Margaret Thatcher

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You know, if you just set out to be liked, you would be prepared to compromise on anything, wouldn't you, at any time? And you would achieve nothing!

Margaret Thatcher (13 October 19258 April 2013) was the first female Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1979 to 1990.

Quotes[edit]

1940s[edit]

  • Don't be scared of the high language of economists and Cabinet ministers, but think of politics at our own household level. After all, women live in contact with food supplies, housing shortages, and the ever-decreasing opportunities for children, and we must therefore face up to the position, remembering that as more power is taken away from the people, so there is less responsibility for us to assume.

1950s[edit]

  • It was not a Government that built up the skill and craft of this country...It was private individuals who patiently persevered, building up their businesses bit by bit...Their success provided employment for others and greatly benefited the community as a whole. This was the spirit that made England great and can restore her once again. Do you want it to perish for a soul-less Socialist system, or to live to recreate a glorious Britain?
  • We have reached a crisis in world history, a crisis which demands swift and certain action...We believe in the freedom of the democratic way of life. If we serve that idea faithfully with tenacity of purpose, we have nothing to fear from Russian Communism...Communism seizes power by force, not by free choice of the people. The democratic nations must therefore have forces with which to fight it so that choice of government may be free. In the light of these convictions our task is clear. We must firstly believe in the Western way of life and serve it steadfastly. Secondly we must build up our fighting strength to be prepared to defend our ideals, for aggressive nations understand only the threat of force. The situation is already grave, but much is possible for a nation with clear intentions and the ability to carry them into action.
  • Every Conservative desires peace. The threat to peace comes from Communism, which has powerful forces ready to attack anywhere. Communism waits for weakness, it leaves strength alone. Britain therefore must be strong, strong in arms, and strong in faith in her own way of life. The greatest hope for peace lies in friendship and co-operation with the United States of America.

Backbench MP[edit]

  • In considering our traditional ties with the Commonwealth we should remember that it now differs greatly from the entity which existed 20 or 30 years ago. Many of us do not feel quite the same allegiance to Archbishop Makarios or Doctor Nkrumah or to people like Jomo Kenyatta as we do towards Mr. Menzies of Australia.
  • In politics, if you want anything said, ask a man; if you want anything done, ask a woman.
    • Speech to members of the National Union of Townswomen’s Guilds, delivered at the Royal Albert Hall (May 20, 1965) ; as quoted in Why Women Should Rule the World, HarperCollins (2008), Dee Dee Myers, p. 227 : ISBN 0061140406, 9780061140402 . The Margaret Thatcher Foundation gives the following additional information : MT spoke on the theme ‘Woman – No Longer a Satellite.’ The Evening News report of this speech is the origin of a phrase often attributed to her : ‘In politics, ... (etc., as above).’
  • It is good to recall how our freedom has been gained in this country—not by great abstract campaigns but through the objections of ordinary men and women to having their money taken from them by the State. In the early days, people banded together and said to the then Government, “You shall not take our money before you have redressed our grievances”. It was their money, their wealth, which was the source of their independence against the Government.
  • Our freedoms depended on our having independence, independence in the wage packet, and independence of the Government...If you rely always on a Government for your wage packet, then the source of your independence to fight that Government has gone...Already one person in four works in the public sector. This is more than enough, and we must stop the encroachment from going any further.
  • The...philosophical reason for which we are against nationalisation and for private enterprise is because we believe that economic progress comes from the inventiveness, ability, determination and the pioneering spirit of extraordinary men and women. If they cannot exercise that spirit here, they will go away to another free enterprise country which will then make more economic progress than we do. We ought, in fact, to be encouraging small firms and small companies, because the extent to which innovation comes through these companies is tremendous.
  • One of the effects of the rapid spread of higher education has been to equip people to criticise and question almost everything. Some of them seem to have stopped there instead of going on to the next stage which is to arrive at new beliefs or to reaffirm old ones. You will perhaps remember seeing in the press the report that the student leader Daniel Cohn-Bendit has been awarded a degree on the result of his past work. His examiners said that he had posed a series of most intelligent questions. Significant? I would have been happier had he also found a series of intelligent answers.

Education Secretary[edit]

  • I started life with two great advantages: no money, and good parents.
    • On a 1971 TV interview, when asked if she understands ordinary people's problems. [1]

Shadow Secretary for Environment[edit]

  • I was attacked for fighting a rearguard action in defence of “middle-class interests.”...Well, if “middle class values” include the encouragement of variety and individual choice, the provision of fair incentives and rewards for skill and hard work, the maintenance of effective barriers against the excessive power of the State and a belief in the wide distribution of individual private property, then they are certainly what I am trying to defend. This is not a fight for “privilege”; it is a fight for freedom—freedom for every citizen.
  • This is not a confrontation between ‘left’ and ‘right’. I am trying to represent the deep feelings of those many thousands of rank-and-file Tories in the country—and potential Conservative voters, too—who feel let down by our party and find themselves unrepresented in a political vacuum.
  • In the desperate situation of Britain today, our party needs the support of all who value the traditional ideals of Toryism: compassion, and concern for the individual and his freedom; opposition to excessive State power; the right of the enterprising, the hard-working and the thrifty to succeed and to reap the rewards of success and pass some of them on to their children; encouragement of that infinite diversity of choice that is an essential of freedom; the defence of widely-distributed private property against the Socialist State; the right of a man to work without oppression by either employer or trade union boss. There is a widespread feeling in the country that the Conservative party has not defended these ideals explicitly and toughly enough, so that Britain is set on a course towards inevitable Socialist mediocrity. That course must not only be halted, it must be reversed.
  • Our challenge is to create the kind of economic background which enables private initiative and private enterprise to flourish for the benefit of the consumer, employee, the pensioner, and society as a whole...I believe we should judge people on merit and not on background. I believe the person who is prepared to work hardest should get the greatest rewards and keep them after tax. That we should back the workers and not the shirkers: that it is not only permissible but praiseworthy to want to benefit your own family by your own efforts

Leader of the Opposition[edit]

