Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

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

1990 Apr 30 Mo
Margaret Thatcher

Interview for Aberdeen Press and Journal

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Document kind: Interview
Venue: No.10 Downing Street
Source: Thatcher Archive: COI transcript
Journalist: Lynn Montgomery, Aberdeen Press and Journal
Editorial comments: 1770-1800.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 8862
Themes: Autobiographical comments, Autobiography (marriage & children), Parliament, Union of UK nations, Conservatism, Conservative Party (organization), Education, Primary education, Secondary education, Industry, General Elections, Environment, European Union Single Market, Family, Law & order, Local government finance, Community charge ("poll tax"), Race, immigration, nationality, Religion & morality, Sport, Terrorism, Women

Interviewer

It is human nature to want to be liked, everybody likes to be liked and to shut out the knowledge that some people maybe do not like you. Now there seem to be no half-measures in public reaction to you, you inspire either total loyalty or equally strong dislike or resentment. How does that affect you knowing that so many people maybe do not like you, do you find that hard to cope with?

Prime Minister

I do not like it that that is the situation, obviously, but so often when I am about I find that people have a completely artificial image of one as a very hard person which people who know me know is just not correct. I think the other thing, the loyalty and the dislike in a way both come from the same thing, the loyalty because people appreciate the firmness and swiftness and [end p1] competence and decisiveness which one has which come very easily to me, and if people do not like the decisions you make then obviously they react very sharply against them.

It is ironic because there is nothing that I like more than being among people, really right in the middle of a crowd talking to them or answering questions on a television programme or answering a phone-in programme. That really is when I come alive, it is not dealing with problems kind of devoid of people, though we never really do that, every single problem we have concerns people. But I like being out and about.

Interviewer

Do you find you take your problems home at night, do you consult Mr Thatcher very much?

Prime Minister

Home is just upstairs, as I said, very much above the shop. Yes, because I am usually working very late at night because I tend to be doing things all day. For example, today we have been very active and busy and then I shall be across in the House of Commons tonight and I shall take some work across there with me to do so that I am not in the Chamber the whole time. We do not know how late it will be but I shall be working certainly until midnight and probably after, usually until after one o'clock in the morning. [end p2]

Interviewer

I do not know how you cope with that.

Prime Minister

I think you only cope with it for having done it for years. I have always been used to working late at night and I think it is that then you can get a run at something, you have not got the telephone calls coming in, you have not got people coming in wanting answers to things immediately or raising fresh problems or saying: “Come on, there is someone you must meet.” So you actually get a few hours where you can sit down and really work things out.

Interviewer

And you find you are better at night than early in the morning?

Prime Minister

Yes. If I find that I am dropping off to sleep at night then I will stop and get up early in the morning. Sometimes I find if the nights are hot you are always more tired, you really are, you cannot work at the same speed and sometimes I find that you come to it fresher in the morning and can get twice as much done because you are fresher. [end p3]

Interviewer

Yes, I find that myself. I get up at 5.30 am and you get an awful lot done in the office starting at 7.30 or whatever, before the phones start, as you say.

Prime Minister

Yes, yes, then by the time eight o'clock comes you have done quite a lot, much more than you could have done by sitting up that extra two and a half hours at night. But there are some things you have to do at night because if I had not got some difficult things done before I went to bed then I would not sleep at all because they would go round and round. If I knew there was something that had to be decided by the next morning, I would make the decision the night before. I might look at it again the next morning but I would have had to have done that thing before I went to bed otherwise I would be worried to death.

Interviewer

You would have to work out all your problems before you actually fell asleep?

Prime Minister

I have to work out something that has to be done by the next day. [end p4]

Interviewer

How much does Mr Thatcher help you, how much do you consult him on, say, foreign affairs, on some major crisis?

Prime Minister

No, no, I might just ask Denis Thatcherhim something about industry, about forecasts, about some things that he is very used to dealing with because that has been his life.

Interviewer

Does he volunteer to help you or does he wait to be asked?

Prime Minister

He always waits to be asked, which I think is right. He will tell me, he will come back in from having done something, maybe opening something or it may be from some work and tell me what the problems are on the ground and what is going on and what people are saying if it is in a sphere that I have not been into recently. So that is always volunteered and almost daily, so one is kept in touch with the industrial world.

Interviewer

The focus just at the moment I think is on mothers going back to work, everybody wants mothers back at work. [end p5]

Prime Minister

I would not necessarily say it was everybody, I just think you must not pressurise mothers, they must make their own choice. Sometimes I feel that one or two of my friends always feel guilty if they do not go back to work.

Interviewer

Guilty if they do not go back?

Prime Minister

Yes, yes, because people are insinuating that they ought also to have a job. Then of course if they do sometimes and they had not really wanted to go back to work they get a bit worried about their children. So people have to make up their own minds and it has to be a family decision. I think, because otherwise you will get tensions. Whatever you do, I think it has to be agreed in the family. There must always be someone there to deal with the children, they must not go back to an empty house, always someone there. If they have got a problem there must be someone there whom they can talk to and not just anyone but someone they know.

