Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

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

1990 Nov 15 Th
Margaret Thatcher

Interview for Sunday Telegraph

Document type: speeches
Document kind: Interview
Venue: No.10 Downing Street
Source: Thatcher Archive: OUP transcript
Journalist: Charles Moore, Sunday Telegraph
Editorial comments: 1923-2027. The transcript has been prepared from a tape in the Thatcher Archive. The interview was published on Sunday 18 November. 
Importance ranking: Key
Word count: 9822
Themes: Trade, European Union (general), European Union Budget, Economic, monetary & political union, European Union Single Market, Community charge ("poll tax"), Defence (general), Elections & electoral system, Executive, Parliament, Conservatism, Conservative Party (organization), Conservative Party (history), Conservative (leadership elections), Labour Party & socialism, Leadership, Autobiographical comments

Charles Moore, Sunday Telegraph

The contest is just beginning. Do you regard this as the most important contest of all the many that you have fought in your life?

MT

Every contest I fight as it comes up is always the most important because it is the most immediate.

Charles Moore, Sunday Telegraph

But …

MT

Life is really just a series of hurdles and you have to take them. Obviously the most important is the most immediate.

Charles Moore, Sunday Telegraph

You don't see this as in some sense the last battle?

MT

No I don't.

Charles Moore, Sunday Telegraph

Uh, and do you … are you looking forward to this contest? You often relish a contest but are you looking forward to this one?

MT

Oh, this is a different kind of contest. Er … [Pause] Relish it, no most certainly not. One takes it. A new hurdle comes and you jump it.

Charles Moore, Sunday Telegraph

But you do regret it do you?

MT

It's not for me to choose. If you are in politics you take what comes and you cope. It is not to regret it. If you are in politics you expect to have … to have not an easy time, but you expect to be able to put your view and to persist in your viewpoint, and hopefully to win it.

Charles Moore, Sunday Telegraph

But do you think that this is a mistake to have this contest and do you think it makes particular difficulties when there is a war … a possibility of war in the Gulf?

MT

I cannot complain about there being a contest. I believe we shall win it.

Charles Moore, Sunday Telegraph

But does it worry you at this particular juncture in international affairs?

MT

That was not a decision which was for me to take - not a decision for me to take - and I cannot complain about decisions that other people took.

Charles Moore, Sunday Telegraph

But do you think …

MT

I do not run away. When someone says you have a contest you do not run away. We will fight it. Get it out of the way and then we will be free to get on with our work. That is the viewpoint I take. It does obviously have some effect which I could well do without at the moment. Someone else decides to have one. The rules permit it, so we just get on with it. [end p1]

Charles Moore, Sunday Telegraph

But uh, but you are not worried … Lord Lewin said that it was alarming that there should be a dispute of this kind when we are facing the possibility of war.

MT

Well, the sooner it is over the better.

Charles Moore, Sunday Telegraph

Um, and do you think, uh, in that context, um, tell me a perhaps little more about the nature of this contest. Um, what, if I may ask, do you think of your opponent? Would you say he was a good Minister?

MT

Oh, I never discuss my opponent. Never.

Charles Moore, Sunday Telegraph

But it is a matter of personalities as well as issues isn't it, Prime Minister? I mean they are voting for people, not for policies, they would be voting on Tuesday?

MT

They know what they are voting for.

Charles Moore, Sunday Telegraph

What are they voting for?

MT

Well that is a matter for them. Some will be voting for policies, some … some will be voting for people.

Charles Moore, Sunday Telegraph

Can you tell me, um, do you blame yourself at all Prime Minister for the fact that this contest is taking place? Um, it seems to be represented by some, um, that this arises because of your way of dealing with your senior colleagues and the various resignations have been linked, that of Mr Heseltine, that of Mr Lawson, that of Sir Geoffrey. Sir Geoffrey complained about what he called your ‘background noise’ undermining colleagues. Do you think your treatment of senior ministers has brought this contest upon you?

MT

No. [Pause] . Mr Heseltine walked out of Cabinet because he would not accept collective responsibility. He wanted everyone else to accept it for themselves but was not prepared to accept it for himself. Every single member of Cabinet accepted collective responsibility and with an important decision coming up he was suitably informed that it was important that he too but he decided not to. And therefore he decided to walk out. It was not personalities at all, in any way.

Um, Nigel Lawson, I … you know the story of his resignation. I still find it difficult to believe. Indeed I have never thought that it was over Alan Walters and I still don't know quite why. But I as you know did not want Nigel to go … [recording briefly halts] … his record on restructuring taxation was tremendously imaginative and has really stood us in very good stead. And particularly of course since 1987 …

Charles Moore, Sunday Telegraph

But, um …

MT

So you know that but this is what he decided.

Um, you know it is really very strange when a person has been with you eleven and a half years and all of a sudden this reason comes out.

Charles Moore, Sunday Telegraph

Well, it seems that something snaps, Prime Minister, and there does seem to be a common thread - that there is a complaint about the difficulty of working with you, and this is what Sir Geoffrey … it wasn't just Mr Heseltine.

MT

I must say that I think this place works extremely well. I think the whole Cabinet works extremely well. It has worked extremely well now … After eleven and a half years it's a little bit [end p2] late to make this accusation, this really is. Um, [pause] I could complain too. I could complain a lot. Whatever would be the point. We have more important things to do. Complain about style? Look at the things we have done in reality. If you come into politics, don't complain, get on with the job. If you have got a complaint you go and put it. No-one has ever found it difficult to put a point to me, or, they know - heaven knows I thrive in argument, I don't fear argument. And they know full well. We have an expression, “I have no toes to tread on”. I bear no resentments to anyone, if I suddenly come up with something and I am a bit sharp now and then, they know it's over. Over.