  • I place a profound belief—indeed a fervent faith—in the virtues of self reliance and personal independence. On these is founded the whole case for the free society, for the assertion that human progress is best achieved by offering the freest possible scope for the development of individual talents, qualified only by a respect for the qualities and the freedom of others...For many years there has been a subtle erosion of the essential virtues of the free society. Self-reliance has been sneered at as if it were an absurd suburban pretention. Thrift has been denigrated as if it were greed. The desire of parents to choose and to struggle for what they themselves regarded as the best possible education for their children has been scorned.
  • I do not believe, in spite of all this, that the people of this country have abandoned their faith in the qualities and characteristics which made them a great people. Not a bit of it. We are still the same people. All that has happened is that we have temporarily lost confidence in our own strength. We have lost sight of the banners. The trumpets have given an uncertain sound. It is our duty, our purpose, to raise those banners high, so that all can see them, to sound the trumpets clearly and boldly so that all can hear them. Then we shall not have to convert people to our principles. They will simply rally to those which truly are their own.
  • This is what we believe.
    • Remarks on The Constitution of Liberty by F. A. Hayek during a visit to the Conservative Research Department (summer 1975), quoted in John Ranelagh, Thatcher's People (London: HarperCollins, 1991), p. ix.
  • Detente sounds a fine word. And, to the extent that there really has been a relaxation in international tension, it is a fine thing. But the fact remains that throughout this decade of detente, the armed forces of the Soviet Union have increased, are increasing, and show no signs of diminishing.
  • They are arrayed against every principle for which we stand. So when the Soviet leaders jail a writer, or a priest, or a doctor or a worker, for the crime of speaking freely, it is not only for humanitarian reasons that we should be concerned. For these acts reveal a regime that is afraid of truth and liberty; it dare not allow its people to enjoy the freedoms we take for granted, and a nation that denies those freedoms to its own people will have few scruples in denying them to others. If detente is to progress then it ought to mean that the Soviet authorities relax their ruthless opposition to all forms and expressions of dissent.
  • The whole history of negotiation with the Soviet Union teaches us that if you do something they want without insisting on something in return, the Soviets do not regard it as a kindness to be reciprocated, but as a weakness to be exploited. There is a lot of fashionable nonsense talked about how we misunderstand Communism, misrepresent Communism, see Communists under every bed. An attempt is being made, it seems, to create an atmosphere where truth and commonsense on these matters is actively discouraged. I believe the people of this country understand better the truth of the matter than those who try to mislead them. We must work for a real relaxation of tension, but in our negotiations with the Eastern bloc we must not accept words or gestures as a substitute for genuine detente. No flood of words emanating from a summit conference will mean anything unless it is accompanied by some positive action by which the Soviet leaders show that their ingrained attitudes are really beginning to change.
  • What are the lessons then that we've learned from the last thirty years? First, that the pursuit of equality itself is a mirage. What's more desirable and more practicable than the pursuit of equality is the pursuit of equality of opportunity. And opportunity means nothing unless it includes the right to be unequal and the freedom to be different. One of the reasons that we value individuals is not because they're all the same, but because they're all different. I believe you have a saying in the Middle West: ‘Don't cut down the tall poppies. Let them rather grow tall.’ I would say, let our children grow tall and some taller than others if they have the ability in them to do so. Because we must build a society in which each citizen can develop his full potential, both for his own benefit and for the community as a whole, a society in which originality, skill, energy and thrift are rewarded, in which we encourage rather than restrict the variety and richness of human nature.
  • I am all for the spirit behind this, for easier contacts and the freer movement of people. I am for détente—who is not? I am also for attente, for wanting to see results; for not letting down our guard; for keeping our powder dry. Let them show us that they will practise what they preach, about reducing the threat of war, about non-intervention in the internal affairs of other countries.
  • In every generation there comes a moment to choose, and for too long we've chosen the soft option. And it's brought us pretty low. There are some signs now that our people are prepared to make the tough choice and to follow the harder road. We're still the same people that have fought for freedom, and won, and the spirit of adventure, the inventiveness, the determination are still strands in our character. We may suffer from a British sickness now, but we have a British constitution and it's still sound, and we have British hearts and a British will to win through. I believe in Britain. I believe in the British people. I believe in our future.
  • And I will go on criticising Socialism, and opposing Socialism because it is bad for Britain – and Britain and Socialism are not the same thing...It's the Labour Government that have brought us record peace-time taxation. They’ve got the usual Socialist disease – they’ve run out of other people's money.
  • Let me give you my vision. A man's right to work as he will to spend what he earns to own property to have the State as servant and not as master these are the British inheritance. They are the essence of a free economy. And on that freedom all our other freedoms depend.
  • Some Socialists seem to believe that people should be numbers in a State computer. We believe they should be individuals. We are all unequal. No one, thank heavens, is like anyone else, however much the Socialists may pretend otherwise. We believe that everyone has the right to be unequal but to us every human being is equally important.
  • She's ruled by a dictatorship of patient, far-sighted determined men who are rapidly making their country the foremost naval and military power in the world. They are not doing this solely for the sake of self-defence. A huge, largely land-locked country like Russia does not need to build the most powerful navy in the world just to guard its own frontiers. No. The Russians are bent on world dominance, and they are rapidly acquiring the means to become the most powerful imperial nation the world has seen. The men in the Soviet politburo don't have to worry about the ebb and flow of public opinion. They put guns before butter, while we put just about everything before guns. They know that they are a super power in only one sense—the military sense. They are a failure in human and economic terms.
  • The Socialists tell us that there are massive profits in a particular industry and they should not go to the shareholders—but that the public should reap the benefits. Benefits? What benefits? When you take into public ownership a profitable industry, the profits soon disappear. The goose that laid the golden eggs goes broody. State geese are not great layers. The steel industry was nationalised some years ago in the public interest—yet the only interest now left to the public is in witnessing the depressing spectacle of their money going down the drain at a rate of a million pounds a day.
  • Socialists then shift the ground for taking industries into “public ownership”. They then tell us that some industries cannot survive any longer unless they are taken into public ownership, allegedly to protect the public from the effects of their collapse. It all sounds so cosy, and so democratic. But is it true? No, of course it isn't. The moment ownership passes into the name of the public is the moment the public ceases to have any ownership or accountability, and often the moment when it ceases to get what it wants. But it is invariably the moment when the public starts to pay. Pays to take the industry over. Pays the losses by higher taxes. Pays for inefficiencies in higher prices.
  • There are others who warn not only of the threat from without, but of something more insidious, not readily perceived, not always deliberate, something that is happening here at home. What are they pointing to? They are pointing to the steady and remorseless expansion of the Socialist State. Now none of us would claim that the majority of Socialists are inspired by other than humanitarian and well-meaning ideals. At the same time few would, I think, deny today that they have made a monster that they can't control. Increasingly, inexorably, the State the Socialists have created is becoming more random in the economic and social justice it seeks to dispense, more suffocating in its effect on human aspirations and initiative, more politically selective in its defence of the rights of its citizens, more gargantuan in its appetite—and more disastrously incompetent in its performance. Above all, it poses a growing threat, however unintentional, to the freedom of this country, for there is no freedom where the State totally controls the economy. Personal freedom and economic freedom are indivisible. You can't have one without the other. You can't lose one without losing the other.
  • Every step this Socialist Government takes to seize more power over our daily lives diminishes those lives and the freedom which is their essence and their strength. One of our principal and continuing priorities when we are returned to office will be to restore the freedoms which the Socialists have usurped. Let them learn that it is not a function of the State to possess as much as possible. It is not a function of the State to grab as much as it can get away with. It is not a function of the State to act as ring-master, to crack the whip, dictate the load which all of us must carry or say how high we may climb. It is not a function of the State to ensure that no-one climbs higher than anyone else. All that is the philosophy of Socialism. We reject it utterly for, however well-intended, it leads in one direction only: to the erosion and finally the destruction of the democratic way of life.
  • We have brought three words—freedom, choice, opportunity—into the centre of the political debate. And we have exposed the language of Socialism, the gloss they put on words to conceal their true meaning. For instance, Socialists say “publicly owned”. What they mean is “State controlled”. Socialists say “Government aid”. What they mean is “taxpayers' aid”. Socialists say “social justice”. What they mean is “selective justice”. Socialists say “equality.” What they mean is “levelling down”. Why do they twist the truth like this? Because they dare not spell out the Socialist reality. One way to destroy capitalism, said Lenin, was to devalue its currency. Another way is to debase its language. Whenever we can, let us, like Luther, nail the truth to the door—and let us do it in unambiguous English. These are the opening rounds in the battle of ideas. It is a battle that we are winning.
  • There is no such thing as “safe” Socialism. If it's safe, it's not Socialism. And if it's Socialism, it's not safe. The signposts of Socialism point downhill to less freedom, less prosperity, downhill to more muddle, more failure. If we follow them to their destination, they will lead this nation into bankruptcy.
  • In some European countries, we now see Communist parties dressed in democratic clothes and speaking with soft voices. Of course we hope that their oft-proclaimed change of heart is genuine. But every child in Europe knows the story of little Red Riding Hood and what happened to her in her grandmother's cottage in the forest. Despite the new look of these Communist parties, despite the softness of their voices, we should be on the watch for the teeth and the appetite of the wolf.
  • Under the Socialists, rapid strides have been taken towards the Iron Curtain State. We have seen increased nationalisation measures, increased powers of central Government over both large and small companies, increased levels of tax on the pay packet and on savings alike, and an increased proportion of the national income spent not by the wage-earner but by the Government or Government agencies. In the result, the Prime Minister has become the first Socialist Minister since the Chancellor of the Exchequer in 1951 to say that his policies will mean a reduced standard of living for our people...it is clear that Socialist systems are not good at creating wealth; they can only spend the wealth that others create.
