tv Key Capitol Hill Hearings CSPAN November 4, 2015 11:00pm-12:01am EST
would have been 90 years old today. the -- in april of 2013, the senate passed a resolution to recognize the life legacy and example of british prime minister barroness margaret thatcher. and i'd like to quote from the -- those -- that resolution because i think it sets the stage for this discussion tonight. resolved that the senate hobers the legacy of barroness margaret thatcher for her lifelong commitment to advancing freedom, liberty and democracy throughout the world. recognizes that margaret thatcher, working with president ronald reagan, helped bring a peaceful end to the cold war. reiterates its continued support for the close tie and the special relationship between the united states and the united
kingdom. and expresses admiration for barroness margaret thatcher and her legacy as an inspirational and transformative leader in the united kingdom and the world. needless to say, i couldn't say it better. today, we have nile gardiner moderating our conversation today, and nile brings, like the other speakers today, a unique perspective on the life of margaret thatcher. as you know, he is the director of the margaret thatcher center for freedom at heritage and has worked at the heart of the washington policy world for over a decade. and he's a leading expert on the u.s./uk special relationship and u.s. policy towards europe. but before joining heritage, nile served as an aide to margaret thatcher and advised her on a number of international policy issues. working in her private office,
nile assisted lady thatcher with her final book, "state craft: strategies for a changing world." and nile also received his doctorate and two master's degrees in history from yale university and has a bachelor's and master's degree in modern history from oxford university. oxford university is an important part of our conversation today because we have dr. alice precassca, principal of oxford of which margaret thatcher is a distinguished alumni. dr. prohaska started her career as a curator and subsequently as an archivist in the public record office. she then became the director of special collections at the british library. in august of 2001, dr. prokaska took up the position of university librarian at yale university, and she remained there until she was elected principal of somerville in the summer of 2009 and took up the
position in september 2010. so dr. prohaska has an expertise on the influences the academic influences on margaret thatcher's life. we also are honored to have attorney general edward meese, now ronald reagan distinguished fellow emeritus at the center for legal and judicial studies at heritage. ed meese is a prominent conservative leader and thinker and elder statesman and continues a quarter century formal association with the heritage foundation. and we are delighted to have him speak to the special relationship in margaret thatcher's life as minister, and particularly her special relationship with ronald reagan. and we have also with us john o'sullivan who's special adviser and speechwriter to prime minister thatcher and author of "the president, the pope and the
prime minister." john o'sullivan is both an author and a journalist and a senior fellow at the national review institute and also editor in large of "national review" where he served as editor in chief for almost a decade. in 1987 and '98 and 1988, he served as special adviser to margaret thatcher, covering health and social security, defense procurement and the arts. and during this period and after he left downing street, he served informally as a regular speechwriter for the prime minister. he was the principal author of the 1987 conservative election manifesto, a lady is one of the small team that assisted lady thatcher in the writing of her two volumes of memoirs. we're particularly lucky to have the opportunity today to have a look at lady thatcher's life steadily and whole as t.s. elliott would say.
and it's a unique opportunity. and i'm absolutely thrilled and delighted to have this opportunity to introduce everybody. thank you. >> thank you very much, amanda, for the very kind introductions, and a very warm welcome to our three distinguished guests with us today and also warm welcome to every joining us here this afternoon at the heritage foundation. i'd like to start off, if i may, with the first question for dr. alice prohaska, the principal of somerville thatcher and of course margaret thatcher was a student at somerville. she studied chemistry there. she started, i believe, in 1943 on her 18th birthday. and oxford was instrumental in shaping lady thatcher's later career. and i'd like to ask an opening question with regard to the margaret thatcher scholarship
trust, with regard to the thatcher scholarships, could you give us an insight into what somerville oxford are trying to achieve with regard to the scholarships, and perhaps some details about the launch of the scholarship trusts and what you're trying to achieve here with this tremendous project? >> well, thank you, nile. the idea is fundamentally to create a permanent living legacy to margaret thatcher by creating scholarships that will bring people to study at oxford from all over the world who probably would not otherwise get the benefit of that education. so we're following the narrative of margaret thatcher's life. a woman from very modest circumstances. but tremendous promise and great academic attainment who made her way to oxford where the college of which i have the owner to be principal which is the same
thing as president gave her her start. somerville identified margaret thatcher, then margaret roberts, as somebody who was struggling financially and wouldn't be able to get the best from her oxford education without further financial assistance. and she was rewarded with funds and also with an academic scholarship. and she was taught by some of the most excellent tutors in the world. we may speak more about this and her main tutor, dorothy hodgkin was the one british woman ever to have won a nobel prize in science. so the college was a very special place. it nurtured and looked after its students, and it taught them at the highest possible level. and we want to continue that tradition in the name of margaret thatcher and bring people from all over the world to honor her legacy.
