tvParty Election Broadcasts

Conservative Party Election Broadcasts from 1979

Note:  the text is based on transcripts held at the Conservative Party Archive at the Bodleian Library, and Dr Michael Pearce's transcripts of tapes held at the Election Broadcast Archive, University of Leeds.

2nd April 1979

MARGARET THATCHER:

Before I reply to last week's ministerial broadcast, there are just two things I would like to say about the tragic murder of my friend and colleague Airy Neave. First, I want to thank the Prime Minister for his generous tribute to a political opponent; Airy himself was a generous man he would have liked that. Second, when something like this happens, it's a moving experience to see how the nation instinctively closes ranks. Anyone who thinks that terrorism is the way to divide us, or to weaken our resolve, doesn't know the British people.

Now let me turn to the task ahead. Last Wednesday, for the first time in over fifty years, the House of Commons asserted its right to dismiss the government, so there'll be a general election on the third of May. The following evening you heard from the Prime Minister one view of what's happening in Britain today. It sounded - it was meant to sound - as if everything was going pretty well under Labour. Or at least if it wasn't, it would be all right tomorrow. My impression is rather different. We've just had a devastating winter of industrial strife, perhaps the worst in living memory - certainly the worst in mine. We saw the sick refused admission to hospital, we saw people unable to bury their dead, we saw children locked out of their schools, we saw the country virtually at the mercy of secondary pickets and strike committees, and we saw a government apparently helpless to do anything about it. It's a thousand pities they didn't take up our offer of support to deal with some of these matters in January. Together, I believe we could have stopped them happening again. Now we'll just have to do the job ourselves.

But it's not just this winter that things have been going wrong. Of course there's been a world recession, of course every country's faced great problems - but other countries have tackled them very much better than we have, despite the fact that we have North Sea oil and they haven't. Today we're not just marking time, we're actually falling further and further behind. I don't ask you to take my word for this. The other day the Bank of England showed that even Italy is increasing its rate of production twice as fast as we are. And our most successful competitors are going ahead as much as six times as fast - despite that same world recession. The truth is that too many of the real success stories are being written in other countries, not in Labour Britain.

Now I know there are people who feel that this is all somehow inevitable, that there's not much any of us can do about it, and that it won't make much difference whichever party is in power. It will you know. There's a world of difference between our way and the Socialist way. I believe that anything other countries can achieve, we can. We have the people, we have the skill, we have the resources. We've not been allowed to make the best of them, that's the trouble. To make it worthwhile to go out and get on in this country again, we've got to cut taxes. The tax on earnings, the tax on savings, the tax on talent. That means we've got to stop government spending so much of our money. When a government won't economise, it means that every family in the country has to do so instead. Every extra pound spent on tax is a pound less to spend on things the family needs: on food, heating bills, running a home or running a car. It means there's that much less to spend on the children, or helping one's parents. That's what it's all about.

Then we must do more to stop the terrible rise in crime and vandalism. To raise standards in education, to give more families the chance to buy their own home. That's the way we used to do things when it was you the citizen who came first, and not the state. Labour called them the thirteen wasted years. Wasted? With the Conservatives, there were far fewer unemployed, and as for prices there was nothing to compare with the increases that we've had in the last five years under Labour. Of course we all want better hospitals, better schools, but we have to earn the money to pay for them. Mr Callaghan tried to frighten you with a picture of Conservatives tearing everything up by the roots. But we're the party of roots, of tradition. Paying your way isn't tearing up things by the roots. Paying your way's good husbandry. Paying your way is planting for the future.

In the next few weeks I'll try to tell you the sort of country I want to see, and how I think we can achieve it together. And I promise you this. I won't make empty promises. I won't pretend that everything that's gone wrong can be put right over-night. It's taken years to undermine our country. It will take time to rebuild. But the job can be done; it must be done - that is the conviction that sustains me and that is my abiding faith.

We're at the spring time of the year. The traditional season of hope and new beginnings. I think we all know in our hearts: it's time for a change.