  • The Labour Party has now been taken over by extremists...The Labour Party is now committed to a programme which is frankly and unashamedly Marxist, a programme initiated by its National Executive and now firmly endorsed by its official Party Conference. In the House of Commons the Labour Left may still be outnumbered, but their votes are vital to the continuance of Labour in office, and that gives them a strength out of proportion to their numbers. And make no mistake, that strength, those numbers, are growing. In the constituency Labour parties, in the Parliamentary Labour Party, in Transport House, in the Cabinet Room itself, the Marxists call an increasing number of tunes...let's not mince words. The dividing line between the Labour Party programme and Communism is becoming harder and harder to detect. Indeed, in many respects Labour's programme is more extreme than those of many Communist parties of Western Europe.
  • I call the Conservative Party now to a crusade. Not only the Conservative Party. I appeal to all those men and women of goodwill who do not want a Marxist future for themselves or their children or their children's children. This is not just a fight about national solvency. It is a fight about the very foundations of the social order. It is a crusade not merely to put a temporary brake on Socialism, but to stop its onward march once and for all.
  • The word “equality” is often used, but, wisely, rarely defined. The moment one tries to define it, one gets into great difficulty. For example, it cannot mean equality of incomes or earnings; otherwise, we would not need more than one union. Indeed, we would not need one union. If we are to have opportunity, we cannot have equality, because the two are opposite. We may have equality of opportunity, but if the only opportunity is to be equal, it is not opportunity.
  • I do not believe that history is writ clear and unchallengeable. It doesn't just happen. History is made by people: its movement depends on small currents as well as great tides, on ideas, perceptions, will and courage, the ability to sense a trend, the will to act on understanding and intuition. It is up to us to give intellectual content and political direction to these new dissatisfactions with socialism in practice, with its material and moral failures, we must convert disillusion into understanding. If we fail, the tide will be lost. But if it is taken, the last quarter of our century can initiate a new renaissance matching anything in our island's long and outstanding history.
  • The economic success of the Western world is a product of its moral philosophy and practice. The economic results are better because the moral philosophy is superior. It is superior because it starts with the individual, with his uniqueness, his responsibility, and his capacity to choose. Surely this is infinitely preferable to the Socialist-statist philosophy which sets up a centralised economic system to which the individual must conform, which subjugates him, directs him and denies him the right to free choice. Choice is the essence of ethics: if there were no choice, there would be no ethics, no good, no evil; good and evil have meaning only insofar as man is free to choose.
  • In our philosophy the purpose of the life of the individual is not to be the servant of the State and its objectives, but to make the best of his talents and qualities. The sense of being self-reliant, of playing a role within the family, of owning one's own property, of paying one's way, are all part of the spiritual ballast which maintains responsible citizenship, and provides the solid foundation from which people look around to see what more they might do, for others and for themselves. That is what we mean by a moral society; not a society where the State is responsible for everything, and no-one is responsible for the State.
  • Our religion teaches us that every human being is unique and must play his part in working out his own salvation. So whereas socialists begin with society, and how people can be fitted in, we start with Man, whose social and economic relationship are just part of his wider existence. Because we see man as a spiritual being, we utterly reject the Marxist view, which gives pride of place to economics...The religious tradition values economic activity, how we earn our living, create wealth, but warns against obsession with it, warns against putting it above all else. Money is not an end in itself, but a means to an end.
  • There is not and cannot possibly be any hard and fast antithesis between self-interest and care for others, for man is a social creature, born into family, clan, community, nation, brought up in mutual dependence. The founders of our religion made this a cornerstone of morality. The admonition: love they neighbour as thyself, and do as you would be done by, expresses this. You will note that it does not denigrate self, or elevate love of others above it. On the contrary, it sees concern for self and responsibility for self as something to be expected, and asks only that this be extended to others. This embodies the great truth that self-regard is the root of regard for one's fellows.
My job is to stop Britain from going red.
  • People are really rather afraid that this country might be rather swamped by people with a different culture...So, if you want good race relations, you have got to allay peoples' fears on numbers...we do have to hold out the prospect of an end to immigration except, of course, for compassionate cases...We are not in politics to ignore peoples' worries: we are in politics to deal with them.
  • I hate extremes of any kind. Communism and the National Front both seek the domination of the state over the individual. They both, I believe crush the right of the individual. To me, therefore, they are parties of a similar kind. All my life I have stood against banning Communism or other extremist organisations because, if you do that, they go underground and it gives them an excitement that they don't get if they are allowed to pursue their policies openly. We'll beat them into the ground on argument... The National Front is a Socialist Front.
  • No, I'm not a feminist...I think they've become too strident. I think they have done great damage to the cause of women by making us out to be something we are not. Each person is different. Each has their own talents and abilities, and these are the things you want to draw and bring out. You don't say: “I must get on because I'm a woman, or that I must get on because I'm a man”. You should say that you should get on because you have the combination of talents which are right for the job. The moment you exaggerate the question, you defeat your case.
  • Once you give people the idea that all this can be done by the State, and that it is somehow second-best or even degrading to leave it to private people...then you will begin to deprive human beings of one of the essential ingredients of humanity—personal moral responsibility. You will in effect dry up in them the milk of human kindness. If you allow people to hand over to the State all their personal responsibility, the time will come—indeed it is close at hand—when what the taxpayer is willing to provide for the good of humanity will be seen to be far less than what the individual used to be willing to give from love of his neighbour. So do not be tempted to identify virtue with collectivism. I wonder whether the State services would have done as much for the man who fell among thieves as the Good Samaritan did for him? ...the role of the State in Christian Society is to encourage virtue, not to usurp it.
  • All over the country, particularly in our large urban areas, old people do go in fear and trembling as never before during either the lifetime of their parents or grandparents...we have been too ready to listen to those who believe that rising crime is due to things like higher unemployment, poor housing, poor pay. While it has always been part of Conservative policy to raise the standard of living of our people we must recognise that in the 1930's there were far more people out of work, far less prosperity and worse housing—but much less crime than now...Rising crime is not due to “society”—but to the steady undermining of personal responsibility and self-discipline—all things which are taught within the family.
  • Perhaps [the] most important reason for the fall in standards and increase in crime—the attack on traditional values. It is not surprising that sometimes parents have been confused about the endless advice and the many rival theories on how to bring up children. There were times when I had to remind myself that our parents and grandparents brought us up without trendy theories and they didn't make such a bad job of it. So it would seem that the tried and trusted values and commonsense application would lead to far better results than we are now experiencing. We must teach that each of us is a responsible person who can choose his own course of action and who has a duty to others to do as he would be done by. That morality is largely based on religious values. Cut the stem and the plant withers. That is why we have been so keen to keep religious teaching in our schools. To those who say that is indoctrinating children, I would reply—it is no such thing. It is a practical recognition of the truth that while an adult may, if he wishes, reject the faith in which he has been brought up, a child will find it difficult to acquire any faith at all without some instruction in the discipline of belief and practice.
  • The only way to do the best you can is to work as hard as you can.
  • If the past is any guide, what has happened this winter could happen again next winter and the winter after that and so on and so on. What we face is a threat to our whole way of life...The case is now surely overwhelming, there will be no solution to our difficulties which does not include some restriction on the power of the unions.
  • As Conservatives we believe that recovery can only come through the work of individuals. We mustn't forever take refuge behind collective decisions. Each of us must assume our own responsibilities. What we get and what we become depends essentially on our own efforts. For what is the real driving force in society? It's the desire for the individual to do the best for himself and his family. People don't go out to work for the Chancellor of the Exchequer. They go out to work for their family, for their children, to help look after their parents...That's the way society is improved, by millions of people resolving that they'll give their children a better life than they've had themselves. And there's just no substitute for this elemental human instinct, and the worst possible thing a Government can do is to try to smother it completely with a sort of collective alternative. They won't work, they can't work. They crush and destroy something precious and vital in the nation and in the individual spirit.
  • There are people in this country who are the great destroyers; they wish to destroy the kind of free society we have. They wouldn't have the freedom and the kind of society they wish to impose on us. Many of those people are in the unions. Many many people in the unions do not wish to strike, and I think many of those who struck in hospitals and in the ambulance service didn't wish to. I'm not suggesting that every strike is dominated by those, but a number are.
  • I can't bear Britain in decline. I just can't.
    • Interviewed by Michael Cockerell for BBC TV's Campaign '79 (27 April 1979).
  • We Conservatives...are realists. We know that the British are one of the most creative and gifted peoples on earth. But we also know that the British are individualists, who do not respond to state direction and control. We like leadership—yes. But, above all, we like freedom.
  • I proclaim with confidence that Britain can get right back into the world competitive race if only we can break free of the collective chains which hold us back. Unlike the socialists, who trust the state, we trust the people. That is why we are the party of freedom.
  • In this over-governed country of ours, the creative majority have too little freedom, and the tiny minority of wreckers have too much licence. The government I shall form next weekend will decisively reverse this state of affairs. Help me to liberate those who create wealth—and to make the wreckers run for cover.

