Интервью с Маргарет Тэтчер (1971). Интервью 12 из 14 самых популярных в ХХ веке по версии журнала The Guardian

‘You’re getting a totally false impression of me’

This is an edited version of Terry Coleman’s interview with Margaret Thatcher, first published in the Guardian, November 2 1971

The capital and most valuable virtue of most Conservatives is their conservatism, which often shows as a conservatism of manner, a kind of moderation, an urbane self-assurance that everything will be all right if only you leave it alone. This is most attractive. It also gives some substance to the idea that Conservatives are above the fight, and that only the beastly socialists drag politics into politics.

This moderation is an incalculable asset, but not one possessed by Mrs Margaret Thatcher, the present Conservative secretary for education and science. She is an evangelist, and sets about her busily evangelising. She will say I have got her all wrong, and so I may have. This is only one man’s opinion, and I have formed it on my own and not, as she may suspect, after secret discussions with the corps of Fleet Street education correspondents, whom she dislikes. I only know our own education man, and he is in South America.

Well, I met Mrs Thatcher the other day in her room at the House of Commons and we talked for rather under an hour. Knowing that I came from the Guardian she must have mistaken me for some kind of radical, to be led into the True Faith. This was rather fun. We sat one at each end of a sofa, and she said, «The object of the exercise is what?» I said I should like to write a profile, based on an interview. She said oh dear, those things always came out awfully artificial. Since I know this to be sometimes true, and since I have written my fair share of profiles which for one reason or another have missed the point, I just mumbled something placatory and asked whether her father’s grocery shop at Grantham had been a great big one.

She said it was not big, just a family grocer’s, where some people paid by account and others, having drawn their 10-shilling pensions at the sub-post office attached, paid in cash. They also sold tobacco, sweets, and fruit, and she got to know a good cross-section of the community. She sometimes served behind the counter in the post office.

She was a capable girl, won a bursary from grammar school to Somerville where she read chemistry, and worked as a research chemist for British Xylonite and then for J Lyons. I said I did not know what xylonite was or what it was for, and she said I wouldn’t. Often they made a new and beautiful plastic and then sat round wondering what use there was for it. At Lyons she did pure research, which had very little to do with what a cake looked like.

Then she read for the bar. She had always been interested in law since she used to watch her father in court when he was mayor and a magistrate. She used to have lunch with the recorder. So she became a barrister and practised at the Revenue Bar. She also married the director of an oil company and had twins, one boy, one girl, who are now 18. She also became MP for Finchley in 1959. I think it is probably unfair to say she is the same age as the Queen, since you would not say of a man that he was the same age as the Duke of Edinburgh, but there it is. Since last year she has been minister of education, and has had lots of abuse thrown at her.

«Hmm,» she says, «an unjustified amount, I might say. However, I usually think that epithets signify more about the author than about the subject. Do they not?» Several times in the course of the conversation she used this kind of rhetorical question, in this archaic form, with the not stuck at the end. Do they not? Is it not? Only barristers don’t say isn’t.

I suggested that any Tory minister of education, unless he is a Butler, is going to have to put up with a lot of criticism because so many people in education, particularly in the unions, will be out of sympathy with the right. She replied that it has sometimes struck her that more people are interested in education for reasons of egalitarianism than for reasons of education.

But surely, in England, education had traditionally been part of the egalitarian process? Hadn’t it been Disraeli who said, in 1867, when the franchise was widened, that we must educate our masters?

«Of course you must,» she said. «No one quarrels with that for one moment.» But one should educate children taking account of differences in ability, and not with the idea of producing all the same. And it was perfectly right that one should be able to choose to send one’s children to independent schools.

I agree with this, and said so. I think it would be an intolerable interference with liberty to close independent schools. So there was nothing between us, but she made her point again, that it was educationally wrong to demand that «everyone-shall-have-the-same». She stressed each word. No one demanded this of housing. People could live in different kinds of houses.

Yes, I said, but that was another matter. Living in a big house was pleasant but the sort of house one lived in didn’t affect one’s whole life prospects, as education did. «Oh,» she said, very quietly now, «but it does. Look how wrong you are.»