people who are going to succeed in life with the same sort of determination that she displayed. >> and with regard to the thatcher scholarships, inevitably, they will draw comparisons with the rhodes scholarships, arguably the most famous scholarships in the world at this time. and scholarships established by the great empire builder cecil rhodes, a graduate of royal college. how do you see the thatcher scholarships differing from the rhodes scholarships, or are there indeed some similarities between the two? >> there are similarities in that we want to create an international community of alumni of these scholarships. there are similarities in that we are looking for excellence. that is of paramount importance. we're looking for academic excellence, first and foremost. what rhodes scholarships do that
our scholarships will not pay so much emphasis on is to look for well-rounded people who excelled with athletic prowess. cecil rhodes was very keen on athletic prowess. we are actually looking for people with very, very strong academic potential and capability. and we then give them the opportunity to develop the sort of character and future and profile that we think will actually honor margaret thatcher. she herself, i think, would not have been a rhodes scholar when she arrived at ox forward. oxford. there are some other differences. that is that these will be scholarships for undergraduates
as well as postgraduates, and the rhodes scholarships are for people who have already graduated from another university either from this country or in parts of africa, germany, india, and the former commonwealth countries. we are looking to provide scholarships for people from any part of the world, including this country. but they may come from any part of the world. and one distinguishing characteristic which is not specified in the rhodes program is that it will give particular preference to people who can demonstrate that they've overcome adversity. margaret thatcher overcame the adversity of coming from a very modest background with no university tradition in her family at all. and that's one form of adversity. we will be looking for people who can show already in their lives that they've managed to overcome. >> excellent. and it's striking that margaret thatcher had to learn latin, i believe, in the space of about five months in order to enter into oxford university at the
time. as you mentioned, came from a very, very modest background, the daughter of a green grocer in grantham. and she epitomized, i suppose, the can-do attitude of her generation. it certainly is a tremendous example to young, aspiring scholars who wish to study at oxford today. and one more question with regard to the scholarships. margaret thatcher was famously denied an honorary doctorate by oxford university when she was prime minister. can you explain how, in spite of that, the relationship with somerville college remained very warm for lady thatcher, and she always kept a special place at somerville in her heart despite her somewhat shoddy treatment perhaps by the senior officials of oxford university.
>> well, she certainly was shabbily treated by the university, and that was a terrible mistake which i think it was great pity that that happened. somerville college was where she had her roots in the university. and some of you may have picked up nile's allusion to the fact that cecil rhodes came from oriole college which just gives you a flavor of the way the college loyalties show through amongst oxford graduates. so most oxford graduates, i think, feel a particularly loyalty to their own college. somerville was margaret thatcher's college. it was a very special place. it had high traditions with a large number of female firsts behind it. at that time it was an all womens college. and it really gave her the confidence and the support that she needed. and it was her intellectual and
while she was at oxford her emotional home. i think that was very important to her. furthermore, somerville did not disown her. the college made her an honorary fellow as soon as she became a cabinet minister in the conservative government and retained very close ties with her. the principal of somerville, my predecessor, who was principal at the time that margaret thatcher was prime minister was an extraordinary woman in her own right named daphne park, the biography that's just coming out of her is daphne park, queen of spies when she became principal of somerville, she was the highest ranking woman in the security services. although the college didn't know that at the time. and she became a close friend of margaret thatcher. a huge admirer. and she was absolutely devastated when the university
voted against giving the prime minister an honorary degree. and margaret thatcher wrote very consolingly and very magnanimously to the long lines of sort of don't worry, daphne. it's all right. i love somerville. i was there. it was such a privilege to be there. it will always have a place in my heart. and you've got leaflets, i think, we've distributed amongst the audience quoting some of the letters that she wrote. so it was quite different. the college was quite different from the university, although, of course, the university really did dole out a really unforgivable insult. >> well, thank you very much. i'd now like to bring in edwin meese iii, my colleague here at heritage, attorney general under ronald reagan. and mr. meese, you had an opportunity to meet with margaret thatcher on a number of occasions.
