1997 Onwards -
Below is the text of Sir John Major’s tribute to Sir Edward Heath, published in the Guardian on 18th July 2005, following his death the previous day.
SIR JOHN MAJOR:
A big man has gone and we shall miss him.
Ted Heath will be remembered most as the Prime Minister who took our country into the Common Market. It was a controversial decision but the correct one, even if it was never accepted by many in his own Party.
I often talked to Ted about what activated him. He saw, in the early 1950s, the rising power of the United States, of the Soviet Union and he foresaw the increasing influence of China and non-
Ted was activated also by the finest of all human emotions -
Ted Heath was a politician for whom policy mattered more than personality. He could dislike his opponents but where he did, it was likely to be on policy rather than on personal grounds. He strongly disliked the “us” and “them” mentality that pervaded and split the Conservative Party so seriously in the 80’s and 90’s. The former Chief Whip in him looked on in disbelief as the Party factionalised. These divisions are passing now but did great harm over a long period.
Ted had inelastic principles and this often left him a sitting target. Harold Wilson’s jibe of “Selsdon Man” struck and hurt him politically and was a brilliant piece of invective. It was also in essence wrong: Ted Heath was a One Nation Conservative to his core and it was his misfortune that events and a sour economy led him into confrontation with the miners and the imposition of a three-
No doubt mistakes were made but this was not a confrontation that the Conservative Government sought. I still believe that if Ted had been an opportunist, or more nimble politically, he would have called the 1974 General Election earlier for 7 February -
Ted could be grumpy, even curmudgeonly, in his personal relationships. He could also be charming, was well informed far beyond politics, talented in music and yachting and excellent company. Many say he was uncomfortable with women: that was not always so. Norma and Ted would happily talk of music and opera without any difficulties and be oblivious to the presence of everyone else. It is true, though, that Ted was impatient of pointless cocktail-
A remarkable man has gone. His detractors remain but they loose their arrows at a far bigger figure than they will ever be. Ted’s record, warts and all, was as a statesman rather than as a politician: upon that let him be judged and remembered.