MARGARET THATCHER AT BRIGHTON - 1980
The Lady's Not for Turning
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Thatcher's The Lady's Not for Turning
It follows the full text transcript of
Margaret Thatcher's The Lady's Not for Turning speech, delivered at
Brighton, UK - October 10, 1980.
Most of my Cabinet
colleagues have started their speeches of reply
by paying very well deserved tributes to their
junior Ministers. At Number 10 I have no junior
Ministers. There is just Denis [Denis Thatcher]
and me, and I could not do without him. I am,
however, very fortunate in having a marvelous
deputy who is wonderful in all places at all
times in all things, Willie Whitelaw.
At our party conference last year I said that
the task in which the Government were engaged—to
change the national attitude of mind—was the
most challenging to face any British
Administration since the war. Challenge is
exhilarating. This week we Conservatives have
been taking stock, discussing the achievements,
the set-backs and the work that lies ahead as we
enter our second parliamentary year. As you said
Mr Chairman our debates have been stimulating
and our debates have been constructive. This
week has demonstrated that we are a party united
in purpose, strategy and resolve. And we
actually like one another.
When I am asked for a detailed forecast of what
will happen in the coming months or years I
remember Sam Goldwyn 's advice: "Never prophesy,
especially about the future." (Interruption from
the floor) Never mind, it is wet outside. I
expect that they wanted to come in. You cannot
blame them; it is always better where the Tories
are. And you—and perhaps they—will be looking to
me this afternoon for an indication of how the
Government see the task before us and why we are
tackling it the way we are. Before I begin let
me get one thing out of the way.
This week at Brighton we have heard a good deal
about last week at Blackpool. I will have a
little more to say about that strange assembly
later, but for the moment I want to say just
Because of what happened at that conference,
there has been, behind all our deliberations
this week, a heightened awareness that now, more
than ever, our Conservative Government must
succeed. We just must, because now there is even
more at stake than some had realized.
There are many things to be done to set this
nation on the road to recovery, and I do not
mean economic recovery alone, but a new
independence of spirit and zest for achievement.
It is sometimes said that because of our past
we, as a people, expect too much and set our
sights too high. That is not the way I see it.
Rather it seems to me that throughout my life in
politics our ambitions have steadily shrunk. Our
response to disappointment has not been to
lengthen our stride but to shorten the distance
to be covered. But with confidence in ourselves
and in our future what a nation we could be!
In its first seventeen months this Government
have laid the foundations for recovery. We have
undertaken a heavy load of legislation, a load
we do not intend to repeat because we do not
share the Socialist fantasy that achievement is
measured by the number of laws you pass. But
there was a formidable barricade of obstacles
that we had to sweep aside. For a start, in his
first Budget Geoffrey Howe began to rest
incentives to stimulate the abilities and
inventive genius of our people. Prosperity comes
not from grand conferences of economists but by
countless acts of personal self-confidence and
Under Geoffrey 's stewardship, Britain has
repaid $3,600 million of international debt,
debt which had been run up by our predecessors.
And we paid quite a lot of it before it was due.
In the past twelve months Geoffrey has abolished
exchange controls over which British Governments
have dithered for decades. Our great enterprises
are now free to seek opportunities overseas.
This will help to secure our living standards
long after North Sea oil has run out. This
Government thinks about the future. We have made
the first crucial changes in trade union law to
remove the worst abuses of the closed shop, to
restrict picketing to the place of work of the
parties in dispute, and to encourage secret
Jim Prior has carried all these measures through
with the support of the vast majority of trade
union members. Keith Joseph , David Howell ,
John Nott and Norman Fowler have begun to break
down the monopoly powers of nationalization.
Thanks to them British Aerospace will soon be
open to private investment. The monopoly of the
Post Office and British Telecommunications is
being diminished. The barriers to private
generation of electricity for sale have been
lifted. For the first time nationalized
industries and public utilities can be
investigated by the Monopolies Commission—a long
Free competition in road passenger transport
promises travelers a better deal. Michael
Heseltine has given to millions—yes, millions—of
council tenants the right to buy their own
It was Anthony Eden who chose for us the goal of
"a property-owning democracy". But for all the
time that I have been in public affairs that has
been beyond the reach of so many, who were
denied the right to the most basic ownership of
all—the homes in which they live.
They wanted to buy. Many could afford to buy.
But they happened to live under the jurisdiction
of a Socialist council, which would not sell and
did not believe in the independence that comes
with ownership. Now Michael Heseltine has given
them the chance to turn a dream into reality.
And all this and a lot more in seventeen months.
The Left continues to refer with relish to the
death of capitalism. Well, if this is the death
of capitalism, I must say that it is quite a way
But all this will avail us little unless we
achieve our prime economic objective—the defeat
of inflation. Inflation destroys nations and
societies as surely as invading armies do.