and you were instrumental as well in setting up the first white house meeting between president reagan and prime minister margaret thatcher in 1981. although the first meeting between reagan and thatcher took place in england in 1975. several years before. and my understanding is that ronald reagan had only planned a few minutes to speak with margaret thatcher at the time, the leader of the opposition. but that that short discussion was expanded into a two-hour discussion. and immediately, the two figures got on incredibly well. what were the qualities that margaret thatcher possessed that so attracted reagan, and why did reagan admire margaret thatcher's leadership and qualities so deeply? >> well, i think it started out as a matter of philosophy. and in that first meeting, they discussed various issues.
i think she showed then-governor reagan, or he had just recently left the governorship, actually, at the time. and that a lot of their ideas about free markets, about government limitations on government and the like were very similar. but also, i think it was her -- i would call it the aggressive or fighting spirit, if you will. the fact that she was willing to stand up for her beliefs, demonstrating that as leader of the opposition at the time. and i think that intrigued him also because he was trying to do the same thing when he was governor. he took over a very difficult situation in terms of the state which was very heavily in debt at the time. he also believed in terms of his views of the federal government, and also as they talked about dealing with communism, there was a certain similarity of views there which were very important to him. so it was both, i think, a combination of the philosophy
and the ideas she expressed but also her style was one that was very attractive to him. >> and you were, of course, instrumental in that first white house meeting. could you talk a bit about margaret thatcher's visit in 1981 and how that actually transpired? what was the impact of that visit upon the angloamerican special relationship? >> well, of course, the fact that she was the first head of government to visit ronald reagan in the white house was in itself quite impressive. and the fact that they talked and shared a lot of views, they had talked, of course, in england on a very informal basis. now here you had two leaders of two very important countries. and the fact that she was the first one received at the white house in itself kind of focused upon the special relationship between our countries and the very warm conversations, the
fact that the two leaders were obviously got along well with each other, liked each other as what you might say an indication of symbol of the two countries being very close at the time. and, of course, this led, in turn, to a closeness that was implemented in many ways such as in the faulklands war as well as in their dealings with the soviet union. i think it was both a symbol of the friendship between the two countries but also an indication that these two leaders could work together very effectively. i was with the two of them following that first meeting in the white house in canada at the first meeting of the industrialized countries. what we now call i guess the big eight or big seven, some big something. it wasn't called big at that time. it was called industrialized nations, and there were seven of them. and it was ronald reagan and margaret thatcher were the only right-of-center government
leaders there. everybody else was a socialist or from a socialist form of government in their countries. and it was very interesting. and also, most of the time when this group had met, they would take primarily about economics. and it was both president reagan and margaret thatcher that brought up the subject that we can talk about economics, but how do we deal with the major threat to our countries which was soviet communism? so i would say that that first meeting in the white house was kind of a precursor, if you will, to the very important work that they started with other countries as a team which began in june or july at that industrialized summit just a few months later. >> and that, of course, was the first of many, many meetings between the two world leaders. margaret thatcher's leadership was instrumental in taking britain off its knees and restoring britain as a great economic and international power.