Interviewer

And what about the call at the moment for nursery provision and so on for younger children, what sort of provision did you make for your children? [end p6]

Prime Minister

Mine started, I remember, at about the age of three going to a little nursery school and they were always started off I think just before three, they went on Friday afternoon to a percussion class. It was sheer joy to go and listen to you know, they banged away at all their percussion instruments, in time, they were made to do that and that was then how they got used to being with other children and then they went half days and then they went full days. It was a little nursery school run by an ex-teacher who was just marvellous with children, in her own home, absolutely marvellous with children.

Interviewer

You think it is a good thing for young children to go outside the home rather than have mother stay at home?

Prime Minister

I do not necessarily pronounce upon that, I think quite a bit depends upon the children, I think quite a lot depends upon whether you have got mother or sister or someone close by. I think the single most important thing in the life of a child, particularly in the early years, is they feel a sense of security. They get that sense of security from knowing certain people around them, they know when they are tiny they know who is handling them, before they can speak or really recognise very much, they recognise from handling and they get it from having a pretty regular routine. [end p7] I think that is very important and you have to remember that children, their first impressions are made long before they go to school and if they have had a regular routine and the food is regular and their hours are regular and you talk to a child, this is one of the things I learned, long before they can talk, you talk to them constantly.

Interviewer

Yes, it is said that the five years before they go to school are the most important.

Prime Minister

Yes, and those first five or six years are tremendously important. So I would not presume to say to a person whether or not she should go back to work. I do sometimes say to women who have spent a lot of time getting qualifications: “Look, keep your hand in, if you can get back even a couple of afternoons a week and you can get either mother or someone who is well-known to the children it will keep your hand in and when the children have gone to school and when they are a bit older then you have more time. But if you cut yourself off completely you will find that it will be much more difficult to get back if you are in a profession.”

Of course there are many many women and women engaged in small business who have to, as my Beatrice Robertsmother did, work in the shop but it was always on the same premises and that was always part of one's early life. [end p8]

So I cannot judge for them but if they can, and they are highly qualified or technically qualified, it does help if you can just keep your hand in by very part-time work.

Interviewer

It can be very hard for older women too to get back in?

Prime Minister

Yes it can.

Interviewer

There used to be this thing about: “Oh no you are too old, we want the bright young things.”

Prime Minister

Oh, not so much no, oh no, no, no. There are many jobs for which they will say: “Look, we would like an older person” . They are very reliable, very conscientious and so much of their life is known and it is stable. Sometimes yes they will want younger people for all the latest developments but frequently, and we were very keen on having married women coming back into teaching you know because they have not only had their training initially but they have had years of looking after children, bringing them up, and it gives them a confidence. [end p9]

Interviewer

So you would encourage older women?

Prime Minister

Oh yes, I think there are lots of openings for older women and they have not got quite the worries which you have of leaving a young child. Mind you, I think that children need quite a bit of their parents' time. It is not just enough to give them food and the bed and regular hours. Once they go to school they will come across all sorts of little worries and they get big worries and they get even bigger worries sometimes when they are in their teens and they do need their parents' time.

Now sometimes you will find a woman who has a job part-time or full-time will have help in the house and so she will be relieved of a lot of the routine, not all of it, you are never relieved of all the routine, and she would therefore be able actually to make time to be with the children maybe towards the end of the day, what sort of day have they had. But time with your children is one of the most valuable things you can give them because time is interest.

Interviewer

And they tend to demand this anyway, do they not? [end p10]

Prime Minister

Well yes, but who else are they to talk to if they cannot talk about their problems with their parents? And then parents will have to know whether to talk about it to the teacher.

Interviewer

Thinking of older children maybe, what are your thoughts now about the comprehensive schools?

Prime Minister

I have always been rather worried if they are very large. You go the primary schools and the primary schools are much smaller, if you have a school of three hundred it is a very big primary school, very big, most of them are a good deal smaller. So your Head teacher knows everyone and all the teachers know one another and there is a much more intimate atmosphere about it.

Now sometimes then they go on to a middle school and sometimes they go straight in, at about the age of eleven, to a secondary school. Now to go from a small intimate school into an enormous school I think must be quite disturbing to a child at a quite vulnerable age and it needs a very very highly skilled Head teacher and other teachers to see that they do not feel lost. First you have to find your way around and then not all your teachers will know all the other teachers and your Head teacher will not know everyone, so it is a very different atmosphere. And I think you have to watch very carefully with some children whom it may not suit and a smaller school may suit. [end p11]

It was always my dream, you know, to have a choice of smaller schools, just as good, your technical schools or your other secondary schools just as good as your grammar.

Interviewer

Smaller mixed ability schools.

Prime Minister

Yes, you could have smaller mixed ability.

Interviewer

Rather than reverting to the secondary school and grammar school.