Inflation is the parent of unemployment. It is
the unseen robber of those who have saved.
No policy which puts at risk the defeat of
inflation—however great its short-term
attraction—can be right. Our policy for the
defeat of inflation is, in fact, traditional. It
existed long before Sterling M3 embellished the
Bank of England Quarterly Bulletin, or
"monetarism" became a convenient term of
But some people talk as if control of the money
supply was a revolutionary policy. Yet it was an
essential condition for the recovery of much of
Those countries knew what was required for
economic stability. Previously, they had lived
through rampant inflation; they knew that it led
to suitcase money, massive unemployment and the
breakdown of society itself. They determined
never to go that way again.
Today, after many years of monetary
self-discipline, they have stable, prosperous
economies better able than ours to withstand the
buffeting of world recession.
So at international conferences to discuss
economic affairs many of my fellow Heads of
Government find our policies not strange,
unusual or revolutionary, but normal, sound and
honest. And that is what they are.
Their only question is: "Has Britain the courage
and resolve to sustain the discipline for long
enough to break through to success?"
Yes, Mr. Chairman, we have, and we shall. This
Government are determined to stay with the
policy and see it through to its conclusion.
That is what marks this administration as one of
the truly radical ministries of post-war
Britain. Inflation is falling and should
continue to fall.
Meanwhile we are not heedless of the hardships
and worries that accompany the conquest of
Foremost among these is unemployment. Today our
country has more than 2 million unemployed.
Now you can try to soften that figure in a dozen
ways. You can point out—and it is quite
legitimate to do so—that 2 million today does
not mean what it meant in the 1930s; that the
percentage of unemployment is much less now than
it was then.
You can add that today many more married women
go out to work.
You can stress that, because of the high
birthrate in the early 1960s, there is an
unusually large number of school leavers this
year looking for work and that the same will be
true for the next two years.
You can emphasize that about a quarter of a
million people find new jobs each month and
therefore go off the employment register.
And you can recall that there are nearly 25
million people in jobs compared with only about
18 million in the 1930s. You can point out that
the Labour party conveniently overlooks the fact
that of the 2 million unemployed for which they
blame us, nearly a million and a half were
bequeathed by their Government.
But when all that has been said the fact remains
that the level of unemployment in our country
today is a human tragedy. Let me make it clear
beyond doubt. I am profoundly concerned about
unemployment. Human dignity and self respect are
undermined when men and women are condemned to
idleness. The waste of a country's most precious
assets—the talent and energy of its people-
makes it the bounden duty of Government to seek
a real and lasting cure.
If I could press a button and genuinely solve
the unemployment problem, do you think that I
would not press that button this instant? Does
anyone imagine that there is the smallest
political gain in letting this unemployment
continue, or that there is some obscure economic
religion which demands this unemployment as part
of its ritual? This Government are pursuing the
only policy which gives any hope of bringing our
people back to real and lasting employment. It
is no coincidence that those countries, of which
I spoke earlier, which have had lower rates of
inflation have also had lower levels of
I know that there is another real worry
affecting many of our people. Although they
accept that our policies are right, they feel
deeply that the burden of carrying them out is
falling much more heavily on the private than on
the public sector. They say that the public
sector is enjoying advantages but the private
sector is taking the knocks and at the same time
maintaining those in the public sector with
better pay and pensions than they enjoy.
I must tell you that I share this concern and
understand the resentment. That is why I and my
colleagues say that to add to public spending
takes away the very money and resources that
industry needs to stay in business let alone to
expand. Higher public spending, far from curing
unemployment, can be the very vehicle that loses
jobs and causes bankruptcies in trade and
commerce. That is why we warned local
authorities that since rates are frequently the
biggest tax that industry now faces, increases
in them can cripple local businesses. Councils
must, therefore, learn to cut costs in the same
way that companies have to.
That is why I stress that if those who work in
public authorities take for themselves large pay
increases they leave less to be spent on
equipment and new buildings. That in turn
deprives the private sector of the orders it
needs, especially some of those industries in
the hard pressed regions. Those in the public
sector have a duty to those in the private
sector not to take out so much in pay that they
cause others unemployment. That is why we point
out that every time high wage settlements in
nationalized monopolies lead to higher charges
for telephones, electricity, coal and water,
they can drive companies out of business and
cost other people their jobs.
If spending money like water was the answer to
our country's problems, we would have no
problems now. If ever a nation has spent, spent,
spent and spent again, ours has. Today that
dream is over. All of that money has got us
nowhere but it still has to come from somewhere.