what was the influence of margaret thatcher's policies upon the reagan revolution? how influential was margaret thatcher's ideas in terms of shaping u.s. politics in the 1980s? >> i think that they were very influential. and he think it was very comforting to president reagan to see that she had been successful in what was happening over in england. because when he took over, he faced the same thing, the same problem here in the united states. we were in deep trouble economically. it was the worst economic crisis since the great depression in the 1930s. we were in deep trouble in terms of our military forces. they had deteriorated in the aftermath in the vietnam war. as many people said, we were no longer a credible deterrent to our enemies or a reliable ally to our friends. and so ronald reagan was determined to change all this. he had campaigned on that. but it was reassuring to him to see how successful margaret thatcher was and that she was
doing the same things faced with, again, a serious situation that she took over. and so i think that her example was very helpful to ronald reagan. and also, it was a lesson he could point to to the people of this country, look, another leader has done it. we can do it here. >> now, i'd like to bring in john o'sullivan who spent many years as a senior speechwriter to margaret thatcher. i had the privilege of working with john on a number of occasions and worked in lady thatcher's private office in london. and john, on the theme of the special relationship, what drove margaret thatcher's tremendous admiration for the united states? and the special relations certainly reached its pinnacle, i think, under the reagan/thatcher era. but what was it that really drove thatcher's thinking with regard to relations with
america? >> well, you must remember that mrs. thatcher was a child of the war. i mean, she was quite a young woman about, what, 15 when the war starts. and, of course, for any intelligent english man or woman, an entry of the united states was a sign that we had won the war. any number of people will tell you when they heard the news of pearl harbor, they thought oh, well, now we've won after all. so it was a huge element in her background and thinking. secondly, as a young member of parliament, she had been taken -- brought to america under the state department distinguished visitor's program. she spent about six or eight weeks here. and she went all over the united states. she was tremendously impressed by the technical efficiency of american industry and its advances in technology and by the general dynamism of american society. and she felt very at home in that. and she wanted britain which after all had been a dynamic society and a leader in technology and in every other
aspect only in a matter of decades before. she wanted britain to recover that status and reputation in america. and then finally, as ed has already said, when she met ronald reagan, she discovered somebody who shared all her essential views. and if he were to become president, as he did, then she would be working with someone -- even when they disagreed, they would be able to solve those differences fairly easily. but most things they didn't disagree. for her, america, from the war, from her experience here in the visitors program and from working with ronald reagan was a place that was a country and a people whom she sympathized with and who could be great allies of her own country. >> john, as someone who knew margaret thatcher very well, how would you define thatcherism? and how does thatcherism differ
from the brand of conservatism that we currently have in britain today with david cameron and the whole of the conservative party? >> well, in the first instance, and there are many different definitions of thatcherism which is a word, by the way, invented by the left in british politics. and they defined it. andrew gamble may have coined the phrase as the combination of a free economy and a strong state. a strong, meaning authoritative state, not a big state. and that's not a bad definition, as a matter of fact. the other definition, which i would prefer, is that advanced by the american scholar, shelly robin letwin who describes thatcherism as the encouragement of the vigorous virtues in society. you have some virtues which are softer ones, compassion. but you have the virtues of enterprise and of sobriety, of
self-reliance, of determination. and she felt that britain had been an exemplar of these virtues in the victorian age but they had been lost under the kind of suffocating effect of socialism. and it was her duty to revive them again. that was shelly letwin's view. she was a friend of mrs. thatcher. i think it's the correct one. i think that with had you look -- you have to look at all the economic policies, all the foreign policies, and you can see that they're the application of these ideas to particular problems. but the real idea is let's revive britain. by reviving the vigorous virtues. >> and would you say, john, that thatcherism is still alive and well across the atlantic? it was striking that the number of cabinet ministers referenced margaret thatcher, quoted her, and among the contenders for the leadership of the conservative party with david cameron expected to step down in 2019 or 2020, there are a number of
thatcherite contenders to replace mr. cameron. what's your view of the current state of conservatism in britain? >> well, it's a complicated state, i'd have to say. the fact that is that the conservative government has just won an election. but it won on a relatively small share of the vote. so it isn't quite as bold and confident in its approach as it seems to be. secondly, there is no doubt that we're living in a different world with different problems to the ones that mrs. thatcher faced in 1979. so it would be not sensible to expect a thatcherism to be exactly the same kind of thing. i mean, after all, you're not dealing with overmighty unions now. you're not dealing with rampant inflation. they were the problems she had to solve that are no longer the soviet union. there are different problems. but if you're going to have a society that works economically and which is robust internationally, you're going to have to have the vigorous virtues. and i would say that the present conservative party is a little
