Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

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

1990 Mar 23 Fr
Margaret Thatcher

Interview for Der Spiegel

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Venue: No.10 Downing Street
Source: Thatcher Archive: COI transcript
Journalist: Hans Werner Kilz, Dr Dieter Wild and Hans Hielscher Der Spiegel
Editorial comments:

1005-1105.

Importance ranking: Key
Word count: 7110
Themes: Foreign policy (Western Europe - non-EU), Foreign policy (Central & Eastern Europe), Foreign policy (USSR & successor states), Foreign policy (USA), Defence (general), European Union (general), Economic, monetary & political union, European Union Single Market, Transport, By-elections, Community charge ("poll tax"), Conservative Party (organization), Monetary policy, Housing, Leadership, General Elections

Interviewer

Prime Minister, do you have a problem over a united Germany?

Prime Minister

No more so than the rest of Europe. If there is a problem, it is that we just have to get used to having one country in Europe that is far bigger than the rest numerically and that is coupled with a colossal surplus on balance of trade and also a very very highly efficient country and that does alter the balance a little and we just have to get used to that.

Interviewer

This country always has been too heavy, too big for Europe since 1871, do you agree? [end p1]

Prime Minister

Bismarck. We read with fascination the history of that period and of the history coming up. I was just reading a book last weekend, Stern, Bismarck's banker, wrote about the relationship of Bismarck's banker and Bismarck, it is a very fascinating book. Part of the problems of the time. I do not know that you can necessarily call that a problem, it is part of history, but one looks back. The usefulness of going through that time, plus coming up to the beginning of this century and its impact now, is the number of minorities right down central Europe and this is a relevant factor for today.

Has Germany been too big since 1871, the Franco-Prussian War, you did not have to mention that did you? But it is a large country.

Interviewer

But looking back through the last couple of weeks or months, the question of Germany unity, you found it not yet on the agenda when other leaders like President Bush and Mitterrand, already realised that unity was imminent. Did you under-estimate the momentum?

Prime Minister

I think perhaps we all did. But do not forget, as I have said so often and I do feel it is sometimes forgotten or only lip service paid to it, none of this would have happened without Mr Gorbachev, none of it. The vision which enabled this to happen [end p2] and happen fast was his. Just you imagine someone, a dyed-in-the-wool communist, coming up to the top position in his country, having the courage, the perception, the vision to say: “This is not working and it will never work. We have got to change it.” And then when you change, things always go faster, it is a lesson of history. Any revolutionary change, the revolution goes faster than you think. To take the pace of that change, the political revolution, and to ride it.

Poland has always been different, Poland always will be different, she has a different history but she is different in this context because of the Solidarity movement backed totally by the Roman Catholic Church and her own revolution, therefore, took a different form.

But the other things would never have happened without Mr Gorbachev, with the differences he was getting in the Soviet Union this enabled Hungary to go ahead much faster, she had always started to go with her own economic and some political reforms. Czechoslovakia took longer than we expected.

But Mr Gorbachev started this. Any revolution of passing power from government to people tends to go faster than you think and he is still there riding it and dominating it. So I just think that one must remember the prize for the whole of our land mass, from the Atlantic to the Pacific, that we must keep in mind which is democracy in the Soviet Union, backed by a market economy. And let us not act in such a way as to lose that. [end p3]

Now because of his vision, things did start to go much faster. And yes when he went, and it was he who realised that Mr Honecker was not right and he that encouraged the change there. So yes it did go much faster.

But let me put it this way, you are now finding the difficulties. We anticipated the difficulties and we said: “Look, it is not just a German question.” German unification has been in every NATO Communique certainly since I have been here and every NATO Communique before I was in power. But it is a whole question of the Western Alliance, it is not even a European question, and my point was a simple one, before you come to unification, if you believe in the security and stability that have brought it to this point to make it possible, you must sort out NATO, you must sort out the European Community and you must have regard to the Helsinki Accords, not a Treaty, but the Helsinki Accords.