19th April 1979

MALE 'SPORTS COMMENTATOR':

Welcome to the international prosperity race run over five years. Look at these two fine runners Brown and Wood, representing Great Britain - full of talent, enthusiasm and raring to go.

And they're off. Brown's pulling ahead - oh what a joy it is to see this boy go. Wood isn't far behind. They're leading the field. A fine start for this British pair ... And what's happened here? Ah the British Labour party, managing this year's team, have decided it isn't fair on Wood if Brown leads, so they're actually going to handicap Brown with a large weight to give Wood a chance to catch up. What a weight - record taxation.

ANONYMOUS MALE:

Since Labour came to power in 1974, the British working man has been weighed down by more and more tax. More direct taxes, like income tax. In fact more tax on almost everything you earn and much of what you buy.

OTHER ANONYMOUS VOICE:

More?

ANONYMOUS MALE:

Fact. No other major industrial country in the world extracts a higher rate of income tax from both its high and low paid citizens than the present Labour government.

MALE 'SPORTS COMMENTATOR':

[The fellow?] he's gamely carrying on. But now Great Britain's other challenge is coming up on the inside. Oh what a runner this boy is, he's getting into his stride, he can't fail. [Oh look] here's the British Labour managers coming on once more. And now they're trying to stop Wood getting ahead. Can't they leave our boys alone? They've produced higher unemployment. Now what a weight this is round the neck of the British man.

ANOTHER MAN:

People say that the Labour party's the working man's party. But that's nonsense. Their policies of high taxation actually discourage people from working - sometimes stop them all together, so they end up on the dole queue.

MALE 'SPORTS COMMENTATOR':

What a burden. But still they're fighting on. Brown is getting his second wind, they're neck and neck, but the British effort is [?] they're slowing down under the weight of this Labour government. It can't be long now before the French and Germans catch up, not to mention the Japanese who are coming fast on the outside lane. Our boys are really going to have to watch out for these foreign competitors. Hello, the British Labour managers are coming on again. Yes they must be there to take off some of the weights. No, no, no, they've got two more weights to [hold down?] the British team. Record inflation. They can't be serious.

ANONYMOUS MALE:

Fact. Since Labour came to power we've had the worse peace-time inflation since the Great Plague, over three hundred years ago.

MALE 'SPORTS COMMENTATOR':

Britain is looking pretty sick now, I must say. France and Germany are now way ahead, and that little dot on the horizon is the Japanese team. The British team is doing badly, very badly indeed. We're giving this one away.

ANONYMOUS MALE:

Why have we fallen so far behind? High taxation and high unemployment mean we make less goods than the Germans, the French and the Japanese. So we make less profits than the Germans, the French and the Japanese. So we invest less in new machinery than the Germans, the French and the Japanese. So the products we make on our old machinery cost more than the Germans, the French and the Japanese. So not only do we export less than the Germans, the French and the Japanese, but we buy more products from - you've guessed it - the Germans, the French and the Japanese. So we have less work ,which means a dole queue that would stretch from London to Inverness, and money that buys less than French money, German money and Japanese money. Poor Britain. Unless something is done it will be poorer and poorer Britain.

MALE 'SPORTS COMMENTATOR':

Why don't the Labour managers do something about it? Ah, well here they come. But they're weighed down by Labour's philosophy. What are they going to do to help encourage the British lads? I don't believe it, it's the old favourite, [?] controls. This really is bringing Britain down with managers like these who needs opponents?

ANONYMOUS MALE:

In the last few years, people in this country have had to put up with constant government controls. Instead of being allowed to press ahead at their own pace, the British people have had the Labour government interfering and holding them back. And because British production under Labour has been low, British wages under Labour have had to be low. Low production means low wages. Because Labour can't get production moving they have had to be more concerned with restricting wages, rather than increasing them.