First term as Prime Minister[edit]

  • Where there is discord, may we bring harmony. Where there is error, may we bring truth. Where there is doubt, may we bring faith. And where there is despair, may we bring hope.
  • Any woman who understands the problems of running a home will be nearer to understanding the problems of running a country.
    • BBC (1979); reported in John Blundell, Margaret Thatcher: A Portrait of the Iron Lady (2008), page 193.
  • I have thought long and deeply about the post of Foreign Secretary and have decided to offer it to Peter Carrington who – as I am sure you will agree – will do the job superbly.
    • Edward Heath, "The Course of My Life" (Hodder and Stoughton, 1998), p. 574.
    • Letter written on 4 May 1979 to Edward Heath, who had been hoping for the job of Foreign Secretary in Thatcher's government.
  • It has been suggested by some people in this country that I and my government will be a “soft touch” in the [European] Community. In case such a rumour may have reached your ears, Mr Chancellor...it is only fair that I should advise you frankly to dismiss it (as my own colleagues did, long ago). We shall judge what British interests are and we shall be resolute in defending them.
  • Communism never sleeps, never changes its objectives, nor must we. Our first duty to freedom is to defend our own. Then one day we might export a little to those peoples who have to live without it. Let no one be under any misunderstanding about the inflexible resolve of Her Majesty's Government to strengthen our defences and to play our full part in the defence of a free Europe.
  • The restoration of the confidence of a great nation is a massive task. We do not shrink from it. It will not be given to this generation of our countrymen to create a great Empire. But it is given to us to demand an end to decline and to make a stand against what Churchill described as the “long dismal drawling tides of drift and surrender, of wrong measurements and feeble impulses”. Though less powerful than once we were, we have friends in every quarter of the globe, who will rejoice at our recovery, welcome the revival of our influence, and benefit from the message and from the example of our renewal.
  • I must be absolutely clear about this. Britain cannot accept the present situation on the Budget. It is demonstrably unjust. It is politically indefensible: I cannot play Sister Bountiful to the Community while my own electorate are being asked to forego improvements in the fields of health, education, welfare and the rest.
  • They are all a rotten lot. Schmidt and the Americans and we are the only people who would do any standing up and fighting if necessary.
    • Remark to President of the European Commission Roy Jenkins (22 October 1979) on her European Community colleagues, quoted in Roy Jenkins, European Diary, 1977-1981 (London: Collins, 1989), p. 511.
  • We are not asking for a penny piece of Community money for Britain. What we are asking is for a very large amount of our own money back, over and above what we contribute to the Community, which is covered by our receipts from the Community.
  • They don't patronize me for being a woman. Nobody puts me down.
  • Gentlemen, there is nothing sweeter than success, and you boys have got it!
    • Her comment to the SAS group, at 9.45 p.m. soon after Operation Nimrod (5 May 1980)
  • 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. [laughter] The lady's not for turning.
  • If simply printing and spending more money would cure our problems we should by now be one of the wealthiest nations in the Western world.—In the lifetime of the last Labour Government the amount of money in the economy went up by £20 thousand million but the number of jobs did not increase. Indeed, unemployment doubled and prices more than doubled too.—In the last three years (1976–79) the amount of money in the economy went up by 50%; but yet only 4%; went into output, the rest into higher prices and imports. The record is clear, printing money doesn't create jobs, it only creates more inflation. But there is another word for printing money—they call it “reflection”. It is a cosy word but a fraudulent device. It cuts the value of every pound in circulation, of every pound the thrifty have saved. It means spending money you can't afford, haven't earned and haven't got. You would accept that it is neither moral nor responsible for a family to live beyond its means. Equally it is neither moral nor responsible for a Government to spend beyond the nation's means, even for services which may be desirable. So we must curb public spending to amounts that can be financed by taxation at tolerable levels and borrowing at reasonable rates of interest.
  • Let me make one point about the hunger strike in the Maze prison. I want this to be utterly clear. There can be no political justification for murder or any other crime. The Government will never concede political status to the hunger strikers, or to any others convicted of criminal offences in the Province.
  • It's like a nurse looking after an ill patient. Which is the better nurse? The one who smothers the patient with sympathy and says ‘never mind, dear, there there, you just lie back and I'll bring you all your meals. I'll bring you all your papers. Just lie back, I'll look after you’? Or the nurse who says ‘Now, come on. Shake out of it. I know you've had an operation yesterday. It's time you put your feet to the ground and took a few steps. That's right, dear, that's right. Now get back and take a few more tomorrow’...Which is the one most likely to get results? The one who says, come on you can do it. That's me.
  • I love argument, I love debate. I don’t expect anyone just to sit there and agree with me, that’s not their job.
  • May I make one point absolutely clear; the time we went there was a hunger strike on in the Maze, no-one has asked me, no-one in official authority or in high places has ever asked me to give political status to people who've been convicted of terrible crimes like murder, wounding, maming, causing explosions. That used to be asked. I think one of the reasons why we're not asked now is because we have got over our viewpoint and because everyone knows that this government will not budge on things which it regards as vital. There is no such thing as political murder. There is murder. There is no such things as causing explosions for political purposes and risking the lives of innocent men women and children. It is causing explosion, it is a crime, and they know that neither I, nor any member of my government will be moved on this. And we won through on that. And everyone knows it.
  • For years there was a widespread belief that we could have inflation and a high level of employment at the same time. For years there was a belief that we could secure more jobs if we were prepared to put up with a little more inflation—always a little more, it was thought. The experience of the past 25 years has taught us on the Government Benches that those beliefs were a most damaging illusion. Inflation and unemployment, instead of moving in opposite directions, rose inexorably together. As Governments tried to stimulate employment by pumping money into the economy they caused inflation. The inflation led to higher costs. The higher costs meant loss of ability to compete. The few jobs that we had gained were soon lost; and so were a lot more with them. And then, from a higher level of unemployment and inflation, the process was started all over again, and each time round both inflation and unemployment rose. In Parliament after Parliament, each new Government had a higher average rate of inflation and unemployment than the preceding Government. It is that cycle that we have set out to break.
  • Those terrorists will carry their determination to disrupt society to any lengths. Once again we have a hunger strike at the Maze Prison in the quest for what they call political status. There is no such thing as political murder, political bombing or political violence. There is only criminal murder, criminal bombing and criminal violence. We will not compromise on this. There will be no political status.
  • In the past our people have made sacrifices, only to find at the eleventh hour their government had lost its nerve and the sacrifice had been in vain. It shall not be in vain this time. This Conservative Government, not yet two years in office, will hold fast until the future of our country is assured...This is the road I am resolved to follow. This is the path I must go. I ask all who have the spirit—the bold, the steadfast and the young in heart—to stand and join with me as we go forward.
  • There can be no question of political status for someone who is serving a sentence for crime. Crime is crime is crime. It is not political. To give concessions on political status would put many people in jeopardy.
    • Press conference in Saudi Arabia (21 April 1981), quoted in The Times (22 April 1981) p. 1, regarding the 1981 Irish hunger strike.
Economics are the method; the object is to change the heart and soul.
  • It is generally acknowledged that the Government are running, in the Maze prison, one of the most liberal and humane prison regimes anywhere...What hunger strikers are asking for—the one who died last was in fact a murderer; let us not mince our words—is political status by easy stages. They cannot have it. They are murderers and people who use force and violence to obtain their ends. They have made perfectly clear what they want. They cannot and will not have it.
  • It would seem that dead hunger strikers, who have extinguished their own lives, are of more use to PIRA than living members. Such is their calculated cynicism. This Government is not prepared to legitimise their cause by word or by deed. And we should be clear what that cause is. It is a dictatorship by force and by fear in Northern Ireland, and in the Republic. These men deny democracy everywhere; they seek power for themselves. Some people argue that the Government could make the problem go away. We can of course maintain and improve an already humane prison regime. But there is no point in pretending that this is what the PIRA want. They have remained inflexible and intransigent in the face of all that we have done because what they want is special treatment, treatment different from that received by other prisoners. They want their violence justified. It isn't, and it will not be.
  • In this country over the last five years pay has doubled, whereas output has slightly fallen. That is totally different from the position with many of our competitors. Pay in those countries has gone up hand in hand with productivity. Consequently, they have the jobs and we have a larger proportion of the unemployment.
  • My policies are based not on some economics theory, but on things I and millions like me were brought up with: an honest day's work for an honest day's pay; live within your means; put by a nest egg for a rainy day; pay your bills on time; support the police.
    • The News of the World (20 September 1981), quoted in Chris Ogden, Maggie: An Intimate Portrait of a Woman in Power (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1990), p. 342.
  • I count myself among those politicians who operate from conviction. For me, pragmatism is not enough. Nor is that fashionable word “consensus”. When I asked one of my Commonwealth colleagues at this Conference why he kept saying that there was a “consensus” on a certain matter, another replied in a flash “consensus is the word you use when you can't get agreement”! To me consensus seems to be—the process of abandoning all beliefs, principles, values and policies in search of something in which no-one believes, but to which no-one objects.—the process of avoiding the very issues that have to be solved, merely because you cannot get agreement on the way ahead. What great cause would have been fought and won under the banner “I stand for consensus”?
  • The principle that adequate health care should be provided for all, regardless of ability to pay, must be the foundation of any arrangements for financing the Health Service.
  • I am sure you will agree that, in Britain with our democratic institutions and the need for a high degree of consent, some of the measures adopted in Chile are quite unacceptable. Our reform must be in line with our traditions and our Constitution. At times the process may seem painfully slow. But I am certain we shall achieve our reforms in our own way and in our own time. Then they will endure.
  • I must tell the House that the Falkland Islands and their dependencies remain British territory. No aggression and no invasion can alter that simple fact. It is the Government's objective to see that the islands are freed from occupation and are returned to British administration at the earliest possible moment...We cannot allow the democratic rights of the islanders to be denied by the territorial ambitions of Argentina.
  • The people of the Falkland Islands, like the people of the United Kingdom, are an island race. Their way of life is British; their allegiance is to the Crown. They are few in number, but they have the right to live in peace, to choose their own way of life and to determine their own allegiance. Their way of life is British; their allegiance is to the Crown. It is the wish of the British people and the duty of Her Majesty's Government to do everything that we can to uphold that right. That will be our hope and our endeavour and, I believe, the resolve of every Member of the House.
  • We have to recover those islands, we have to recover them for the people on them are British and British stock and they still owe allegiance to the Crown and want to be British. We have to do what is necessary to recover those islands...When you stop a dictator there are always risks but there are great risks in not stopping a dictator. My generation learned that a long time ago.
  • I am not talking about failure, I am talking about my supreme confidence in the British fleet...superlative ships, excellent equipment, the most highly trained professional group of men, the most honourable and brave members of Her Majesty's Service. Failure? Do you remember what Queen Victoria once said? “Failure—the possibilities do not exist”. That is the way we must look at it, with all our professionalism, all our flair and every single bit of native cunning, every single bit of professionalism and all our equipment and we must go out calmly, quietly, to succeed.
  • Difficult days lie ahead, but Britain will face them in the conviction that our cause is just and in the knowledge that we have been doing everything reasonable to secure a negotiated settlement. The principles that we are defending are fundamental to everything that this Parliament and this country stand for. They are the principles of democracy and the rule of law...Britain has a responsibility towards the islanders to restore their democratic way of life. She has a duty to the whole world to show that aggression will not succeed and to uphold the cause of freedom.
  • The fact is that the two major nuclear powers have not gone to war against each other—because, I believe, nuclear weapons are achieving their purpose as a deterrent that makes the prospect of war too horrific. It is noteworthy that, since the last world war, there have been 140 conventional wars, fought with ordinary weapons, which are themselves horrific, and that nuclear weapons have been a deterrent to war. I therefore believe that we should keep them.
  • The battle of the Falklands was a remarkable military operation, boldly planned, bravely executed, and brilliantly accomplished. We owe an enormous debt to the British forces and to the Merchant Marine. We honour them all. They have been supported by a people united in defence of our way of life and of our sovereign territory.
  • I do not believe that people who go on strike in this country have a legitimate cause. Throughout the period of the Labour Government and this one, I have never supported any strikes in this country.
  • We fought to show that aggression does not pay and that the robber cannot be allowed to get away with his swag. We fought with the support of so many throughout the world: the Security Council, the Commonwealth, the European Community, and the United States. Yet we also fought alone – for we fought for our own sovereign territory.
  • When we started out, there were the waverers and the fainthearts. The people who thought that Britain could no longer seize the initiative for herself. The people who thought we could no longer do the great things which we once did. Those who believed that our decline was irreversible—that we could never again be what we were. There were those who would not admit it—even perhaps some here today—people who would have strenuously denied the suggestion but—in their heart of hearts—they too had their secret fears that it was true: that Britain was no longer the nation that had built an Empire and ruled a quarter of the world. Well they were wrong. The lesson of the Falklands is that Britain has not changed and that this nation still has those sterling qualities which shine through our history. This generation can match their fathers and grandfathers in ability, in courage, and in resolution. We have not changed. When the demands of war and the dangers to our own people call us to arms—then we British are as we have always been: competent, courageous and resolute.
  • The battle of the South Atlantic was not won by ignoring the dangers or denying the risks. It was achieved by men and women who had no illusions about the difficulties. We faced them squarely and we were determined to overcome...What has indeed happened is that now once again Britain is not prepared to be pushed around. We have ceased to be a nation in retreat. We have instead a new-found confidence—born in the economic battles at home and tested and found true 8,000 miles away...we rejoice that Britain has re-kindled that spirit which has fired her for generations past and which today has begun to burn as brightly as before. Britain found herself again in the South Atlantic and will not look back from the victory she has won.
  • The battle for women's rights has been largely won. The days when they were demanded and discussed in strident tones should be gone for ever. And I hope they are. I hated those strident tones that you still hear from some Women's Libbers'.
  • The spirit of the South Atlantic was the spirit of Britain at her best. It has been said that we surprised the world, that British patriotism was rediscovered in those spring days. Mr. President, it was never really lost.
  • The point of having nuclear weapons is to deter a war of any kind. They have succeeded in doing so for the past 37 years. To be an effective deterrent a potential aggressor must believe that under certain circumstances such weapons will be used.
  • Peace is not bought cheaply. It cannot be won without cost. The cost of Britain's defence is the price we pay to prevent war. The money for our armed services is truly our “peace tax”. What a cruel irony it is that the word “peace” has been hijacked by those who seek one-sided disarmament. It's ironic because if only one side disarms, the other is far more tempted to aggression. Unilateralism makes war more likely. We who believe in strong defence are the true peace party.
  • The right hon. Gentleman is afraid of an election is he? Oh, if I were going to cut and run I'd have gone after the Falklands. Afraid? Frightened? Frit? Couldn't take it? Couldn't stand it? Right now inflation is lower than it has been for thirteen years, a record the right hon. Gentleman couldn't begin to touch!
    • Prime Minister's Questions (19 April 1983). The use of 'frit', an unusual Lincolnshire dialect abbreviation of 'frightened' which Mrs Thatcher evidently recalled from childhood, was missed by MPs in a noisy chamber but heard very distinctly on the audio feed from the chamber.
  • The choice facing the nation is between two totally different ways of life. And what a prize we have to fight for: no less than the chance to banish from our land the dark, divisive clouds of Marxist socialism and bring together men and women from all walks of life who share a belief in freedom.
    • Speech in Perth, Scotland (13 May 1983), quoted in New York Times (14 May 1983) "British Vote Campaign Gets Off to Angry Start"
  • I don't know by whom we might be threatened. What I do know is a government [sic] we have to be prepared for any eventuality, and I do know that possessions of those nuclear weapons has kept the peace between nuclear powers far better than the possession of conventional weapons did. You know when we only had conventional weapons Europe was at war again with 21–22 years. We have had 38 years peace and in another four or five years we will have the longest period of peace in Europe for centuries. That, to me, is the greatest prize of all, and...I'm prepared to allocate that expenditure to keep peace for the people for whom I'm responsible.