Living in a council house was different, was it not, from living in Bishop’s Avenue. She explained that Bishop’s Avenue was wealthy. You could spend your money on better houses, or on a good Savile Row suit, or on sending your children to the continent every vacation, so was it wrong to buy a different education? Mr and Mrs Thatcher sent their son to Harrow.

I was busy murmuring of course it wasn’t wrong, and yes she was right, and something or other about us all agreeing on equality of opportunity. Exactly, she said. By then I was anxious to put forward an idea with which she could agree, so I said of course if you gave children equality of opportunity, then you gave them what amounted to an opportunity to prove themselves unequal.

«I wouldn’t quarrel with one word of that,» she said. «How do you think I got where I am?» Both she and Ted Heath had floated to the top. Anxious to get Mrs Thatcher in competition with her leader, I suggested she had had a better raft to float up from: hadn’t his mother been a maidservant?

She said her own mother had been a dressmaker and had served in the shop. I said yes, but her father had become mayor. She asked what that mattered.

So we went on to the topic of educational journalists. She said they were there, and she had to cope with them. They didn’t always give her credit where credit was due, but that, she thought, was part of journalism. They had «put far more on to the milk thing», and not given her credit for getting a lot of extra money for primary schools. This would give more children more opportunity, and was far more important than knocking off free milk for those who did not have a medical need for it.

Well, she had introduced the topic of milk, though if she hadn’t I should have. But why had she knocked off milk? She explained that she had to economise, but she was also determined to give a better education. So she looked around for economies which would do the least damage, and decided to stop free milk for the over-sevens and to put up the price of meals, which were due to go up anyway.

But could she have picked anything which would have made so small a saving at the cost of so much condemnation? Look, she said, Labour had put up the price of school meals by half, and nobody had squealed; the education correspondents hadn’t given them absolute hell, oh no.

Well …

«Wait a minute,» she said, and she was now advancing on me across the sofa. I waited. Labour, she said, had knocked off milk from secondary schools, and no one told them they mustn’t do that because some children went to school without breakfast and that therefore they must supply milk free to the whole lot.

Very well, I said, but hadn’t she now got herself an unworkable piece of legislation in the Education (Milk) Act? The local authorities were forbidden to give free milk to children, but some were ignoring this, and Manchester was putting in a dash of cocoa to make the drink not milk within the meaning of the act. What was she going to do? Prosecute?

She said I would have to wait until the act settled down. I was asking her something that was difficult, and to say something she must not say at the moment. But there was always the discretionary penny rate which councils could spend on anything they chose, though if they spent it on milk there would be less for the disabled.

Yes, but if councils just ignored her, would there be any councillors surcharged for improper spending? Look, she said, just wait and see. Surcharging was not a matter for her but for the district auditor. When I suggested that the auditor wasn’t going to have much discretion in the matter, was he, she said that I was trying to draw her into something into which she could not be drawn. As far as the ordinary public was concerned, a lot of the problem would go, except insofar as it was politically kept alive, if milk were offered for sale in schools, and it wasn’t her fault that it was not. She had paid for hers as a schoolchild.

«But this one little decision,» I began …

«My dear,» she reasoned.

Had it really been worth all the fuss it had caused? She said it was if she got ?9m out of it, enough to build 75 new primary schools.

Well, she had said in the Commons that she resented the suggestion that some mothers were not able to look after the nutritional needs of their children. Surely, inevitably, there were some who couldn’t? She thought the vast majority could. It was wrong that, because of a small incapable minority, you should be expected to provide for the vast capable majority. «And that,» she said, «seems to me to be the false argument. Because if that is the case, then you’re going to take children away from their mothers practically at birth and say, because a few are incapable of providing, the state must provide free everything — not merely providing it, but seeing that it goes down their throats.»

I thought this didn’t seem to follow at all, and asked her if it wasn’t a bit harsh. «No, no,» she said. «It isn’t.»

Now, I asked, it had been said that she was necessarily a long way, in her circumstances (a minister herself and the wife of an oilman) and therefore in her understanding, from a poor woman with children. Was this fair? — «No.»