MALE 'SPORTS COMMENTATOR':

Brown and Wood are almost collapsing under the weight of Labour's interference. There doesn't seem to be any incentive to go any faster even if they could. As soon as one of them gets ahead he's been pulled back - it's slowing the whole thing down. Oh no, no, Brown can't take any more, he's falling, he's down, dragging Britain's hopes with him. The Labour party's turned the British [?] race into an obstacle course. No, no, now what's happening here? The crowd, the crowd - they're calling for a change of management. But no, they're not going, they're hanging on, oh surely they've got to go. But who is going to take over?

ANONYMOUS MALE:

The real question at the next election is which part will the British choose to help get Britain moving, and production growing? Well, if they base their decision on the record, they'll choose the Conservatives. Fact. Since the war with Conservative governments production has increased by twice as much as under Labour.

MALE 'SPORTS COMMENTATOR':

The Labour managers have [?] been sent in for an early bath. It's the Conservative managers coming on, they're heading straight for Brown and Wood, and yes they are taking off the weight of taxation.

ANONYMOUS MALE:

Which party will the British people choose to cut their income tax? Well, if they base their decision on the record, they'll choose the Conservatives. Fact. In the last thirty years, every Labour government has increased income tax. Every Conservative government has cut income tax.

MALE 'SPORTS COMMENTATOR':

Our boys are now back on their feet and really making up for lost time. Now they're taking off another weight, they're giving them some incentive. This is most encouraging.

ANONYMOUS MALE:

Which party will the British people choose to give us back our incentive to work and increase real take home pay? Well, if they base their decision on the record, they'll choose the Conservatives. Fact. Since the war, with the Conservatives, the average industrial worker's real take-home pay, has gone up nearly four and a half times more than under Labour.

ANOTHER (TORY?) MAN:

If you want to earn more, Labour don't seem to want you to. So they tax you, so it isn't worth your while. Labour will never give you the incentives. But we will.

MALE 'SPORTS COMMENTATOR':

Brown and Wood are really producing the results now. They're coming up fast and the chances are getting better. Without the dead weight of Labour government interference they can start to [?]

ANONYMOUS MALE:

Which party will the British people choose to tackle the unemployment problem? Well, if they base their decision on the record, it'll be the Conservatives. Fact. Twice since the war, nearly a million new jobs have been created with the Conservatives - something that has never happened during a Labour period of government.

MALE 'SPORTS COMMENTATOR':

Great Britain is now really back in the picture, they're doing better all the time. And look now they're throwing off another Labour burden, nothing can stop them now.

ANONYMOUS MALE:

Which party will the British people choose to help solve the inflation problem? Well, if they base their decision on the record, it'll be the Conservatives. Fact. Since the war there has been twice as much inflation under Labour.

MALE 'SPORTS COMMENTATOR':

This really is a joy to watch. We're making up for the last five years. These boys are really motoring. I must say, it brings a lump to your [mouth?]

ANONYMOUS MALE:

The Conservatives always encourage success, ambition and reward. We've done it before; we'll do it again. How? It's not the impossible dream that it seems under Labour. We will give people back their ambitions and drive; make it possible for people to earn more so that they can buy more; so we can produce more; so we can make more profit; so we can invest in more machinery; so our goods cost less; so we export more; so we have more work; so we can buy more. The Conservatives believe that by freeing the people of too much taxation and too much government interference we will encourage everyone to make a better life for themselves and their families. And that means a better country.

MALE 'SPORTS COMMENTATOR':

Nothing can stop them now. This must be a British record. We're really giving the foreigners s run for their money. Oh what a difference this new government is making.

MARGARET THATCHER:

We've always had a sense of humour, and heaven knows we've needed it lately. But we've other characteristics too. A gift for invention, for initiative and for hard work. Under Labour, these talents are going to waste, because the government takes too much away in tax. How often do you hear people say 'Look how much they've taken from my pay packet'? So naturally we ask for bigger pay rises to make up the difference. And it's not long before that pushes up prices. Ask any housewife - she'll tell you. This government has increased prices more and faster than any other government since records were kept. The only way to keep prices down is to get production up, and you don't do that by weighing people down with taxes and other restrictions. They don't work for the Chancellor of the Exchequer, they work for their families. So we've got to cut the tax on earning and the tax on skill. Give our people incentives, and once again Britain will be back in the race.