too much concerned with demonstrating that it's warm-hearted and that it cares for everybody. i mean, it's desirable that these things be done. but not to the point where we forget that what -- there's a lot wrong with britain today. it needs to be put right. and it can only be put right in a sense by the kind of vigorous virtues that she wanted. >> john, you worked closely with lady thatcher on some of her biggest speeches. and she was one of the greatest public speakers of our time. what would you identify as her most important speech? and also, could you talk a little bit about how as she prepared for her speeches, the process that was involved in her actually delivering, you know, a
magnificent speech? >> well, i think mrs. thatcher was a very effective public speaker in getting across her message. she wasn't an eloquent speaker in the theatrical sense. she was effective. and that was because she thought hard and long about the message she wanted to put across. and she tried to find a clear and simple way of saying it. so there are one or two phrases which are now out there and which people remember. i think the best one is the problem with socialists is they always run out of other people's money. and the reason that's a good phrase is because it's a great truth that she's drawing attention to. most people, i think, would probably say that her most important speech was the famous speech at bruge in which she outlined her attitude toward the european union. a slightly less strong attitude than she later developed. but that was a very effective speech. it was a kind of compromise between her own instincts and
the caution of the foreign office. but she made it plain, as she said. she hadn't rolled back the frontiers of socialism in britain to see them reimposed again by brussels. that, i think, most people would say was her best speech. that's not my view. in my view, it's an extremely good speech. i prefer the speech she made after she left office. and she made one or two very effective speeches then because she was freer. she didn't have all the ministries, you know, every time she sent a speech out, every ministry would come back saying, could you please remove this? could you please add that? she hated that, but, of course, to be an effective prime minister, she had to do that kind of thing. so i would say the best speech she made after she left office was one she made in the hague where she outlines her views on the european union and the reforms that are needed with great freedom than she had previously, which reads well today, i think.
>> that's the 1992 speech? >> yes. >> yes. and you referenced a line by margaret thatcher on socialist governments running out of other people's money which is recycled in one of the presidential debates, and it's a line that's frequently used by presidential contenders. >> another line, if i can give you one, she was trying to describe her attitude to wealth creation and redistribution. and she said the labour party believes in turning workers against owners. we believe in turning workers into owners which, of course, she did with salem counsel houses. >> that's a tremendous line. i'd like to focus now upon reagan and thatcher's leadership on the world stage. and going back to mr. meese, reagan and thatcher were known for their tremendous robust
international leadership and the willing to stand up to the enemies of the free world. with the rising threat today from isis and islamist terrorism across the globe, how do you think that reagan and thatcher would have responded to this threat in today's environment? >> well, i think that they would -- first of all, i think they would probably be united in their approach. and i think they would do as they both did in dealing with the soviet communism. there are differences but there's also some similarities as well. and i think they would have tried to develop a pattern of bringing other countries together and also of determining a strategy. you know, you mentioned margaret thatcher's most important speech. i think probably the most important speech that ronald reagan gave, he actually gave in england when in june of 1982 he delivered his speech at westminster in which he laid out a blueprint of how to deal with
the soviet union. and it was this blueprint, then, that he and margaret thatcher were able to talk with the other leaders about and how that became kind of a strategic exposition. and i think that this is something that has been lacking, of course, unfortunately at the present time in dealing with isis and dealing with the problems in the middle east. and i think the first thing would have been to agree on a strategic approach of how you do this. secondly would be to develop a true coalition of like-minded countries. and that would include a number of the countries in the middle east, many of which are looking for some sort of leadership. and then thirdly would be to develop the resources that would implement the strategy. and right now i think that one of our problems that we're suffering from a lack of strategy, a lack of a coalition, and a lack of having resources
readily available because the leaders of the countries see a goal and see a strategy of achieving that goal. >> and the london speech was the first mention, i think, of the evil empire. and then it was a precursor to a larger speech on the evil empire given the following year. >> yeah, and he actually used the words evil empire. that was in 1983 in this country. but he made it very clear that the problem in the world was the soviet union. and what he said there was that the three countries would eclipse communism, or eclipse the oppression of the other countries, that sort of thing. and so that -- it was very clear that he was drawing the battle lines of the good guys and the
bad guys, so to speak. and that was a part of all of his speeches from that point on. it's interesting, he had this ability to be negotiating later on in the second half of his presidency. and negotiating with gorbachev on the one hand and at the same time maintaining his clear position of the wrongness of communism on the other. and that in itself was something that margaret thatcher echoed in her speeches so that the two, again, made a formidable team in pursuing the common goals the two countries had. >> and a follow-up question for both yourself, mr. meese, and john o'sullivan with regard to reagan and thatcher's determination to stand up to the evil empire and to ultimately defeat the ideology of communism, what are the lessons that should be learned today by contemporary leaders, president obama, david cameron, for example, from the thatcher, reagan in terms of standing up to the likes of vladimir putin today? i'll start with you, mr. meese, and then john. >> well, i think one of the