Prime Minister

Yes, you can have smaller mixed ability and you can still have some grammar schools and secondary modern. But your secondary modern in that case has got to be as well equipped and as good as your grammar schools and you have got to have free movement between one and another. But we cannot go back that way now, but I do think we can keep the grammar schools we have got. Most schools are mixed ability but I do think it is important to have some smaller mixed ability schools, I really do.

Interviewer

You think they maybe got out of hand a little? [end p12]

Prime Minister

I think in some cases yes. Also, if you have some smaller ones it gives more young people the chance of leadership, you know more of them can come and take a leadership role in school, be leaders of teams, be prefects and so on, they get a leadership role there, a much greater chance to get a leadership role.

And I think sometimes when you have a lot of truancy you have got to find out why the child has not gone to school, mother might not know. Sometimes you find it is some very bright children who are bored, other times you find the child's interest has not been engaged, others you find they are just very very difficult children to engage in learning and then if that is the case you really have got to get them I think in a very much smaller school, really giving a great deal of attention to them. Sometimes they may be telling you that they have had difficulties at home and of course if that is so then the child's mind is just engaged with all sorts of worries that you and I never had to cope with.

Interviewer

You think the pressure is really on them these days.

Prime Minister

Oh yes, yes. [end p13]

Interviewer

I have three children and I get this impression from their talk about different schools they go to. Where do the parents fit into all this these days? I think that parents really have a job to teach their children to be good citizens, to be kind, to think of all the things that are topical at the moment, nature conservancy and so on. Do we teach our children enough or do we just expect them to learn things when they go to school and just string along at home?

Prime Minister

I think you are teaching them the whole time. The first important thing that they are taught at home I think is good manners. After all, good manners and courtesy and politeness are consideration for others, nothing more, nothing less.

Interviewer

But is this taught in the majority of households do you think?

Prime Minister

I do not know, but I think it should be, I think it is taught by proud parents of whatsoever background. And also taught reasonable punctuality, that you get up and you get to school in time so that when you go to work you get up and you go to work on time, reasonably turned out. [end p14]

I think children learn by example and this I think is one of the things about schools where they have a school uniform, you all turn up and there is no question of what you wear, etc, but you all turn up looking reasonably nice. But courtesy and example and punctuality, as I said, a regular time-table to the day matters.

If you have a house with books in it and you discuss things with them, whether it is reading the paper, the television programmes, discussing between generations matters enormously. I think that the environment and conservation is going very well because they are learning a lot about it at school. The one thing that does not always seem to go together is they do learn a lot about keep Britain Tidy or Tidy Britain at school and yet you do still see quite a lot of litter, not always the children's fault, but I think that the litter and the graffiti are a real problem and we seem to get a lot of them here.

Interviewer

How would you suggest we tackle this problem of graffiti and litter, etc., if it is not the parents' responsibility?

Prime Minister

You tackle it in two ways. First, look one was always taught at home that if you go out for a picnic or go out you pick up your waste paper, your litter and you pack it up and take it home and put it in the dustbin properly. The Tidy Britain does a [end p15] great deal of work and runs competitions and sometimes your local authority will help with competitions as to the cleanest street, the cleanest area, the cleanest school. Again, it is nicer for everyone.

And then your local authority, too, can help in another way by making certain that it does pick up the refuse regularly and clean off any graffiti because we find the way you can get a place clean and keep it clean, people are far less likely to throw things down. It is when they see it littered and horrid that more and more gets thrown down.

I remember when we had the Economic Summit in Toronto which was two years ago, I had been to Toronto several times but I went and all of a sudden looked round, it develops every time you go there, I looked round and I said: “It is such a clean city” and I was going out quite a way the first evening because I was going to a legal evening and I looked around and I thought perhaps it is clean in the centre, I went further out and it was clean, it was clean, I did not see any graffiti, not a single one. And so I said: “It is clean, there are not any graffiti, now why” ? And they said: “Also it is a low rate of crime.”

Now I gather that there are a lot of different groupings in Toronto from different European backgrounds, you know some might have come from Lithuania, some might have come from Poland, some might have come from Italy, all different kinds of backgrounds, there is a also quite a Chinese grouping there. They tend to live, [end p16] the ethnic groupings or the nationality groupings though they are all Canadian now, together in the same area. You tend when you go to a new big city to go where your own are and they tend therefore to have their own schools to go to, they are state schools. And they each teach their children: “Now you behave, don't you let us down, don't you let our community down, don't you let your school down” . And so they are taught to come up to a standard and they are taught some pride: “Don't you let us down, we must show a good example.” And it works, a clean city, no graffiti and a much lower standard of crime and it is a delightful atmosphere to live in.

So it is important, it can be done with a mixture of parents, the local community, if anyone throws litter down: “You pick that up” , and the school.

Interviewer

What sort of lessons for life would you like to teach your grandson, do you miss him terribly?

