Speeches, etc.

Margaret Thatcher

Speech at dinner to Lord Jakobivits (retirement)

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Venue: Grosvenor House Hotel, central London
Source: Thatcher Archive: speaking text
Editorial comments: Dinner. MT was expected to speak at 2135; Lord Jakobivits was due to reply at 2155.
Importance ranking: Minor
Word count: 1739
Themes: Autobiography (marriage & children), Conservative Party (organization), Education, Foreign policy (Middle East), Foreign policy (USA), Religion & morality, Famous statements by MT (discussions of), Defence (Gulf War, 1990-91)

My Lords, Ladies and Gentlemen.

Thank you for inviting me to this great occasion.

And thank you [Mr Philips] for your kind words of introduction.

Lord Jakobovits, on your elevation to the House of Lords, one of our national newspapers commented:

“On a battlefield, fixed points and strong positions are enviable possessions.
[end p1]

If it is true that there is a general search for a moral universe within which to locate our fragmented lives, then those who are discovered to be occupying firm rocks already …   . will benefit. Sir Immanuel Jakobovits, Chief Rabbi of the British Commonwealth, ennobled in the New Year's Honours List, and the first rabbi to have been so, stands on such a rock” .
[end p2]

The Office of the Chief Rabbi is by British standards a relatively recent one, dating back only to the mid-nineteenth century.

But among the holders of that office there have been some formidable figures.

No more than the office of Prime Minister does that of Chief Rabbi suit characters of the wilting kind. [end p3]

Yet amid this pantheon, no-one will easily challenge the unique position which Lord Jakobovits has secured during his twenty-four years of office.

It is safe to say that no Chief Rabbi has had so profound effect on the life of this nation as Lord Jakobovits. [end p4]

And I can certainly let his friends here tonight into one of the nation's worst kept secrets—that he has had, through his thinking and writing, a deep effect on me as well.

Though whether this makes me a Jakobovite or him a Thatcherite I would not like to say.

Chief Rabbis retire nowadays at seventy, though Lord Jakobovits is standing in for his successor for a month or two. [end p5]

I know that he has just celebrated his seventieth birthday and he and Lady Jakobovits have spent it in the company of five of his six children and a representative sample of his 36 grandchildren.

As one grand parent to another, may I wish you a belated but affectionate birthday greeting.

Many of us know, full well, that it is private life which makes public life tolerable—above all the private life of our family. [end p6]

Lord Jakobovits has never made a secret of how much he owes to Amelie.

Theirs has been that kind of partnership in which the qualities of each complement the other, the personality of each enhances the other and the love of each strengthens the other. [end p7]

Not, of course, that such a life is always easy.

I believe, Lady Jakobovits, that you once remarked that “a girl should always think twice before marrying a rabbi” .

I am glad not to have heard Denis ThatcherDenis' advice on those minded to marry politicians.

As Chief Rabbi, Lord Jakobovits leaves to his already distinguished successor, Rabbi Dr Jonathan Sacks, a [end p8] Jewish community in Britain whose standing and confidence have never been higher.

The marks of Lord Jakobovits ' leadership have been unyielding commitment to principle, a refusal to seek easy popularity at the expense of integrity and a fearless statement of values symbolised not just in the life of the Jewish people but of lasting relevance and general application to the modern world. [end p9]


And here let me just say a word about the Gulf: for our thoughts never stray for long from what is happening there.

American, British and other allied servicemen in the Gulf—including those from many Arab countries—are risking their lives in a just cause.

Let there be no doubt about that. [end p10]

They have our support, our admiration and our prayers.

We wish them God Speed in whatever task they may be called upon to do.

Yes: there are injustices elsewhere too.

And, once this war is over, they must again receive the closest attention of the nations directly involved and of the international community. [end p11]

But in the annals of injustice, Saddam Hussein has descended to depths of wickedness and brutality we thought never to see again.

In the sheer enormity of the Iraqi dictator's rape and destruction of Kuwait, in his ruthless use of prisoners of war, in his total disregard for the lives of even his own people, [end p12] in his shameless attacks on Israel, in all these things, he has shown unqualified contempt for the dignity and most elementary standards of humanity.

Ladies and gentlemen, it is not just temporary interests but abiding principles which are at stake in the Gulf. [end p13]

Respect for people's lives and property.

The right of small countries to live in peace, without fear of destruction by their neighbours.

The rule of law itself.

All these things the Iraqi dictator has scorned. [end p14]

He must not be allowed to profit in any way from his aggression.

