Edward Heath: A Biography

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After demobilization in August , Heath joined the Honourable Artillery Company, in which he remained active throughout the s, rising to Commanding officer; a portrait of him in full dress uniform still hangs in the regimental mess. On at least one occasion as Prime Minister he wore his Lieutenant-Colonel's insignia to inspect troops. Before the war Heath had prepared for a career in law, but after the war he instead passed into the Civil Service. He then became a civil servant in the Ministry of Civil Aviation, resigning in November after his adoption as one of the prospective parliamentary candidates for Bexley.

In the election he defeated an old contemporary from the Oxford Union, Ashley Bramall, with a majority of votes. Heath made his maiden speech in the House of Commons on June 26, , in which he appealed to the Labour Government to participate in the Schuman Plan which led to the European Common Market.

Because of the convention that Whips do not speak in Parliament , Heath managed to keep out of the controversy over the Suez Crisis. On the announcement of Anthony Eden's resignation, Heath submitted a report on the opinions of the Conservative MPs regarding Eden's possible successors.

Edward Heath

This report favored Harold Macmillan and was instrumental in eventually securing Macmillan the premiership. Macmillan soon appointed Heath Minister of Labour after the successful October election. Heath was fervently pro-EU and believed in political as well as economic union. He was appointed Lord Privy Seal in by Macmillan with responsibility for the ultimately unsuccessful first round of negotiations to secure the UK's accession to what was then known as the Common Market. After the Conservative Party lost the general election of , the defeated Douglas-Home changed the party leadership rules to allow for an MP ballot vote, and then resigned.

The following year Heath unexpectedly won the party's leadership contest, gaining votes to Reginald Maudling's and Enoch Powell's At a time when an important immigration bill was pending, which would open England's doors to citizens from Commonwealth nations, Heath sacked Enoch Powell from the Shadow Cabinet after Powell made his "Rivers of Blood" speech on April 20, The racist speech warned against allowing blacks to dominate British economy and politics.

Heath never spoke to him again. Powell hadn't notified Conservative Central Office of his intentions to deliver the speech, and this was put forward as one reason for his dismissal. Powell would prove a back-bench critic of Heath's policies after his U-turn in When Powell died on 8 February and Heath was asked for a statement, Heath told the media: "I won't be making a statement.

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With another general election looming in , a Conservative policy document emerged from the Selsdon Park Hotel, which according to some historians embraced fairly radical monetarist and free-market oriented policies as solutions to the country's unemployment and inflation problems. Heath stated that the Selsdon weekend only reaffirmed policies which had actually been evolving since he became leader of the Conservative Party.

Edward Heath, Frost Interview (1st October 1974)

Labour's Prime Minister Harold Wilson thought the document a vote loser and dubbed it Selsdon Man in the attempt to portray it as "reactionary. As with all British governments in the s, Heath's time in office was difficult. The government suffered an early blow with the death of Chancellor of the Exchequer Iain Macleod on July 20, Heath's planned economic policy changes including a significant shift from direct to indirect taxation remained largely unimplemented; the Selsdon policy document was more or less abandoned by Heath's abandonment of the free-trade policies on which his government had been elected resulted in the accusation that he had performed a U-turn.

He was charged with pursuing flip-flop policies. Famously, his successor as Conservative leader would say, "U turn is you want to, the Lady's not for turning. Yet Heath's attempt to confront trade-union power only resulted in an unwinnable pitched political battle, hobbled as the government was by the country's galloping inflation and high unemployment.

It was also around this time that energy shortages infamously resulted in much of the country's industry, with many working a three-day week in an attempt to conserve energy. The resulting breakdown of domestic consensus contributed to the eventual downfall of his government.

Heath's government did little to curtail welfare spending, yet at one point the squeeze in the education budget resulted in Margaret Thatcher 's office famously phasing out free school milk rather than cutting back spending on the Open University. The contrast with the s Thatcher government resulted in Heath acquiring a strongly humanitarian image. Heath governed during the bloodiest period in the history of the Northern Ireland Troubles.

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He was prime minister at the time of Bloody Sunday in when 14 unarmed men were killed by British soldiers during an illegal march in Londonderry. In , he gave evidence to the Saville Inquiry and stated that he never sanctioned unlawful lethal force in Northern Ireland. In the aftermath of these unsuccessful talks, the Heath government pushed for a peaceful settlement with the democratic political parties. The Sunningdale Agreement was strongly repudiated by many Unionists and the Ulster Unionist Party soon ceased to support the Conservative party at Westminster.

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This breakdown in cooperation largely accounted for Heath's eventual electoral defeat in Heath was targeted by the IRA for introducing "internment" in Ulster. In December , terrorists from the Balcombe Street gang threw a bomb on to the first-floor balcony of his home in Wilton Street, Belgravia, where it exploded.

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Heath had been conducting a Christmas carol concert in his constituency at Broadstairs, Kent, and arrived home 10 minutes after the bomb exploded. No one was injured in the attack, but a landscape portrait painted by Winston Churchill —given to Heath as a present—was damaged.

Sir Edward Heath: Timeline of life and career

He also officially recognized the People's Republic of China in , visited Mao Zedong in Beijing in and and remained an honoured guest in China on frequent visits thereafter. Heath also maintained a good relationship with U. President Richard Nixon. Heath tried to bolster his government by calling a general election for February 28, The result was inconclusive: the Conservative Party received a majority of votes cast but the Labour Party gained a majority of seats due to the Ulster Unionist MPs refusing to support the Conservatives.

Heath then began coalition negotiations with leaders of the Liberal Party, but, when these failed, on March 4, , he resigned as Prime Minister and was replaced by Harold Wilson and a minority Labour government. Iron Lady: The Thatcher Years. Stephen Blake. The Iron Lady.

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