted in the West.

Interviewer

You have had a chance to sit down with President Bush for the first time since he actually took office in this country. You have had a chance to talk about the forthcoming Summit meeting he is going to have with Mr Gorbachev. He has a different style to his predecessor, Mr Reagan and Mr Gorbachev seemed to get along very well indeed. What hopes do you have and what events do you expect to come out of the forthcoming Maltese meeting?

Prime Minister

I saw Mr Bush after he had been elected but before he had been inaugurated as President when I came over, and then of course we saw him in London and then of course at the Economic Summit and now here for long and very enjoyable and very constructive talks.

I am quite certain that President Bush and Mr Gorbachev will get on very well indeed. I think both are very much aware that we are shaping the future for a long time ahead. This decade, this coming decade, the last decade of the century is going to be very exciting. If we take the wrong decisions, that could be felt for a long time ahead. If we take the right ones, take a little time over it, that is much better, then we can shape the future for many many years to come. It really is rather a privilege to be involved in this great process. [end p3]

Interviewer

On to the question that is on a lot of people's minds back home—the question of you and the leadership of the party—we have heard conflicting stories in the media in the last few weeks, would you clear them up for us?

Prime Minister

No, you will always hear conflicting stories in the media. I have never known any story which was not reported in a conflicting way. We are used to it.

Interviewer

So where do you stand with regard to the leadership?

Prime Minister

In the lead, I am the Leader, I am Prime Minister. That is where I am and I shall just carry on as I have always carried on.

Interviewer

The Sunday Correspondent seemed to report that you would be leaving before a fifth election if you won a fourth election. In The Times interview you seem to suggest that you will go on ad infinitum if there is enough acclaim. [end p4]

Prime Minister

No, no, no, I did not say ad infinitum—no-one can go on ad infinitum. But after the Sunday Correspondent I found it being grossly misinterpreted and people saying: “Oh she will stand for a fourth election and then she will retire soon after.” That would have been quite wrong. It would be wrong to put oneself up for a fourth election with a view to retiring very quickly and that had never been my intention. But just to clear it up I said: “Very well, because so many of you have asked me to go on and make it quite clear that I would go on, then of course I will.” It would be my own wish, it would be no difficulty. But I have not said I will go on and on and on. One is, after all, finite.

Interviewer

Sir Anthony Meyer has said that he believes perhaps you now think you are President for life and the time has come for a change?

Prime Minister

Look, any such claim is absolute nonsense and most people know it is nonsense. It is the greatest possible privilege that democracy can bestow, first, to be elected to represent one's constituency and then also to be Prime Minister. [end p5]

I am very conscious of the privilege and I have used it constantly to limit the power of government and return far more powers to the people. That is why we have reduced taxation, the amount which Government takes, the rate which Government takes, put more back to the people; why we have cut down the number of nationalised industries, more going back genuinely to the people; and why we have cut the number of controls so more liberties genuinely to the people; and by now we are dispersing responsibilities in the Health Service, more to the people; and why we have dispersed wealth and property more widely than ever before.

I am very sensible of the privilege and have used it to limit the power of government.

Interviewer

May I just ask you one final question? Popular acclaim was the phrase I believe you used for staying on, what is popular acclaim, how do you judge it?

Prime Minister

Look, in that particular case, by the number of people who have made it known, and organisations who have made it known, that they are very concerned at how what I said was being interpreted and so therefore would I make it perfectly clear that I would go on to a fifth election. [end p6]

I am very happy to do so should we win the fourth election, which I hope and believe we will.