He must comply unconditionally with all twelve United Nations resolutions. As he did not, the world knew that after January 15th force would be used.

It is now six months since Kuwait was occupied—six months in which her people have been savaged and the country plundered.

Mr Chairman, we, the allies, have waited long. [end p15]

They, the Kuwaitis, have suffered long.

Well publicised journeys between Baghdad and Moscow with bogus peace proposals cannot hide these facts. Saddam Hussein must be defeated—and soon.

Kuwait must be restored.

The peace we seek is not the peace of the tyrant but peace with freedom and justice for all. [end p16]

Let me pay special tribute to President Bush.

His and America's leadership of the allies has lived up to all we expect of the world's greatest champion of liberty.

Let me also pay tribute to our Prime Minister, John Major: the whole nation is united behind his cool, reassuring leadership. [end p17]


Lord Jakobovits and I first met when I was Secretary of State for Education; and we began by discussing defence of a different kind.

He impressed me with a remark which I shall long remember. [end p18]

“You are really the Minister of Defence” he told me.

And he meant, of course, that after what is learned in the family, it's what is taught at school that keeps the nation whole and strong.

This has always had a particular significance to the Jewish people, who are (as the Chief Rabbi has put it) [end p19]

“…   . a tiny faith-community, counting only some one dozen million people altogether, widely dispersed throughout the world [for whom] education [has become] the principal instrument of national defence.

Where others relied on prudent statecraft and military skill to preserve their integrity, Jews relied mainly on learning as the supreme condition for survival” .
[end p20]

Lord Jakobovits ' actions have spoken even more eloquently than his wonderful sermons.

As Founder and President of the Jewish Educational Development Trust, he has helped inspire an unprecedented increase and improvement in Jewish education here. The Trust has continued to build, to extend, and to modernise schools. It has made grants to help with essential work and to expand Jewish studies. [end p21]

It has provided teacher training scholarships.

Last year saw the opening of Immanuel College in Bushey, a worthy tribute to the Jewish Community's generosity, to the work of many here tonight and to the Chief Rabbi's own determination. [end p22]

The great tradition of Jewish charitable concern in Britain reaches well back into the nineteenth century with the foundation of Jewish charitable schools, benevolent and friendly societies, and help for new immigrants—and many other activities as well.

But the Chief Rabbi has helped write an inspiring further chapter in that story of noble achievement. [end p23]


Lord Jakobovits has never lost sight of the fact that what makes a man, a family, a community, or a nation is the values by which they live.

For values not only inspire policies: they inspire people.

The Jewish community's success in providing so many of this country's most dynamic leaders in business, the professions, the arts and charitable service bears witness to what truly motivated people can achieve. [end p24]

Lord Jakobovits has spoken movingly of how Jewish families struggled to give their children the best possible education.

How they discouraged idleness and rooted out crime.

How they emphasized duties as well as rights.

How they respected hard and honest work, thrift and moral probity. [end p25]

Nor are these just Jewish values—though the Jewish community has practised them in an exemplary manner.

And they are not just Victorian values—though I wish that those who criticise our Victorian predecessors for their undoubted failures were able or willing to emulate some of their achievements. [end p26]

These are in truth the values which are part of that legacy of Judaeo-Christian tradition which is the foundation of the free society, and without which so much of what we treasure would perish. [end p27]


One of the most arrogant claims of marxism was to know the future course of history.

And now it is the marxists—not us—who are being swept up into its famous dustbin.

A salutary lesson, you may think to politicians who aspire to prophesy.

But my confidence about the future—the future of the British people including our Jewish community—is of a different kind. [end p28] Fallible, Man is. Foolish, he may be. Evil, he can be.

But nourished on truth and taught by freedom, ours and future generations have a fairer prospect than ever before to create a better world.

You, Lord Jakobovits, are one of those few who, in every generation, speak out for enduring truths and traditional beliefs; who, first, may be criticised, mocked and even slandered; but who, as the years go [end p29] by, are ever more intently heard, admired and ultimately followed.

Leadership of any kind in any age is a lonely virtue.

But today you are not alone.

For among those of all faiths and of none, you have won this nation's esteem, affection and respect.

Toast: handwritten by MT

Let us now praise famous men
And our fathers that begat us
The Lord manifested in them great glory.

Even his mighty power from the beginning.

Of such [sic] a man is Lord Jacobovits.

Honour to toast Chief Rabbi Jakobovits ' health.