All right, you asked a deep question, you got a deep answer. Unification is in, as I say, every NATO Treaty and it was in the last one. But it is the way in which it seemed to me, and I must say the view which I have taken has been borne out, that at first it was: “We will sort out NATO afterwards, we will sort out other things afterwards”. No. It was partly because of the view that I have taken that we have started to sort it out before. Thank goodness, because otherwise we could have had what is totally accepted - the unification, I use unification, not reunification, it is different, you know the reason why it is different, it is East Germany and West Germany, that is going ahead but we have [end p4] got the NATO thing partially sorted out with the clear undertaking from Chancellor Kohl, he is always a great devotee, a very loyal person to NATO, the whole thing that will be in NATO.

There are other things to sort but we are on the way to sorting them out. When I was at Strasbourg with President Mitterrand and we agreed then that there simply must be a meeting of the Berlin Four because we were trying to have some forum to get the United States and the Soviet Union and some of Europe together and then we said: “Right, it obviously has to include Germany”. And then there went on a certain amount of diplomatic, I never understand diplomatic things, there obviously had to be the Berlin Four plus Germany, did it matter whether it was Four Plus Two or Two Plus Four? What matters is the meeting. However, it happened and we are getting it sorted out.

Chancellor Kohl in his first speech spoke about quite a long transition and then things started to go faster with Article 23. But we must keep the stability and security, which matters to us all, and that meant, and it came to pass because I think that people have moved far nearer my position than I have to theirs, that you must look at the external aspects as well, and they were being looked at. Europe has papers on them, we have papers on the Common Agricultural Policy, the Common Fisheries Policy, the trading, and so on.

That is a long reply. But please, you see, unification was there. But other things matter too, the security and stability of Europe and the great vision of democracy, do not let us throw away that prize by the way we conduct ourselves now. [end p5]

Interviewer

Do you not feel that a Germany of 80 million people could economically and politically dominate Europe?

Prime Minister

We are not easily dominated, we are not easily dominated. Freedom and the rule of law has been here for a very long time. We are the oldest Parliament in Europe - seven hundred years old - we are not easily dominated.

Interviewer

But twice in this century Germany tried to dominate Europe and fortunately …

Prime Minister

Yes, and NapoleonBonaparteNapoleon before that. You can never disregard the lessons of history and any politician would be foolish to do so. What you can do is have regard to them and build alliances. Now this is why NATO was so vital, you must build on the Alliance, which is protected freedom, and which protected Germany's freedom too.

Interviewer

Of course. [end p6]

Prime Minister

But as I say, we are not easily dominated ourselves and we are not likely to change either.

Interviewer

Not dominated, but, Prime Minister, is Dr Owen right or wrong when he says, and I am quoting him, you instinctively fear a united Germany, seeing in it a potential for another Third Reich such as that which hounded your teenage years? [end p7]

Prime Minister

What I know is that history and what I know is the steps that we take must be such as to make that impossible. That is why you use history and had we learned from the First World War that the defence of liberty is too big a concept for Europe to bear alone and had we learned that you could not build security just with a diplomatic League of Nations, that you had to build it with actual defences and had we said to America: “Look” The United Nations is not enough! Really, this has been the most terrible war!” We assumed that it was so terrible that people would see that it never happened again. Had we learned a little bit more about the fundamentals of defence, we should have known it was vital for the United States to stay in Europe, vital that we have our collective security. We did not learn that - we must have learned that lesson now. [end p8]

So, when you are talking about freedom and the rule of law, do not assume that it will never be challenged again. Say, as I am saying: “If anyone challenges it, may they know from our defence and from our alliances they shall not pass, they shall not succeed!”

That is the way I view it and that is why NATO is vital. That is why the Helsinki Accords, although they are not a treaty, are vital. But you see, the Helsinki Accords, thirty-five nations signed. When I sign - I did not sign that but my country did - we keep it, even though it is not a treaty. Those borders shall not be changed save by agreement. But it is no good just having diplomatic arrangements; you have to have the defensive arrangements to see that anyone who challenges it shall not succeed.

Life has been full of dangers throughout history; those dangers are not going to stop occurring now. What we should have learned is that those dangers cannot in fact challenge our way of life. What we know, what the world knows as civilisation is the system, the institutions, the human rights, the concepts created by the wider Europe, a Europe which existed long before the European Community.