ANONYMOUS MAN:

Don't just hope for a better life; vote for one.

25th April 1979

MAN 1:

Will the Conservatives bring unemployment down? Will they manage to halt the rip-roaring increase in prices? Will they provide the incentives which we all know are necessary to get things moving? Well, we think they will. Obviously Labour thinks they won't. Who's right? Tonight, you've got a chance to decide. I warn you there's not much light relief in this broadcast, but it may help you to make up your mind.

MAN 2:

You are probably bored with all the political experts giving one opinion after another, and all the pundits giving their theories on the nation's future. We thought we'd spare you that for the next few minutes, so here instead in ten minutes you'll get nothing but facts. Not opinions, not view points, but facts. Official government records. First of all, I think we'd all accept that it is the natural and proper desire for everyone to want to do better this year than he did last. This is what causes progress. Nowadays this desire to get on means people want to increase their wages, every year if possible. Wages, as I'm sure we all know, are dependent on production.

MAN 3:

Production. Fact: since Labour came to power five years ago, Britain's total production has increased only half as much as the rest of the world. Fact: Britain is manufacturing less today than five years ago.

MAN 2:

So, if our production has been low under Labour, what has inevitably happened to our wages?

MAN 3:

Wages. Fact: in the last five years the average German worker has seen his wages go up by ninety-two per cent. The French worker's has gone up by sixty per cent. But the British worker's wages have only gone up by sixteen per cent. Fact: Britain now has the lowest hourly wages of any country in the common market, except Ireland.

MAN 2:

But in spite of the fact that our production has gone down, and we produce less wealth, people still want to do better - they always do. So what happens? If no more wealth is being produced the only way one man or group of men can do better is at the expense of another. The result is strikes and chaos, and even less wealth to share out. The strongest and the loudest voices seem to win. Soon everyone gets the hang of this; everyone shouts louder - result? Inflation.

MAN 3:

Inflation. Fact: since Labour came to power Britain has had the worst peace time inflation since the Great Plague, over three hundred years ago. Fact: Since Labour came to power Britain has suffered one of the worst inflation rates of any major industrial country. Fact: the pound buys less than half of what it did five years ago. Fact: Since Labour came to power the price of food has more than doubled.

MAN 2:

And what's the effect of all that inflation? Even more stagnation, and worse still, unemployment. Everyone trying to take more from each other eventually throws people out of work.

MAN 3:

Unemployment. Fact: since Labour came to power, twice as many people have become unemployed. Fact: since Labour came to power, one more person has become unemployed every three minutes thirty five seconds. Fact: for every school leaver unemployed when Labour came to power there are nine today. Fact: every single Labour government has left more people unemployed when it left office.

MAN 2:

And with unemployment at those levels, the tax burden on those who are working inevitably got bigger. And it's not just the rich people who have to pay.

MAN 3:

Tax. Fact: since Labour came to power, the average British family now pays over twice as much tax. Fact: no major industrial country extracts a higher rate of tax from both people with high and low incomes.

MAN 2:

This burden costs so much that there isn't enough to spend on things we all agree we need, like hospitals and schools.

MAN 3:

Hospitals and schools. Fact: since Labour came to power, capital spending on schools has fallen by more than half. Fact: since Labour came to power, capital spending on hospitals has actually decreased.

MAN 2:

A disastrous performance by any standards. But the big question is this: can the Conservatives do any better? It's all very well to point out how badly Labour have done, but how can the Conservatives prove they would do any better? After all, they've been in opposition for the last five years. Well, there's one way to prove it - by looking at the official record of the two parties since the war. Since 1945 the Conservatives and Labour have had about the same length of time in power. Both have had the same chance to fulfil, or break, their promises. What does the record say - and remember, these figures are the official government records? First, as we said earlier, the key is production.