Prime Minister

One always wants to give them the benefit of one's experience and they have to learn quite a lot. I think they are the things which I have said: the kindness, the consideration for others, if you undertake to do something you do it, do not undertake to do something which is beyond you. It is really very much a mixture of common sense, courtesy and work hard, really work hard, you get far more out of life if you do work hard. [end p17]

Naturally it does not necessarily appeal to children unless they have a fascinating interest. All of a sudden you will come across a child who reads and reads, someone who is very good at mathematics, someone who is mechanically minded and they are always doing things, someone who is marvellous at sports. If they have got a hobby you are very lucky.

But always when I go to school prize-givings I tell the children a little story, the story of a Minister and his son going into church one Sunday, as they did every Sunday, and as they went into the church there was a collection box, a special one, not the collection for the main service but a collection box, a benovelent fund for retired Vicars. And the vicar put in, in those days a two shilling piece, these days a ten pence piece, and they went into the Vestry and he put his vestments on and then preached and at the end of the service they took this box into the Vestry to take out however much had been there, to send it to the Benevolent Fund, and one coin rolled out, the ten pence piece, to which the little boy said to his father: “Dad, if you had put more in, you would have got more out.”

Now that story is told really for like life, the more you put into it the more you will get out of it. For example, our children and grandchildren are going to have remarkable chances, opportunities in Europe that we have never had. That is because we shall have by 1992 a Common Market and you can set up in business there. There will be language difficulties but if you start to [end p18] learn the languages and really learn them when you are young and if you are able to go on holiday there for a fortnight, really learn the language, you will never forget it.

Interviewer

Are the schools going to meet this challenge?

Prime Minister

I hope so. I was up looking at a lovely, a marvellous secondary school in Forres, tremendous opportunity, they were very good both at languages and computers, far more opportunities than their parents—which is right—because what was good enough for us is not good enough for them.

Interviewer

The world has opened up so much.

Prime Minister

The world has opened up. But it is the more you learn, the more you can take in, it will stay with you forever and so of course you try to teach your children to work hard. And I will tell you who are very good at teaching their children to work hard, the people and they are both in England and in Scotland who have come here from the Indian sub-continent, from India and Pakistan, they look after their children, they look after their parents, they teach their children to work hard and they work really hard. So all of that matters. [end p19]

Of course they have got to have some play too, of course, but there are twenty four hours in a day, there is time to work hard and play hard and sleep well.

Interviewer

Can I bring you on to slightly political things? Scotland—things are not, as far as I can see, going well for the Conservative Party in Scotland at the moment?

Prime Minister

I gather an opinion poll has come back up to about 21, 22 per cent, it went down you know and it has come back up, not high enough, not anything like, because we shall need more seats in Scotland, really need them. [end p20]

Interviewer

Do you know what struck me very forcibly, just last week I was at a meeting, Michael Hirst came up to address some candidates at Inveraray and I went along to the meeting and I looked around the hall and I thought, blow me, apart from two people here I think I am the youngest one here. They were by and large elderly people and you go to some meetings of maybe some of the other Parties and they are young and they are enthusiastic. Why is it so difficult to get the enthusiastic youngsters into the Conservative Party?

Prime Minister

You have got to have meetings at a time and of a kind they can come to. You find otherwise you tend to get your older people and your young Conservatives. If you want your young marrieds, and you do, first they have got to get a baby-sitter often, and they can do it for one another. We in my constituency will have what [end p21] we call a contact group or a Thirties Group and we have supper evenings, it may go round from one house to another, it may be in a group because usually they do not want to have to prepare a lot for supper, they want an evening out, with a political speaker, with a discussion group.

You have got to have meetings at a time when your young married woman, who maybe has a part-time job, maybe busy in the evenings, and we tend to have ours on a Friday evening or sometimes at the weekend. You have got to adapt your meetings to the times when they can come.

Interviewer

But the other Parties seem to be able to do this?

Prime Minister

I do not necessarily have that problem in my constituency.

Interviewer

I have noticed round about Aberdeen the others seem to be so well organised and we seem to be so backward in coming forward, honestly? [end p22]

Prime Minister

Micky Hurst is not exactly an old person.

Interviewer

I did not mean him, I meant the local people that he was trying to get some enthusiasm into.

Prime Minister

I am always asking when I am going round: “How are you doing with your Young Conservatives?” and certainly when I am there we always get quite a number of them, and then you want your young people who are working pretty hard in the day and climbing the ladder to get a better income. I perhaps have been seeing more mixed groupings, certainly the last time I was up in Scotland.

Now at an afternoon meeting you will not get so many young people, you cannot because they are out at work.

Interviewer

How does the Community Charge fit into all this? Do you think your ratings have gone down in Scotland because of that? We have had it a year and we have not had the violent reaction to it that there has been down here.

Prime Minister

No, because you went through a rating revaluation after seven years, it caused ructions. Now if we did the same thing here, we have not had one for seventeen years and what happened in Scotland [end p23] would have been a picnic after seven years compared with what we would have had after seventeen years here. So Scotland, and many people knew that the revaluation of rating for their houses put them to pay rates which were way, way beyond anything they had ever thought of or could cope with and also to some small shops as well.