Charles Moore, Sunday Telegraph

In that case Prime Minister how would you explain Sir Geoffrey's resignation?

MT

I don't have to explain it. He has to explain himself.

Charles Moore, Sunday Telegraph

What do you think of his explanation?

MT

I am not going to enter into discussions about personalities. Geoffrey has been with me for eleven and a half years and I am very sorry he went. He was an extremely good Chancellor, extremely good Chancellor, he was then Foreign Secretary, he was then Leader of … Lord President and wanted to be Deputy Prime Minister, he was. Now I find it very very difficult that after eleven and a half years, that that … I find it very very strange. But as I say, there are many complaints sometimes that I could make. What's the point in making complaints? There are more positive things to get on with.

Charles Moore, Sunday Telegraph

Can I ask you, of course I want to come to the policy issues in a moment, and particularly Europe. But given the nature of your critics' accusations, um, made by Sir Geoffrey, made by Mr Heseltine, um, how will you be able, um, after this coming contest, um, to unite your party. Your party clearly is not united at this moment. How will you be able to re-unite it?

MT

Just exactly the same way as we have done before. There have always been certain differences of emphasis about Europe, as you know right from the beginning, there always have been. We should unite because the things that we believe in together are far greater and far more fundamental than the things we disagree in.

You see in the end, if you look at Geoffrey's speech it just did come down to … not fundamental policy disagreement, I have been through it again and again. He said, “we don't want a single currency imposed upon us”. I agree.

Charles Moore, Sunday Telegraph

He said that, but he also said that he spoke very strongly about your … um, what he described as your nightmare vision of Europe, um, and he spoke of this vision of ill-intentioned people, um, threatening democracy. And he said that there was a prospect of a tragedy for our country, um, if it lived in the ghetto of sentimentality about the past. These were all criticisms directed at your policy.

MT

It is a very very emotional phrase. It bears no relation to reality and I would hardly call our history of Parliamentary democracy and the common law and the heritage of freedom under a rule of law and what it has done for Europe, “living in the ghetto of sentimentality”. I would say that people who do not learn from the past are very … perhaps very foolish and will make fundamental mistakes in the future. Our tradition has been, Mother of Parliaments, based on financial control of the executive. It has served Europe well. Our tradition has been that things grow and evolve. The common law grew, our Parliamentary system grew, it evolved. Things are stronger when they happen that way. So we are naturally suspicious of people who come along with grand designs, which is something quite different from what you have got now, and you have got to go to that. It won't work, and what is more - quite apart from our tradition being that we like to know what we are committing ourselves to before we sign up - I would say it is wrong to sign up to anything before you know and discuss precisely what its effect is on your people and, uh, that they know too. So it's not I think that it's right the way we do it, that it is our tradition the way that we do it, it is right and it has stood people in very very good stead. And to dismiss that as a ghetto - a ghetto of what? [end p3]

Charles Moore, Sunday Telegraph

Sentimentality about the past. Yes.

MT

Well, lots of people have died for that past, and died that we may have our present.

Charles Moore, Sunday Telegraph

And do you think, Prime Minister, that it is almost a matter of life and death for the British nation? I mean, how serious is the threat from …

MT

No. And I must say I have heard many things in my life which are alleged to be inevitable. The whole point about communism was that it was the thing. It was inevitable: that was the way all the communists put it over. It was inevitable, book after book, it was inevitable, their propaganda, it is inevitable, “don't resist”, it is inevitable it is inevitable. [MT speaking very fast] . And then, partly during the post-war period when we had so many … it is inevitable things would get more and more socialist. It is inevitable. [Slows] . Some of us fought it. And that inevitability crumbled. And that inevitability of socialism in this country is crumbling and they are now trying to say they would like some of the things we have done although we would never have had them … You, never, if you are in politics and you're are a leader, accept that things are inevitable. You are here to influence them in the way in which you think is fundamentally right and best for your country. That is why I am here, that is why I take the path I do. And it hasn't served Britain badly for eleven and a half years.

Charles Moore, Sunday Telegraph

But do you think we are at a juncture in our affairs as far as Europe is concerned where the independence of the United Kingdom is at stake and that therefore there is a great battle to be joined?

