Thursday, March 02, 2006

'The good they do is often interred with their bones'

Sir Edward Heath

Described as the first modern Prime Minister by Margaret Thatcher, Sir Edward Heath, who died on Sunday was actually the last Prime Minister to adhere closer to consensual politics than any since, and nor was he a patrician, the last being Sir Alec Douglas Home, who he succeeded as leader of the Tory party.

Heath took Britain into Europe in 1972, and always believed in a united Europe, having served in the Royal Artillery, distinguishing himself .  He attended one of Hitler’s Nuremberg rally in Germany in the 1930s and was quick to condemn Britain’s appeasement of Hitler.

Despite not coming from patrician origins – he went to a Grammar School and later to Oxford, he seemed to adhere more to the concept of ‘noblesse oblige’ than any PMs who succeeded him.  He believed and worked for a Britain undivided – unlike his successor – Thatcher, who carried out her brand of politics along the lines and according to the dictates of the philosopher, Hayek, and the economist Milton Friedman.  

Heath was essentially a Keynesian – he believed in the government’s ability and indeed its obligation to stimulate demand through fiscal intervention.

Between the Macmillan years and those of Thatcher, Major and Blair, Britain was subject to swings from right to left at successive General Elections, which left the country virtually ungoverned in any sense of continuity – what one government did, the next undid.

Heath distinguished himself, in my opinion, in his not turning into the male equivalent of ‘the iron lady’ – he did several U-turns, and was a pragmatist rather than a dogmatist- he bent to pressures at the time of the disputes with the miners’ unions and others, and this led to his downfall.

Heath’s liberal mindedness did not find favour in the increasingly cynical and selfish years that he led his party into.

We have lost a good leader from a better time.  I mourn him and the times in which he was our leader.

Robert L. Fielding


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