And we had in fact, I remember it very well, I was sitting in the room next door to this one, I will show you, it is my study, and Lord Goold came in on the Thursday evening and said: “I simply must see you” because the rating revaluations were going to take effect I think the following Tuesday and he said: “I do not know whether the message has got through to you or not but we simply cannot carry on” and he brought some examples. I said: “But of course you cannot” and immediately we got all of the Scottish Ministers over, they were going to come anyway, it was only about an hour or so ahead of them, and they came in and we got the Treasury over immediately and immediately, within a matter of days, had to find something like £40 million to relieve it.

Then it came up at the next Party Conference or the next set of meetings we had and they said: “Look, it is not enough to adjust this system, you have got to get rid of it, it is not fair, of all of the people who have a vote for local councils less than half pay rates and it is not fair, we should all contribute something to our local council by a special local tax with of course generous rebates for those who cannot afford to pay, as with the rates.” [end p24]

And so we had to start to fashion a completely different local way of paying money to your local council and we fashioned the Community Charge and they said: “You have just got to get it in as soon as possible” , and I said “Well, it will take me a little time because we know the figures for Scotland but we do not yet know the figures for England.” But they said: “We must have it in,” so we did get it in.

And it works better in Scotland, if I might say so, because the amount of all your local expenditure, for every £100 of local expenditure, only on average in Scotland £20 comes from your Community Charge and the other £80 comes from your tax-payer's grant and your business rate. So your Community tax, on average, it varies from authority to authority, it is different in Edinburgh, on average is meeting only £20 in every £100.

Now when we got it in in England it is meeting £30 in every £100 so it is a bigger Community Charge and therefore we have more problems with it. We right at the beginning learned in Scotland that we must bring in more generous rebates for Community Charge than we had had for rates, so we did. We then found because of the higher Community Charges that we were getting here that we had to have a transitional relief which as you know went back into Scotland. The real difference is the proportion of local spending which your Community Charge meets, that I think is the main difference. [end p25]

But in Scotland, therefore, you have not got as many high Community Charges as we have here. Now while we were doing the different method of local tax we changed the whole of local authority finance and we changed it like this. We said that local towns and cities are different, some have more children, some have more old people, some have children with special educational needs, so the needs of different towns will be different and will take account of the different needs in the grant that we give.

So you will find that with you the outer city areas which have a number of difficulties have a much bigger grant than some place, say, like inner Edinburgh. But the different needs were taken care of by the tax-payer and by business, all of them. So you should be able to compare from one authority to another the Community Charge you are paying. So you have really a readyreckoner. If you are paying a high Community Charge it is because either your authority is spending on more things or because it is not spending efficiently and that, once you have got rid of your safety net, is a ready reckoner that you can look at because the differences in needs are met by the tax-payer.

Now always I think you will find when you modify a tax, when you go, say, from a tax on property to a tax on people, because most of your local services are services to people, education and social services being the two main ones, the two big ones, you find that you need to do some adjustments and so of course we shall need to do some adjustments. We have done one with the increased capital amount already. We shall need to do some adjustments but we are having a look and learning as we go along. [end p26]

Interviewer

But will you reach any conclusion in time? I am thinking that there has been so much opposition to the Community Charge and it is going to show in the results of the regional elections?

Prime Minister

Yes, but the fundamental point to get across is the difference in needs is taken care of by the tax-payer. The tax-payer pays more of local authority spending than any other group. So if you have got a high Community Charge, it is your local council that sets that Community Charge and has set it high and it has set it either because it is spending more of your money and leaving less with you or because it is not delivering services efficiently.

Now in my constituency we have one of the best education systems. Our results are at the moment I think some of the best if not the best, we are sometimes first and we are sometimes second in England, the best education results. Our Community Charge is £338, of that £70 goes to other authorities. You know the first year you had a safety net and we were an authority that gave £70 away so our actual Community Charge for our own purposes is £268. Now our next door neighbour—Haringey—is £572 but the different needs are taken care of by the tax-payer. And so our people are very glad we live our side of the road.

And so if you have got a high Community Charge you go and you cross-examine your local council. People will get used to this in time and we are very interested to see that in Scotland, which [end p27] is now in its second year, there are twenty councils which either have a reduction in Community Charge, of which Eastwood—is it Eastwood where Jim Goold lives, it is a suburb of Scotland [sic]?

Interviewer

Aberdeen's has come down.

Prime Minister

It is down by 30 per cent, that is a Conservative Council, and most of them are not Labour that have come down but Aberdeen is a Labour authority and it has come down. And so it is now beginning to work. In the first year I think we all know what happens, it happened when you went from pounds and shillings to decimalisation. They think “Ah, there is a difference,” they can put up the price, “Ah, there is a difference from rates to Community Charge,” they put up the spending very much indeed.