MT

If it came to … saying that we agreed with the single currency before we had even tried a common currency, that would be quite an important [pause] a very very important juncture. It would not be a hurdle that I could take and I don't think many of my party would take it. Because people haven't worked out what a single currency means. It means that not only do you give up your present currency but you give up the right to issue any currency in your own sovereign name. You give up all the rights that go with it. If you become part of another currency you have no power or control over your interest rate. Ah, any differences which emerge between you and eleven very disparate countries and between them then have to come out in another way. Read Karl-Otto Pöhl's speeches. We then come out as unemployment - if you can't in fact do very much about it. You just have to sit back and take it. They will come out in vast movements of people from one country to another as they leave the poorer countries and move to where the better off ones are. Then of course you have problems with housing, health, schooling and everything else. Or you have the countries which are poorer coming along to … probably to the rest of us saying “We cannot do this, we must have enormous grants from you”. Well, we … we can't. We already give to the rest of Europe £2&dec;2 billion this coming, this year. £2&dec;2 billion. That is more than we actually give to the whole of the Third World. So - and to give up not only your own currency but the right to issue … all the rights that go with it to a non-accountable central bank, and where you are only one of twelve would be quite fundamental. At least it should be discussed again and again, and the full impact put before the people because this would be a matter for both Parliament and people. We have got, if I might say so, the right way. We don't accept a single currency, we don't need a single currency or a single market, good heavens if we go that way, you would say if you have world open trade you must have world single currency. How absurd. Crazy. But we had recognised that the rest of our colleagues in Europe wanted some new European institution to do with finance. We recognised that they wanted a currency that could be used all over Europe. Right. We can agree with those things, because it does not involve our surrendering our right to issue our own currency. So we said right, you have the European Monetary Fund - similar in a way, partially … There is the International Monetary Fund. You have a European Monetary Fund, slightly different but European Monetary Fund which you can still run with your co-operation between twelve sovereign states. Cooperation. And that can issue something called a hard ecu which is protected that it can't be devalued.

Charles Moore, Sunday Telegraph

The criticism … [end p4]

MT

And it is a common currency.

Charles Moore, Sunday Telegraph

There is a criticism - there are two criticisms here, Prime Minister. One is about the whole wider issue of European federation and how we see Europe. But there is also a tactical criticism, and this was made by Sir Geoffrey Howe and it is being made by Mr Heseltine. In the matter of the hard ecu Sir Geoffrey Howe picked up your metaphor about cricketing and he said that you had broken your Chancellor's bat before he went to the crease because you had dismissed …

MT

It was … if I may say so it was a very very silly thing to say and a totally wrong thing, because the first thing you do if you have got a broken bat when you get there is is … you can quite easily get a proper bat. And it is ridiculous. It is ridiculous. Chancellor is sitting next to me, is … is a very good thing, basically you send for a different bat. … The analogy breaks down. [Laughter]

Charles Moore, Sunday Telegraph

But you … But the point behind the analogy was that you had appeared to dismiss or belittle a policy which you were about to embark upon

MT

Ah.

Charles Moore, Sunday Telegraph

… by saying that you didn't think the hard ecu would be very widely used.

MT

But that was not a matter for me. It is a matter of choice. I thought it would be used for commerce, employed by people who wanted to travel round Europe. That's not a matter for me. That is a matter of choice. What is it about all of these people who regard themselves as having superb freedom of speech but me having none, not even to venture an opinion? What poor wee things if they cannot allow other people the same freedom of speech as they demand before the whole assembled company for themselves. Poor wee bairns! Poor wee bairns! [Laughter] I venture an opinion that people in this country will probably prefer to keep their own currency. Um, but - it is a matter of choice. The difference between them and me is that I am prepared to debate with them. They may not like it. But also I am prepared to put it to the choice of the people. Why are they not to? Why are they not?

Charles Moore, Sunday Telegraph

What do you mean by that Prime Minister, by putting it to the …?

MT

[Speaking at the same time as Moore] Well, of course I am prepared to put it at choice for the people. I am prepared to say “Right, we will have a European Monetary Fund. It shall issue a hard ecu. People can choose whether they use it, if they want to take a hard ecu abroad to use in France, Germany, for their tourism - provided those countries will accept it, then they can use it”. If people want to settle their commercial affairs in hard ecu - they can use it. If they want to be paid in the hard ecu they can be paid in the hard ecu. Right now if they want to be paid in Deutschmarks they could immediately change their pounds into Deutschmarks,

Charles Moore, Sunday Telegraph

Would you …

MT

Use Deutschmarks, save in them. Even outside the … the Community, into Swiss Francs. They can do that already. I am prepared to say “we will have a common currency and we will put it to the choice of the people, see how far they use it”.

Charles Moore, Sunday Telegraph

Do you think … you have often said …

MT

I have much more faith in people who say “Goodness me you must have a single currency”.

Charles Moore, Sunday Telegraph

[end p5]

Well, do you have faith in the British people … in the wider principle involved? You have explained often that the issues of a single currency involve deep constitutional questions.

MT

Yes I do.

Charles Moore, Sunday Telegraph

Um, would you go … would put all this to the British people - either in … at a general election or a referendum?

MT

[Talking over Charles Moore] Well, first we're not there. First we are not there yet. And frankly I think that there is a great deal of - we haven't even started the Inter-Governmental Conference. There is a great deal of argument to be carried out and you will notice that when it comes to arguing among Finance Ministers and bankers they are not nearly so united because they know the … the actual difficulties which they face. And if you say to some of the poorer countries: “Look you are not going to get big transfers of money from the rest of us, so in fact if you can't keep up a single currency it means very high unemployment, lower wages, and I am sorry, well, you wanted a single currency, that is what you will get. It was your choice”. Then I think they may well think again. Um, …

Charles Moore, Sunday Telegraph

Could I …

MT

Some people genuinely want federation, I respect their views. I do not agree with them.

Charles Moore, Sunday Telegraph

Isn't there this tactical difficulty though, um, even if people broadly agree with your position that, um, because of the strength or some would say stridency of what you have already said that you make it …

MT

One moment - strength or stridency? You mean …

Charles Moore, Sunday Telegraph

I don't mean they are synonymous, I, er … [laughs]

MT

No no. Why do you call it strident?

