The late Margaret Thatcher in her own words

British ex-PM was renowned for a pithy and often polarising turn-of-phrase

Late British former prime minister Margaret Thatcher with former taoiseach, the late  Dr Garret FitzGerald, signing the Anglo-Irish Agreement on November 15th, 1985. Photgraph: Matt Kavanagh/The Irish  Times

Late British former prime minister Margaret Thatcher with former taoiseach, the late Dr Garret FitzGerald, signing the Anglo-Irish Agreement on November 15th, 1985. Photgraph: Matt Kavanagh/The Irish Times


Margaret Thatcher was renowned for her no-nonsense turn of phrase.

l “I wasn’t lucky. I deserved it” — Comment on receiving a school prize, aged nine.

l “There is no alternative” — Comment made on several occasions about her economic policy, giving rise, through the initial letters of the word, to her nickname “Tina”.

l “I am not hard — I’m frightfully soft. But I will not be hounded” — Interview, 1972.

l “It will be years — and not in my time — before a woman will lead the party or become Prime Minister” — Speech, 1974.

l “Let our children grow tall, and some taller than others if they have it in them to do so” — Speech in United States in 1975.

l “I’ve got a woman’s ability to stick to a job and get on with it when everyone else walks off and leaves it” — Speech, 1975.

l “I stand before you tonight in my green chiffon evening gown, my face softly made up, my fair hair gently waved. The Iron Lady of the Western World? Me? A cold war warrior? Well, yes — if that is how they wish to interpret my defence of values and freedoms fundamental to our way of life” — Speech in 1976 after the Kremlin dubbed her the Iron Lady.

l “Britain is no longer in the politics of the pendulum, but of the ratchet” - Speech to the Institute of Public Relations, 1977.

l “I can trust my husband not to fall asleep on a public platform and he usually claps in the right places” — Interview, 1978.

l “Votes do not fall from the trees like ripe plums. They have to be fought for” — Private meeting of Tory candidates before the 1979 general election.

l “Any woman who understands the problems of running a home will be nearer to understanding the problems of running a country” — Election campaign, 1979.

l “If a woman like Eva Peron with no ideals can get that far, think how far I can go with all the ideals that I have” — Interview in 1980.

l “I love argument, I love debate. I don’t expect anyone just to sit there and agree with me, that’s not their job” — Interview, 1980.

l “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. The lady’s not for turning” — Speech at Conservative Party conference, 1980.

l “No one would have remembered the Good Samaritan if he’d only had good intentions. He had money as well” — Television interview, 1980.

l “A crime is a crime is a crime” — News conference in Saudi Arabia, 1981, rejecting any view that there could be political reasons for IRA terrorism.

l “We should rejoice at that news” — On the recapture of South Georgia during the Falklands conflict, 1981.

l “We knew what we had to do and we went about it and did it. Great Britain is great again” — Comment at end of Falklands conflict.

l “In politics, if you want anything said, ask a man; if you want anything done, ask a woman” — Speech 1982.

l “The battle for women’s rights has been largely won” — Interview, 1982.

l “Pennies do not come from heaven. They have to be earned here on earth” — Interview, 1982.

l “I owe nothing to women’s lib” — Interview, 1982.

l “Victorian values were the values when our country became great” — TV interview, 1982.

l “I am painted as the greatest little dictator, which is ridiculous — you always take some consultations” — Interview, 1983.

l “We are the true peace movement” — Interview, 1983.

l “Oh, I have got lots of human weaknesses. Who hasn’t?” — Interview, 1983.

l “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” — Speech to Scottish Tories, 1983.

l “The National Health Service is safe in our hands” — Conservative Party conference, 1983.

l “State socialism is totally alien to the British character” — Interview, 1983.

l “Young people ought not to be idle. It is very bad for them” — Interview, 1984.

l “I love being at the centre of things” — Interview, 1984.

l “This is a man I can do business with” — After her first meeting with Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev.

l “That is the scale of the outrage in which we have all shared. And the fact we are gathered here, now, shocked but composed and determined, is a sign not only that this attack has failed, but that all attempts to destroy democracy by terrorism will fail” — Tory conference, 1984, a few hours after the Brighton bomb outrage which nearly killed her.

l “This is a day I was not meant to see” — the Sunday following the Brighton bomb.

l “I think, historically, the term ‘Thatcherism’ will be seen as a compliment” — Speech, 1985.

l “Why, Marks and Spencer of course. Doesn’t everyone?” — When asked where she bought her underwear, 1986.

l “I don’t mind how much my ministers talk, as long as they do what I say” — Interview, 1987.

l “There is no such thing as Society. There are individual men and women, and there are families” — Interview, 1987.

l “I am certain we will win the election with a good majority. Not that I am ever over-confident” — Comment during 1987 election campaign which she won with a three-figure majority.

l “I think I have become a bit of an institution — you know the sort of thing people expect to see around the place” — Speech, 1987.

l “Had we gone the way of France and got 60% of our electricity from nuclear power, we should not have environmental problems” — Speech, 1988.

l “What’s wrong with British water” — When presented with French Perrier water at a lunch in 1989.

l “We are a grandmother” — On the birth of her grandson, Michael, February, 1989.

l “The Chancellor is unassailable” — Comment about Nigel Lawson only days before he resigned from the Government in 1989.

l “I fight on. I fight to win” — Statement on November 21, 1990, after she was forced into a second ballot in the leadership battle, but she in fact withdrew before it occurred.

l “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” — Statement the following day.

l “It’s a funny old world” — Comment after her decision to quit in November 1990, pointing out that she had never lost an election in her life, yet had been forced to stand down.

l “I’m enjoying this” — An interjection in a rumbustious speech she made in the Commons only hours after announcing she would quit.

l “The Mummy returns” — During the 2001 general election campaign after passing a poster publicising a film of that name.