This year, the first year in England, I think last year in Scotland your spending went up much more, this year in Scotland they cannot plead a different system, they are on their own now. So what we have had in England is a much bigger increase than we ever expected. Over the country as a whole there have been £4.5 billion more, that is equal to about 3p on income tax spending than we thought, next year it will settle down. But certainly some of our counties which do not have an election for some time have taken in money to put into their reserves and I have said to them I think that is wrong, I think it is wrong to take in more than you need [end p28] for this year because there are many young people who have mortgages to pay and you are not entitled to take money out of their slender bank accounts or their slender savings to put into yours at the moment.

It will settle down next year but we are just watching very carefully because there are some things which I mentioned in my Cheltenham speech which I think have been sorted out in Scotland but not yet here. But it will settle down, it is a very much better system than rates, a very much better system than rates.

Interviewer

But so many people are blinkered about it, particularly working class couples with teenaged children at home who fear that they have got to pay umpteen Community Charges within the family and I fear that it will have disastrous effects upon the elections.

Prime Minister

Yes but look. All local authority services, of some of the most expensive ones education is very expensive, social service is very expensive. Now those are to people. It just was not fair that only half your local authority electorate should pay a local tax. And actually in the Gallup Poll if you look over 70 per cent of people think everyone should pay something to the local authority. [end p29]

One in four of people will get a rebate. If young people are students they pay only 20 per cent so no-one says that when young people are living at home and earning, no-one suggests that their parents should pay their income tax for them, they should no more pay the child's Community Charge than they should pay income tax. If the child is a student they will only pay 20 per cent and if they have not got any income, well, they can put in that they have not got any income.

Interviewer

And do they then not pay the 20 per cent?

Prime Minister

Normally they are either, if they are a student they pay their 20 per cent, if they have not got any income they will be on income support.

Interviewer

Even though they are a student?

Prime Minister

No, no, no, if they are a student they pay 20 per cent. [end p30]

Interviewer

But they would not necessarily have income if they are a student?

Prime Minister

Yes they do, they have a grant and they will probably go out and do some work in their vacation. If they are not a student and they have not a job they will be on income support, they will have to go on youth training, but if they go on income support then they would get 80 per cent rebate and the final 20 per cent they would get something on their income support to pay the rest of the 20 per cent.

Adviser

It was Eastwood Council which has cut its charge by 30 per cent.

Prime Minister

It had a big safety net you see, like mine.

Interviewer

If I could get on to your personality, Prime Minister, I have never heard you swear and I have never heard you lose your temper. How on earth do you let off steam because you must really get annoyed at some people or some situations and yet you always appear so very calm? Have you had to learn that or is that just you? [end p31]

Prime Minister

I think it is a combination. If you have ever watched people who lose their temper or get very angry they have lost the argument. I was taught it from a very very young stage, if you ever lose your temper you have lost the argument and therefore your mind is on the argument and answering some of the problems. If you lose your temper in the House it would just be appalling, you have completely lost the argument. The difficulty in the House is that sometimes it is so noisy that it is quite difficult to hear the precise question, particularly where we are sitting down, as I put it sitting down in the pit, as it were, quite difficult to hear the precise question, you hear the generality of the question and answer.

No, it is partly the sort of person you are, partly the way you have been trained and partly just the sheer sense of it.

Interviewer

You have to keep a tight rein on your emotions do you, you do not consciously do it?

Prime Minister

No you do not, habit is the best thing of all. You know you get through life if you form good habits.

Interviewer

Are you ever really worried about the terrorists, you have protection officers, but you must be the No.1 target? [end p32]

Prime Minister

When I am out and about, yes, I know there is a risk there but it is never uppermost in my mind, it is doing the job that I am there to do that is uppermost in my mind.

Interviewer

So you have complete faith then?

Prime Minister

Yes.

Interviewer

The thought occurred to me when the conference was switched from Perth to Aberdeen, which is right beside the sea, you get a beautiful view there, and I thought, Heavens above, anybody could just presumably come in across the water, up the cliff?

Prime Minister

One guesses that will be watched quite well. No, I was very very concerned indeed, because I was not here, when there were the problems in Trafalgar Square and down Whitehall and the five or six really militant groups came down at the bottom of Downing Street and I was not here, and I was the more concerned because I was not here because I was rung up and told what was happening, and I was not here and very very relieved that we had got the gates at the bottom because this is a house of history. More than that, there were a lot of people here, there always are, we are going twenty-four hours [end p33] a day, Seven days a week, not everyone has their Sabbath on Sunday or the world does not stop on Sunday, there are messages coming in. Not everyone has the same night time as we do, in Japan their financial dealings open as we go to bed; in New York the United Nations is sitting when we are asleep and so you can get messages coming in the whole time so there are always people on duty, always.

Obviously I was very concerned and they were very concerned in here about what they could see going on down there. As it happened it was all right, I think we were just very glad that we had had the better gates. There have been gates at the bottom of Downing Street since before I was here, they were really rather horrid ones and they could have been climbed over easily.

Adviser

I think the crowd would have been in with no trouble at all had there been the old gates.