Charles Moore, Sunday Telegraph

I quote others.

MT

And yes why do they call it strident?

Charles Moore, Sunday Telegraph

I quote others.

MT

And yes why do they call it strident?

Charles Moore, Sunday Telegraph

Well, I think it is do with …

MT

Because I believe firmly and say precisely, firmly and say clearly what I believe. Because I believe and was brought up to debate and discuss clearly, not in vague terms. Because I say to them “and what do you mean?” and go on saying “what do you mean?” Because it is easy to sign up to vague terms - although I won't do it - and because I have brought them to eliminating some things for example on political union. Very very important, because they would not say what they meant. Economic and Monetary Union in the … in the, in the Single Act is, and says it, brackets “economic and monetary co-operation”. That is what I agree with. Why do you pick up these allegations? Sometimes when they put a point strongly they are forceful. I put a point strongly ......; It hasn't done too badly for Britain in the last eleven [end p6] and a half years and it didn't do too badly in the Rome meeting because, but for, but for insisting that we had some discussion on the Uruguay Round, we should not in fact have got that agreement. And although others sat there very very quietly about it, we saw what some of them said after they had left - that it was a wasted summit. What a pity they didn't speak up there, I wouldn't have called them strident, [laughter] I think perhaps they rather failed to speak up. And do you know why? Because it is often left to me. It is often left to me. And people in Europe know, it is often left to me to say things which they don't and to make things clear which otherwise would remain cloudy.

Charles Moore, Sunday Telegraph

Well do you think then Prime Minister that at the end of the Inter Governmental Conference the eleven who at present all disagree with you will … will all have agreed with you?

MT

I don't know. We haven't started the Inter-Governmental Conference. We haven't started it, we haven't started to deploy the arguments in that particular Conference. Are you really saying that we should make up our minds before we started the debate …?

Charles Moore, Sunday Telegraph

No, I am asking for your prediction of what is likely to ......;

MT

No, I'm not - not before we have even started. I have been told many, many things by people who said I was strident … and much too firm. I was advised to agree to a much less good financial settlement than I agreed to. It took me three times to come back. I was advised by the President of the Commission. I was advised by people who said “oh, you mustn't go and be strident”. What they meant was that I mustn't fight for Britain

Charles Moore, Sunday Telegraph

But could I …

MT

Because it was not gentlemanly.

Charles Moore, Sunday Telegraph

Yes [Laughs] . I gather from what you are saying there is no wish to change, um, the policy on Europe, um …

MT

The policy on Europe, I might say, is doing very well. We brought the Common Agricultural Policy under financial control. We got a … a reasonable financial settlement for Britain, although we still paid quite a great deal. But we got a reasonable financial settlement. It is we who started the Single Market because we are the most open trading country in Europe. It is we who have implemented more than any other state, Denmark, the Directives of the Single Market. We have started it and it was we who by raising the Uruguay Round and insisting that there was some discussion managed to make it quite clear that the Agricultural Ministers must come to some arrangement. It was we who fought it through there, John Gummer was terrific. Yes, we have really done very well.

Charles Moore, Sunday Telegraph

Well do you think Prime Minister that there is a real danger that if your opponents' views were to prevail that - I mean your … Mr Heseltine's views were to prevail - that Britain would be forced towards federation …

MT

No.

Charles Moore, Sunday Telegraph

… and that the independence of the United Kingdom would be compromised?

MT

No. Britain being forced to federation?

Charles Moore, Sunday Telegraph

Well, if Mr Heseltine's views were to prevail? [end p7]

MT

It is not for us to force people to federation. We represent the people who elect us. We are elected for five years only. Our system is not forcing our people, our system is an accountability to Parliament. We are accountable to the people and we are more accountable than any other Parliament in Europe, more intimately accountable. We are not there to force people. I am astounded that such a word should be used with respect to democracy.

Charles Moore, Sunday Telegraph

No. What I, what I …

MT

Let us say what we think. When it came to Europe, when we came in, Ted would not have a referendum. Mr … the Labour Party did, and I think the point about a referendum is that it is the only way in which you can put an immensely important single issue to the people.

Charles Moore, Sunday Telegraph

Yes.

MT

It was put, and the people voted and I was among them and I was uh, er … I do explain from time to time, I am a Euro idealist in the way of cooperation between nation states, a very firm European idealist in the way in which things should grow and develop. But a force? No.

Charles Moore, Sunday Telegraph

Are you saying then that …

MT

If people wanted to …

Charles Moore, Sunday Telegraph

Yes.

MT

… that again is their choice.

Charles Moore, Sunday Telegraph

Are you saying that a referendum might be appropriate?

MT

I would not rule out a referendum. I would not rule out a referendum. I became when … after that European … I, er. My views on referenda are really quite simple. I think you should on hold them on great, on constitutional issues. But I do they think they are right for constitutional issues because otherwise … otherwise, for big constitutional issues - which this would be - because otherwise you cannot separate out in an election a particular issue. And on the constitutional thing I think you would have to …

Charles Moore, Sunday Telegraph

And so it should pre-date an election?

MT

No no no. It would come … it would not come for quite a time. I am saying that I would not rule it out. I use it that way because it may never come to that. First, but … if and when it did come to that you would know all the circumstances and it's … it's a mechanism which enables you to put a single issue to the people.

Charles Moore, Sunday Telegraph

I am sorry to leave the subject Prime Minister but there is one other point about …

MT

I am not saying we would have one because I don't know the circumstances.

