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Margaret Thatcher: 'The old girl is never going to come back'

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(CNN) -- Five years after leaving the prime minister's office in Great Britain, Margaret Thatcher finished the second part of her memoir, "The Path to Power."

As Larry King celebrates 50 years in broadcasting, take a look at some excerpts from her June 26, 1995, interview.

KING: Lady Margaret Thatcher's new book, "The Path to Power," is already a major hit in Great Britain. ... These books were written in reverse, right? First "The Downing Street Years," then "The Path to Power."

THATCHER: That's right. I thought it best to write "The Downing Street Years" while they were still fresh in my mind and I had access to all the documents. Then, people said, 'Well, how did you come to hold these views and so tenaciously?' So I wrote the story of that.

KING: Which of the two books was harder to write?

THATCHER: In a way, "The Path to Power," because there weren't so many documents, and I had to call heavily on local newspapers, local friends, and friends at all stages of my life. But the more you discovered, the more you remembered. And it was a most interesting journey. You don't often see your whole life laid before you, and you're really surprised, when you do, at the amount you've managed to do in your life.

KING: Some people also find it tough to touch on painful areas. Was it for you?

THATCHER: Yes, it was. But, then, quite a lot of my life has been, really, quite a battle.

KING: How so?

THATCHER: I've had to battle to get my views across. Well, a battle, certainly, in politics, because I had very strong views, stemming from quite fundamental principles, some of which I learned from my father. And, for quite a time, when we were both in our position and when I was in power, my views were in a minority in cabinet, or in shadow cabinet. And I nevertheless felt so strongly that I had to push them through. And then, there were some faint hearts in my party, and they didn't want us to be bold in our policies at all. And I said, 'But that's what I'm for. I'm here to say what I believe, and why, and to do it.'

KING: Was yours a happy childhood, generally?

THATCHER: Yeah, I think so.

KING: Brothers and sisters?

THATCHER: Yes, I had an elder sister. We were a very close-knit family. My father was a grocer, and my mother had been a dressmaker with her own business. He was also on our local council. He became mayor. He had had to leave school at the age of 13, because, in those days, you know, you couldn't go on easily without paying something for it. And so, he was the best self-educated man I ever met. He read and read and read and taught us to read.

KING: When did you know you were different? I mean, most little girls don't grow up to be prime minister. We have yet to have a little girl grow up to be president. When did you know you were different?

THATCHER: That's a strange question to ask. And for a moment, I have to think. I was very much aware from quite an early age, being the youngest in the family, I much preferred the company of my elders to the company of my contemporaries. I was much more interested in the things that they were talking about, because these were the '30s, and these were interesting times. They were times of great unemployment.

KING: And you were a very young lady.


KING: You must have felt different. 'Why aren't I hanging around with my 12-year-old friends?'

THATCHER: I enjoyed the conversation and the company of older people very much. And I enjoyed the things they were talking about. And I listened, and then gradually came to join in. We were also quite a musical family, and we loved music, and we loved to sing songs around the piano sometimes.

KING: How old were you when you said, 'I'm going to run for office?'

THATCHER: Oh, I was, really, at university when I expressed the wish to become a member of parliament. And it wasn't I who really triggered that expression. We were just sitting around the kitchen table with a number of friends after a dance one evening. And we were talking about politics, of course. I was often talking about politics. And all of a sudden, one of my companions said, 'You want to be an M.P, don't you?' And it crystallized it for me, just like that. I said, 'Yes.' But I couldn't afford it. M.P.s [members of Parliament] weren't paid very much in those days.

KING: So you ran when?

THATCHER: When they were paid enough.

KING: Britain has had a history of strong women. You had strong queens. Was it still unusual for women to be in parliament?

THATCHER: It was still quite difficult for us to get into parliament, to get adopted. I remember I first put in for quite a tough, industrial seat, and the chairman said, 'We can't have a woman here. This is an industrial seat.' However, they adopted me, and it was the first seat I fought. It was a tough labor seat. But it really gave me a good deal of experience of fighting. And I had a very interesting labor member opposite me, who challenged me to a debate in the local school hall. And I think he thought he was going to make mincemeat of me. But I really had grown up to debate in my family, so we had a very equal debate. And he was very magnanimous, you know. It's very good when you have a good relationship with your political opponents. It makes much better politics, it really does.

KING: When did Margaret Thatcher say, 'I want to be prime minister?'

THATCHER: Oh, that, too, just happened to come about ...

KING: You're sitting around talking one day and someone said ...

THATCHER: Not quite. Not quite. After the government of '70 to '74, which we didn't handle very well, we went into our position, and one of my great political friends, Keith Joseph and I decided we had to go right back to the drawing board, right back to first political principles and philosophy, and work out the policy and the details from there. And we did it. And I had always thought that Keith Joseph would become the leader of our party and put that into operation when he became prime minister. And one day, he just made an unfortunate speech with some unfortunate phrases. You know, just a few phrases can shatter your whole life.

KING: Yeah, it can.