Prime Minister

Yes. Also of course we learned a great deal from some of those terrible attacks in the Lebanon. This is why a vehicle could come straight up here and with someone who did not mind about his life or not, a colossal bomb explosion. We have Cabinet meetings here, the whole Government is here. We have Heads of State, we have Heads of Government coming here with their Ministers, we have to have proper protection. It is not just for me, it is for all [end p34] the people here and all the many many people we have here. And I wished I had been in here then, but I was not.

Interviewer

What would you have done?

Prime Minister

Well, there was not a great deal you could have done but at least you could have been here.

Interviewer

And experienced it.

Prime Minister

Yes, yes, well we would have been here all together, it was all right.

Interviewer

But you did nearly lose your life at Brighton, did that not have any effect upon you?

Prime Minister

Yes, at the time, because one went through it and because I knew that that was my habit of staying up and working very late and actually I should have been in the bathroom at the time and some of the ceiling would have come down. As it was I was in the sitting [end p35] room and that room was all right. There was a sitting room, bedroom, bathroom. Denis ThatcherDenis was asleep and I got him up quickly and it was that bathroom and the sitting room next door that came down. And then of course I lost some very dear friends and we did not know if there was another one. Sometimes you get one and then sometimes on your escape route you will get another one. It was pretty difficult, but when we heard as we got to the police station eventually and started saying: “Where is so and so? Where is Norman Tebbit? Not there, John Wakeham? Not there” . And gradually Leon Brittan came, the Charles PriceAmerican Ambassador was at that conference, he came, John Gummer. We started then to gather and then we started to know who was missing. That was a terrible night.

And then the most important thing of all, we went elsewhere and at about 5.30 I had got about an hour and a half's sleep because I knew we had to carry on the next morning if we possibly could, the important thing, and I woke up then at 7.00 and immediately saw on the television Norman Tebbit being got out. By that time we were saying to the police: “Is the hall all right?” The hall was all right, the important thing was to carry on and so I said: “We simply must carry on, I must mount that platform at 9.30 precisely” which was the time, and so we did.

Throughout the day, and I had the main speech to do in the afternoon and we were altering the speech and getting the news and being very very anxious and I left immediately after the afternoon speech and went straight to the hospital and we still had not got [end p36] everyone out. We were very lucky, Tony Trafford, who is an old friend, was the doctor in charge of that hospital, he has now died, as you know, he was our Minister of Health, but my goodness me, the service we got from that hospital was fantastic, marvellous.

Interviewer

You feel it important to visit the scene of tragedy?

Prime Minister

Yes, I do.

Interviewer

And you have often been moved to tears?

Prime Minister

Yes. [end p37]

Interviewer

Are you a religious person?

Prime Minister

Fortunately, yes.

Interviewer

And your religion helps you in times like that?

Prime Minister

Yes, it does. Nothing, but nothing, will diminish the grief and you do not really know what people go through until you have been with them time and time again and seen it and immediately you think all the other things that you worried about are small compared with that. You can see people who have lost almost everything— [end p38] mind you, it will be made up again either from insurance or …   . but lost everything for the time being— “Never mind! We are all alive, if only that!” and frequently, of course, there are some that are not.

Piper Alpha was a terrible thing and some of the train crashes, the Hungerford shooting, the Northern Ireland bombs and the air crashes, Lockerbie. Lockerbie was terrible as you went around them.

Interviewer

They affect you very deeply, don't they, these tragedies?

Prime Minister

And, of course, there were not many survivors from Lockerbie, as you know, and the hospitals were all ready.

Another was Deal, the military band.

When I go around, I always ask the doctors: “Is it all right for them to talk?” I vividly remember doing it at the Aberdeen Infirmary. The doctors said: “Yes, they need to talk if they can! They need to talk! They will want to talk about it!” You never get it out of your system but it is therapeutic.

But there were some people from the Piper Alpha who gave very graphic accounts of what actually had happened and then, of course, at the Manchester air crash and the Kegworth one I remember going in and waiting with the relatives for news. That is one of the worst [end p39] things because obviously they are hoping. They are kept waiting there for quite a long time because if the people make a mistake in identity—it might be someone totally unconscious who has gone to hospital, there might be two Smiths, two Jones, two people with the same name—so they are very careful not to give information until they are pretty certain they have got it right but even then there have been times when they have been told: “Yes, he is all right!” and then: “I am sorry! We made a mistake!” or the other way round and it is agony.

The Kegworth one was a plane going regularly as it does from East Midlands to Northern Ireland and with all the things they have to suffer in Northern Ireland they have that on top!

The Piper Alpha and the Lockerbie I will never forget. I do not think I will forget any of them, not one.

The emergency services come out very quickly but it is the comfort they need and the circumstances when you cannot give any comfort but you can be there because the thing that you need most of all—I have seen it so many times—is the human contact; you need someone to share with you all kinds of things. “I never said goodbye!” or “We had an argument this morning!” or “I had a cross word last night!” or “I told him not to go on that plane!” or “She thought she would telephone me and was lucky that she got that plane!” [end p40]

The football one absolutely was dreadful because all of the people who came early were standing about and went in on time in an orderly way to get a good view; did everything in time and the children right up against this barrier!

