Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

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

1990 Feb 28 We
Margaret Thatcher

TV Interview for Yorkshire TV (visiting Bradford)

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Venue: Town Hall, Bradford
Source: Yorkshire TV Archive: OUP transcript
Journalist: Richard Whiteley, Yorkshire TV
Editorial comments: 1430. MT left the Town Hall at 1725.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 2315
Themes: Conservatism, Conservative Party (organization), Industry, Monetary policy, Trade, Foreign policy (Central & Eastern Europe), Foreign policy (USSR & successor states), Local government, Community charge ("poll tax"), Famous statements by MT (discussions of)

Richard Whiteley

Well, Prime Minister, here we are in Bradford in the Lord Mayor's Parlour, the seat of Conservative government in Bradford, a controversial Conservative government ruled by two votes, a government which the Conservative party and Bradford people say is your model example of local government, Eric Pickles takes his orders from you, and so on. What do you think of Conservative Party government in Bradford?

MT

[end p1]

Well, first, Eric PicklesEric doesn't take his orders from me. He believes the same things as I do and acts upon them, and I think he's doing a superb job. I think we're very lucky to be having this interview in such a beautiful Guildhall.

Richard Whiteley

Why did you choose to come to Bradford to launch your Action for Cities initiative today?

MT

It was time we came to this part of the world. I also wanted to take the opportunity to open the new hospital in Dewsbury, and I was naturally anxious to come to Bradford again. I've been several times before, but Eric is doing extremely well, and Bradford is thriving. I think it's a very good example of how well we're doing in inner cities, and this isn't just happening. It's because we were determined to revivify our inner cities so that they lived again for the generations of the future.

Richard Whiteley

May I just take you back to election night—what? Two and a half years ago. There you were, two o'clock in the morning, back for the third time, going up those stairs in Central Office, and then there was the victory speech. And I … I don't know, I always thought it was rather curious that, of all the things you could have said, you said, “We must do something about those inner cities.” I just wonder why you said that. Was it because you were understandably on a high and you thought, “I've got to say something” ? Or did you feel … did the message get through to you in the campaign that perhaps Tories haven't done enough for inner cities?

MT

No. The results, as they came back, showed we hadn't got enough representation in the inner cities. But these big cities of the North were built through flourishing industry and commerce. Not through Socialism, not through nationalisation, but because of people who built up great factories, great businesses, they exported the world over, and these were rather remarkable people, these industrialists. They lived in the city and they wanted a city worthy of the citizens. And so they built beautiful town halls, they built … they built schools, they built churches, they built hospitals, they built museums, they supported choirs, everything that goes to make all the civilisation and the good living of the city. And really now they are going through a rebirth. We had to do that. We couldn't leave these big cities to decay. It denied the past. It denied the future. And so I was determined that we really would make that a priority, and, as you know, we have done, and you see some of the results.

Richard Whiteley

Where does this extra £500 million that you announced today, where is that coming from?

MT

It comes from the taxpayer. And, as I said, Government hasn't got any money, but it's the amount that's going onto inner cities this year. It's £4000 million, of which £500 [end p2] million is extra. That's what the taxpayer is prepared to pay to see that these cities come right back up to enjoy the days that formerly they knew. And it's good.

Richard Whiteley

Well, you admitted there was still a lot to do. Because I'm …

MT

There always will be. Standards will go up and up.

Richard Whiteley

Yes, I could take you round …

MT

There'll always be something

Richard Whiteley

… places in Leeds and Bradford that you might not, in the course of your normal duties, go to.

MT

I could take you round places in London which I go through, which are not under Conservative control, but which need a great deal doing to them.

Richard Whiteley

Let's move onto … because it's related really to the Community Charge. First, why do you … why do you object to it being called the Poll Tax? Everyone else seems to want to call it the Poll Tax. You don't seem to want to. Can you just briefly explain why?

MT

I think the press want to because it's a nice short word. But in fact it's got nothing to do with the poll. Nothing to do. It's a separate register. It is a charge to the people in the community for work done on their behalf in the community, so it's a Community Charge.

Richard Whiteley

Yes, but can you ever see yourself calling it the Poll Tax, if everyone else is?

MT

No, I try not to, because it's nothing to do with actual voting.

Richard Whiteley

Now, one person apparently … one person in every three right now regards it as the most important and worrying issue at the moment. It's now increasingly associated with you: ‘Mrs Thatcher's tax’. Various people are, as it were, running for cover, saying, “Well, it's perhaps nothing to do with us.” Have you any regrets at all about your firmness in applying it?

MT

[end p3]

No, I have no regrets, because the alternative was to revalue every single house in the country for rates. Every single house after seventeen years. That meant all improvements to the house. It would have meant the rateable value would have had to have gone up. It meant that, because cities were thriving, the rateable value would have had to have gone up. The values we should have to have faced then would have been terrific. I've been through a rating revaluation twice in my life and I don't wish ever to go through one again. The trouble we should have had, had we gone through that, and people say, “Every time we improve our house, you charge us more.” That's bad. You've no incentive then to improve your house. You add a conservatory, you add an attic, you add an extra bathroom, you put cupboards in your bedroom, you have central heating. All of it would have added to the rates, the most bitterly unfair tax, only paid by about half the people who actually vote in local elections. And the rest …

Richard Whiteley

But this tax … this tax is already making you very unpopular.