In an interview with George Negus for the Australian TV program 60 minutes, the following exchange occurred [3]:

Negus: Why do people stop us in the street almost and tell us that Margaret Thatcher isn't just inflexible, she's not just single-minded, on occasions she's plain pig-headed and won't be told by anybody?
Thatcher: Would you tell me who has stopped you in the street and said that?
Negus: Ordinary Britons...
Thatcher: Where?
Negus: In conversation, in pubs...
Thatcher (interrupting): I thought you'd just come from Belize
Negus: Oh this is not the first time we've been here.
Thatcher: Will you tell me who, and where and when?
Negus: Ordinary Britons in restaurants and cabs
Thatcher: How many?
Negus: ...in cabs
Thatcher: How many?
Negus: I would say at least one in two
Thatcher: Why won't you tell me their names and who they are?
  • What do you think of those two?
    • (She was holding out The Sun newspaper and was referring to 2 editorials on page 2. Page 3 of The Sun is known for having nude women on it.) Quoted in the first episode of the documentary Thatcher: The Downing Street Years.

Second term as Prime Minister[edit]

Socialists cry "Power to the people", and raise the clenched fist as they say it. We all know what they really mean – power over people, power to the State.
  • Unfortunately in our education system youngsters are still not given sufficient encouragement to go into industry or commerce and not told that it is a good thing to make an honest profit. They should be told that if you don't make a profit, you won't be in business very long because you haven't anything to plow back for tomorrow. You make your profit by pleasing others so you have to make it honestly.
  • If we do not keep alive the flame of freedom that flame will go out, and every noble ideal will die with it. It is not by force of weapons but by force of ideas that we seek to spread liberty to the world' s oppressed. It is not only ideals, but conscience that impels us to do so. Is there conscience in the Kremlin? Do they ever ask themselves what is the purpose of life? What is it all for? Does the way they handled the Korean airliner atrocity suggest that they ever considered such questions? No. Their creed is barren of conscience, immune to the promptings of good and evil. To them it is the system that counts, and all men must conform.
  • Let us never forget this fundamental truth: the State has no source of money other than money which people earn themselves. If the State wishes to spend more it can do so only by borrowing your savings or by taxing you more. It is no good thinking that someone else will pay – that ‘someone else’ is you. There is no such thing as public money; there is only taxpayers’ money.
  • I believe the police are upholding the law. They are not upholding the Government. This is not a dispute between miners and Government. This is a dispute between miners and miners. They have in their constitution the right to have a ballot. They have not been able to have a national ballot yet. Many of them have had local ballots. This is a dispute between miners and miners. It is some of the miners who are trying to stop other miners going to work. It is the police who are in charge of upholding the law...The police have been wonderful.
  • You saw the scenes that went on in television last night. I must tell you that what we have got is an attempt to substitute the rule of the mob for the rule of law, and it must not succeed. It must not succeed. There are those who are using violence and intimidation to impose their will on others who do not want it...Ladies and Gentlemen we need the support of everyone in this battle which goes to the very heart of our society. The rule of law must prevail over the rule of the mob.
  • The United States has no socialist party, or no socialist party has been in power. That is the reason why it has always been the country of last resort for every currency.
  • We had to fight the enemy without in the Falklands and now we have to fight the enemy within, which is much more difficult but just as dangerous to liberty.
  • The right hon. Gentleman [Neil Kinnock] leads a party which claims to support democracy but repudiates those miners who have voted democratically to remain at work and have done so in accordance with their union procedures. He leads a party which condemns violence in general but supports the mass picketing which inevitably ends in violence. He leads a party which has allied itself to the wreckers against the workers. The forces to which the right hon. Gentleman has lent his voice and support have no more love for parliamentary democracy than for the jobs and homes of those who oppose them. Sooner or later, when he has ceased to be of value to their purpose, they will turn on him, just as surely as they have turned on the police, on the steel workers, and on working miners and their families. There is only one word to describe the policy of the right hon. Gentleman when faced with threats, whether from home or abroad, and that word is appeasement. He will live to regret it. It is no policy for Britain.
  • The bomb attack on the Grand Hotel early this morning was first and foremost an inhuman, undiscriminating attempt to massacre innocent unsuspecting men and women staying in Brighton for our Conservative Conference...But the bomb attack clearly signified more than this. It was an attempt not only to disrupt and terminate our Conference; It was an attempt to cripple Her Majesty's democratically-elected Government. That is the scale of the outrage in which we have all shared, and the fact that we are gathered here now—shocked, but composed and determined—is a sign not only that this attack has failed, but that all attempts to destroy democracy by terrorism will fail.
  • We heard moving accounts from two working miners about just what they have to face as they try to make their way to work. The sheer bravery of those men and thousands like them who kept the mining industry alive is beyond praise. “Scabs” their former workmates call them. Scabs? They are lions!
  • In the Conservative Party, we have no truck with outmoded Marxist doctrine about class warfare. For us, it is not who you are, who your family is or where you come from that matters. It is what you are and what you can do for our country that counts. That is our vision.
  • No-one in their senses wants nuclear weapons for their own sake, but equally, no responsible prime minister could take the colossal gamble of giving up our nuclear defences while our greatest potential enemy kept their's. Policies which would throw out all American nuclear bases...would wreck NATO and leave us totally isolated from our friends in the United States, and friends they are. No nation in history has ever shouldered a greater burden nor shouldered it more willingly nor more generously than the United States. This Party is pro-American. And we must constantly remind people what the defence policy of the [Labour] Party would mean. Their idea that by giving up our nuclear deterrent, we could somehow escape the result of a nuclear war elsewhere is nonsense, and it is a delusion to assume that conventional weapons are sufficient defence against nuclear attack. And do not let anyone slip into the habit of thinking that conventional war in Europe is some kind of comfortable option. With a huge array of modern weapons held by the Soviet Union, including chemical weapons in large quantities, it would be a cruel and terrible conflict. The truth is that possession of the nuclear deterrent has prevented not only nuclear war but also conventional war and to us, peace is precious beyond price. We are the true peace party.
  • It was a lovely morning. We have not had many lovely days. And the sun was just coming through the stained glass windows and falling on some flowers right across the church and it just occurred to me that this was the day I was meant not to see.
  • I personally have always voted for the death penalty because I believe that people who go out prepared to take the lives of other people forfeit their own right to live. I believe that that death penalty should be used only very rarely, but I believe that no-one should go out certain that no matter how cruel, how vicious, how hideous their murder, they themselves will not suffer the death penalty.
  • We suffered a tragedy not one of us could have thought would happen in our country. And we picked ourselves up and sorted ourselves out as all good British people do, and I thought, let us stand together for we are British! They were trying to destroy the fundamental freedom that is the birth-right of every British citizen, freedom, justice and democracy.
  • I have made it quite clear – and so did Mr Prior when he was Secretary of State for Northern Ireland – that a unified Ireland was one solution. That is out. A second solution was confederation of two states. That is out. A third solution was joint authority. That is out. That is a derogation from sovereignty.
  • At one end of the spectrum are the terrorist gangs within our borders, and the terrorist states which finance and arm them. At the other are the Hard Left operating inside our system, conspiring to use union power and the apparatus of local government to break, defy and subvert the law.
  • If they do not wish to confer the honour, I am the last person who would wish to receive it.
    • Remarks after Oxford University voted not to award her an honorary degree. Mail on Sunday (3 February 1985), quoted in John Campbell, Margaret Thatcher. The Iron Lady (London: Jonathan Cape, 2003), p. 399.
  • I'm the world's greatest fan of your President [Ronald Reagan], as you know. I think he's done terrific things and I think that in his recent speech, the keynote that he struck, that America is a confident leader of the free world, is the right one and I'm absolutely delighted at the way in which confidence had returned to the United States.
  • We had to make certain that violence and intimidation and impossible demands could not win. There would have been neither freedom not order in Britain if we had given in to violence. There would have been no hope for any prosperous industry if people had gone on strike, really, for bigger and bigger subsidies from the tax-payers, because in the end it is the tax-payers who pay these subsidies. So that is over.
  • Don't you think that's the way to persuade more companies to come to this region and get more jobs—because I want them—for the people who are unemployed. Not always standing there as moaning minnies. Now stop it!
  • All my upbringing was to instill into both my sister and I a fantastic sense of duty, a great sense of whatever you do you are personally responsible for it. You do not blame society. Society is not anyone. You are personally responsible and just remember that you live among a whole lot of people and you must do things for them, and you must make up your own mind. That was very very strong, very strong. I remember my father sometimes saying to me if I said: “Oh so and so is doing something; can't I do it too?” You know, children do not like to be different. “You make up your own mind what you are going to do, never because someone else is doing it!” and he was always very stern about that. It stood one in good stead.
  • Home really was very small and we had no mod cons and I remember having a dream that the one thing I really wanted was to live in a nice house, you know, a house with more things than we had...We had not got hot water. We only had a cold water tap. We had to heat all the hot water in a copper. There was an outside toilet. So when people tell me about these things, I know about them.
  • We will not reflate...Past governments have tried that. Past governments have deliberately created inflation in the hope of reducing unemployment. It always finished up with worse inflation and worse unemployment. Mr President, You can't build a secure future on dishonest money. And there is a fundamental truth, from which no government can escape.
  • Those who want the country to have a strong and sure defence can't rely on the Labour Party, the SDP or the Liberals. They can rely on us. By the end of this century it is predicted that several more countries will have acquired nuclear weapons. Labour wants Britain to give them up. At the very time when any sensible person would be renewing his insurance cover, Labour wants to cancel Britain's policy altogether. Moreover, they want to get rid of American bases from Britain and all nuclear weapons from British soil. Does anyone who has witnessed Mr. Gorbachev's performance thinks that he respects weakness? No. Mr. President, it is recognition of the West's strength and cohesion that has brought the Soviet Union back to the negotiating table. Our wish is to see substantial reductions in nuclear weapons, provided they are balanced and verifiable. I know that will be President Reagan's objective at his meeting with Mr Gorbachev, and he has our full support and good wishes as he goes to Geneva. The West could not have a better or a braver champion.
  • It is traditional conservatism...It is radical, because at the time when I took over we needed to be radical. I would not call it populist. I may say many of the things that I have said strike a chord in the hearts of ordinary people. Why? Because they are British. Because their character is independent. They do not like to be shoved around. Because they are prepared to take responsibility. Because they do expect to be loyal to their friends and loyal allies. You call it populist. I say it strikes a chord in the hearts of people. I know, because it struck a chord in my heart many many years ago.
  • I find that the conservatism which I follow does have some things in common with what Professor Hayek was preaching and also has some things in common with what you called old-fashioned Liberals. Let me just quote one, to whom I am devoted, John Stuart Mill on liberty. “A nation that dwarfs its citizens will find that with small men it can accomplish no great thing.” Is that not what I have been saying? Yes, it is partly perhaps old-fashioned liberalism...my pride that it has something in common with that...but that also has something in common with my belief that really nations are there to try to help people to bring out the best talents and abilities and initiatives in themselves and that, I think, is conserving the best in human nature and trying to change the rest, but trying to change it through the character of men and women.
  • I believe in the British lion and I believe that the British character is lion-hearted, and I believe that it has not been lion-hearted in some of the post-War period, and I want it to get back to being lion hearted.
  • I'm absolutely amazed when some people say I am either hard or uncaring, because it's so utterly untrue. I can't say it because, if you say you are caring, it's like saying, ‘I'm a very modest person.’ Nobody believes you.
  • In my work, you get used to criticisms. Of course you do, because there are a lot of people trying to get you down, but I always cheer up immensely if one is particularly wounding because I think well, if they attack one personally, it means they have not a single political argument left. That is why my father always taught me: never worry about anyone who attacks you personally; it means their arguments carry no weight and they know it.
  • Conservatism is not some abstract theory. It's a crusade to put power in the hands of ordinary people. And a very popular crusade it is proving. Tenants are jumping at the opportunity to buy their own council houses. Workers are jumping at the opportunity to buy shares in their own privatised companies. Trade unionists are jumping at the opportunity, which the ballot box now gives them, to decide “who rules” in their union. And the rest of Britain is looking on with approval. For popular capitalism is biting deep.
  • Popular capitalism, which is the economic expression of liberty, is proving a much more attractive means for diffusing power in our society. Socialists cry "Power to the people", and raise the clenched fist as they say it. We all know what they really mean—power over people, power to the State. To us Conservatives, popular capitalism means what it says: power through ownership to the man and woman in the street, given confidently with an open hand.
  • From France to the Philippines, from Jamaica to Japan, from Malaysia to Mexico, from Sri Lanka to Singapore, privatisation is on the move...The policies we have pioneered are catching on in country after country. We Conservatives believe in popular capitalism—believe in a property-owning democracy. And it works! … The great political reform of the last century was to enable more and more people to have a vote. Now the great Tory reform of this century is to enable more and more people to own property. Popular capitalism is nothing less than a crusade to enfranchise the many in the economic life of the nation. We Conservatives are returning power to the people. That is the way to one nation, one people.
  • In a decision of the utmost gravity, Labour voted to give up Britain's independent nuclear deterrent unilaterally. Labour's defence policy—though "defence" is scarcely the word—is an absolute break with the defence policy of every British Government since the Second World War. Let there be no doubt about the gravity of that decision. You cannot be a loyal member of NATO while disavowing its fundamental strategy. A Labour Britain would be a neutralist Britain. It would be the greatest gain for the Soviet Union in forty years. And they would have got it without firing a shot.
  • The [Labour] moderates split off and that split of the moderates delayed the realignment of British politics for at least one generation and possibly two, because as a conservative passionately believing in freedom under the law and believing that socialism cannot stand for that, the realignment - you hear me say my job is to stay in long enough so that everyone knows that socialism and the British character do not mix, so socialism has got to go - is to get the fundamental realignment which I think is in keeping with the British character, which is two parties, a free enterprise party, because if you have political freedom under the rule of law you have got to have economic freedom as well. It is to bring about that can only be done really by eventually the Labour Party splitting off the Left and rejecting the Clause 4 and the command economy, and then we really should get a realignment.
  • It has been my strategy, believing passionately as I do in what we stand for, to take a different direction, to make people see that was the better direction; for us to stay in power long enough to make the Labour Party realise that their policies will never be re-elected and they must do a fundamental reappraisal of their policies and start two generations later what Gaitskell wanted to do but failed...I myself do not think one more push will be quite enough...I think you are likely to have it much more up nearer towards the year 2000, then you will have the fundamental realignment that should have been brought about half a century before.
  • A world without nuclear weapons may be a dream but you cannot base a sure defence on dreams. Without far greater trust and confidence between East and West than exists at present, a world without nuclear weapons would be less stable and more dangerous for all of us.
  • I, along with something like 5 million other people, insure to enable me to go into hospital on the day I want; at the time I want, and with a doctor I want.
  • The greatest division this nation has ever seen were the conflicts of trade unions towards the end of a Labour Government...That trade union movement...used their power against their members. They made them come out on strike when they didn't want to. They loved secondary picketing. They went and demonstrated outside companies where there was no dispute whatsoever, and sometimes closed them down. They were acting as they were later in the coal strike, before my whole trade union laws were through of this Government. They were out to use their power to hold the nation to ransom, to stop power from getting to the whole of manufacturing industry to damage people's jobs, to stop power from getting to every house in the country, power, heat and light to every housewife, every child, every school, every pensioner. You want division; you want conflict; you want hatred. There it was. It was that which Thatcherism—if you call it that—tried to stop. Not by arrogance, but by giving power to the ordinary, decent, honourable, trade union member who didn’t want to go on strike. By giving power to him over the Scargills of this world.
  • I believe passionately that people have a right, by their own efforts, to benefit their own families, so we have taken down taxation. It doesn't matter to me who you are or what your background is. If you want to use your own efforts to work harder—yes, I am with you all the way, whether it is unskilled effort or whether it is skilled, we have taken the income tax down.