Everything you ask has its roots in something deeper. Now, roots are very important. But we have a fantastic opportunity now and the dangers of which you speak must never be allowed to grow. [end p9]

Interviewer

We spoke already about the momentum for Germany unity. Chancellor Kohl says about the speed: “This is not a question of whether you want us to slow down or not; go to the Rhine and try to stop the river!” That is his saying; he is comparing about the speed of coming to German unity. What will you tell him if Mr. Kohl repeats that remark next Friday when he sees you?

Prime Minister

Analogies are always dangerous but you see what Helmut Kohlhe is not saying but now doing, for which I am profoundly grateful - I have been very outspoken on this - is they have negotiated some things about NATO and made it quite clear. We have still some more to sort out. This is nothing to do with not being able to stop the Rhine. These are things which could be done and were done before the unification in some measure.

We are now working out the European … you may not be able to stop the Rhine but you can keep it clean! You might even be able to dam it to move its flow slightly if necessary. So I do not accept the analogy. You could have got NATO further sorted out but we started.

We could have actually said to Europe: “Look! We must start to sort this out now!” I was thinking of those things. It is not surprising and it is legitimate and correct that I should have been thinking of them. If I might say so, in the last five or six weeks I have had more leaders coming in my favour about getting things sorted out, because you could see them coming, you could see the need for looking at them. [end p10]

Interviewer

Did you feel sufficiently informed by Chancellor Kohl in recent months on his steps towards German unification?

Prime Minister

I think perhaps he was thinking differently but I do say this: Helmut KohlHelmut, all the time I have known him, has been dead loyal and dedicated to NATO.

The question was whether he would carry the whole thing his way because other people in Germany were not so dedicated. His ten-point programme was quite a long period of transition, if I might say so, a very long period of transition. It is only recently in about the last four weeks that we have known about Article 23 and we know that even then, it took Saarland quite a time to be incorporated under that.

None of us - not even some of his own Ministers - were told about his speech. He chose tactically to make it that way. I do not complain about that. How Germany is run is not a matter for me.

What is a matter for us is the external effects, the stability and security, and that is why I have been pretty active about it and have been right and it has been acknowledged and things are going that way.

I must say I was very pleased that Chancellor Kohl's party won handsomely in East Germany. That removed one of my worries in a big way. [end p11]

Interviewer

But Helmut Kohl went to Washington, to Moscow and Paris to explain his policy. Why do you think he did not feel it necessary to come to London?

Prime Minister

I have no idea. He did not need any explaining to us.

Interviewer

Perhaps you did not invite him!

Prime Minister

Well, Helmut Kohlhe is coming to Königswinter next. We do have our regular bilaterals. Of course he had to go to Moscow. As I said, it would not have happened without Mr. Gorbachev and Mr. Gorbachev said: “German unification - Yes!” but he also has been saying some of the things that I have and in no uncertain way and, as you know, there was a big press conference given afterwards in which Mr. Gorbachev's view was put very forcefully but the impression first was given that it was just: “Yes, Mr. Gorbachev agrees German unification!” without any looking at the wider aspects.

Of course, he went to see George Bush. George Bush is absolutely vital to the future security of Europe. Now, he did not come to see me. We have had 55,000 troops and 15,000 air force in Germany and if I might say so, the Treaty of Rome could probably not [end p12] have come about unless it had been preceded by the arrangements and the fact that we were going to have our forces there, and we did that to reassure some of the rest of the Europe and if we had not done that in 1955, it is a moot point as to whether Treaty of Rome would ever have come about.

If I might put it this way: my view is prevailing. It did start to prevail before. The transition was a point that I picked up from what Chancellor Kohl was saying about German unity. I now gather that it is going to take quite a time. That does not surprise me.

Interviewer

Excuse me, but next Friday, you do not ask him: “Dear Helmut, why are you coming so late to London?”