Charles Moore, Sunday Telegraph

Yes, yes. [end p8]

MT

But our, um, our system of Parliament is supreme. It decided to cede some of its sovereignty in the European Act - in the Act when we could join. We were given certain undertakings then that our national identify would not suffer.

Charles Moore, Sunday Telegraph

And you think those are threatened?

MT

I think that those undertakings might not be able to be given if we go very much … if we … certainly not if we went into a single currency.

Charles Moore, Sunday Telegraph

Yes. There is another important matter of policy which Mr Heseltine has raised specifically when he says that he would call for a fundamental review of the poll tax. Um, this is something … have you a message of comfort, particularly for your Members of Parliament in marginal seats who are very worried about this?

MT

Yes.

Charles Moore, Sunday Telegraph

What would you …

MT

Well, we have in fact had as you know a fundamental review of the Poll Tax. Michael was at Environment. He knows that … what rates were like. He knows that they were absolutely appalling. He didn't in fact come forward with anything else and the rates were still hated and we … have not had a revaluation for seventeen years. It is very easy to say you will come forward with a fundamental review: we have had one. We have had one.

Charles Moore, Sunday Telegraph

So you are happy with the state of it?

MT

No, one moment, and the recommendations that were made then have not yet been implemented. They are being put into legislation now. We have put through more money from the tax-payer, in fact to the local authorities, but it's not only … and of course if you have any new tax that it takes some time to settle down. You will find that there are genuine grievances and of course you address them. And that goes on with any tax. It took a long time for value added tax to settle down. That's not a [word inaudible]

I gather it is suggested education that somehow education should be taken away from local authorities. Now first, if you take education from local authorities you take away all the money that goes with it. Uh, the local authorities spend about £19 billion on education - that's in Great Britain. The amount of money they get from the taxpayer towards that expenditure, and from business grant, greatly exceeds the amount they spend on education. Greatly exceeds. So if in fact you allocated the taxpayers' money and the business rate to education you would find they'd still still have some left over to contribute to other things. So if you took away education and take away all the taxpayers' money that goes with it. If the people said all right “you leave the money there” - that is the impression that is trying to be given - “you leave the money there”, then you have to find your £19 billion, £19 billion at the moment, it will go up, from the taxpayer. That would mean something like over four pence on the standard rate of income tax and then you have got an increase in money on your standard standard taxation, your standard rate and you have absolutely no undertaking or no way of knowing whether the local authorities would reduce the community charge or spend the extra money that they have got. And you will find a quotation from Michael [Michael Heseltine] which says that if you judge from the past you will find they don't always reduce their rate call, their community charge call, they tend to spend more money. So what would be the finishing state if this were carried through? I can tell you precisely. You would have very much bigger income tax and you would still have a high community charge. So the way we are tackling it I think is very very much better - we do redress the grievances - and we are trying to cap local authorities. But we have so far pulled back from having absolutely draconian expenditure control over local authorities and this is what that would mean, if it means anything at all. And I can't bear things being fudged. What is happening here is that either you get a big increase in income tax, or a reduction in the monies that will go to health, pensions, defence, law and order, by a similar amount, um, and you have at the same time no guarantee that the local authorities would reduce their spending with some of [end p9] the money they had got. They'd say “right we'll spend it up, we'll spend more on local social services, more on leisure centres, more on one thing and another”.

Charles Moore, Sunday Telegraph

I am sorry to cut you off on that Prime Minister, but I feel I should return to the contest for a moment. You have said that you'll fight on if you only win by one vote on the first ballot, or it has been said on your behalf. How could such a way of behaving possibly heal the split in your Party?

MT

I have not caused a split. It was not I who caused an election.

Charles Moore, Sunday Telegraph

But if such a result were, uh, to happen, wouldn't it …

MT

Look, I am not going any further. Because you are now in the hypothetical world, I said I would fight on. I will. And I don't think it does any good to say if you get ten, if you get one …, I have said I will fight on.

Charles Moore, Sunday Telegraph

What about if a unifying figure …

MT

[word inaudible; talking at same time as Charles Moore]

Charles Moore, Sunday Telegraph

… like Mr Hurd is proposed?

MT

[Pauses] Are you going to take certain people and say they are unifying? Look, may I say this. I have been here nearly eleven and a half years. I have had to fight policies through. They have done very very well for Britain and the policies which I have fought through have become … are the policies of the Cabinet.

Charles Moore, Sunday Telegraph

Would, um … people often say, though, Prime Minister, many Conservatives would …

MT

And may I say this? I am convinced I have got a lot more work to do.

Charles Moore, Sunday Telegraph

Well that is what I wanted to ask you about Prime Minister.

MT

I am convinced I have a lot more work to do.

Charles Moore, Sunday Telegraph

Yes.

MT

We have got this policy. I do not believe it is sufficiently well entrenched yet.

Charles Moore, Sunday Telegraph

Um, I mean …

MT

There are people who are now saying “oh yes we think the policies … yes we too might have that policy”.

Charles Moore, Sunday Telegraph

What are these …

MT

Some of the Opposition. We should never have had that policy unless I had fought them through, and with the Cabinet and with my Junior Ministers and with my [word inaudible] [end p10]

Charles Moore, Sunday Telegraph

So many people say your achievements … your achievements have been so remarkable, but there is a younger generation who can take it on?