MAN 3:

Production. Fact: since the war, industrial production has gone up twice as much with the Conservatives.

MAN 2:

Now if low production under Labour has meant low wages, what has the higher Conservative production done for wages?

MAN 3:

Wages. Fact: during Conservative periods of government, the average industrial worker's real take home pay has gone up by four and a half times more.

MAN 2:

When production is growing, people can satisfy their natural desire to do better and increase their wages, without inflationary wage demands. We can afford to pay ourselves more, without the chronic inflation we've had over the last few years.

MAN 3:

Inflation. Fact: since the war, there has been half as much inflation with the Conservatives.

MAN 2:

Half as much inflation, twice as much production, and higher wages with the Conservatives, has meant we could buy more and produce more. So there was more work, more jobs.

MAN 3:

Unemployment. Fact: twice since the war, nearly a million new jobs have been created with the Conservatives, something that has never happened under a Labour period of government.

MAN 2:

When production goes up, there's less need for the tax payer to have to spend money propping up industry. So we don't have to pay so much tax.

MAN 3:

Tax. Fact: unlike Labour, every single Conservative government has cut income tax.

MAN 2:

Higher production has also meant that there was more money to pay for the things we all need.

MAN 3:

Hospitals and schools. Fact: spending on the National Health Service has risen, in real terms, faster with the Conservatives. Fact: since the war, nine hundred thousand new school places have been introduced by the Conservatives.

MAN 2:

These are the facts. Not opinions, but official government statistics on Britain's performance over the last few years. It proves that whatever else this election is about - prices, inflation, unions, education - the key is production.

MAN 1:

Somebody once said, 'Why gaze in the crystal ball if you can read the book'. The truth is that more goods are produced under the Conservatives. It's as simple as that. And of course more goods are produced the cash is there to make a practical reality of caring. There are real benefits to be found for the sick and the under privileged, for the young and the old alike. And there are higher wages, and they're matched by lower taxes and real ongoing jobs. So think hard before you vote this time, and make your judgement on the record. Don't just hope for a better life - vote for one.

MAN 4?:

Don't just hope for a better life - vote for one.

27th April 1979

See: Thatcher Foundation copy

30th April 1979

MARGARET THATCHER:

We're coming to the moment of decision. As the tumult and the shouting of the last few weeks die away, and you sit at home wondering what to do on Thursday, I can well imagine you saying to yourselves, 'If only the politicians would be quiet, if only we could sit peacefully for a few minutes and think about our country, and its future, and the decision you're asking us to make'. I know how you feel. The decision is crucial.

The problems facing Britain are very grave. I can't remember when our people have approached an election quite as thoughtfully as this one. We've tried to fight an honourable campaign, to put before you truthfully the choice this country faces. That choice will decide who governs Britain for the next five years. It may also decide what sort of country our children and grandchildren grow up in.

When all the other questions have been argued and debated in the papers, on radio and on television, there's only one that really matters in the end, what's best for Britain. Whichever party we belong to, or even if we belong to no party at all, most of us would agree that things have not gone well for our country in the last few years.

Oh there's still plenty to be proud of, plenty to admire and to cherish, but a lot of things we used to take for granted seem to be in danger of disappearing. Money that keeps its value; real jobs that last; paying our way in the world; feeling safe in our streets - especially if you're a woman; hospitals that long to give the service that they used to; schools which gave children from modest backgrounds like my own the chance to get on in life as far as we were able. So much has been threatened lately, so much that used to be sure is sure no longer. So when our opponents say the Conservatives want to change things, I answer 'Yes, we do - and for the better'. If ever there was a need for change it's now. I don't mean sudden change, and I'm not talking about trying to bring back some nostalgic version of the past. I don't want to look back tonight, any more than you'll be looking back when you vote on Thursday. You'll be thinking of the future and how it can be better, and which of the parties is more likely to make it so.

