Edward Heath

Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1970 to 1974

Sir Edward Richard George Heath KG MBE (9 July 1916 – 17 July 2005), often known as Ted Heath, was a British Conservative politician.[1] He was Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1970 until 1974.[1] Heath was also the leader of the Conservative Party from 1965 until 1975.

Sir Edward Heath

Portrait by Allan Warren, 1987
Prime Minister of the United Kingdom
In office
19 June 1970 – 4 March 1974
MonarchElizabeth II
Preceded byHarold Wilson
Succeeded byHarold Wilson
Leader of the Opposition
In office
4 March 1974 – 11 February 1975
MonarchElizabeth II
Prime MinisterHarold Wilson
Preceded byHarold Wilson
Succeeded byMargaret Thatcher
In office
28 July 1965 – 19 June 1970
MonarchElizabeth II
Prime MinisterHarold Wilson
Preceded bySir Alec Douglas-Home
Succeeded byHarold Wilson
Leader of the Conservative Party
In office
28 July 1965 – 11 February 1975
Preceded bySir Alec Douglas-Home
Succeeded byMargaret Thatcher
Father of the House of Commons
In office
9 April 1992 – 14 May 2001
Preceded byBernard Braine
Succeeded byTam Dalyell
Ministerial offices
President of the Board of Trade
In office
20 October 1963 – 16 October 1964
Prime MinisterSir Alec Douglas-Home
Preceded byFred Erroll
Succeeded byDouglas Jay
Secretary of State for Industry, Trade and Regional Development
In office
20 October 1963 – 16 October 1964
Prime MinisterSir Alec Douglas-Home
Preceded byPosition created
Succeeded byPosition abolished
Lord Keeper of the Privy Seal
(Deputy Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs)
In office
14 February 1960 – 18 October 1963
Prime MinisterHarold Macmillan
Preceded byThe Viscount Hailsham
Succeeded bySelwyn Lloyd
Minister of Labour
In office
14 October 1959 – 27 July 1960
Prime MinisterHarold Macmillan
Preceded byIain Macleod
Succeeded byJohn Hare
Chief Whip of the House of Commons
Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury
In office
7 April 1955 – 14 June 1959
Prime Minister
Preceded byPatrick Buchan-Hepburn
Succeeded byMartin Redmayne
Lord Commissioner of the Treasury
In office
7 November 1951 – 20 December 1955
Prime Minister
Preceded byWilliam Wilkins
Succeeded byEdward Wakefield
Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer
In office
27 October 1964 – 27 July 1965
LeaderSir Alec Douglas-Home
Preceded byReginald Maudling
Succeeded byIain Macleod
Member of Parliament
for Old Bexley and Sidcup
(Sidcup, 1974–1983;
Bexley, 1950–1974)
In office
23 February 1950 – 14 May 2001
Preceded byAshley Bramall
Succeeded byDerek Conway
Personal details
Edward Richard George Heath

(1916-07-09)9 July 1916
Broadstairs, Kent, England
Died17 July 2005(2005-07-17) (aged 89)
Salisbury, Wiltshire, England
Resting placeSalisbury Cathedral
Political partyConservative
Alma materBalliol College, Oxford
  • Civil servant
  • musician
  • politician
  • yachtsman
Military service
Branch/serviceBritish Army
RankLieutenant Colonel
Battles/warsSecond World War
Service #179215

Heath was educated at Balliol College, Oxford.[1]

In 1937, as a student when he was travelling in Nuremberg, Heath met three of Adolf Hitler's top Nazi leaders Hermann Goering, Joseph Goebbels and Heinrich Himmler. He described Himmler as the most evil man he had ever met. Heath also travelled to Barcelona in Spain in 1938 at the time of the Spanish Civil War. In 1939, Heath went again to Germany, and returned to Britain before the outbreak of World War II.

Heath was a lifelong bachelor. He never married. His sexual orientation was a matter of dispute during his lifetime, and since. There were rumours that he was gay. Heath never spoke about his sexuality.[2][3] He was also a classical organist and conductor and a sailor.

In August 2015, ten years after his death, it was claimed that five police forces were investigating Heath about allegations of child sexual abuse.[4] Writing in The Independent, Heath's biographer John Campbell said: "If he had any inclinations that way he would have repressed them; he was too self-controlled and self-contained to do anything that would have risked his career".[5]

Early life change

Edward Heath was from a working class family, the son of a carpenter and a maid. He was the first of two important post-World War II prime ministers to come from the lower ranks of society (the other being Margaret Thatcher). Heath went to a grammar school in Ramsgate, and won a scholarship to Balliol College, Oxford. Heath was a talented musician, and won the college's organ scholarship in his first term. This enabled him to stay at the university for a fourth year. He eventually graduated with in philosophy, politics and economics (PPE) in 1939.

Heath served in the army in WWII, starting as a second lieutenant in the Royal Artillery. In 1944 he took part in the Normandy Landings. Heath was eventually demobilised (left the army) as a lieutenant-colonel in 1947.

After a spell in the Civil Service, Heath won a seat as Member of Parliament (MP) for Bexley in the February 1950 general election.

