Edward Heath

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Sir Edward Heath

Sir Edward Richard George Heath KG MBE (9 July 191617 July 2005) was Prime Minister of the United Kingdom for three and a half years at the beginning of the 1970s. Heath, who was a Conservative, broke with the tradition of upper-class and aristocratic leaders, as the son of a carpenter. Elected as an MP in 1950, he rose through the ministerial ranks during the 1950s and 1960s, winning the leadership of his party in 1965. Despite some personal unpopularity, he unexpectedly won the 1970 general election. In power his government successfully took the United Kingdom into the European Community but suffered economic difficulties and trade union unrest. Seeking to establish a mandate to take on striking miners, Heath called an early general election in 1974 and lost. He was deposed from the leadership by Margaret Thatcher in 1975 and a large part of his subsequent life seemed to be spent complaining about her policies.

Quotes[edit]

Lord Privy Seal[edit]

  • The British government and the British people have been through a searching debate during the last few years on the subject of their relations with Europe. The result of this debate has been our present application. It was a decision arrived at, not on any narrow or short-term grounds, but as a result of a thorough assessment over a considerable period of the needs of our own country, of Europe and of the free world as a whole. We recognise it as a great decision, a turning point in our history, and we take it in all seriousness. In saying that we wish to join the EEC, we mean that we desire to become full, whole-hearted and active members of the European Community in its widest sense and to go forward with you in the building of a new Europe.
    • Opening statement at the United Kingdom application to join the EEC in Paris (10 October 1961), quoted in Edward Heath, The Course of My Life (Hodder and Stoughton, 1998), p. 214.
  • The end of the negotiations is a blow to the cause of the wider European unity for which we have been striving. We are a part of Europe, by geography, history, culture, tradition and civilization … There have been times in the history of Europe when it has been only too plain how European we are; and there have been many millions of people who have been grateful for it. I say to my colleagues: they should have no fear. We in Britain are not going to turn out backs on the mainland of Europe or the countries of the Community.
    • Speech at European conference after France vetoed the British application to join the EEC (28 January 1963), quoted in Edward Heath, The Course of My Life (Hodder and Stoughton, 1998), p. 235.

Leader of the Opposition[edit]

  • Action, not words.
    • Title of 1966 Conservative election manifesto (publication GE 1).
  • Robin Day: But how low does your personal rating, among your own supporters, have to go before you consider yourself a liability to the party you lead?
    Edward Heath: Well, popularity isn't everything. In fact it isn't the most important thing. What matters is doing what you believe to be right, and that's what I've always tried to do and I shall go on doing. The question doesn't arise.
    • Interview on "Panorama", BBC 1 (16 October 1967).
  • That, although a century out of date, would certainly be a distinctive, different policy. But it would not be a Conservative policy and it would not provide a Conservative alternative. For better or worse the central Government is already responsible, in some way or another, for nearly half the activities of Britain. It is by far the biggest spender and the biggest employer.
    • Speech in Scotland (10 September 1968) criticising free market ideas, quoted in The Times (11 September 1968), p. 1.
  • If there are any who believe that immigrants to this country, most of whom have already become British citizens, could be forcibly deported because they are coloured people...then that I must repudiate, absolutely and completely.
    • Speech to Conservative Party Conference (12 October 1968), quoted in John Campbell, Edward Heath (London: Jonathan Cape, 1993), p. 245.
  • I have always had a hidden wish, a frustrated desire, to run a hotel.
  • We may be a small island. We're not a small people...For the last six years the Government of this country...have let us be treated as second rate. They even plan for us to stay second rate. Because that's what Labour policies mean...Now I don't intend to stand by and see this happen...Do you want a better tomorrow? ...That's what I will work for with all my strength and with all my heart. I give you my word and I will keep my word.
    • Television broadcast (15 June 1970), quoted in John Campbell, Edward Heath (London: Jonathan Cape, 1993), p. 278.
  • This would, at a stroke, reduce the rise in prices, increase production and reduce unemployment.
    • Speech (16 June 1970), quoted in The Times (17 June 1970), p. 4. This would be quoted back at Heath repeatedly during his premiership.
  • This was a secret meeting on a secret tour which nobody is supposed to know about. It means that there are men, and perhaps women, in this country walking around with eggs in their pockets, just on the off-chance of seeing the Prime Minister.
    • Remarks to the press after Harold Wilson was hit by eggs thrown by demonstrators on two successive days (1 June 1970), quoted in Edward Heath, The Course of My Life (Hodder and Stoughton, 1998), p. 305.
  • It was wildly exciting. It certainly wasn't the highest feeling I've ever had, but it was one of them. In those days, security was not as good as today. Just afterwards, some chap was able to get at me and stab the back of my neck with a cigarette. It wasn't very pleasant.
    • Describing the scene at Conservative central office after winning the 1970 general election.[citation needed]
  • One lonely voice still shouting labour!
    • During the 1970 election campaign.