things that both of these leaders would have done is never put themselves in the kind of a position that, say, obama is at the present time. and that is by being forthright in their views, by being leaders, by having plans, by having strategies and by providing leadership for the other countries, they put themselves in a position where the other leaders and other countries followed. when you have weakness, leading from behind has never been a very good idea, in my opinion, because it means that, in effect, you are behind your opposition. and that -- and so i think it's the fact that unfortunately in this country, there's been a failure of leadership which has allowed putin, then, to exercise his own ideas and to have a world stage, if you will, in
which he's dominant. i don't think there is any time during the 1980s where either ronald reagan or margaret thatcher were not the dominant figures on the stage. now, there were other leaders. breznev was a leader. he was followed by others there very short times and gorbachev was a leader. but there was no question as far as the free world was concerned that they had -- that that world had good leaders who were self-confident without being arrogant, but at the same time, having a plan where they thought the world should be going. >> and i'd like to ask the same question of john o'sullivan as well. >> well, i agree with edwin just said. if you look at what mrs. thatcher did on coming into power and the same is true for ronald reagan, it is quite a good kind of guidebook for what the next president should do in this country for a start. you have to get your economy right.
because if you don't have that right, you're not much of a threat to anybody else, and they're going to have to take you into account. secondly, you have allies. you have to work with them, stiffen their spines where they're weak and give them assistance when you can. a good example of this was that the first -- one of the first things mrs. thatcher had to do in '79, '80 and '81 was to ensure that this installation of u.s. missiles took place. this meant going to the leaders of other countries and encouraging them to take the missiles. on one occasion, helmet schmitt, the pro-american, very strong cold warrior came to see her. he pointed out his own social democratic party was proving to be resistant. didn't want to take the missiles. she offered to take some of the missiles originally destined for
germany. in all these things, you have to be clear about where you are and what you are doing to your enemies as well as to your friends. from the word go, the soviets knew they had a formidable opponent in her. it doesn't mean being aggressive. it means preparing in a sensible way so that your enemy or adversary cannot really risk taking action against you. the things that happened, the countries agreed to raise the spending on defense to 3%. once that is taken, it doesn't take effect right away. you have to have two or three or four years. the military build-up takes place. so, in a sense, don't do anything rash.
don't be unsettled. prepare and let your enemies know that they can't get away with the murder they have been getting away with. >> i think one of their aspects is that both of these leaders, once they said they were going to do something, they went ahead and did it despite the opposition and the resistance. when you mentioned the missiles in england, there were tremendous marches there. that was a powerful exhibition of leadership. as you point out, the soviet leaders realized they had formidable leaders on the other side. ronald reagan is the same way, whether it was the air traffic controllers when they struck. he was firm in holding the line on that. that was another example of living up to the quality of
leadership in terms of doing what is necessary and what the job requires. the british had to be taken seriously. it was act similar to the successful act, similar to reagan's with the air traffic controllers. >> that was an interesting time. there were forces even within the united states that thought we ought to have a hands-off policy, even in high-diplomatic circles. ronald reagan was absolutely positive we were going to support england and margaret thatcher. we did provide some assistance
that was fairly instrumental. >> it was very instrumental. >> john, an important issue facing the west today, the issue on the refugees from syria, middle east, africa, into western europe. you've written a lot on immigration matters. you take a deep interest in this particular issue. what lesson could be learned from margaret thatcher's handling of this? >> it is an important issue in the united states as well. it is also an important issue for different reasons in australia. i think we have to look at this from the standpoint that people dislike uncertainly. they dislike the feeling that things are out of control, that the government is not able to
protect them against risks. you can feel quite differently with immigration when the government is able to control it than when it seems to be out of control as it does at the moment. mrs. thatcher dealt with this issue in 1978 before she even came in, because she was being interviewed on television. she said, and at this time, i should tell you people were worried about the rise of the national front, unruly part of the right and growing. i never took this seriously. she went on television and she was asked a series of questions. to one, she replied. people are worried about the rise of immigration. they have a fear of being swamped. this caused an outrage and alarmed some members of her own
party. she stood by it. she didn't retreat. support went right down. at the time, she wasn't proposing to make massive cuts in immigration or to expand it. because they knew the government was in control, it ceased to be a major issue. particularly in recent weeks. storming through europe and walking over frontiers and moving into countries and having to be looked at by governments that invited them in and they
are simply there and running areas which the migrants are going through. i would say the key lesson mrs. thatcher teaches us about this topic is that governments must be able to reassure their citizens immigration is something they can control, are controlling and can rise or lower depending on the economic and social needs of their own society. john howard is a good example in australia. there's been little hostility or opposition to this. he also said, we will decide here in australia, who comes to this country and under what terms. once he said that, the steam went out to the issue.