THATCHER: And it did. And all the press camped around his house for three or four days. And eventually, on the Tuesday evening- Monday or Tuesday evening, he rang my study in the houses of parliament and said, 'Can I come and have a word?' He came in, and he said, 'I have to tell you, I cannot stand to be leader of our party.' And I went to protest, he said, 'Don't. My family and I have talked it through. I really can't take this pressure. And I was just very off-put. And I heard myself say, 'Well, Keith, if you're not going to stand, I will, because someone who holds the views we've worked out has to put them forward.' Let me tell you completed, I went home and I said to Dennis, 'I'm going to stand to be leader of the party.' He said, 'Good God, you're mad. You haven't got a hope.' Well, I wasn't mad, but I agreed with him I hadn't got a hope. But then it came out the way it did, so another coincidence, you see.

KING: Is Dennis a strong man?

THATCHER: Oh, marvelous. He has to be, doesn't he?

KING: That's what I was going to get to. Obviously.

THATCHER: Yes. But he is. Obviously. He has his own industrial career. He's also a person in great demand. He's also very keen on sports. He's very keen on rugby football. He was a rugby football referee in his spare time, at one time. And, when we went into Downing Street, he made a rule, which he kept to. He was never going to have any interviews with the press, nor even television. And the people respected him for it. And he made speeches, after-dinner speeches, and he came out with all the phrases which it would have been difficult for me to come out with.

KING: Would you like to be in that office again?


KING: Not ever?

THATCHER: No, I reckon I'm too old. I was in that office for 11-1/2 years. There would be plenty of people who were saying, 'Oh, it's time the old girl went.' And the old girl went. And the old girl is never going to come back.

KING: ... we go to your phone calls. Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, hello.

CALLER: Lady Thatcher, being a principal person in power, what was your most difficult decision to make?

THATCHER: The most difficult decision might surprise you. It was not the Falkland Islands, which really made itself. We had to go. The most difficult decision was the day President Reagan rang me up and said, 'We have to do something about Libya. It is a terrorist state. We have all the evidence, as you know, things that it has supported. And I want to do a raid on Libya. And I want to do it from the bases in Britain.' And this came out of the blue. I knew the sort of trouble it would cause in parliament. And I said, 'Well, just give me a few hours to think it over.' Called in my foreign secretary and defense secretary and talked it through.

And we decided that, unless someone tried to put a stop to terrorism and made it clear that people could not go on bombing airports and the thing on the Achille Lauro, the terrible thing, and continuing to do that, we really should be failing in our duty. And so, we decided that it was justifiable, provided the targets were military targets, strictly military targets.

So I telephoned him back and said, yes, we would consent. It caused an uproar, as I thought it would. But many people realized later that it was the right thing to do. But strangely enough, it was the most difficult debate in parliament I ever had to take. And I had all of the law and the case and the intelligence worked out about why we had to do it.

KING: Did you have any second thoughts?

THATCHER: No, I didn't. It was the right decision. It was a decision of Ronald Reagan which took me by surprise. But he was not a man to be beaten by terrorism. He was not a man to fear the consequences of making that raid, because he thought it was right. And it stopped the terrorism from that country for a very long time.

KING: What do you miss the most?

THATCHER: I miss the sense of being at the center of things and the adrenaline that goes to the brain with it. I miss the cut and thrust of swift debate. I miss the regularity of the life, because life was extremely well ordered, in great variety. It was well ordered. Tuesday and Thursday were questions. The cabinet meeting was Thursday. One had certain conferences to attend, both international and at home. And that very ordered life suited me very well. It was packed full of activity. One had to work late into the night. But that suited me also.

KING: What do your children do?

THATCHER: My daughter is in the press. And she's very good at writing. Yes, she's very good at writing. And she's writing a book about my husband. And my son has had his own business for a time.

KING: Our guest Lady Margaret Thatcher. Her children were twins, by the way. What was it like to raise twins?

THATCHER: Very busy, but very, very worthwhile. I was actually delighted. I didn't know I was going to have twins until the day they were born. They were born prematurely. So it is very exciting. And a boy and a girl, all at the same time, was just done wonderfully, I thought.

KING: One cries, the other sleeps. One sleeps, the other cries.

THATCHER: That's right. That's right. You think the first two years will never end, and then all of a sudden they're over and gone and the children are growing up. They grow up so quickly.

KING: Was it tough to balance motherhood and elective office?

THATCHER: Well, you couldn't have done it until the children- I didn't do it until the children were in school. I came into parliament when they were 6. But I couldn't have done it unless our home had been in London. People often ask me, why aren't there more women members of parliament or members of Congress. And I say, if you have a young family, you couldn't come from miles and miles away, to Washington or to London, leaving them with a family. You would feel that they would miss you, and you would feel you weren't doing your duty by them.

KING: One more call for Lady Thatcher. Evansville, Indiana. Hello.

CALLER: I was wondering, Lady Thatcher, do you have a hobby?

THATCHER: Do I have a hobby?

KING: Other than politics?

THATCHER: I like music. I love opera. I love theater. I don't have as much time to go as I would like to, but they are all a great joy in my life. And I love visiting galleries, art galleries, or museums. The cultural things really add a great richness to life.

LARRY KING: I thank you so much.

MARGARET THATCHER: Thank you. Bless you. ... I've enjoyed it. Thank you.


Margaret Thatcher, one of Great Britain's longest-serving prime ministers, said her interest in politics began at a very early age.


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