Prime Minister

No. Helmut KohlHe knows my views. He did not need to come and see me. He knows my views do not change. You do. You have got the unification of Germany. I often say things which other people feel and think but dare not say and so it is not surprising when, later, they come round and, of course, we have got the other external aspects being considered. Exchange rates is another thing. [end p13]

But I do repeat, he has been dead loyal to NATO always. There are other things that do have to be worked out. What astounds me is that they are staring everyone in the face and there are not that number of options so all you have got to do is sit down with all of them, whether it is the “Four plus Two” or the “Two plus Four” plus your friends in the rest, and get a thing to go to NATO with. There is no mystery about them. It is a matter of will and thought and thought for others as to whether or not you started to do them before the unification. We are doing them now before the unification.

Interviewer

After Helmut Kohl's evasive and imprecise remarks on Poland's borders, you stated: “The frontiers of Poland must be guaranteed by treaty!” What kind of treaty could that be? A bilateral treaty between Poland and Germany, a treaty guaranteed by the Four Powers, by the signatories of the Helsinki Act, who should stand for the treaty?

Prime Minister

I do not think we have worked that out yet but at the minimum it has to be between the unified Germany and Poland in full treaty and guarantee and it was here that the matter was first raised with the Polish Tadeusz MazowieckiPrime Minister, sitting where you are now, and I am very glad that he felt able to raise it with me first. You know what [end p14] happened to the previous assurances; the German courts overturned them, and I had heard Helmut KohlHelmut say: “No! I will not guarantee the present borders. I will not accept the present borders!” I heard him say that at Strasbourg after dinner and I knew Herr Genscher's view was different.

It was another obvious thing which had to be sorted out. And so he came here and I said immediately, of course, and at the same time Ottawa was sitting - that is between the NATO Group and the Warsaw Pact - it got precious little publicity over here, on our television; it was Mr. Mandela's release which was a very important thing, but Ottawa, this fantastic important thing, got precious little publicity. I said to the Polish Tadeusz MazowieckiPrime Minister: “Come on! They are all there now! We will get messages to them immediately and I will back you!” and I backed them in my speech here that night and I backed them on television outside. It was obvious. It could have been dealt with without any trouble. It was dealt with in the end but it started here, it went to Ottawa and in the end we got it, but it could have been done more easier than it was.

It must be a legal treaty. I know that Germany does not want a peace treaty and after all, a peace treaty would have to be with so many nations and I can understand that, but it must be really what Poland needs, it really must be, but Poland will be reasonable. It has got to be a treaty, nothing less will do. [end p15]

Interviewer

If Poland needs a guarantee from Great Britain, would you be ready to give it?

Prime Minister

I think I would be ready to give it, but not alone and I will tell you why. I know what happened last time. It was just in the room below here that we knew we were at war and I know that when that happened because I have been to Westerplatte where it started, where the German warship fired at four o'clock in the morning, I think Poland immediately expected that we could go to her rescue. You have only to look at the geography and the military said it was not possible. So I could not do it alone. If we are going to do that with other people guaranteeing, we would have a much wider guarantee.

Interviewer

When do you see an end to the role of the four occupying powers in Germany?

Prime Minister

That, too, has to be worked out but, you see, no-one was even trying to sort that out either until Francois Mitterrand and I at Strasbourg agreed that there should be a meeting at a much lower official level - I think it was the ambassadors - of the Four Powers. It was an obvious one to be worked out. [end p16]

Do we work differently? I do not know. I am constantly thinking of the things we have to work out in the future and that still, again, has to be worked out.

I cannot tell you. It is a matter of working it out and agreeing it and it will be the Four and the Two, but do not forget all the agreements have to go back to NATO - you are looking bored! You will hear me say time and time again in our Parliament, I have not changed since the last NATO agreement. We are discussing very many different things, of course we must. We have to provide for a transition which is totally different from anything we have had in the past and then we have to provide for a much bigger structure. But I stick to everything that all NATO agreed with last time and until we change it, I stick to that agreement.

We are now starting to talk about the possible changes, so I cannot tell you. What I know is we have to agree it all between us, that it is obvious and we that now have to talk it out in the “Four and the Two” or the “Two and the Four” and the adjacent powers, including Poland and the Netherlands, and it has to go back to the whole of NATO.