Third term as Prime Minister[edit]

  • (The Community Charge is) the flagship of the Thatcher fleet.
    • David Butler, Andrew Adonis and Tony Travers, "Failure in British government: the politics of the poll tax" (Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1994)
    • Remarks to Conservative backbench MPs, July 1987
  • They're casting their problem on society. And, you know, there is no such thing as society. There are individual men and women, and there are families. And no government can do anything except through people, and people must look to themselves first. It's our duty to look after ourselves and then, also to look after our neighbour. People have got the entitlements too much in mind, without the obligations, because there is no such thing as an entitlement unless someone has first met an obligation"
    • Interview 23 September 1987, as quoted in by Douglas Keay, Woman's Own, 31 October 1987, pp. 8–10. A transcript of the interview at the Margaret Thatcher Foundation website differs in several particulars, but not in substance. The magazine transposed the statement in bold, often quoted out of context, from a later portion of Thatcher's remarks:
      • There is no such thing as society. There is living tapestry of men and women and people and the beauty of that tapestry and the quality of our lives will depend upon how much each of us is prepared to take responsibility for ourselves and each of us prepared to turn round and help by our own efforts those who are unfortunate.
  • When the ANC says that they will target British companies. This shows what a typical terrorist organisation it is. I fought terrorism all my life and if more people fought it, and we were all more successful, we should not have it and I hope that everyone in this hall will think it is right to go on fighting terrorism. They will if they believe in democracy.
    • Press Conference (17 October 1987), in answer to Alan Merrydew of BCTV News who asked what her response was "to a reported ANC statement that they will target British firms in South Africa?"
  • The freedom of peoples depends fundamentally on the rule of law, a fair legal system. The place to have trials or accusations is a court of law, the Common Law that has come right up from Magna Carta, which has come right up through the British courts – a court of law is the place where you deal with these matters. If you ever get trial by television or guilt by accusation, that day freedom dies because you have not had it done with all of the careful rules that have developed in a court of law. Press and television rely on freedom. Those who rely on freedom must uphold the rule of law and have a duty and a responsibility to do so and not try to substitute their own system for it.
  • We support the right of women to choose our own lives for ourselves. If women wish to be lawyers, doctors, engineers, scientists, politicians, we should have the same opportunities as men, more and more we do...But many women wish to devote themselves mainly to raising a family and running a home. And we should have that choice too. Very few jobs can compare in long-term importance and satisfaction with that of housewife and mother. For the family is the building block of society. It is a nursery, a school, a hospital, a leisure place, a place of refuge and a place of rest. It encompasses the whole of society. It fashions our beliefs. It is the preparation for the rest of our life. And women run it.
  • Mr. Chairman, you have invited me to speak on the subject of Britain and Europe. Perhaps I should congratulate you on your courage. If you believe some of the things said and written about my views on Europe, it must seem rather like inviting Genghis Khan to speak on the virtues of peaceful coexistence! ...The European Community is one manifestation of that European identity, but it is not the only one. We must never forget that east of the Iron Curtain, peoples who once enjoyed a full share of European culture, freedom and identity have been cut off from their roots. We shall always look on Warsaw, Prague and Budapest as great European cities...To try to suppress nationhood and concentrate power at the centre of a European conglomerate would be highly damaging and would jeopardise the objectives we seek to achieve. Europe will be stronger precisely because it has France as France, Spain as Spain, Britain as Britain, each with its own customs, traditions and identity. It would be folly to try to fit them into some sort of identikit European personality...it is ironic that just when those countries such as the Soviet Union, which have tried to run everything from the centre, are learning that success depends on dispersing power and decisions away from the centre, there are some in the Community who seem to want to move in the opposite direction. We have not successfully rolled back the frontiers of the state in Britain, only to see them re-imposed at a European level with a European super-state exercising a new dominance from Brussels.
  • For generations, we have assumed that the efforts of mankind would leave the fundamental equilibrium of the world's systems and atmosphere stable. But it is possible that with all these enormous changes (population, agricultural, use of fossil fuels) concentrated into such a short period of time, we have unwittingly begun a massive experiment with the system of this planet itself...the increase in the greenhouse gases...has led some to fear that we are creating a global heat trap which could lead to climatic instability.
  • The Government espouses the concept of sustainable economic development. Stable prosperity can be achieved throughout the world provided the environment is nutured and safeguarded. Protecting this balance of nature is therefore one of the great challenges of the late Twentieth Century.
  • There is nothing new or unusual about the Tory commitment to protect the environment. The last thing we want is to leave environmental debts for our children to clear up...It's we Conservatives who are not merely friends of the Earth—we are its guardians and trustees for generations to come. The core of Tory philosophy and for the case for protecting the environment are the same. No generation has a freehold on this earth. All we have is a life tenancy—with a full repairing lease. This Government intends to meet the terms of that lease in full.
  • In this country and in other democracies, the enemies of civilisation and freedom have turned to the gun and the bomb to destroy those they can't persuade. The terrorist threat to freedom is worldwide. It can never be met by appeasement. Give in to the terrorist and you breed more terrorism. At home and abroad our message is the same. We will not bargain, nor compromise, nor bend the knee to terrorists.
  • In our United Kingdom, the main terrorist threat has come from the IRA. Their minds twisted by hatred and fanaticism, they have tried to bomb and murder their way to their objective of tearing more than a million citizens out of the United Kingdom. The truth is that the whole IRA campaign is based on crushing democracy and smashing anyone who doesn't agree with them. To all those who have suffered so much at their hands—to the Northern Ireland policemen and prison officers and their families, to the soldiers, the judges, the civil servants and their families—we offer our deepest admiration and thanks for defending democracy and for facing danger while keeping within the rule of law—unlike the terrorist who skulks in the shadows and shoots to kill...we will never give up the search for more effective ways of defeating the IRA. If the IRA think they can weary us or frighten us, they have made a terrible miscalculation. People sometimes say that it is wrong to use the word never in politics, I disagree, some things are of such fundamental importance that no other word is appropriate. So I say once again today that this Government will never surrender to the IRA. Never.
  • Human rights did not begin with the French Revolution...[they] really stem from a mixture of Judaism and Christianity...[we English] had 1688, our quiet revolution, where Parliament exerted its will over the King...it was not the sort of Revolution that France's was...'Liberty, equality, fraternity' – they forgot obligations and duties I think. And then of course the fraternity went missing for a long time.
    • On the French Revolution; quoted in '"Les droits de l'homme n'ont pas commencé en France," nous déclare Mme Thatcher', Le Monde (13 July 1989)
  • We do not want a united Germany. This would lead to a change to postwar borders, and we cannot allow that because such a development would undermine the stability of the whole international situation and could endanger our security.
  • 1989 will be remembered for decades to come as the year when half the people of half our continent began to throw off their chains. The messages on our banners in 1979—freedom, opportunity, family, enterprise, ownership—are now inscribed on the banners in Leipzig, Warsaw, Budapest and even Moscow...In 1979, we knew that we were starting a British revolution; in fact, we were the pioneers of a world revolution.
  • Imagine a Labour canvasser talking on the doorstep to those East German families when they settle in, on freedom's side of the wall. "You want to keep more of the money you earn? I'm afraid that's very selfish. We shall want to tax that away. You want to own shares in your firm? We can't have that. The state has to own your firm. You want to choose where to send your children to school? That's very divisive. You'll send your child where we tell you." Mr President, the trouble with Labour is that they're just not at home with freedom. Socialists don't like ordinary people choosing, for they might not choose Socialism.
  • I think it is a great day for freedom. I watched the scenes on television last night and again this morning because I felt one ought not only hear about them but see them because you see the joy on people's faces and you see what freedom means to them; it makes you realise that you cannot stifle or suppress people's desire for liberty and so I watched with the same joy as everyone else and I hope that they will be a prelude to the Berlin Wall coming down.
  • Iraq has violated and taken over the territory of a country which is a full member of the United Nations. That is totally unacceptable and if it were allowed to endure then there would be many other small countries that could never feel safe...The fundamental question is this: whether the nations of the world have the collective will effectively to see that Security Council Resolution is upheld, whether they have the collective will effectively to do anything which the Security Council further agrees to see that Iraq withdraws and that the government of Kuwait is restored to Kuwait.
  • Today we are coming to realise that an epoch in history is over...For more than forty years that Iron Curtain remained in place. Few of us expected to see it lifted in our life-time. Yet with great suddenness the impossible has happened. Communism is broken, utterly broken...We do not see this new Soviet Union as an enemy, but as a country groping its way towards freedom. We no longer have to view the world through a prism of East-West relations. The Cold War is over.
  • I seem to smell the stench of appeasement in the air—the rather nauseating stench of appeasement.
    • [4] On a parliament debate about the Gulf War
  • The toppling of the Berlin Wall. The overthrow of Ceausescu by the people he had so brutally oppressed. The first free elections in Eastern Europe for a generation. The spread of the ideas of market freedom and independence to the very heart of the Soviet Leviathan...Our friends from Eastern Europe reminded us that no force of arms, no walls, no barbed wire can for ever suppress the longing of the human heart for liberty and independence. Their courage found allies. Their victory came about because for forty long, cold years the West stood firm against the military threat from the East. Free enterprise overwhelmed Socialism. This Government stood firm against all those voices raised at home in favour of appeasement. We were criticised for intransigence. Tempted repeatedly with soft options. And reviled for standing firm against Soviet military threats. When will they learn? When will they ever learn?
  • Now again in the sands of the Middle East, principle is at stake. Mr President, dictators can be deterred, they can be crushed—but they can never be appeased. These things are not abstractions. What changed the world and what will save the world were principle and resolve. Our principles: freedom, independence, responsibility, choice—these and the democracy built upon them are Britain's special legacy to the world. And everywhere those who love liberty look to Britain. When they speak of parliaments they look to Westminster. When they speak of justice they look to our common law. And when they seek to regenerate their economies, they look to the transformation we British have accomplished. Principles and resolve: They are what changed Britain a decade ago. They are what the Conservative Party brings to Britain. And they alone can secure her freedom and prosperity in the years ahead.
  • Last week, Mr President, I seemed to hear a strange sound emanating from Blackpool. And I thought at first it was seagulls. [laughter] Then I remembered that Labour was holding its annual Conference there. And I realised it wasn't seagulls, it was chickens—[laughter and applause] chickens being counted before they were hatched—[laughter and applause] except for Labour's call to enter the ERM and cut interest rates. That was a case of counting chickens after they'd flown the coop. Then, I heard voices getting all worked up about someone they kept calling the “Prime Minister in Waiting”. [laughter] It occurs to me, Mr President, that he might have quite a wait. [applause] I can see him now, like the people queuing up for the Winter sales. All got up with his camp bed, hot thermos, woolly balaclava, CND badge ... [laughter and applause] Waiting, waiting, waiting ... And then when the doors open, in he rushes—only to find that, as always, there's “that woman” ahead of him again. [applause and laughter] I gather there may be an adjective between “that” and “woman” [laughter] only no-one will tell me what it is. [laughter and applause]
  • Now, that brings me to the Liberal Party. I gather that during the last few days there have been some ill-natured jokes about their new symbol, a bird of some kind, adopted by the Liberal Democrats at Blackpool. Politics is a serious business, and one should not lower the tone unduly. So I will say only this of the Liberal Democrat symbol and of the party it symbolises. This is an ex-parrot. It is not merely stunned. It has ceased to be, expired and gone to meet its maker. It is a parrot no more. It has rung down the curtain and joined the choir invisible. This is a late parrot. And now for something completely different.
  • It seems like cloud cuckoo land... If anyone is suggesting that I would go to Parliament and suggest the abolition of the pound sterling – no! … We have made it quite clear that we will not have a single currency imposed on us.
    • To the media immediately after the EEC Rome summit meeting (28 October, 1990); as reported in A Conservative Coup: The Fall of Margaret Thatcher (1992) by Alan Watkins.
  • The President of the Commission, M. Delors, said at a press conference the other day that he wanted the European Parliament to be the democratic body of the Community, he wanted the Commission to be the Executive and he wanted the Council of Ministers to be the Senate. No. No. No.
  • I am still at the crease, though the bowling has been pretty hostile of late. And in case anyone doubted it, can I assure you there will be no ducking the bouncers, no stonewalling, no playing for time. The bowling's going to get hit all round the ground. That is my style.
  • Paddy Ashdown: ...this is an agreement which the right hon. Lady will be entitled to regard with a certain pride and satisfaction as she looks back on the twilight days of her premiership...
  • Margaret Thatcher: ...The first eleven and a half years have not been so bad – and with regard to a twilight, please remember that there are 24 hours in a day.
  • Having consulted widely among colleagues, I have concluded that the unity of the Party and the prospects of victory in a General Election would be better served if I stood down to enable Cabinet colleagues to enter the ballot for the leadership. I should like to thank all those in Cabinet and outside who have given me such dedicated support.
    • Statement announcing her intention to resign the premiership (22 November 1990).
  • People on all levels of income are better off than they were in 1979. The hon. Gentleman is saying that he would rather that the poor were poorer, provided that the rich were less rich. That way one will never create the wealth for better social services. as we have. What a policy. Yes, he would rather have the poor poorer, provided that the rich were less rich. That is the Liberal policy.
  • It may be inverted snobbishness but I don't want old style, Old Etonian Tories of the old school to succeed me and go back to the old complacent, consensus ways. John Major is someone who has fought his way up from the bottom and is far more in tune with the skilled and ambitious and worthwhile working classes than Douglas Hurd is.
    • Said to Woodrow Wyatt (23 November 1990), Sarah Curtis (ed.), The Journals of Woodrow Wyatt. Volume Two (Pan, 2000), pp. 401-402.
  • We're leaving Downing Street for the last time after eleven-and-a-half wonderful years, and we're very happy that we leave the United Kingdom in a very, very much better state than when we came here eleven and a half years ago.