Let me tell you how I see it. I've never believed that this country is a naturally socialist country. We're an independent people. We don't take easily to having more and more of our lives decided for us by the state. We don't take kindly to being pushed around. We're good neighbours, concerned for the welfare of others. We regard it as a privilege to say to the old, the sick, the needy and the disabled, 'Don't worry, we'll look after you'. But we believe that those who are strong and healthy and active should be encouraged to get on and make a success of things for themselves.

Many of our troubles stem from the fact that in recent years we haven't been true to ourselves, true to our tradition of independence - largely because we've been encouraged not to be. It hasn't paid to work harder, or try to do better for the family. Sometimes, it hasn't paid to work at all. That's had its effect, right through the country. So instead of sharing out the proceeds of success, we've taken to fighting over how much we can afford from failure. Now none of us is so naive as to believe that cutting taxes will by itself suddenly transform everything and make our country prosperous over night. But what we do believe it's that it's all the difference in the world between creating a society in which it pays to work and creating one which it doesn't. Only by becoming prosperous again can Britain become a genuinely caring society, which is why we think our way, not our opponents', is truly the better way. I think that most of you who know their record know that too.

There's a long tradition in this country that everyone is equal under the law. Indeed a lot of our history has been about seeing that those who acquire great power are not allowed to abuse it. Trade unions today have a lot of rights but not enough duties. I don't think that many people can take an honest look at our industrial relations and say that we can go on year after year tearing ourselves apart. I'm sorry that our support for the limited but essential union reforms was turned down by the government last winter, se we shall have to carry them through ourselves. Our proposals are modest and strongly supported by the nation, including the vast majority of trade union members. I've no doubt whatever that no matter what they say during an election, the unions will accept the democratic will of the people, especially when the moderate majority make their voice heard, as I hope they will on Thursday.

We want to create a society which is open and free, but to protect that freedom in a more and more dangerous world we've got to keep up our guard. Surely if the 1930s taught us anything, they taught us that. The right response to increasing Soviet strength is not increasing British weakness. We shall make sure that Britain's defences are up to strength and that the first duty of any government - the defence of the realm - is ensured. Now no one in my position, asking for your support, your understanding, could be unaware of the responsibility that I'm asking you to give me at this moment of decision for our country. To that I should perhaps add the fact - and if I don't a lot of others will - that this is the first time in our history that a woman could, after Thursday, be holding the highest political office in our national life. It's never happened before, and I know that despite all the changes in our society, there are some who still feel a little bit uncertain about it. I also know there are others who would welcome it. I've always believed that what matters in politics, as in the rest of life, isn't who you are, or where you come from, but what you believe and what you want to do with your life. What matters are your convictions.

So as we approach the end of this campaign, I want to tell you the thoughts and feelings that will guide me in government if you place your confidence in the Conservative party on Thursday. Let me give you my vision. Somewhere ahead lies greatness for our country again. This I know in my heart. Look at Britain today and you may think that an impossible dream. But there's another Britain, which may not make the daily news, but which each one of us knows. It's a Britain of thoughtful people - oh tantalisingly slow to act, yet marvellously determined when they do. It's their voice which steadies each generation, not by oratory or argument, but by a word here or there, a sudden flash of truth which makes men pause and think and say. 'That makes sense to me'. That's how the foundations of fairness have been built up in this country - brick by brick, layer upon layer. In that way the law has grown, bringing to each age what seems reasonable and wise and true. Today, if you listen, you can hear that voice again. It calls not for upheaval or conflict or division. It calls for balance, for a land where all may grow, but none may grow oppressive. Its message is quiet, but insistent. It says this: 'Let us make this a country safe to work in, let us make this a country safe to walk in, let us make it a country safe to grow up in, let us make it a country safe to grow old in'. And it says above all: 'May this land of ours, which we love so much, find dignity and greatness and peace again'.

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Last Modified: 22 Oct 12
© Richard Kimber