Margaret Thatcher Speech to Finchley Conservatives
1976 Jan 31
(1) Speaking text.
I stand before you tonight in my Red Star chiffon evening gown. (Laughter, Applause), my face softly made up and my fair hair gently waved (Laughter), the Iron Lady of the Western world. A cold war warrior, an amazon philistine, even a Peking plotter. Well, am I any of these things? (No!) Well yes, if that’s how they … . (Laughter) … . Yes I am an iron lady, after all it wasn’t a bad thing to be an iron duke, yes if that’s how they wish to interpret my defence of values and freedoms fundamental to our way of life.
And by they, I mean that somewhat strange alliance between the comrades of the Russian Defence Ministry—and our (own) [ Roy Mason ] Defence Minister.
They’re welcome to call me what they like if they believe that we should ignore the build-up of Russian military strength, and that we should not disturb their dreams of detente by worrying over the communist presence in Angola.
But I happen to believe that what is at stake is important and is crucial to our future both in this country and in the world as a whole. (Hear, hear!) (Applause).
We’re waging a battle on many fronts.
We must not forget the guns and missiles aimed at us—but equally we must not let them blind us to the insidious war on words which is going on.
It is not just a matter of hurling insults—where he who hurls loudest, hurls last—(that is the final resort of the man who has already lost the argument,
No, this is not such a war.
The war is a true war of words, where meanings get lost in a mist of revolutionary fantasy; where accuracy is slipped quietly under the carpet; and where truth is twisted and bent to suit the latest propagandist line. ([Note by MT] Twisted by Knaves to make a trap for fools)
That is what we are up against.
And we have to fight it if only because we find it totally alien to our notions of freedom and truth.
To illustrate what I mean, let us take that last sentence.
It contains in it two words which, together, are among the most abused in the language of the struggle.
Freedom and Fight.
The Marxist has applied the description of freedom fighter to one who helps to bring about Marxism, a system which denies basic freedoms.
In other words, that so-called freedom fighter is a man who helps to destroy freedom.
Such is the corruption of the language they use.
Necessary in their eyes because they know freedom is an appealing word.
The men of the Khmer Rouge whose first act on “liberating”—as they put it—Cambodia last year, was brutally to drive a large part of the population out of the capital Phnom Penh. Yet they were called “freedom fighters”.
The men who tried to reverse the clear wishes of the people of Portugal—as expressed through the ballot box—in Marxist vocabularly they were “freedom fighters” too.
This surely must have been one of the most blatant attempts at subversion we have seen in recent times.
So do not let us be misled by their abuse of these words.
But the fallacies of the present propaganda war come nearer to home than this.
Let us look at another word being just a subtly corrupted in the litany of the left.
The word is “Public”. We use it many times a day.
It is with us all the time—because we are the public.
All of us.
Yet the word has become distorted. Take for example “Public Ownership.”
In theory: We own the mines. We own the railways. We own the Post Office.
But in practice we don’t really own anything.
“Public ownership” should mean that you and I own something, that we have some say in how it is run, that it is accountable to us.
But the fact is that the words “public ownership” have come to mean the very, very private world of decisions taken behind closed doors, and of accountability to no-one.
How good for us all public ownership is presented as being.
What a glimpse of socialist heaven it offers.
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.
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 is’nt.
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.
Outside many pits in the country is a notice which says:
“Managed on behalf of the people”.
But will the people ever get to know who was responsible for the massive losses sustained since the mining industry was nationalised in 1947?
If these are public industries, then surely the public has a right to know?
The more so, because they are monopoly industries.
In fact, publicly owned authorities are usually the most private imaginable.
We need to revise our vocabularly and call something public only when ordinary members of the public are in actual control.
The fact is that the British public more truly own firms like Marks & Spencer and others, than they do any of our nationalised industries.
Some of them directly own shares in M&S.
This gives them the right to ask questions about its management—its successes, its failures, and if they are not satisfied, they can sell their shares and invest their money elsewhere.
Many more have an indirect share in it through pension funds at their own work.
The managers of those funds are paid to ask the very questions which keep the company on its toes.
And millions of us use the option every year of voting with our feet on the success of St. Michael .
We can choose whether to buy there or somewhere else.
That is real public ownership—and if the public ceased to benefit, then M & S would cease to exist.
What is it, then, that keeps them going?
It is their incentive to satisfy their customers—you and me—the public.
Despite what the Socialists would have you think, theirs is not an unusual story.
It is reflected in thousands of firms throughout the land.
Successful firms, proving by their results that today’s crisis is not one of free enterprise, but one caused by Socialism.
Despite the handicaps imposed upon them, the taxation, the restrictions—they are still managing to give the public what it wants.
These are the fallacies in the use of the word “public”.
We must not let them get away with the deceptions and the half—truths which swarm around their dogma.
Whenever we see the word “public” we must question it.
How do the public benefit?
What choice does the public have?
Choice is crucial in this.
When a man moves his family into a Council house, we must make sure he has the chance of buying it.
The ambition to own the roof over your head is a totally natural one—and judging by the way the present Cabinet indulges in it—a pretty strong instinct it is, too.
Why, then, do these so-called socialists work so actively to prevent home ownership in the Council estates?
The answer is that if you give the ambitious man in the Council house the chance to buy it, you lose control over him.
A socialist system which has penetrated so far in its control over people that it can dictate the colour of their front doors is a system which will never let go control of the whole house.
People might paint their doors a different colour, for a start.
We have always been the party of home ownership.
Home ownership not only means security for the individual, it also means security and continuity for society as well.