he meant it. >> we had the privilege of hosting john howard a few years ago for the margaret thatcher freedom lecture. he delivered a very, very robust message. another question for you with regard to europe and the center of europe, an issue that was in margaret thatcher's heart for many years. could you talk about the evolution of her views on europe and also address the suggestions by those that support britain staying inside the european union. margaret thatcher would have campaigned for britain to stay inside e.u. that is not what i gained from my conversations with lady thatcher. britain is holding a referendum. by the end of 2017 on this
membership of the european union made by prime minister, david cameron. this issue is likely to dominate british politics for the next couple of years. could you talk about margaret thatcher's views on europe and set the record straight. >> excuse me. i'm suffering slightly from jet lag and a cold. we should always accept that when we are talking about how someone who is no longer around would react to a question, we are doing something that is somewhat questionable. we don't know with certainty. we have to acknowledge that. different people that were close to lady thatcher would give different answers to the question you have asked me. i suspect that charles powell would probably give a slightly different answer to this than i
will. there is no doubt that mrs. thatcher became increasingly skeptical about europe the longer she stayed in office and after she left office. in 1975 when she became leader of the conservative policy, she wasn't particularly well-informed on foreign policy but set out to change that. when she was in office, she found europe a constant problem for her in financial terms and political ones. she was increasingly annoyed with it. it was an issue. it was her obvious resistance to further integration in europe that one of the factors in her
losing office because that resistance wasn't shared by many in the conservative party as it was later and perhaps today. what would she do today? >> i would say the evidence was that she moved further and further. my conversations with her certainly suggested that. you mentioned the books.g$)x she comes right up to the edge and looks over the abyss and then ends the conversation. things that have happened since then persuade me, that's the way she would urge people to vote. it is a legitimate exercise. we can't be certain. others will take a different view. my view is that she would want britain to recover its full independence and freedom of action. she also took the view that the movement of europe towards a common defense policy was a
threat to nato. moving towards being a federal state would inevitably mean a breach with the united states. as for her, as for churchill, of course, remaining friends and allies with the americans was at least the second and probably the first principle of foreign policy. >> next, john, i would like now to bring that back into discussion in terms of margaret thatcher's time at oxford. i might ask you the question. how important do you think lady thatcher's views were in shaping
her later views in life? why is it that oxford university has been so incredibly successful in terms of producing british prime ministers, i believe, 26 have been educated at oxford. far more impressive than cambridge. what was it about her oxford time that fashioned one of the truly great leaders of our time? >> well, one thing i would say just to supplement what i have just heard from john sullivan and ed meese is that part of the quality of margaret thatcher's leadership, probably in both countries was courage and although we do know from her biographers, including the splendid biography by charles
more, she did change her mind frequently. she thought very carefully and could change her position according to the evidence. she never made that clear in public. in public, she came across with absolute clarity. so you didn't get any sense of vaccilation. it is so important in a quality. that, of course, was a personality trait of margaret thatcher's. i think it would be wrong to claim her oxford education was solely responsible for it. she was trained in chemistry. her tutor, dorothy crayfield hodgkins, the nobel prize winner, would have taught her and the tutorial system gives you very close and sustained exposure to dialogue with somebody very high up in their profession already. you are one of only one or two people talking to that person. she learned a lot from her
tutor. dorothy crayford hodgkins was investigating the structure of penicillin, vitamin b 1 and insill lynn and coming up with one answer that was going to be the provably right answer. from that, i think margaret thatcher came up with that there must be one right answer. that would support her in the clarity i have just spoken about. that is part of it. you asked why so many political leaders in britain come from oxford. well, of course, we go back a long time. so we have a bit of an advantage.