MT

Let me tell you, the younger generation I think are very much for the things that I am doing. The younger generation is very much more free enterprise, um, talent and ability within a framework of a rule of law, creating the wealth before you distribute it, accepting that you have to have a budget, that you can't spend more ......; a realistic younger generation has been born.

Charles Moore, Sunday Telegraph

But is it not time to hand on to them? And that is the point that is being made, that your achievements might be ruined by staying too long?

MT

I am not suggesting that I even hand on to the younger generation, with respect.

Charles Moore, Sunday Telegraph

[Laughs] Could I put to you …

MT

One day I will.

Charles Moore, Sunday Telegraph

… one point about the British people. It has often been said that people you might describe as the great and the good, or the British Establishment, have no love for you. Do you feel that there is a conflict here between your relationship with the British people and what you want for Britain …

MT

I have had a lot of support.

Charles Moore, Sunday Telegraph

… and the British establishment?

MT

I have had a lot of support from the great and the good.

Charles Moore, Sunday Telegraph

Well, do you think the British Establishment is now on the issue of Europe combining to try to get you out?

MT

No. No, I don't quite know who the Establishment are?

Charles Moore, Sunday Telegraph

Well, it seems to be the case that there is a widespread view among educated opinion that you are wrong about Europe. Um, …

MT

There is also a widespread view among educated opinion that I am right about Europe.

Charles Moore, Sunday Telegraph

You don't feel in any way beleaguered then by …

MT

Not in any way. What I feel is that some of the people who take a different view are afraid to stand up and argue the case, they resort to vague terms. Vague phrases and will not come down to look at the precise consequences. Vagueness is no part of my make-up. It couldn't possibly be.

Charles Moore, Sunday Telegraph

But isn't there … there is a real problem with your Party at this moment, Prime Minister? There is a real unhappiness there. What do you attribute that to? What can you do about it? [end p11]

MT

[Pause] I think there is an unhappiness at the moment. I think there always is when there is a contest. I did not cause a contest either this time or the previous time. If you look back at the Party on Europe you will not find that they have always been held absolutely the same views, you will find that we have always gone ahead with the majority, of course you do. It is the same now.

Charles Moore, Sunday Telegraph

But …

MT

It is precisely the same now.

Charles Moore, Sunday Telegraph

You don't think that you might …

MT

You will find also that the opposite … that the Labour Party is split on Europe. I would say that our, the the split in our Party - no, I don't want to talk about splits in our party - the difference of view in our party is very much less than the difference in view in the Labour Party. Because we are much more … it is th … the argument with us is the kind of Europe which we seek it is not whether or not we are in Europe. We are in Europe. It is the kind of Europe and the way we get there.

Charles Moore, Sunday Telegraph

This is a historic week for you, and could I … but could I suggest that you are facing a historic dilemma, in the sense that it is one that has been faced before by a Conservative Leader, I am thinking of Sir Robert Peel and the repeal of the Corn Laws. You have a very strong view in the matter of Europe about what is right for your country. Um, you naturally wish that view to prevail, but you are not able to convince the whole of your Parliamentary Party that it is right and so you are confronted with the dilemma which is very very difficult for a politician and very sad …

MT

I think you have …

Charles Moore, Sunday Telegraph

… which is the conflict between party and country.

MT

I think you have forgotten quite a lot of history. Do you recall by how many votes the European Act, the European Bill went through?

Charles Moore, Sunday Telegraph

What, the Single European Act or the … 112 wasn't it?

MT

Eight.

Charles Moore, Sunday Telegraph

And what is the …?

MT

The Bill went through by eight. You will recall that we had a much bigger majority. You know full well the history of this matter. I would say now that there is no question about being in Europe. No question at all. I am a Euro-idealist, far more so than some of my opponents. My idea is very much that it was the separate countries of Europe which together put … put, grew and developed which is now accepted as the kind of canons of civilization.

Basically it was that when Christianity came and developed in Europe, the Old and New Testament, so there you have straight away your religion based on certainly the significance of the individual, his importance, certain fundamental human rights, spread … [word inaudible] throughout Europe, through Rome, through Constantinople, etc. The spread of the rule of law, again through Rome, second Roman Empire, Justinian, so we get the basic human rights, the spread of the rule of law, the discussion tradition developed in ancient Greece and possibly certain human rights with a secular background. And the whole Renaissance and the Age of Enlightenment again in different parts of Europe, absolutely fantastic The Renaissance didn't, of course … it was not a phrase used until well after it had happened because you couldn't see it, [end p12] you were too close to it at the time. And then of course this fantastic thing, the argument about science. But all that you have got in Europe. But the different thing about the discovery of science in Europe and elsewhere was that it was not long before science became to be put to the benefit of the people. Other nations discovered it as just an intellectual exercise. With us we had the industrial revolution here and that is what started.

Now all of these things came from separate countries of Europe. It was never under one monopoly, you know the argument. Never. You could always move to somewhere else and enlarge your freedom and liberty. Not so in the Ottoman Empire, not so in the Moghul Empire, not so in China. So although they had some of the knowledge, uh, some of the arts, they were never able to get this … this freedom which allowed this fantastic, um, enterprise, vitality to build up. And it was always renewed. This is the fascinating things that even when one civilisation fell, there was always, because it could move around, because its in human … it could always be renewed.

