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Margaret Thatcher

British stateswoman and politician
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.



The Path To Power - Autobiography [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."

Backbench MPEdit

  • 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).’

Education SecretaryEdit

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

Shadow Secretary for EnvironmentEdit

  • 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.
    • In a speech to the Conservative Party Conference (10 October, 1975) [2]
    • The last sentence is widely paraphrased as "The trouble/problem with socialism is that eventually you run out of other people's money."
  • 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.
    • In a speech to the Conservative Party Conference (10 October, 1975) [3]
  • 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.
    • In a speech to the Conservative Party Conference (10 October, 1975) [4]

Leader of the OppositionEdit

  • 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.
  • We want a society where people are free to make choices, to make mistakes, to be generous and compassionate. This 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.
    • From a speech to the Zurich Economic Society “The New Renaissance”, delivered on 14 March 1977. This version of the quote is a partial paraphrasing of the actual speaking text, drawn from the opening of the press release, as found at the Margaret Thatcher Foundation website.
    • The speaking text version is as follows: "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 own 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."
My job is to stop Britain going red.
  • My job is to stop Britain going red.
    • Statement (3 November 1977)
  • I presume this as to enable us to sweep Britain clean of Socialism.
    • On a Tory party conference, holding a broom. (date unknown)
  • 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.
  • Marxists get up early to further their cause. We need to get up even earlier to defend our freedom.
    • Daily Mail, May 1978
  • The only way to do the best you can is to work as hard as you can.
  • I can't bear Britain in decline. I just can't.
    • Interviewed by Michael Cockerell for BBC TV's Campaign '79 (27 April, 1979).
  • Communism never sleeps, never changes its objectives. Nor must we.
    • Financial Times, May 1979

First term as Prime MinisterEdit

  • 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.
  • 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.
    • Statement at a press conference when she was trying to renegotiate Britain's EEC budget contribution at the EEC Summit in Dublin (30 November 1979). Often quoted as "I want my money back".
  • 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.
  • I love argument, I love debate. I don’t expect anyone just to sit there and agree with me, that’s not their job.
  • 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)
  • 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 need 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’?
    • From the Robert Menzies Lecture, as delivered by Thatcher at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia (6 October 1981), as cited in Iron Britannia by Anthony Barrett, Faber & Faber (2012), Introduction to the 2012 Edition (including Footnote #12) : ISBN 0571290671, 9780571290673
  • Defeat – I do not recognise the meaning of the word!
    • The Battle for the Falklands by Max Hastings and Simon Jenkins
    • This was Thatcher's response when, prior to the Falklands War, she was told that engaging Britain in such a seemingly irrelevant conflict thousands of miles from Europe could result in defeat.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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!
  • 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"
  • 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.

In an interview with George Negus for the Australian TV program 60 minutes, the following exchange occurred [6]:

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: 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 MinisterEdit

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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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!
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.

Third term as Prime MinisterEdit

  • (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?" Politics Web 9 April 2013
  • 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 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.
  • 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 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.
  • 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 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)
  • 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 seem to smell the stench of appeasement in the air—the rather nauseating stench of appeasement.
    • [7] On a parliment debate about the Gulf War
  • 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 MinisterialEdit

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.
  • 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.
  • Our sovereignty does not come from Brussels—it is ours by right and by heritage.
    • House of commons speech.
    • [8]
  • When people are free to choose, they choose freedom.
    • On a Speech to the Industrial League of Orange County
    • [9]
  • 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. [10]
  • 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."
  • 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.

Statecraft: Strategies for a Changing WorldEdit

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


  • 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

Quotes about ThatcherEdit

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.
  • For us she is not the iron lady. She is the kind, dear Mrs. Thatcher.
  • She's the Prime Minister who really wanted to be Queen. Major's boring, the Prime Minister who wanted to be a train spotter.
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.
  • 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.
  • 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.


  • 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.
    •, after a fairly extensive review of available source material, concluded, We rate Cheney’s claim False.


  • 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 [12] 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

See alsoEdit

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

External linksEdit