This, can I state again, is necessary to keep the security and stability that is vital to freedom under the rule of law with a market economy. I do not know the answer but can I say to you, why do you think that it was not started to be talked about earlier? It was not through any lack of urging on my part. Why do you think that these things that were obvious were not also considered? They are now, the external aspects are being considered, and we shall get it sorted out. [end p17]

Interviewer

We are going to have federal elections in the Federal Republic of Germany in December. Would you agree that then, for the first time, the West Eerliners could directly elect their representatives for the Bonn Parliament?

Prime Minister

I do not know whether then but obviously, it will come about once we have got the other things sorted out. I do not think I would stand against it in any way but I do think that it is not a matter that only concerns us. I would not stand against it but I think it would be better if we got the whole thing worked out and no [illegible word] much the peace in Europe.

Interviewer

First unification and then …

Prime Minister

No. If I say we get the whole thing worked out, you see, it cannot be worked out just with Germany - it has to be worked out with the people who also have some responsibility for the GDR.

Even your questions are reinforcing what I am saying. What I find puzzling is that there is a need to ask them at all because to me it was obvious that we had to get all this worked out and I have had to struggle for that view. [end p18]

Interviewer

Germany's neighbours such as France and Italy are striving for quick and effective progress in European integration as the best recipe to contain a stronger Germany. Is that position an illusion? Is that hope an illusion?

Prime Minister

I do not think that is an answer at all. Let us have a look at the lessons we have learned from what has happened in the last two or three years:

The lessons we have learned is that you cannot sit on national feeling, whether it is Polish, Hungarian, Czechoslovakian, Estonian, Latvian or Lithuanian. You should not try to sit on it; it is there. You must be loyal to a smaller group than the Continent unless, like the United States, you went there for freedom - you all went there for the same cause and that is quite different. So I do not necessarily accept the “closer integration” - which no-one defines - as an answer.

I think the French will continue to be French - they are very very French; Germany will continue to be Germany - they have their own characteristics. We have our own characteristics. We and the Dutch probably think more closely than anyone else, probably because at one time we shared a monarch, we had a very close history. We feel very strongly with the Portuguese - they have their own history; so do the Spanish. I do not see why you should try to [end p19] sit on this at all. It is every bit as worthy an objective, I think, and much more workable, to try to work together rather than trying to submerge these very very positive feelings in something else. Do not forget the biggest step forward is a Single Market and do not forget who in fact, in spite of all the talking, leads the field in actually implementing the Directives - you are aware of this one?

Interviewer

Your country?

Prime Minister

Yes, and Denmark. Other people agree with the Directives. Our beloved Italy, to whom I am devoted - Italians, I think, are always so warm and friendly - they are miles behind! But we have carried out these things and that actually is the biggest integration in the whole of the history of Europe. One was the Common Agricultural Policy, which has given us endless problems. Now, we have to look at it in the light of East Germany, but the biggest integration is the trading one and really an enormous one and, of course, as far as we are concerned, which people never refer to, it was myself and Mitterrand who agreed on the Channel Tunnel which historically will do more to link this country to the mainland of Europe than any amount of words. [end p20]

Interviewer

But you would not see the European Community with strong power in Brussels and Strasbourg as a means to control or tame a bigger Germany?

Prime Minister

I do not think you can. Europe does not work that way. “Control or tame!”

You have got to in fact accept that there is a bigger Germany and you have got to work out a destiny together insofar as Europe comes and we do things together.

The theory I know but the idea that the rest of us line up against Germany is not so. There will be times when we and Germany are absolutely together - perhaps with one or two other countries - working on some particular Directive and we are all on the same side, the others on a different side. There are times when Germany is on one side and the rest of us on a different side over some things because, for example, your companies work differently, your banks own your companies, you cannot have mergers, you can never get into a Germany company except by joint ventures. You work differently. [end p21]

But there is no way forward, ever, in thinking that Germany is there and the rest can combine against. That is not the Community, it is not the Community spirit, and the way in which you must go ahead is, yes, Germany is probably the strongest and most dominant country, but you look at everything that comes up, not as now we must counter-balance Germany. That is not and it must never be the spirit of the Community.