Prime Minister[edit]

  • You will see that our strategy is clear. It is to reorganise the functions of Government, to leave more to individual or to corporate effort, to make savings in Government expenditure, to provide room for greater incentives to men and women and to firms and businesses. Our strategy is to encourage them more and more to take their own decisions, to stand on their own feet, to accept responsibility for themselves and for their families.
    • Speech to Conservative Party Conference (10 October 1970), quoted in John Campbell, Edward Heath (London: Jonathan Cape, 1993), p. 310.
  • No one can deny that today the major cause of the inflation from which we are suffering is the excessive wage demands...It is the responsibility of an employer, direct or indirect...if they go their own way and accede to irresponsible wage demands which damage their own firms and create a loss of jobs for those who work in them, then the Government are certainly not going to step in and rescue them from the consequences of their own actions.
    • Speech to Conservative Party Conference (10 October 1970), quoted in John Campbell, Edward Heath (London: Jonathan Cape, 1993), p. 311.
  • We will have to embark on a change so radical, a revolution so quiet and yet so total, that it will go far beyond the programme for a parliament.
    • Speech to Conservative Party Conference (10 October 1970), quoted in John Campbell, Edward Heath (London: Jonathan Cape, 1993), p. 311.
  • There are some in this country who fear that in going into Europe we shall in some way sacrifice independence and sovereignty, even that we shall begin to lose our national identity. These fears, I need hardly say, are completely unjustified and exaggerated. We shall, of course, be accepting the common procedures of Community life, just as we accept those of other organizations which we have joined. But within the framework of a developing Community the identity of national states will be maintained.
    • Speech in Wilton Park, Sussex (21 June 1971), quoted in The Times (22 June 1971), p. 5
  • Government, management and unions...have now...jointly embarked for the first time in Britain, on the path of working out together how to create and share the nation's wealth for the benefit of all the people. It is an offer to employers and unions to share fully with the Government the benefits and the obligations involved in running the national economy.
    • Speech to Conservative Party Conference in Blackpool (14 October 1972), quoted in John Campbell, Edward Heath (London: Jonathan Cape, 1993), pp. 473-474.
  • Our problem at the moment is a problem of success.
  • The miners' leaders have said more than once that they are confronting the Government, not the National Coal Board. I believe they may not yet have fully understood the implications of this approach. For it is just not the government—it is the expressed will of the elected representatives of the people in Parliament. That is the main difference between the dispute in 1972 and the dispute in 1973 and I believe that it will prove decisive. For the authority of the elected Parliament is the cornerstone of our democracy, and is recognized as such by the overwhelming majority of people in this country
    • Speech in Nelson, Lancashire (22 November 1973), quoted in The Times (23 November 1973), p. 2.
  • As Prime Minister, I want to speak to you, simply and plainly, about the grave emergency now facing our country. In the House of Commons this afternoon I announced more severe restriction on the use of electricity. You may already have heard the details of these. We are asking you to to cut down to the absolute minimum the use of electricity for heating, and for other purposes in your homes. We are limiting the use of electricity by almost all factories, shops, and offices, to three days a week.
  • We shall have a harder Christmas than we have known since the war.
  • He [Mick McGahey] has made it quite plain over the weekend—as has another miners' leader—that the object of what they are doing is not a wage negotiation...Its purpose is...to get rid of the elected government of the day. Now that is entirely a political approach and, he has said quite openly, he wishes to do it in order to get a left-wing government and obviously he expects a left-wing government to toe the line as far as he is concerned.
    • Interview with Robin Day on BBC Panorama (28 January 1974), quoted in The Times (29 January 1974), p. 1.

Post-Prime Ministerial[edit]