Security because people who work hard to buy their own homes have learned the responsibility of property and have a respect for other people’s property as well.
Continuity because the ownership of a house is not just for one generation—its value is in more ways than one passed on to the next, and the next.
The only way for the majority of people to have any real say in where they live and how they live is by extending home ownership.
When we came to power in 1951, home ownership was only 29 per cent. In 1964 it was 45 per cent. By the time we had left Office in 1974 it was 52 per cent. And with our policies the figure will go even higher. Housing policy shows that the Conservative way really does work for the public in the true sense of the word.
When parents send their children to school, and I am talking about local authority schools—not fee paying schools—we must also see that some choice is available.
In no field has the exclusion of the public been so severe as in the schools they nominally own, in whose name they are nominally run.
I do not wish to get embroiled here in the controversy currently raging about the running of William Tyndale School.
It would be quite wrong for me to comment while the inquiry is still sitting.
But there is one observation of fact about it, which can be made.
That is that matters came to a head when the numbers of ordinary parents withdrawing their children from the school reached alarming proportions.
That was the only way they could make their views felt.
They voted with their feet—just as surely as people would vote with their feet if Marks and Spencers ceased to provide value for money.
Nobody wants to see a school shut down—no more than they want to see a firm put out of business.
That is why from the start we must make them more responsive to parents’ wishes.
That is why there must be choice of the type of education our children are given.
It is true that some children flower quickly in the atmosphere of what is called the “progressive” classroom.
Others need the more organised structure of the traditional system.
But parents should not be told which their children are going to get, and denied any choice at all.
We believe people are not mere cyphers to be ordered this way and that, into this job or that, into this house or that, their children sent to this school or that.
Socialists believe people are not to be trusted with choice.
I suppose because we might learn to use it.
And enjoy it.
And then where would it all end?
Socialism is the denial of choice, the denial of choice for ordinary people in their everyday lives.
There is a will in Britain to work and build up the future for our children.
But Socialists don’t trust the people.
(2) Finchley Times, 6 February 1976
Marks and Spendthrift!
MRS THATCHER CRITICISES ‘THIS CORRUPTION OF PUBLIC OWNERSHIP’
The British public have a better claim to own Marks and Spencer than they do to any of Britain’s nationalised industries.
This was one of the points made by Mrs Margaret Thatcher, Leader of the Opposition and MP for Finchley and Friern Barnet, when she spoke to the constituency’s Conservative Association at their annual dinner dance on Saturday.
In her well-publicised “Iron Lady” speech she talked of the distortion and corruption of words such as “freedom” and “fight” in a political context.
She went on to say that “public” was another word being just as subtly corrupted in the litany of the Left.
“Take for example ‘public ownership’—it has come to mean something totally different,” she said. “In theory we own the mines. We own the railways. We own the Post Office. But when it comes down to it, we don’t really own anything.
“Public ownership should mean that you and I own something, that we have some say in how it is run, that it is accountable to us.
“But the fact is that the words have come to mean the very, very private world of decisions taken behind closed doors, and accountability to nobody.”
Mrs Thatcher went on: “When you take into public ownership a profitable industry, the profits soon disappear. The goose that laid golden eggs goes broody, and 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 the rate of a million pounds a day.”
She went on: “The moment ownership passes in to 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.
“And it is invariably the moment when the public starts to pay—pays to take the industry over, pays the losses by higher taxation, pays for inefficiencies in higher prices.
“Outside many pits in the country is a notice which says: ‘Managed on behalf of the people’. But will the people ever get to know who was responsible for the massive losses sustained since the mining industry was nationalised in 1947?”
Mentioning Marks and Spencer and other firms, she said the public owned shares which gave them the right to ask questions about management, successes and failures.
“If they are not satisfied they can sell their shares and invest their money elsewhere,” she said.
Many more people had an indirect share in these firms through pension funds. “And millions of us use the option every year of voting with our feet on the success of companies like those. We can choose whether to buy there or somewhere else.”
Mrs Thatcher spoke about the need to encourage home ownership, and to make sure a council tenant could buy his house.
She spoke also of the need to have a choice in education. Although she did not want to get embroiled in the controversy about the running of the William Tyndale School while the inquiry was sitting, there was one observation of fact that could be made.
“Matters came to a head when the members of ordinary parents withdrawing their children from the school reached alarming proportions. That was the only way they had to make their vies known. They voted with their feet, just as surely as people would vote with their feet if Marks and Spencer ceased to provide value for money.”
She added: “We believe people are not mere cyphers to be ordered this way and that, into this job or that, into this house or that, with children sent to this school or that.
“Socialism is the denial of choice, the denial of choice to ordinary people in their everyday lives.”
Mrs Thatcher made another, shorter speech, after the television cameras had stopped, in which she described the Labour Party as being “almost heirs to a tradition of financial incompetence.”
Productivity was lower now than during the three-day week, and this had not happened because of bad luck.
And she explained the difficulty of the Conservative Party in trying to vote out the Government when their majority was added to by the MPs from all the minor parties.
She told members of the association that she hated Britain being a second-rate nation. “It is not where we belong.”
Councillor Jimmy Sapsted chairman of the association thanked Mrs Thatcher and presented her with a champagne ice bucket. The inscription said it was presented with “pride and affection” from the association members.
Congratulations also went to Mr Ron Thurlow and the committee for organising the dinner and dance, at the Selborne Hall, Southgate.
More than 250 people were present at the dinner—a record—and the large number of cars proved embarrassing when the BBC Outside Broadcast van wanted to leave. Several appeals had to be made for two cars to be moved.