We are of twelve different countries and sometimes with our views we will be on one side and sometimes on another. But if ever you get Germany versus the rest, Europe will have failed and you would not smother that feeling by saying: “submerge your nationality”. You must not do it, Europe is not like that. [end p22]

Yes you will have a strong, powerful Germany, but she will not have any more votes nor any more Commissioners and you simply must not gang up together against Germany because she is the strongest. The whole thing would fail if that were so. You put your own view. Our view will always come through very strongly. I would still say we are the freest economy in Europe, the freest economy in Europe, by far, and I hope we shall always be but I hope others will come up to us. We are free financially, we are free economically, we are not corporatist in any way. And sometimes we shall take a different view from Germany, it is not surprising, sometimes Germany will take a different view from us, but talking it out. But ganging up, no, I would have none of it. That would be wrong.

We have to build a future. We defend against dangers of which we know, of course we do, so do most right-thinking German people, of course they do, but ganging up, no. And that sort of integration, that is the feeling behind it and I will not have anything to do with it.

Interviewer

Regarding the nationalities in Europe, you have recently stated a little bit ominously, we are already seeing a renewal of disputes between the nationalities which is reminiscent to the days before the First World War. What did you mean by that? [end p23]

Prime Minister

Oh, do you need to ask? Have you not seen it in the last few days?

Interviewer

You mean in Hungary and Romania?

Prime Minister

Yes. Have you not seen it - do you need to ask? Look, the First World War started not in 1914 but when? The Austrian-Hungarian empire went into Bosnia in 1908 and annexed her. Look, that part is full of minorities. This is why the importance of the Helsinki Accords is so great. You just have to work these things through. But we believe the Helsinki Accord is about fundamental human rights and if you are in a country and you are a citizen of that country, it is not your nationality that matters, it is your fundamental human rights as a citizen of that country which matters and that is what we have to see.

You do not really need to ask that question. Look at the history, look at the minorities, look at the way the borders go across. Moldavia - partly in the Soviet Union, partly in Romania. Even Lithuania is not a single … But if you are going to in any way suggest that all of these problems are going to be opened up again and be decided by battles and wars, no they must not. But you simply cannot ignore those nationality and minority problems are there. [end p24]

But the Helsinki Accord said the borders are where the borders are now, unless we change them by agreement. And if you start to change then I think we will go in turmoil. And therefore the other Helsinki thing is that everyone is entitled to fundamental human rights as a citizen of their country. Look at the problems you had just recently between the Hungarians and the Romanians. You do not need to ask me.

Interviewer

You are right about the explosive dangers of nationalism. On the other hand …

Prime Minister

You have got problems also in Kosovo, you had it with the Albanians. Of course Yugoslavia really was the creation of the loyalty of Tito and you know it is easy to keep several different groups together when they have the total loyalty to this person who freed them from Soviet communism. And when you try to build a constitution after that it is much more difficult. But you have got to build a loyalty I think within those borders, otherwise it could be a domino effect.

But you do not really need to ask me. It is one reason why I do re-read history. People who do not read history will make the same mistakes again. Let us not do that. [end p25]

Interviewer

If Russian tanks flow into Lithuania, will it be an internal Russian affair of will Britain protest?

Prime Minister

In fact we have all said to Mr Gorbachev: “This thing must not be settled by force” and so has he said that this thing must not be settled by force. Now when there were problems in Azerbaijan, they really were on the verge of a civil war there. If you get that then you cannot have any criticism if your army has to move in, which it did there, it did there and not one of us criticised it because this we understood.

And I must say to you that when you come to these problems you do not pronounce in advance because you have not got all of the facts. And it is one of the things that you will find also that I say, first find the facts, so you cannot pronounce. You set out to say that these things must be resolved peaceably, by discussions, and I can understand that they should be done constitutionally even though the annexation of Lithuania was not done constitutionally. You try to resolve these things constitutionally and we have never recognised in law Lithuania as a part of the Soviet Union.