Those who urge us to relax the squeeze, to spend
yet more money indiscriminately in the belief
that it will help the unemployed and the small
businessman are not being kind or compassionate
They are not the friends of the unemployed or
the small business. They are asking us to do
again the very thing that caused the problems in
the first place. We have made this point
I am accused of lecturing or preaching about
this. I suppose it is a critic's way of saying
"Well, we know it is true, but we have to carp
at something." I do not care about that. But I
do care about the future of free enterprise, the
jobs and exports it provides and the
independence it brings to our people.
Independence? Yes, but let us be clear what we
mean by that. Independence does not mean
contracting out of all relationships with
others. A nation can be free but it will not
stay free for long if it has no friends and no
alliances. Above all, it will not stay free if
it cannot pay its own way in the world. By the
same token, an individual needs to be part of a
community and to feel that he is part of it.
There is more to this than the chance to earn a
living for himself and his family, essential
though that is.
Of course, our vision and our aims go far beyond
the complex arguments of economics, but unless
we get the economy right we shall deny our
people the opportunity to share that vision and
to see beyond the narrow horizons of economic
necessity. Without a healthy economy we cannot
have a healthy society. Without a healthy
society the economy will not stay healthy for
But it is not the State that creates a healthy
society. When the State grows too powerful
people feel that they count for less and less.
The State drains society, not only of its wealth
but of initiative, of energy, the will to
improve and innovate as well as to preserve what
is best. Our aim is to let people feel that they
count for more and more. If we cannot trust the
deepest instincts of our people we should not be
in politics at all. Some aspects of our present
society really do offend those instincts.
Decent people do want to do a proper job at
work, not to be restrained or intimidated from
giving value for money. They believe that
honesty should be respected, not derided. They
see crime and violence as a threat not just to
society but to their own orderly way of life.
They want to be allowed to bring up their
children in these beliefs, without the fear that
their efforts will be daily frustrated in the
name of progress or free expression. Indeed,
that is what family life is all about.
There is not a generation gap in a happy and
united family. People yearn to be able to rely
on some generally accepted standards. Without
them you have not got a society at all, you have
purposeless anarchy. A healthy society is not
created by its institutions, either. Great
schools and universities do not make a great
nation any more than great armies do. Only a
great nation can create and involve great
institutions—of learning, of healing, of
scientific advance. And a great nation is the
voluntary creation of its people—a people
composed of men and women whose pride in
themselves is founded on the knowledge of what
they can give to a community of which they in
turn can be proud.
If our people feel that they are part of a great
nation and they are prepared to will the means
to keep it great, a great nation we shall be,
and shall remain. So, what can stop us from
achieving this? What then stands in our way? The
prospect of another winter of discontent? I
suppose it might.
But I prefer to believe that certain lessons
have been learnt from experience, that we are
coming, slowly, painfully, to an autumn of
understanding. And I hope that it will be
followed by a winter of common sense. If it is
not, we shall not be—diverted from our course.
To those waiting with bated breath for that
favourite media catchphrase, the "U" turn, I
have only one thing to say. "You turn if you
want to. The lady's not for turning." I say that
not only to you but to our friends overseas and
also to those who are not our friends.
In foreign affairs we have pursued our national
interest robustly while remaining alive to the
needs and interests of others. We have acted
where our predecessors dithered and here I pay
tribute to Lord Carrington . When I think of our
much-travelled Foreign Secretary I am reminded
of the advert, you know the one I mean, about
"The peer that reaches those foreign parts that
other peers cannot reach."
Long before we came into office, and therefore
long before the invasion of Afghanistan I was
pointing to the threat from the East. I was
accused of scaremongering. But events have more
than justified my words.
Soviet Marxism is ideologically, politically and
morally bankrupt. But militarily the Soviet
Union is a powerful and growing threat.
Yet it was Mr. Kosygin who said "No peace loving
country, no person of integrity, should remain
indifferent when an aggressor holds human life
and world opinion in insolent contempt." We
agree. The British Government are not
indifferent to the occupation of Afghanistan. We
shall not allow it to be forgotten. Unless and
until the Soviet troops are withdrawn other
nations are bound to wonder which of them may be
next. Of course there are those who say that by
speaking out we are complicating East-West
relations, that we are endangering detente. But
the real danger would lie in keeping silent.
Detente is indivisible and it is a two-way
The Soviet Union cannot conduct wars by proxy in
South-East Asia and Africa, foment trouble in
the Middle East and Caribbean and invade
neighboring countries and still expect to
conduct business as usual. Unless detente is
pursued by both sides it can be pursued by
neither, and it is a delusion to suppose
otherwise. That is the message we shall be
delivering loud and clear at the meeting of the
European Security Conference in Madrid in the
weeks immediately ahead.