MT

It would have been much, much worse—much, much worse—had we had that rating revaluation. And the rating was unfair. For only half your local electorate to pay rates, and half those who vote don't pay rates, was desperately unfair. So we had to get to something fair and provide for those who couldn't afford to pay. One in four people will not pay the full Community Charge. That's quite a big amount. Added to that, some people will find a rather steep increase—just a certain group—from what they were paying in rates to what they are paying in Community Charge, so we've got a transitional relief. That's not means tested. So of course there are some gremlins still to get out, but this is a much, much fairer system, and I might tell you, I have had several widows living alone who have thanked me today, and said, “Three cheers for the Community Charge! I was paying as much as next door, and they have four or five earners, and it wasn't fair.”

Richard Whiteley

But in the short term, if it makes you unpopular in the short term, and, say—you paid tribute to Bradford—say, if the Bradford council, the Conservative council, loses control because of anxiety about the Poll Tax, are you willing to sacrifice your popularity for what you're saying is a fair tax and what you're determined to persevere with?

MT

You don't do things because you're popular. You do them because you believe you're introducing something which is much fairer than what it replaced. And it is. And Eric Pickles has done wonders. He's kept the Community Charge down. Had it been a Labour council, it would have been very much higher. And also, under the new system, business in Bradford benefits. Business was paying a very high rate. Under our system, we've got a unified rate over the whole country, and businessmen in Bradford, on the whole, are paying a good deal less. That will boost jobs and it will boost Bradford. [end p4]

Richard Whiteley

Can I ask you what the … what your strategy is for the next two or three years? You've been talking about in two or three years time, people will … they'll … the effect of the Poll Tax will perhaps be modified. What is your strategy now? Do you see that 1990 is going to be a very tough year, with high interest rates and high mortgages, but then, in 1991, things will get a lot better, inflation will come down, mortgage rates will come down, and by the time you're ready to go to country, end of 1991, beginning of 1992, there will be a far more healthy economic position?

MT

Well, just let's talk about that economic position. Yes, we have problems with interest rates, because there's a great deal of spending money about, as you know. And problems with interest rates by definition means problems with mortgages, particularly with young people and those who have just bought their houses. But let's look at the fundamental basis of the economy. There are more jobs in this country than we've ever had in our entire history, more jobs. There's more investment in industry than we've ever had in our entire history. That is very good. There's more going to the social services than we've ever, ever had before. Those are all very good things. We have the highest standard of living that we have ever known before, and enterprise is flourishing. So those are very … it's a very good foundation. Yes, at the moment, there is too much money about. People will always say, “Well, I haven't got enough of it.” That's a natural thing. But there is rather more than we're earning, and therefore the only way, if you have too much of it, is to put up the price of money, which means putting up the interest rates, until what we are … what we are earning and what we are paying ourselves is roughly back in balance.

Richard Whiteley

Are you depressed about today's news of a £1.9 billion trade deficit, which is the third worst ever?

MT

Obviously one is disappointed, but, at the same time as that one, they have revised the previous month downwards. In other words, the previous month is better than when it came out. So, if you take the two months together and average it, they are, I think, what about we might have expected, and they do represent a downward trend.

Richard Whiteley

Are you depressed about being seventeen points behind in the latest opinion poll?

MT

Now, you've asked me so often today in this interview if I'm depressed. No! I know that when you're Prime Minister you sometimes have to do difficult things. I've had to do a lot of difficult things in my last nearly eleven years. Those difficult things are because it's in the long term interest, and it has turned out very much better for Britain. Yes, look at our inner cities. They're much, much more prosperous, in much, much better condition. Yes, look at our jobs, look at our standard of living, look at our standard of social services, look at our reputation abroad. Everyone knows our [end p5] view on certain things. It's set out clearly and honestly. And that has paid off handsomely for Britain. And that means a great deal to me.

Richard Whiteley

Just as we come to the end of this, we will also, as you know, come to the end of the eighties, and those ten years, obviously they were good years for many people, and people would acknowledge probably good years for most of the country. I just wonder now, if we move into the nineties—it's symbolic of course—but do you think that perhaps things have changed? Obviously Reagan has gone, Gorbachev is seen in a different light now, a bit of an uneasy light. There's whole new opportunities opening in the eastern bloc and things are happening in South Africa. Do you think, Mrs Thatcher, that things perhaps might never be the same again?

MT

But I think some of those things might never be the same again, because in fact what East European … what East Europe is doing and what the Soviet Union is doing is throwing over Socialism. I started it! I remember people coming and streaming into me when I got in in 1979, had a very difficult time in 1980 and 1981, saying, “We're very interested in Mrs Thatcher, watching you very carefully. If you can roll back the frontiers of Socialism, other people can do it too.” That is what we did! That is why we are more prosperous now. That is why we were very firm against the Soviet Union, because I've … Communism and Socialism denies people freedom and denies them the dignity of self-esteem, of being responsible and being free to do their own thing within the rule of law. Every single thing that I've tried to do in this country, they are now adopting in East Europe and trying to adopt in the Soviet Union. So I'm delighted that they've learned and understood the poverty of Socialism. And they've learned to understand, the rulers have learned to understand, you cannot keep down the human spirit. It will show itself in the end, as it comes up. And what were they saying? “We want freedom.” And they're getting it. And it's now happened in Nicaragua. That's marvellous. But I won't forget that first minister who came and said, “If you can roll back the frontiers of Socialism, other people can do it too.” We have. It gives you much greater prosperity and, every bit as important, it give you self-esteem and dignity. And that really is what liberty and human rights are all about.

Richard Whiteley

Mrs Thatcher, thank you very much.

MT

Thank you.