But you are still left with a big practical problem and you cannot ask simplistic questions and expect to solve it. Sometimes the answer to simplistic questions will aggravate it. I think that President Gorbachev, and incidentally I think that the title President Gorbachev carries far less powers than be had as Secretary General of the old Communist Party. I think that he has [end p26] been very constrained and I hope that that constraint is met with understanding and that they will discuss it. There are a lot of things to be discussed and sorted out.

Interviewer

The two super-powers seem to be close to substantial arms reductions but you declared: “We shall continue to need our independent nuclear deterrent”. Do you still see an enemy for that deterrent?

Prime Minister

Yes, I do. It is our defence of last resort. This is our experience and I see a need for it and so does France and we stand absolutely together on that. Conventional weapons do not deter war. That is the lesson of this century of Europe, nuclear has and will. As Winston ChurchillWinston said: “Do not ever give it up before you have got something better to take its place.” We have not.

Interviewer

Should a united Germany stay inside NATO?

Prime Minister

Yes.

Interviewer

It must? [end p27]

Prime Minister

Yes and I share that with Chancellor Kohl, yes.

Interviewer

Which concessions could NATO offer the Soviet side for that?

Prime Minister

That some Soviet troops should stay in Eastern Germany. That has already been proposed.

Interviewer

So that Germany is hosting troops of both Pacts?

Prime Minister

Yes, yes. Let me say this to you. You look at things almost as an intellectual thing. I looked at Berlin years ago and said intellectually this will not hold. It has held because it was the best solution, it has held for forty years, and I think there will be a long transition in which Soviet troops could stay there, not perhaps in their present numbers, in which Poland will keep the back-up logistics and which it would be in a long transition period, and then we have got to build the longer-term structures of peace.

Interviewer

A united Germany hosting troops from two different Alliances, does that not require a totally new view of the Pact systems? [end p28]

Prime Minister

No, it requires a view of the reality of the present situation. As I said to you a moment ago, I would not have thought a Four Power arrangement for Berlin could have lasted, but it did because it was the best of the alternatives. You do not look simply at a question as like some of you ask me, in a vacuum, you look at the possibilities. In politics life is a question of alternatives and you have in fact in making up those alternatives to consider the Soviet Union and the United States and the security we have had. And therefore I think that that is a possibility and I understand that I am not alone in Germany in thinking that.

Life is a question of alternatives and you must take into account the interests of the other people with whom you are negotiating. You will never get everything you want. If you do, well, there would be no negotiation. But you must take into account the difficulties of other countries and as I said none of it would have happened without Mr Gorbachev, with the view that he has taken.

And I think that, yes, that would be possible. It becomes possible now because of the new Soviet Union and therefore things become possible which were unthinkable two or three years ago and they could hold I think for as long as necessary and give us time to build the new structures of peace and stability. By that time, in a few years, I just hope that the Soviet Union will have got further on with freeing up its economy. The difficulty is of [end p29] going from a totally communist, centrally-controlled economy to a market economy, it is of such a magnitude that no-one in history has ever attempted it before at a time of sophistication. But you will have interim arrangements that will persist, I do not know how long they may persist, but will persist until we have got a new structure to go to.

We are coming back to the same thing. We had a structure of security at NATO and do not go from it until we have got a new one, so you have to build a transitional structure in which all sorts of things which were not possible have become possible because the Soviet Union is different, and then you have to build your long-term structure.

Interviewer

You have just lost a crucial by-election; inflation has reached 8 per cent; the pound is falling continuously; your new poll tax provoked street battles all over the country; is the tide turning against Thatcherism?

Prime Minister

I have lost major by-elections, we tend to lose by-elections, we lost Crosby, Crosby was a very big one that we lost, Ryedale was a very big one we lost. [end p30]

Interviewer

But you do not like losing them?

Prime Minister

I do not like losing anything, I do not like losing anything, but by gosh I know we fight back and win them back at the next election.

Interviewer

The by-elections?

Prime Minister

No, I do not like losing a by-election at all, but I know that we fight and win back these seats next time. Because in a by-election everyone knows that how they vote will not alter the political complexion of the government, it will still be there. When it comes up to a general election they are looking between two alternatives. I do not like losing it, it is disappointing. But more so because we had quite the best candidate, quite the best policies, quite the best campaign and everyone knows it and that will stand us in good stead.