Post-Prime Ministerial[edit]

We fly the British flag, not these awful things you are putting on tails.
  • Americans and Europeans alike sometimes forget how unique is the United States of America. No other nation has been created so swiftly and successfully. No other nation has been built upon an idea – the idea of liberty. No other nation has so successfully combined people of different races and nations within a single culture. Both the founding fathers of the United States and successive waves of immigrants to your country were determined to create a new identity. Whether in flight from persecution or from poverty, the huddled masses have, with few exceptions, welcomed American values, the American way of life and American opportunities. And America herself has bound them to her with powerful bonds of patriotism and pride. The European nations are not and can never be like this. They are the product of history and not of philosophy. You can construct a nation on an idea; but you cannot reconstruct a nation on the basis of one.
  • But freedom without law is freedom only for the strong at the expense of the weak. Freedom without law is therefore no freedom, but rather anarchy or tyranny. Law is the bond of all civil society. We are not asking a favour of a man when we ask him to obey the law. Obedience of the rule of law is necessary for the continuance of liberty itself. Doubtless you will point out that laws have not always been just—indeed they have been very unjust. In South Africa that certainly has been the case. Thankfully, that is now being remedied. And alongside that, democracy has yet to be achieved.
  • Member for Islwyn was going to have a single currency willy-nilly. He has already made up his mind. The argument that he uses is that, if others have it, we must. That is an argument for a flock of sheep, not for people who are sent here to analyse the problem and to use our minds and our reason to say which course we should follow.
  • It is a great night. It is the end of Socialism.
    • On hearing the results of the 1992 general election (9 April 1992), as reported in The Journals of Woodrow Wyatt: Volume Two (2000) by Woodrow Wyatt.
  • The trouble with you John, is that your spine does not reach your brain.
    • On Conservative backbencher John Whittingdale after being summoned to her room to urge MPs to vote against the Maastricht Treaty. Whittingdale was reported to have emerged from the room in tears. (The Times 26 November 1992)
  • We could have stopped this, we could still do so... But for the most part, we in the west have actually given comfort to the aggressor.
    • On Western non-intervention in Bosnia, as reported in 'Thatcher warns of "Holocaust" risk in Bosnia appeal' by Anthony Bevins and Stephen Goodwin in The Independent (17 December 1992)
  • [It is a] killing field of the like of which I thought we would never see in Europe again [and is] not worthy of Europe, not worthy of the west and not worthy of the United States... This is happening in the heart of Europe and we have not done more to stop it. It is in Europe's sphere of influence. It should be in Europe's sphere of conscience... We are little more than an accomplice to massacre.
    • After UK Foreign Secretary Douglas Hurd claimed lifting the arms embargo to Bosnians would create a "level killing field", as reported in 'Thatcher says massacre brings shame on west' by Philip Webster and Robert Morgan in The Times (14 April 1993)
  • Clear. Decisive. Purposeful.
    • When asked how she would describe her leadership style. [5]
  • Douglas, Douglas, you would make Neville Chamberlain look like a warmonger.
    • On Douglas Hurd, as quoted in "Atticus", The Sunday Times (2 May 1993)
  • [M]ore than they wanted freedom, the Athenians wanted security. Yet they lost everything—security, comfort, and freedom. This was because they wanted not to give to society, but for society to give to them. The freedom they were seeking was freedom from responsibility. It is no wonder, then, that they ceased to be free. In the modern world, we should recall the Athenians' dire fate whenever we confront demands for increased state paternalism.
    • Imprimis, "The Moral Foundations of Society" (March 1995), an edited version of a lecture Thatcher had delivered at Hillsdale College in November 1994. In characterizing the Athenians Thatcher was paraphrasing from "Athens' Failure," a chapter of classicist Edith Hamilton's book The Echo of Greece (1957), pp.47-48, but in her lecture Thatcher mistakenly attributed the opinions to Edward Gibbon. Subsequently, a version of this quotation has been widely circulated on the Internet, misattributed to Gibbon.
    • In a later address, "The Moral Foundation of Democracy," given in April 1996 at a Clearwater, Florida gathering of the James Madison Institute, Thatcher delivered the same sentiment in a slightly different way: " 'In the end, more than they wanted freedom, [the Athenians] wanted security. They wanted a comfortable life. But they lost it all—security, comfort, and freedom. … When the Athenians finally wanted not to give to society, but for society to give to them, when the freedom they wished for most was freedom from responsibility, then Athens ceased to be free.' There you have the germ of the dependency culture: freedom from responsibility."
  • The kind of Conservatism which he and I...favoured would be best described as "liberal", in the old-fashioned sense. And I mean the liberalism of Mr Gladstone not of the latter day collectivists. That is to say, we placed far greater confidence in individuals, families, businesses and neighbourhoods than in the State.
  • I am not sure what is meant by those who say that the Party should return to something called "One Nation Conservatism". As far as I can tell by their views on European federalism, such people's creed would be better described as "No Nation Conservatism".
  • In my lifetime all our problems have come from mainland Europe and all the solutions have come from the English-speaking nations across the world.
  • I might have preferred iron, but bronze will do. It won't rust. And, this time I hope, the head will stay on.
  • I had applied for a job [at Imperial Chemical Industries] in 1948 and was called for a personal interview. However I failed to get selected. Many years later, I succeeded in finding out why I had been rejected. The remarks written by the selectors on my application were: "This woman is headstrong, obstinate and dangerously self-opinionated!"

The Downing Street Years (1993)[edit]

  • No theory of government was ever given a fairer test or a more prolonged experiment in a democratic country than democratic socialism received in Britain. Yet it was a miserable failure in every respect. Far from reversing the slow relative decline of Britain vis-à-vis its main industrial competitors, it accelerated it. We fell further behind them, until by 1979 we were widely dismissed as 'the sick man of Europe'...To cure the British disease with socialism was like trying to cure leukaemia with leeches.
  • The significance of the Falklands War was enormous, both for Britain's self-confidence and for our standing in the world...We had come to be seen by both friends and enemies as a nation which lacked the will and the capability to defend its interests in peace, let alone in war. Victory in the Falklands changed that. Everywhere I went after the war, Britain's name meant something more than it had. The war also had real importance in relations between East and West: years later I was told by a Russian general that the Soviets had been firmly convinced that we would not fight for the Falklands, and that if we did fight we would lose. We proved them wrong on both counts, and they did not forget the fact.
  • The star of that year's conference was undoubtedly the Swedish conservative leader—since Prime Minister—who delivered a speech of such startling Thatcherite soundness that in applauding I felt as if I was giving myself a standing ovation.
To me, consensus seems to be the process of abandoning all beliefs, principles, values and policies. So it is something in which no one believes and to which no one objects.

The Path To Power (1995)[1][edit]

  • Nazism (national Socialism) and communism (international socialism) were but two sides of the same coin.
  • We all see these great calamities with different eyes, and so their impact upon us is different.
  • The main contribution one can make as a student to one's country in peace or wartime is to study hard and effectively.
  • Each demand for security, whether of employment, income or social position, implied the exclusion from such benefits of those outside the particular privileged group - and would generate demands for countervailing privileges from the excluded groups. Eventually, in such a situation every will lose.
  • Everyone had something unique to offer in life and their responsibility was to develop those gifts - and heroes come from all backgrounds.
  • You cannot build a great nation or brotherhood of man by spreading envy or hatred.
  • Our opponents like to try and make you believe that Conservatism is a privilege of the few. But Conservatism conserves all that is great and best in our national heritage.
  • It is not our policy to suppress success.
  • Our policy is not built on envy or hatred, but on liberty for the individual man or woman.
  • Communism was the regime for the privileged elite, capitalism the creed for the common man.
  • When you stop selecting by ability you have to select according to some other inevitably less satisfactory criterion.
  • Those who use this countries great tradition of freedom of speech should not seek to deny that same freedom to others, especially to those who, like Mr Powell, spent their war years in distinguished service in the Forces.
  • Many senior policemen put greater emphasis on maintaining 'order' than on upholding the law. In practice that meant failing to uphold the rights of individuals against the rule of the mob.

Statecraft: Strategies for a Changing World[edit]

Thatcher, Margaret (2002). Statecraft: Strategies for a Changing World. New York: HarperCollins. ISBN 0-06-095912-6. 

  • For my part, I favour an approach to statecraft that embraces principles, as long as it is not stifled by them; and I prefer such principles to be accompanied by steel along with good intentions.
    • p. xxii
  • We now know that bin Laden's terrorists had been planning their outrages for years. The propagation of their mad, bad ideology – decency forbids calling it a religion – had been taking place before our eyes. We were just too blind to see it. In short, the world had never ceased to be dangerous. But the West had ceased to be vigilant. Surely that is the most important lesson of this tragedy, and we must learn it if our civilisation is to survive.
    • p. xxv
  • The habit of ubiquitous interventionism, combining pinprick strikes by precision weapons with pious invocations of high principle, would lead us into endless difficulties. Interventions must be limited in number and overwhelming in their impact.
    • p. 37
  • I should therefore prefer to restrict my guidelines to the following:
    • Don't believe that military interventions, no matter how morally justified, can succeed without clear military goals
    • Don't fall into the trap of imagining that the West can remake societies
    • Don't take public opinion for granted – but don't either underrate the degree to which good people will endure sacrifices for a worthwhile cause
    • Don't allow tyrants and aggressors to get away with it
    • And when you fight – fight to win.
      • p. 39
  • The West as a whole in the early 1990s became obsessed with a 'peace dividend' that would be spent over and over again on any number of soft-hearted and sometimes soft-headed causes. Politicians forgot that the only real peace dividend is peace.
    • p. 40
  • Never believe that technology alone will allow America to prevail as a superpower.
    • p. 47
  • But if Saddam had been in a position credibly to threaten America or any of its allies – or the coalition's forces – with attack by missiles with nuclear warheads, would we have gone to the Gulf at all?
    • p. 49
  • For every idealistic peacemaker willing to renounce his self-defence in favour of a weapons-free world, there is at least one warmaker anxious to exploit the other's good intentions.
    • p. 50
  • Successful entrepreneurship is ultimately a matter of flair. But there is also a fund of practical knowledge to be acquired and, of course, the right legal and financial framework has to be provided for productive enterprise to develop.
    • p. 65
  • It is always important in matters of high politics to know what you do not know. Those who think they know, but are mistaken, and act upon their mistakes, are the most dangerous people to have in charge.
    • p. 104
  • Singapore's success shows us that:
    • A country's wealth need not depend on natural resources, it may even ultimately benefit from their absence
    • The greatest resource of all is Man
    • What government has to do is to set the framework for human talent to flourish.
    • p. 118
  • All corporatism – even when practised in societies where hard work, enterprise and cooperation are as highly valued as in Korea – encourages inflexibility, discourages individual accountability, and risks magnifying errors by concealing them.
    • p. 121
  • My father, more perceptive than many, wryly commented that by the time I was an adult there might not be an Indian Civil Service to enter. He turned out to be right. I had to settle for British politics instead.
    • p. 195
  • Patched-up diplomatic solutions designed to answer the needs of the moment rarely last, and as they unravel they can actually make things worse.
    • p. 203
  • North Korea desperately needed the foreign currency which this lethal trade could bring; its role as chief 'rogue' reinforced its prestige among anti-Western states, near and far; and it could also hope at the right moment to extort new instalments of Danegeld from America and her allies.
    • p. 212
  • Constitutions have to be written on hearts, not just paper.
    • p. 256
  • You only have to wade through a metric measure or two of European prose, culled from its directives, circulars, reports, communiqués or what pass as debates in its 'parliament', and you will quickly understand that Europe is, in truth, synonymous with bureaucracy – to which one might add 'to', 'from' and 'with' bureaucracy if one were so minded.
    • p. 324
  • What we should grasp, however, from the lessons of European history is that, first, there is nothing necessarily benevolent about programmes of European integration; second, the desire to achieve grand utopian plans often poses a grave threat to freedom; and third, European unity has been tried before, and the outcome was far from happy.
    • p. 327
  • 'Europe' in anything other than the geographical sense is a wholly artificial construct. It makes no sense at all to lump together Beethoven and Debussy, Voltaire and Burke, Vermeer and Picasso, Notre Dame and St Paul's, boiled beef and bouillabaisse, and portray them as elements of a 'European' musical, philosophical, artistic, architectural or gastronomic reality. If Europe charms us, as it has so often charmed me, it is precisely because of its contrasts and contradictions, not its coherence and continuity.
    • p. 328
  • Not that this appears to affect the intentions of the political-bureaucratic elite, which in Britain as elsewhere in Europe believes that it has an overriding mission to achieve European integration by hook or by crook and which is convinced that History (with an extra-large 'H') is on its side.
    • p. 388