  • I was interested in being present for its first, and I trust only, performance.
    • After hearing a new choral work at Gloucester Cathedral, 1975.[citation needed]
  • In excluding me from the shadow cabinet, Margaret Thatcher has chosen what I believe to be the only wholly honest solution and one which I accept and welcome.
  • The historic role of the Conservative Party is to use the leverage of its political and diplomatic skills to create a fresh balance between the different elements within the state at those times when, for one reason or another, their imbalance threatens to disrupt the orderly development of society.
  • They have made a grave mistake choosing that woman.
    • On Margaret Thatcher's election to the leadership of the Tory Party, 1975.[citation needed]
  • You mustn't expect prime ministers to enjoy themselves. If they do, they mustn't show it – the population would be horrified.
  • I am sometimes accused of being oversensitive about unemployment. I do not believe that that is possible, certainly not for anyone who lived through the 1930s and saw the political consequences of high unemployment throughout Western Europe and what happened in 1939.
  • The opponents of EEC membership inside the Labour Party know how much more difficult it would be to foist their brand of left-wing socialism on the British people if we remain part of a Community based on the principles of free enterprise and the mixed economy. We in the Conservative Party must vigorously oppose this ominous development.
    • Speech to the Conservative Group for Europe after the Labour Party conference voted for Britain to leave the European Economic Community, quoted in The Times (9 October 1980), p. 6.
  • What I have in common with the right hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) is that, undeniably, our generation came into Parliament because we were determined to prevent what happened in the 1930s from occurring again and to prevent a breakdown in the social structure and the political institutions that led to the rise of authoritarianism in Europe and finally to the Second World War. That was our determination, and for 25 years, from 1950 to 1975, the people we represented had a better standard of living, bigger and better homes, better education, a better Health Service, better roads and better transport and were able to enjoy holidays such as they had not envisaged before.
  • We are now faced with massive unemployment, on a scale certainly at the level of the 1930s and to become greater. The improvement in housing, education and the standard of living has stopped. To all of us, that is a matter of the greatest possible regret...One of our intentions after the 1930s was to ensure that the Conservative Party was never again considered to be the party of unemployment. I ask my hon. Friends to think seriously about that in our present circumstances.
  • The time has come to speak out. Britain is now locked in a vicious spiralling interest rates...The net result of completing the vicious circle is that prices have increased, the rate of inflation has gone up, the money supply has increased, unemployment has gone up, the rate of bankruptcies has increased, the industrial base has been further eroded, the Government's borrowing requirement has increased and as a result there is more pressure to raise interest rates yet again, to be followed inevitably by the same vicious circle. It is this that must be broken.
    • Speech to the Federation of Conservative Students in Manchester (6 October 1981), quoted in The Times (7 October 1981), p. 6.
  • Progress in these policies can only be brought about if a considerable degree of consensus exists within our country. I have heard some doubt expressed as to what consensus means...Consensus means deliberately setting out to achieve the widest possible measure of agreement about our national policies, in this particular case about our economic activities, in the pursuit of a better standard of living for our people and a happier and more prosperous country. If there be any doubt about the desirability of working towards such a consensus let us recognize that every successful industrialized country in the modern world has been working on such a basis.
    • Speech to the Federation of Conservative Students in Manchester (6 October 1981), quoted in The Times (7 October 1981), p. 6. Margaret Thatcher had read Heath's advance text and responded by saying that "To me consensus seems to be—the process of abandoning all beliefs, principles, values and policies in search of something in which no-one believes, but to which no-one objects".
  • Please don't applaud. It may irritate your neighbour.
    • Receiving a mixed reaction to his speech at the Conservative Party conference, Blackpool (14 October 1981), quoted in John Campbell, Edward Heath (London: Jonathan Cape, 1993), p. 731.
  • We have had eight years of consistent and persistent attacks on those four years in government - and on me, personally, but that does not matter - by people who were collectively responsible for those four years.
    • Interviewed in 1982 about Margaret Thatcher's attitude towards him and his government.[citation needed]
  • He is not mad in the least. He's a very astute person, a clever person.
  • It is bad because it is a negation of democracy … Worst of all is the imposition by parliamentary diktat of a change of responsible party in London government. There cannot be any justification for that. It immediately lays the Conservative Party open to the charge of the greatest gerrymandering in the last 150 years of British history.
  • It was the most enthralling episode in my life
  • I don't think that modesty is the outstanding characteristic of contemporary politics, do you?"
  • I think Churchill would be appalled at the Thatcher government.
  • Whatever the lady does is wrong. I do not know of a single right decision taken by her.
  • There's a lot of people I've encouraged and helped to get into the House of Commons. Looking at them now, I'm not so sure it was a wise thing to do.
  • Peter Sissons: The single currency, a United States of Europe, was all that in your mind when you took Britain in?
    Edward Heath: Of course, yes.
    • On BBC's Question Time (1 November 1990), quoted in Peter Sissons, When One Door Closes (Biteback, 2012).
  • Rejoice! Rejoice!
    • On hearing the news of Margaret Thatcher's resignation (22 November 1990), quoted in John Campbell, Edward Heath (London: Jonathan Cape, 1993), p. 787. When asked later if it was true that he had issued such a joyful declaration on his rival's political demise, he said no. He hadn't said rejoice twice, he had said it three times.
  • This is the new imperialism, and I am against the new imperialism. It is not our job to go throwing our forces around the world and saying 'This is an evil man and so on'.
    • Remarks on the Gulf War on ITV, On the Record (3 February 1991), quoted in The Times (4 February 1991), p. 5.
  • I am sure that entering the exchange rate mechanism was absolutely right and is still right. I regret that we did not do so five years earlier, but that is history. Economic monetary union must come as soon as possible, and with it the single currency. Industry wants the single currency, and we must pay attention to the requests and demands of industry.
  • Do you know what Margaret Thatcher did in her first Budget? Introduced VAT on yachts! It somewhat ruined my retirement.
  • A tragedy for the party. He's got no ideas, no experience and no hope.
    • On William Hague's election to the leadership of the Conservative Party, 1997.[citation needed]


Disputed[edit]

  • You'll lose.
    • His full response supposedly made to Margaret Thatcher when she informed him she would be standing against him for the Conservative leadership in 1975. Attributed to him in his Daily Telegraph obituary (18 July 2005), although disputed by Heath's autobiography.

About[edit]

  • The incredible sulk.
    • Anonymous nickname referring to his complaints about Margaret Thatcher.

External links[edit]

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