Now you said something about street battles, organised by the Militant, Militant - Militant have nothing to do with Conservatives, nothing. Militant, supporting the Labour Party. [end p31]

Interviewer

Perhaps it is more important that Conservative Councillors turn against you, in Oxfordshire loyal Tory voters …

Prime Minister

Oh really, come along, come along! Two lots of Conservative Councillors in one district resign and you elevate it to a great big … have a sense of proportion, have a sense of proportion.

Interviewer

But Tory voters for the first time voted for Labour?

Prime Minister

And hitherto they have voted for Liberal. I understand why when we have got mortgages high, I understand particularly if they have bought their houses in the last three years, I understand why it is a protest, because they are having difficulty those people and they do not like inflation.

Have today's inflation figures come out yet? Well, do have a look at them to correct them in your question, they are out at twelve o'clock.

I understand and we should not have inflation. I constantly hear the British economy is stronger than we thought, that is so, it is going faster than we thought and still going fast and it is taking a time to get down and it has to come down and I understand that. The real reason there is inflation leading to the mortgages. [end p32]

The Community Charge will settle down. Whenever you do a fundamental change of tax and had we done the old thing with a revaluation of all our properties we should have had precisely the same problem. That we will get over.

The fundamental thing, as I say, is get over inflation and therefore be able to get your interest rates down. I listen to that, I hear it. We are the Party of home ownership. There are four million more homes that are owner-occupied now, four million more home owners now than there were when we came in. We believe in it, we believe in the spread of capitalism.

They are objecting to inflation and they are objecting to high mortgages. I understand, I sympathise, I am the first to try and get this down.

Interviewer

But your popularity is down as has never been?

Prime Minister

No, no, no, they always have a go at me. Really, if you stand for anything and keep on standing for it very very firmly you are bound to make quite a lot of enemies. But when it comes to looking at an election, do you want someone who stands for something very firmly and has been seen to be able to stay on course and do the right things even though it is unpopular in the short-term but the things which come out right in the long-term, I think it stands you in good stead. [end p33]

If you do nothing you will be much more popular than if you do something but it will not do anything for your country and I would not have got Britain this far unless I had stood very very firm.

Interviewer

May we ask, could it be you did not do the right thing, you under-estimated the impact of the poll tax?

Prime Minister

The Community Charge has not yet come in. One in four people will have a rebate and there is also a transitional relief which will affect also a lot more people and there are also a whole lot of widowers, widows, people living alone, who will pay far less, as they should, in the Community Charge than they ever paid under rates. It is a system of going to a personal tax from a property tax. It is very much fairer. Under the old tax, 35 million people had a vote for local authorities, 17 million did not pay anything towards local authorities tax at all, 12 million people paid in full and 5 million people paid in part. That was grossly and totally unfair and a widow living in one house paid the same amount of rates for the local authority as five earners living in the next door house. It was just wrong, it was unfair. Of course when people have to pay who have never paid before, they do not like it. They talk about gainers and losers, I said: [end p34] “Look, if you look at things just as gainers and losers in politics, you will keep injustices which ought not to exist, I look at things on the basis of equity and fairness”, this is a much fairer tax which will be seen to be that way.

Interviewer

Your self-confidence seems to be unshakeable, Prime Minister. When you told Scottish Whisky distillers last week: “Malt whiskys have to be twelve years old to become better and better”, you are now in your eleventh year in office, would you like to go on?

Prime Minister

Oh yes, and then they go on after twelve years they get more valuable still, yes.

Interviewer

And you would like to go on and to go on?

Prime Minister

I think continuity together with strength is needed, particularly at this time. We have demonstrated the continuity, we have demonstrated the strength, I think at a time of great uncertainty in Europe it would be very much advisable to have that continue and I think that it is the policies that will get down inflation. [end p35]

After all, the seven-point-something, you will get the figure later today, inflation that we have, was low for the Labour Party. For us it is disgracefully high - that is the difference.