Political career change

Heath's early appointments were as a whip in the Conservative Party in the House of Commons. He rose to be Chief Whip and Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury from 1955 to 1959. Harold Macmillan appointed him Minister of Labour, a Cabinet post, in 1959.

In 1960 Macmillan gave Heath responsibility for negotiating the UK's first attempt to join the European Economic Community (as the European Union was then called). After extensive negotiations, the British entry was vetoed by the French President, Charles de Gaulle.

From 1965 to 1970 Heath was Leader of the Opposition when the Labour Party were in power. Then he was elected Prime Minister in the General Election of 1970.

During his premiership the UK government passed through parliament some quite radical changes.

Currency and metrication change

Since Anglo-Saxon times, the currency of England (and so later the UK) was based on the pound sterling, at a rate of 240 pence to £1. On 15 February 1971, known as Decimal Day, the United Kingdom and Ireland decimalised their currencies.

This change had many consequences, but it was eventually accepted by most people. It was an expensive change. Not only was the whole of the currency in circulation changed, but many mechanical gadgets also had to be changed. Every cash register in the country, every commercial machine which took coins, every public notices of monetary charges, and so on.

The other change, which happened at roughly the same time, was metrication of the old imperial system of weights and measures. This idea dated to before Heath, and was continued after him by the next Labour government. It was never fully completed. Speed limits are still in miles per hour, and measurements of length are still in traditional yards, feet and inches, with metric as an alternative. Once again, the changes were hugely expensive. It meant an almost complete retooling in the machine tool industry.

It was mainly done because joining the European Economic Community (EEC) in 1973 obliged the United Kingdom to take into its law all EEC directives. These included the use of a prescribed SI-based set of units for many purposes within five years. However, metric measures are not much used in everyday life in the UK.[6]

Joining Europe change

Heath took the United Kingdom into Europe with the European Communities Act 1972 in October.[7]

Once de Gaulle had left office, Heath was determined to get the UK into the (then) European Economic Community. The EEC economy had also slowed down and British membership was seen as a way to revitalise it.[8] After a 12-hour talk between Heath and French President Georges Pompidou Britain's third application succeeded.[9]

End of his premiership change

Heath in 1987

Heath failed to control the power of the unions. Two miners' strikes damaged the economy. The 1974 strike caused much of the country's industry to work a three-day week to conserve energy. That was enough for the electorate to put the government out of office. The loss of the 1974 general election ended Heath's career at the top. The Conservative Party replaced him with Margaret Thatcher.

Other interests change

Heath never married. He had been expected to marry childhood friend Kay Raven, who reportedly tired of waiting and married an RAF officer whom she met on holiday in 1950. In a four-sentence paragraph of his memoirs, Heath claimed that he had been too busy establishing a career after the war and had "perhaps ... taken too much for granted". In a 1998 TV interview with Michael Cockerell, Heath admitted that he had kept her photograph in his flat for many years afterwards.[10]

His interest in music kept him on friendly terms with a number of female musicians including Moura Lympany. Lympany had thought Heath would marry her, but when asked about the most intimate thing he had done, replied, "He put his arm around my shoulder."[11] Bernard Levin wrote at the time in The Observer, forgetting two other prime ministers who were bachelors with no known romantic interests, that the UK had to wait until the emergence of the permissive society for a prime minister who was a virgin.[12] In later life, according to his official biographer Philip Ziegler, Heath was "apt to relapse into morose silence or completely ignore the woman next to him and talk across her to the nearest man".[12]

John Campbell, who published a biography of Heath in 1993, devoted four pages to a discussion of the evidence concerning Heath's sexuality. Whilst acknowledging that Heath was often assumed by the public to be gay, not least because it is "nowadays ... whispered of any bachelor" he found "no positive evidence" that this was so "except for the faintest unsubstantiated rumour".[13] Campbell concluded that the most significant aspect of Heath's sexuality was his complete repression of it.

References change

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 "BBC History - Historic Figures:Edward Heath (1916 - 2005)". Retrieved 18 October 2012.
  2. Edward Heath
  3. "Heath warned about gay sex trysts". The Daily Telegraph. 25 April 2007.
  4. Gearin, Mary (6 August 2015). "Sir Edward Heath: Five UK police forces investigating child sex abuse claims involving former PM". ABC News (Australia). Retrieved 6 August 2015.
  5. Edward Heath 'child sex abuse' allegation: Rumours always swirled about his sexuality - I’m sure that’s all they were | The Independent
  6. "Telegraph style book: numbers, measures and money". web page. Telegraph Media Group Limited. 2012. Retrieved 23 June 2012.
  7. legislation.gov.uk: European Communities Act 1972
  8. Bache, Ian and Stephen George 2006. Politics in the European Union. Oxford University Press, p540–542.
  9. "1971 Year in Review, UPI.com"
  10. 'Edward Heath – A Very Singular Man' Blakeway Productions for BBC2, 1998
  11. The Guardian, 19 March 2001
  12. 12.0 12.1 Wheatcroft, Geoffrey (4 July 2010). "Edward Heath: the authorised biography by Philip Ziegler". The Guardian. London.
  13. The footnote refers to a mention of a "disturbing incident" at the beginning of the Second World War in a 1972 biography by Andrew Roth.