This is my idea of Europe and I have for years thought, goodness me we are not living up to the best within us. And now in a longer period of peace we have the chance to do so. But you don't do it by trying to, um, diminish your national identity. You do it by saying that this is a really very creative thing. Very creative. And then, things are much better when they grow. If you grow together by cooperation so be it. I don't know what will happen in fifty years.

Charles Moore, Sunday Telegraph

But at this precise moment …

MT

I really don't. If I might say, your repeal of the Corn Laws were a totally national thing.

Charles Moore, Sunday Telegraph

Yes. No, what I mean is the problem, the problem though is the difference between what you think is right for the country and what your party in Parliament is prepared to accept.

MT

Look …

Charles Moore, Sunday Telegraph

[Talking over MT] Are you going to go for the country rather than …

MT

If I might respectfully say so, I couldn't have been here for eleven and a half years unless both my party and Parliament had accepted policies. What kind of artificial scene … it doesn't accord with reality. How could I have done it?

Charles Moore, Sunday Telegraph

No, but what we are talking about is what happens next.

MT

Yes, indeed we are. And you are trying to assume the conclusions before we have even started the argument in Europe.

Charles Moore, Sunday Telegraph

Um, Prime Minister, you've … How are we for time?

John Whittingdale

You've got about another five minutes.

MT

You are trying to set some tent pegs. … They haven't even marked out the ground. They haven't even started the Inter-Governmental Conference.

Charles Moore, Sunday Telegraph

But there doesn't seem to be a … It doesn't seem to be possible to get a unified position on this in the Conservative …

MT

I disagree with you. The policy which we have got now which John Major and I have worked on together with the City is the policy that everyone in the party can unite behind. Everyone. And they were, and they were united behind it. This is the point that you have missed totally, or you are unwilling to put, or you are wanting to miss, or wanting to avoid. It is the policy that we have deliberately worked out that could unite everyone, which doesn't pre-empt the final thing which [end p13] says “right, we have in fact a hard ecu, a common currency alongside national currencies. We will see how it develops from there. If then it becomes almost universally used and sterling goes down then we have to come back to Parliament for a decision”. That, and we knew that, and we were saying “now, this is a policy around which everyone can unite”. … the fact that some have broken ranks is our … not due to us. If they choose to break ranks, that is their right. But the overwhelming majority of the Party can unite around this and, and … Geoffrey has said he does not want a single currency imposed upon us. There was not very much difference, if any, in policy. There may be a difference in what he perceives as my ideal of Europe and his. We are only then talking about what is the kind of Europe. I do not see it in his speech.

Charles Moore, Sunday Telegraph

But the way … despite what you say Prime Minister, there is a general alarm in the country and it is not confined …

MT

A general alarm?

Charles Moore, Sunday Telegraph

Well, I think yes, there were reports …

MT

About what?

Charles Moore, Sunday Telegraph

Well, the feeling that, not only about Europe, but the feeling that Mrs Thatcher may have had her day and that

MT

If I have had …

Charles Moore, Sunday Telegraph

And that she has done her bit.

MT

Look, just wait. Just wait. I cannot tell you the support we are getting now from all over the country. Fantastic.

John Whittingdale

It is.

MT

Absolutely fantastic, from all over the party in the country. I can only tell you I have never heard anything like it.

Charles Moore, Sunday Telegraph

But you need the support of … your great skill has always been to maintain the support … a skill which Mr Heath did not possess in the end, and you beat him, to possess the support of the Parliamentary Party and yet now there is a contest with a very formidable opponent.

MT

That in fact was in Opposition after Mr Heath had lost an election. That was in Opposition. Lost it and so we had a set of rules, those rules actually were continued in Government. We had an election last year, you saw how it ended. Those rules were continued in Government. Now first you say there is the … there is the feeling in the country and then when I tell you I have never had such support, and I may tell you I get a lot also from other peoples in Europe as well. And then you say “all right it is the Parliamentary Party”. We shall soon see the Parliamentary Party and what the Parliamentary Party decides about the leadership. I was elected on a very good majority for another period of five years. We know we have difficulties sometimes during the lifetime of the Parliament. I was elected for five years. We have … yes, we have got problems at the moment but industry is in very much better fettle than it has been at any previous time. Uh, it is restructured. It in fact has not got an overwhelming number of people working in restrictive practices, so we we have nothing like the problems now that we had before. We have got a strong financial position, very strong, and it is now seen that we are dealing with inflation. That is a very very good record. What you are trying to do, and why I am fighting you here, is you are trying to do an interview on certain assumptions. I am not accepting those assumptions and I am not accepting the way you have laid out your tent. [end p14]

Charles Moore, Sunday Telegraph

Yes. [Laughs]

MT

But I think they are artificial and I might respectfully say so that it may be a question of judgment and yours is different from mine, but I do have an ideal of Europe. I don't think we are living up to it. I think the way ahead which I want to go - which is cooperation between nation states - has done Europe very well, has brought it this far, will do it very well in the future. I think if we try to force things into a mould, you will in fact succeed in having things, people rebelling against it instead of being with it.

Charles Moore, Sunday Telegraph

Can I, let me ask you a final question? Imagine that I am a Conservative Member of Parliament and I say … I ask you this: how much longer do you ask us to support you? We have supported you for an exceptionally long time. How much longer should we support you when there are many able people around, um, what is it that you personally, Margaret Thatcher, can now do that all these other able people can't? Why should we keep you?