You realise then how small your ordinary worries are—when some real disaster happens. And, of course, it reminds you that it is happening every day with road accidents every day; five thousand killed on the roads every year. It is happening every day.

Interviewer

Where do you think, in the light of what you just told me, you are most effective, if you like? On your home ground, where you are mixing with the public here or as a world leader?

Prime Minister

They are different completely. Most of the time obviously you are on your home ground. I must say I think it is a colossal advantage we have in this country, on our electoral system, that the Prime Minister of the day has his or her own constituency, so you are never out of touch. I do a surgery, an interview evening. We are never out of touch. The post we get is enormous—never never out of touch—and although I am not in the constituency as much as I used to be—I do six or seven engagements a day plus an interview evening and then another time I go to a meeting or we have got something particular one—I am never far, because Finchley is only twelve miles away. We are always in touch, always. [end p41]

And then, going round you are lucky that you see so much. You really are lucky. The factories you go and open, the schools you see, the road system, the railways, the housing estates, oh just so much! All kinds of things!

You go to Dundee, you are going round a sweetie factory which has colossal exports, absolutely fantastic! You go and see a distillery, colossal exports. Volvo lorries. You go round a farm, you go round research stations, you go round defence establishments, you go round textile factories—very good in Scotland. You will go and see bagpipes made, you will go and see organs made, you will go and see derelict sites turned into housing estates with new industries, small factories. Do you know the big Templeton old factory in Glasgow?

Interviewer

Near Glasgow Green.

Prime Minister

That is right! Turned into a marvellous place for all sorts of small businesses with YTC training going on. You see so much! You open a new Scout hall, you may be raising money for the Scouts. You may be having, as we had in Edinburgh Castle last time, an evening to raise funds for the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children. We had a marvellous evening there. You may have a reception. We were at Stirling Castle the other evening. A mixture of the history. In Scotland, you feel immediately that you get the Scottishness, which is a good thing. [end p42]

Interviewer

Can you explain that to me?

Prime Minister

People are very Scottish and very proud of being Scottish, they really are! Maybe it is because we are proud that Scotland is part of the United Kingdom too. But you do, you really do feel it. It is the Scottish pride—that is the only way I can explain it. There is an immense togetherness too.

Interviewer

You feel this sense of pride yourself though, don't you, going around and seeing all these achievements?

Prime Minister

Oh yes! We have got some marvellous achievements in this country and the research we do is very good and we really have some very good universities—excellent. Aberdeen has St. Andrews, the Herriot Watts—I dare not stop because there are so many, you just go on one after another—Edinburgh, Strathclyde, so many.

Interviewer

Why then, are people so quick to knock what the Conservatives have done and what they have achieved? [end p43]

Prime Minister

I often ask myself but don't you think it is our nature just a little bit to grumble?

Interviewer

It could be!

Prime Minister

In life, you always want what you have not got, you do not appreciate what you have got.

You see, so much of what I believe in, I think most people believe in. I am fascinated to see that the next generation in Scotland the majority want to own their own home. That would not have been so twenty years ago. They want to own their own home. Yes, they want to do well. They want a better time for their children. They want to have an influence on school boards. We are quite interested that in the Health Service quite a number of doctors in Scotland want to hold their own budgets—why shouldn't they? That should be the normal thing. They want pride in their country. They want their country to be well thought of internationally. They want a good future where they work. They know that they do better if everyone works hard and produces more and you get your productivity up; your factory has got a future. They want a little bit of independence and they want some money behind them. [end p44]

We have always said you want a little bit of money of your own, whether it is savings, whether it is shares, and you save for your children. You may put it in a building society, in a banking account, and you want it to maintain its value and yes, you want to live in a town that you are proud of, that looks nice because it is well kept. Yes, you do have high regard for the countryside. Again, it is just part of our nature, all of those things, and everyone is now much more interested in knowing their roots in the past, pride in their picture galleries, pride in their museums. We went to the Burrell Collection—absolutely marvellous! And their orchestras and their choirs and their bands—it is all a part of life. And we are getting the whole of it now. It is the whole of life. It is the work, it is the independence which comes from your own savings, it is the knowledge that you make your town, you make it proud, you make it clean and it is the local pride and the business and the community working together as never before both to form the culture and the arts and with the schools so that the youngsters in schools have some contact with local firms. It is all coming together and the amount of voluntary work too. It is good.

We do not stop here. As I said to you, what is good enough for us is not good enough for our children. What is good enough for our children is not good enough for the grandchildren but they made it and we have to enlarge the opportunity and enlarging the opportunity, which we are—far many more people can be every man a man of property now—we are enlarging it for future generations. [end p45]

All of that, I think, is common to people in Scotland, people in England, people in Wales and too in Northern Ireland. Northern Ireland has other problems to cope with as well. And Scotland is a beautiful country.

Interviewer

It is, isn't it!