But we shall also be reminding the other parties
in Madrid that the Helsinki Accord was supposed
to promote the freer movement of people and
ideas. The Soviet Government's response so far
has been a campaign of repression worse than any
since Stalin 's day. It had been hoped that
Helsinki would open gates across Europe. In
fact, the guards today are better armed and the
walls are no lower. But behind those walls the
human spirit is unvanquished.
The workers of Poland in their millions have
signaled their determination to participate in
the shaping of their destiny. We salute them.
Marxists claim that the capitalist system is in
crisis. But the Polish workers have shown that
it is the Communist system that is in crisis.
The Polish people should be left to work out
their own future without external interference.
At every Party Conference, and every November in
Parliament, we used to face difficult decisions
over Rhodesia and over sanctions. But no longer.
Since we last met the success at Lancaster
House, and thereafter in Salisbury—a success won
in the face of all the odds—has created new
respect for Britain. It has given fresh hope to
those grappling with the terrible problems of
Southern Africa. It has given the Commonwealth
new strength and unity. Now it is for the new
nation, Zimbabwe, to build her own future with
the support of all those who believe that
democracy has a place in Africa, and we wish her
We showed over Rhodesia that the hallmarks of
Tory policy are, as they have always been,
realism and resolve. Not for us the disastrous
fantasies of unilateral disarmament, of
withdrawal from NATO, of abandoning Northern
The irresponsibility of the Left on defense
increases as the dangers which we face loom
larger. We for our part, under Francis Pym 's
brilliant leadership, have chosen a defense
policy which potential foes will respect.
We are acquiring, with the co-operation of the
United States Government, the Trident missile
system. This will ensure the credibility of our
strategic deterrent until the end of the century
and beyond, and it was very important for the
reputation of Britain abroad that we should keep
our independent nuclear deterrent as well as for
our citizens here.
We have agreed to the stationing of Cruise
missiles in this country. The unilateralists
object, but the recent willingness of the Soviet
Government to open a new round of arms control
negotiations shows the wisdom of our firmness.
We intend to maintain and, where possible, to
improve our conventional forces so as to pull
our weight in the Alliance. We have no wish to
seek a free ride at the expense of our Allies.
We will play our full part.
In Europe we have shown that it is possible to
combine a vigorous defense of our own interests
with a deep commitment to the idea and to the
ideals of the Community.
The last Government were well aware that
Britain's budget contribution was grossly
unfair. They failed to do anything about it. We
negotiated a satisfactory arrangement which will
give us and our partners time to tackle the
underlying issues. We have resolved the
difficulties of New Zealand's lamb trade with
the Community in a way which protects the
interests of the farmers in New Zealand while
giving our own farmers and our own housewives an
excellent deal, and Peter Walker deserves to be
congratulated on his success. Now he is
two-thirds on his way to success in making
important progress towards agreement on a common
fisheries policy. That is very important to our
people. There are many, many people whose
livelihoods depend on it.
We face many other problems in the Community,
but I am confident that they too will yield to
the firm yet fair approach which has already
proved so much more effective than the previous
Government's five years of procrastination.
With each day it becomes clearer that in the
wider world we face darkening horizons, and the
war between Iran and Iraq is the latest symptom
of a deeper malady. Europe and North America are
centers of stability in an increasingly anxious
world. The Community and the Alliance are the
guarantee to other countries that democracy and
freedom of choice are still possible. They stand
for order and the rule of law in an age when
disorder and lawlessness are ever more
The British Government intend to stand by both
these great institutions, the Community and
NATO. We will not betray them.
The restoration of Britain's place in the world
and of the West's confidence in its own destiny
are two aspects of the same process. No doubt
there will be unexpected twists in the road, but
with wisdom and resolution we can reach our
goal. I believe we will show the wisdom and you
may be certain that we will show the resolution.
In his warm hearted and generous speech, Peter
Thorneycroft said that, when people are called
upon to lead great nations they must look into
the hearts and minds of the people whom they
seek to govern. I would add that those who seek
to govern must in turn be willing to allow their
hearts and minds to lie open to the people.
This afternoon I have tried to set before you
some of my most deeply held convictions and
beliefs. This Party, which I am privileged to
serve, and this Government, which I am proud to
lead, are engaged in the massive task of
restoring confidence and stability to our
I have always known that that task was vital.
Since last week it has become even more vital
than ever. We close our Conference in the
aftermath of that sinister Utopia unveiled at
Blackpool. Let Labour's Orwellian nightmare of
the Left be the spur for us to dedicate with a
new urgency our every ounce of energy and moral
strength to rebuild the fortunes of this free
If we were to fail, that freedom could be
So let us resist
the blandishments of the faint hearts. Let us
ignore the howls and threats of the extremists.
Let us stand together and do our duty, and we
shall not fail.