Attributed[edit]

  • The feminists hate me, don’t they? And I don’t blame them. For I hate feminism. It is poison.
  • It may be the cock that crows, but it is the hen that lays the eggs.
    • As quoted in Animal Sciences: The Biology, Care, and Production of Domestic Animals (2009) by John R. Campbell, M. Douglas Kenealy, Karen L. Campbell, p. 68


Disputed[edit]

  • Victorian values.
    • This phrase, often associated with Thatcher, derives from an interview with Brian Walden on Weekend World (16 January, 1983). However, it is Brian Walden who says, in summarising Margaret Thatcher, "you've really outlined an approval of what I would call Victorian values".
    • P.M. Thatcher made this observation shortly thereafter : The other day I appeared on a certain television programme. And I was asked whether I was trying to restore ‘Victorian values.’ I said straight out, yes I was. And I am. And if you ask me whether I believe in the puritan work ethic, I’ll give you an equally straight answer to that too.
    • Thatcher also gave the following quote a few weeks later : I was brought up by a Victorian grandmother. You were taught to work jolly hard, you were taught to improve yourself, you were taught self-reliance, you were taught to live within your income, you were taught that cleanliness was next to godliness. You were taught self-respect, you were taught always to give a hand to your neighbour, you were taught tremendous pride in your country, you were taught to be a good member of your community. All of these things are Victorian values. [...] They are also perennial values as well.
  • You may have to fight a battle more than once to win it.
    • This quote is widely attributed to Margaret Thatcher on various websites, and also appears in a number of books, including The Concise Columbia Dictionary of Quotations, Columbia University Press (1989), ed. Robert Andrews, p. 320 : ISBN 0231069901. 9780231069908 , but without any further source information such as date, location or any other context.
    • One valid Thatcher quote which may be the basis for the version above appears in the Second Carlton Lecture (‘Why Democracy Will Last’), delivered at the Carlton Club, London (November 26, 1984) : Mr. Chairman, each generation has to stand up for democracy. It can’t take anything for granted and may have to fight fundamental battles anew. You know that marvellous quotation from Goethe : ‘That which thy fathers bequeathed thee / Earn it anew if thou would possess it.’
    • Thatcher also expressed this thought in a Speech to Atlantic Bridge (May 14, 2003), delivered at the St. Regis Hotel, New York City : My friends, every generation has to fight anew the battle for liberty.
  • Remember, George, this is no time to go wobbly.
    • To President George H.W. Bush, regarding the Persian Gulf conflict, as reported in an AP story published March 8,1991
    • Former Vice President Dick Cheney : It’s an old wive’s story.
    • PolitiFact.com, after a fairly extensive review of available source material, concluded, We rate Cheney’s claim False.


Misattributed[edit]

  • A man who, beyond the age of 26, finds himself on a bus can count himself as a failure.
    • Attributed to her in Commons debates, 2003-07-02, column 407 and Commons debates, 2004-06-15 column 697. According to a letter to the Daily Telegraph by Alistair Cooke on 2 November 2006, this sentiment originated with Loelia Ponsonby, one of the wives of 2nd Duke of Westminster who said "Anybody seen in a bus over the age of 30 has been a failure in life". In a letter published the next day, also in the Daily Telegraph, Hugo Vickers claims Loelia Ponsonby admitted to him that she had borrowed it from Brian Howard. There is no solid evidence that Margaret Thatcher ever quoted this statement with approval, or indeed shared the sentiment.
  • If my critics saw me walking over the River Thames they would say it was because I couldn't swim.
    • Attributed to her in [6] and other sources. Actually an adapted Lyndon Johnson quote "If one morning I walked on top of the water across the Potomac River, the headline that afternoon would read: 'President Can't Swim.'"
  • Being powerful is like being a lady. If you have to tell people you are, you aren't.
    • Often attributed to Thatcher, but originally said by Jesse Carr, head of Teamsters Union Local, in Newsweek, Vol. 88 (1976), p. 77

Quotes about Thatcher[edit]

See also: Death and funeral of Margaret Thatcher
  • The fall of Margaret Thatcher in the autumn of 1990 had much of the appearance of a return of British politics to its modern starting-point in the early sixties.
  • When she came to power in 1979 we genuinely debated whether or not those who governed Britain would be the trade unions or the elected Government of our country. I think her most significant achievement is that that question is no longer asked. She has had a unique character and unique strengths and abilities and unique faults as well.
  • She behaves with all the sensitivity of a sex-starved boa constrictor.
The Prime Ministers who are remembered are those who think and teach, and not many do. Mrs. Thatcher... influenced the thinking of a generation.
  • The Prime Ministers who are remembered are those who think and teach, and not many do. Mrs. Thatcher... influenced the thinking of a generation.
    • Tony Benn, as quoted in The Prime Minister: The Office and its Holders since 1945 (2001) by Peter Hennessy
  • She was a tigress surrounded by hamsters.
    • John Biffen, 'The revenge of the unburied dead', The Observer (9 December, 1990)
  • Her iron will won international respect. Her unabashed femininity gained women’s. Margaret Thatcher was a lady’s lady.
  • I'll miss her because I value her counsel. I value her long experience and the wisdom that comes from that experience. She has been an outstanding Prime Minister for the United Kingdom and an outstanding friend to the United States.
  • The further you got from Britain, the more admired you found she was.
  • Of all the elements combined in the complex of signs labelled Margaret Thatcher, it is her voice that sums up the ambiguity of the entire construct. She coos like a dove, hisses like a serpent, bays like a hound [in a contrived upper-class accent] reminiscent not of real toffs but of Wodehouse aunts.
  • What does she want, this housewife? My balls on a tray?
  • For us she is not the iron lady. She is the kind, dear Mrs. Thatcher.
  • She has towered over all her contemporaries...Her courage – intellectual, psychological and in the face of physical danger – is quite out of the ordinary. It is her unwavering purpose that has kept her government on their fixed course through the troughs as well as the crests of party and personal popularity. The temptation to take the easier path, to fudge, and to trim, are immense. She herself has never succumbed to it...Mrs Thatcher evokes admiration and detestation for one identical reason: she is 'big'. She has impressed herself on government as nobody has done since the war years of Churchill. She falls short of greatness, but she radiates dominance. I do not believe that in our lifetime we shall ever look upon her like again.
    • Professor S. E. Finer, quoted in Kenneth Minogue and Michael Biddiss (eds.), Thatcherism: Personality and Politics (London: Macmillan, 1987), p. 140.
The blood that is spilling is not my responsibility. It is the responsibility of Mrs. 'No.'
  • Fortunately Hayek never had any influence on Thatcher’s policies. (Her chief economic adviser in these years was Alan Walters, a Friedman-style monetarist.) Equally, and perhaps also happily, Thatcher had no understanding of Hayek’s ideas. If it was true that she carried about with her for a time a copy of Hayek’s magnum opus, The Constitution of Liberty (1960), she cannot have read its postscript, “Why I am not a Conservative”, in which Hayek explains that he rejects conservatism because it lacks a vision of human progress. A case can be made that Thatcher was no conservative, either – at least if being conservative includes an aversion to policies that impose deep changes on inherited social institutions. But this is a view that goes only so far. Unlike Hayek, Thatcher understood and accepted the political limits of market economics.
  • A mixture of a matron at a minor public school and a guard in a concentration camp.
    • Denis Healey, interviewed for The Thatcher Factor, quoted in John Campbell, Margaret Thatcher. The Iron Lady (London: Jonathan Cape, 2003), p. 472.
  • Margaret Thatcher was the hardest-working head of Government I ever met. Her application was prodigious and she was always extraordinarily well briefed for every meeting. Whatever the subject, she could press her sometimes jarring and belligerent viewpoints with great authority, and for that I deeply respected her.
  • It is Mrs Thatcher's great merit that she. has broken with the Keynesian immorality of 'in the long run we are all dead' and to have concentrated on the long run future of the country irrespective of possible effects on the electors. Keynesian irresponsibility naturally appeals to the timid wets. (...) Mrs Thatcher's courage makes her put the long run future of the country first. After being much too long restrained by the believers in the Muddle of the Middle, her new stature ought to enable her to guide us by her true vision.
  • Margaret Thatcher was beyond argument a great Prime Minister. Her tragedy is that she may be remembered less for the brilliance of her many achievements than for the recklessness with which she later sought to impose her own increasingly uncompromising views.
  • She's the biggest bastard we have ever known.
    • Sinn Féin politician Danny Morrison's description of her at the 1982 Sinn Féin Ard Fheis (party conference). Armed Struggle: The History of the IRA, pp. 207–208.
  • She's the Prime Minister who really wanted to be Queen. Major's boring, the Prime Minister who wanted to be a train spotter.
  • Is the right hon. Lady aware that the report has now been received from the public analyst on a certain substance recently subjected to analysis and that I have obtained a copy of the report? It shows that the substance under test consisted of ferrous matter of the highest quality, that it is of exceptional tensile strength, is highly resistant to wear and tear and to stress, and may be used with advantage for all national purposes?
  • Thatcher could congratulate herself on being, ‘in a very real sense, godmother to the Reagan-Gorbachev relationship.
    • Gail Sheehy, author of the book Gorbachev—The Making of the Man Who Shook the World.
  • I think her greatest achievement is to have made people believe that the impossible is possible. That the things which were said in 1979 to be beyond resolution, the problem of the trade unions for example, she boldly took it on and she did it. If politicians can learn that lesson from her, that there is no problem which is too big to be solved, then she's contributed something enormously important to our life.
  • Her strong points were her iron will. I've never known a will like it in politics and I've known a few politicians in my time in various countries. I've never known a man or woman faintly like her, she was as tough as they come, and anything that required guts and will she could do for you. Anything that required sensitivity, she couldn't, she had none.
  • [She has a] patronising elocution voice [and] neat well-groomed clothes and hair, packaged together in a way that's not exactly vulgar, just low. [It fills me with] a kind of rage.

See also[edit]

  • Diana Gould, who had a televised confrontation with Mrs Thatcher in 1983

External links[edit]

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