okay oxford has always been interested in politics. but i think also, it's this, what i've just mentioned in connection with margaret thatcher is this exposure to the tutorial system of teaching you which you and i have been through. you and i both know, niles, that it can be pretty terrifying. if you come through the other end, you have been through the fiery furnace of being challenged and asked to explain why you have arrived at the conclusions you have arrived at. it is you and the tutor or you and one other student of the tutor in the room for a whole hour being critiqued on the work you have done in the first week on a particular subject.
in the end, i think that produces the capacity to stand up for yourself in argument and a certain confidence, which is very different from arrogance. self-confidence is a terribly important quality in politics as in so many other aspects of life. i think the nature of the oxford education, whether it is in philosophy, politics, economics or history or chemistry, which was margaret thatcher's subject, gives you that edge. but then there is the tradition and the networks, all those things, obviously, work as well. >> thank you you very much for that tremendous insight. before i ask our three guests to give some concluding remarks, i would like to invite a couple of questions from the audience,
brief and to the point. if you can identify yourself as well. first question from this gentleman with the scottish tie. >> stuart reuters. i have seen some writings that indicate as well as reagan and thatcher, the pope and the polish industrialist, woleski, were this quadratic group that ended the cold war. could you comment? >> john is the expert on that. he wrote a book on the sub. john, you first and then mr. meese. >> yes, i did write a book on that reagan, thatcher and the pope, when you combine them were an enormous influence. we have been talking about raymond thatcher. the moment he was selected as pope, the alarm bells went off all over the communist party headquarters in russia and
central europe. his visit to poland in 1979, one month after mrs. thatcher was elected was an enormous event. a third of the polish people attended his masses and sermons. anybody that went was marking themselves as a dissident. if they turned to the right, they saw a person rejecting them by being there and the same if they turned to the left. this exposed, this huge attendance and emotional surge of support exposed the pretense of the communist party to be the government of poland. it was a facade. it didn't represent these people, and everybody knew it. that was transmitted by newspapers and this was an enormous event.
just to conclude, i did a lot of talking about that in my book when it came out. invariably, i was asked the same question at the end of the talk. they said you have this trio that shouldn't be a quartet. in poland, everybody nominated him as you said. there is justification for that. more than any other of the popular leaders of central europe, he had a really significant impact on events. everywhere else, however, particularly in the west, people said, gorbachev, shouldn't he be there? the answer was that gorbachev certainly deserves credit for helping to wind up the end of the soviet union peacefully. we should never deny that. we must accept that gorbachev
was more effect than cause. if the soviet union wasn't in such severe crisis, he wouldn't have had to make the decisions he did. he was given difficult choices. i think he in general made the right choice. they were painful choices, no good future than keeping the system going. margaret thatcher was one of the first people to realize the role he could play. she passed him on to ronald reagan. after the installation of missiles, they worked together to bring about the peaceful end. everyone deserves credit here. but the credit goes principally in my view to my three heroes. two heroes, one heroine. >> both margaret thatcher and ronald reagan realized this wasn't just a military or diplomatic issue as far as communism.
they felt there was a moral dimension and the pope being a part accelerated the concept of the morality, if you will, of freedom versus communism. i think his participation for that reason was very important. how subtle was it? it was proper from the position that he held. he wasn't doing things that tried to be a secular leader, if you will. he properly represented the theological view of things and the moral view of things in a very important but at the same time proper way. so that was -- the fact that he handled it extremely well, he was -- he understood psychology very well and so i think it was