MT

We are not talking about all these other able people. We are talking about one challenge. We have got a policy which they all loyally accepted, to have a European policy behind which everyone can unite. We have … [pauses] deliberately tried to get that. We have got it. It is not I who have caused any split. I wouldn't have wished it. An election comes of this kind, those are the rules and I do not complain. I wouldn't dream of complaining, I go on fighting. If you are in politics you must expect hurdles to be put in your way. You don't complain, you just cope. And that's what we're doing.

Charles Moore, Sunday Telegraph

Five more years?

MT

I beg your pardon?

Charles Moore, Sunday Telegraph

Five more years?

MT

I am so glad you think that we will win on Wednesday [laughter] and that we will win an election. I should think … whatever I say you will trap me into saying something else. [Laughter] I am not everlasting.

Charles Moore, Sunday Telegraph

Thank you very much Prime Minister.

?Photographer

Thank you for your patience. [Photographs were taken throughout the interview]

MT

I think I should be thanked. [Laughter] [end p15]

[Interview resumes after a few moments of chat]

Charles Moore, Sunday Telegraph

… the difference between this contest and your challenge to Ted Heath?

MT

Well, I did not just challenge Ted Heath. Ted had lost an election and the Party insisted that there was in fact the leadership election. [Tape turn over] … the way in which we were handling policy. So I will do it. But it was quite clear that the party insisted that there would be an election. It wasn't that I challenged Ted.

Charles Moore, Sunday Telegraph

And in this case you think that it is purely a personal …

MT

Well, it's totally different.

Charles Moore, Sunday Telegraph

One man has come forward and …

MT

Let me say, I have not lost an election. And I won them handsomely, with the party fully behind me. And we've done great things together. But there is, stemming from that time and place, stemming from that time, there is … there are rules which allow someone to come forward and challenge a leader. That was not the way I did it. It was the party which insisted after an election lost. I have not lost an election. The rules provide for this and I do not complain. But it is very very different, from an Opposition, with a Leader of the Opposition who had lost an election as Prime Minister.

Charles Moore, Sunday Telegraph

Do you think the rules imagined this idea of …

MT

If I had lost an election as Prime Minister I would expect to be challenged. [Laughter] I don't think I would have waited to be challenged. I would have said “well, that's that”.

Charles Moore, Sunday Telegraph

Do you think the rules envisaged the situation in which there could be, um, a challenge to an incumbent Prime Minister?

MT

I don't know.

Charles Moore, Sunday Telegraph

It creates many oddities, doesn't it, it is a strange …?

MT

Yes yes. But there's no point … no point in complaining about it. It's there, it's there for people to use if they wish. It is being used.

Charles Moore, Sunday Telegraph

And you don't think it should be changed after this …

MT

It is not for me to change it.

Charles Moore, Sunday Telegraph

No.

MT

That's a matter for the whole of the '22 Committee. I have accepted the rules as drawn up. We have had a challenge before and overcome it. Um, but I haven't, I won with a united party behind me. [end p16]

Charles Moore, Sunday Telegraph

What about abstentions? Do you think this is a problem in that …?

MT

I don't think so. I don't think there were many abstentions last time.

John Whittingdale

There were about thirty last time.

MT

Were there? Are you sure?

Charles Moore, Sunday Telegraph

Twenty something. Thirty three for Sir Anthony and twenty eight …

John Whittingdale

Twenty seven I think, because it came to about sixty. It was about fifty seven.

Charles Moore, Sunday Telegraph

Would that … would that be a worry, or would that be a simple matter?

MT

Uh, … this is a contest, by the rules of the contest. And I abide by the rules. If you put yourself in the front line of politics you must expect to be shot at …

Charles Moore, Sunday Telegraph

If you …

MT

You really must. And you take it, and you, you, uh, and as I say you cope with it then you go on.

Charles Moore, Sunday Telegraph

By the same token …

MT

Do the work you have to do. What fascinates me is the work which I have to do. Yes, I am known as a workaholic, but I think that … there is still very important work to be done, for me.

Charles Moore, Sunday Telegraph

By the same token …

MT

Not always will it be so, of course.

Charles Moore, Sunday Telegraph

Yes. When you say abide by the rules, by the same token if you win according to these rules - even if it's only by a narrow margin - you expect the party to abide by that.

MT

Yes yes.

Charles Moore, Sunday Telegraph

So if you win just by a handful …

MT

[Talking over Charles Moore] If we win according to the rules, we win.

Charles Moore, Sunday Telegraph

… uh, you've still won. And that's that.

MT

That's that.

Charles Moore, Sunday Telegraph

And if somebody … maybe … if the famous men in suits, the equivalent of Milk Street Mafia, come to you and they say, um, “we really don't think you had a convincing enough majority, um, shouldn't you think of something, shouldn't you think of stepping aside” … [end p17]

MT

The rules were not made by me. I abide by the rules. I expect other people to abide by the rules. That after all is the fundamental equation.

Charles Moore, Sunday Telegraph

Yes.

MT

All abide by the rules.

Charles Moore, Sunday Telegraph

So if you win according to the rules on the first ballot and you've won, that's that?

MT

That is correct.

Charles Moore, Sunday Telegraph

And you wouldn't be shifted?

MT

I hope … certainly not. [Laughter]

Charles Moore, Sunday Telegraph

I didn't think so.

MT

The rules are made for people … the rules are made for people to abide by, especially election rules.

Charles Moore, Sunday Telegraph

Mm. Well, thank you very much, Prime Minister.