The Right Honourable
Edward Heath was Prime Minister
of Great Britain & Northern Ireland
from 1970 to 1974 and Leader of the Conservative Party
from 1965 to 1975.
Edward Richard George Heath was born in 1916 and educated at Chatham House School, Ramsgate, and at Balliol College, Oxford, where he was Organ Scholar - as a longstanding batchelor of interesting reputation, one can only speculate as to how appropriate this accolade was - and read Modern Greats (philosophy, politics and economics). He was President of the Oxford University Conservative Association, Chairman of the Federation of University Conservative Associations and President of the Union - the university debating society. Upon graduation, he was awarded the Gray's Inn Gerald Moody Scholarship.
During the war he served with the Royal Artillery, rising to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel in the campaign in north-west Europe. He was awarded the MBE (Military Division) and mentioned in dispatches. After the war he remained in the Territorial Army and commanded the 2nd Regiment of the Honorary Artillery Company from 1947 to 1951.
In 1946, Heath joined the Civil Service, but resigned a year later to work in journalism and merchant banking. He first entered Parliament in 1950 as MP for Bexley, which became Old Bexley and Sidcup in 1974. He was appointed Assistant Opposition Whip in 1951, becoming Lord Commissioner of the Treasury when the Conservatives returned to power later the same year. In 1952 he became Joint Deputy Chief Whip, in 1953 Deputy Chief Whip, and in 1955 Chief Whip and Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury. In 1959 he became Minister of Labour and in 1960 Lord Privy Seal, speaking for the Government on foreign affairs. He was in charge of Britain's first application to join the (then) European Economic Community and received the Charlemagne Prize for encouraging international cooperation. In 1963 he was appointed Secretary of State for Industry, Trade and Development and President of the Board of Trade.
Heath became the first elected Leader of the Conservative Party while in Opposition in 1965, and Prime Minister in 1970. In 1971, Britain signed the Treaty of Accession to the European Economic Community and Heath was awarded the European Prize for Statesmanship. Six months after the treaty had been signed, Heath permitted the British people a referendum on staying in the EEC under protest as his firmly stated belief was that the people elected government and should abide by its decisions. In the event, the referendum was rigged in that the Vote "Yes" campaign was heavily subsidised by government while the negative campaign was left to private individuals. It should be noted that the Labour Party stood against the treaty of Accession which has been touted as the major reason why they won the following General Election. However, this is the only referendum the people of Britain have ever had on the subject of the European Union and is therefore of at least some merit.
Heath's other awards include the World Humanity Award and the Gold Medal of the European Parliament.
In 1974 and 1975, Heath visited Mao-Tse Tung in the People's Republic of China. After resigning as Party leader (after the disastrous election results) he again travelled to meet China's Chairmen. From 1977 to 1979 he was a member of the Independent Commission of International Development Issues chaired by Willy Brandt.
His main recreations are sailing, in which he has competed at international level, and music he has conducted the London Symphony Orchestra and Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra among others, including orchestras in Germany and the USA. He was also a founder of the European Community Youth Orchestra.
Heath retired in 2001 as Father of the House (an honorary title given to the oldest member of the House of Commons) when he stepped down from Parliament at the last election.
He died on July 17, 2005, of pneumonia.