Why not? Because, she said, she had known what it was like to have to stretch her money. She had started work when she came down from Oxford at about ?8/10s a week.

Yes, but she had never in her life been poor. «It depends what you mean by poor. It so happens we’ve always had access to food. Obviously, being a grocery store.»

But wasn’t there some substance in the suggestion that she was distant from a poor mother? She evidently thought not, and I must say it seems to me she could safely have admitted to some difficulty of understanding. If you won’t admit that understanding someone very different from yourself may be difficult, you aren’t exactly helping yourself to achieve that understanding.

«Now,» she said, «why do you go for me much more than you went for my predecessors? Why, why? Why are you doing it?»

I didn’t think I was. I would do the same for any Labour minister. And I hadn’t the heart to tell Mrs Thatcher that at a primary school near where I live, the little children have a new chant which goes: Mrs Thatcher, Mrs Thatcher, Milk snatcher.

I suppose it’s something that they know her name. Not many ministers of education can have been familiar topics of conversation among eight- and nine-year-olds.

So I asked if she really thought I was going for her, and she said I was, and that I ought to ask myself why. I said she was defending herself pretty vigorously.

I asked how much longer she could let me have. She said 10 minutes, that I had asked her very little about education, and that this was wrong. She had expanded education, and neither I nor anyone else would give her any credit for it.

I asked her about a Bible which had been presented to her recently, and she said she was a Christian and prayed when she had need of it. This was part of her background and upbringing and it would be very difficult to cut herself off from it. I said most people did, meaning that most people forgot their Christianity, but she took me to mean that most people cut themselves off from their origins, and remarked that this was where we all got her wrong. She said her beginnings were just as much a part of her as what she is now. She didn’t think I could know what it was like to have the sort of beginnings she had.

A little later she said: «You’re getting a totally false impression of me. Because you’re taking such selective subjects. I know, and it will come out wholly artificial. And this is just exactly how all the others come out. They come out devoid of flesh and blood, full of artifice, full of cynicism, full of the epithets of their writers.»

She said she was an ordinary woman, fundamentally interested in education, but that I was trying to veer my way, as so many correspondents did, towards saying this was the typical middleclass Tory woman who had never known anything else and didn’t know what it was like. But she could go back to almost any standard of living, having been through most. She was living in a small house and was desperately trying to sell her other, large one. She had a secondhand Viva, four years old. She did not spend money on furs.

So, I said, she had little hope that what I wrote would be fair? «No,» she said. We were both jolly and relaxed about this. We laughed a bit, and she said she didn’t see how I could write anything fair after so short a time with her. I said well, if she had a day free … She didn’t seem to think that would work either. Panorama had taken three days and her opinion of their programme was not high.

I said she might be right, but wasn’t she perhaps being a bit too cynical herself?

«Well, is it because I have seen what I have done being totally disregarded, and seeing the other played up?»

But not disregarded by everybody, surely?

«No, no, no,» she said. «I can go round to an old people’s meeting. What do they say? ‘You stick to your guns, Margaret.’»

Все 14 самых популярных в ХХ веке по версии журнала The Guardian:

1. Ричард Никсон, by David Frost, 1977
2. Диана, Принцесса Уэльская, by Martin Bashir, 1995
3. Джон Леннон, by Jann S Wenner, 1970 
4. Марлон Брандо, by Truman Capote, 1957 
5. Дэннис Поттер, by Melvyn Bragg, 1994
6. Фрэнсис Бэкон, by David Sylvester, 1963, 1966 и 1979 
7. Мэрилин Монро, by Richard Meryman, 1962
8. Sex Pistols by Bill Grundy, 1976
9. Малькольм Х, by Alex Haley, 1963
10. Адольф Гитлер, by George Sylvester Viereck, 1923 
11. Фрэнсис Скотт Фитцджеральд, by Michel Mok, 1936
12. Маргарет Тэтчер, by Terry Coleman, 1971
13. Фидель Кастро, by Herbert Matthews, 1957
14. Мэй Уэст, by Charlotte Chandler, 1979 

31. октября 2014 by Admin
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