Ted Heath dies

A bit late, but it would be wrong to let the passing of Ted Heath on Sunday go without marking it. Reputedly a lonely man at the end of his life, he retained little interest in politics after leaving the Commons after 51 years as an MP. His refusal to move up to the Lords alone marked him out as a unusual figure on the Tory benches. In NI he pleased few having, in the space of less than a year, brought in internment and pro-rogued the Stormont parliament. Bloody Sunday also occured on his watch. Brian Walker considers his contribution.

My own chiefest memories of his three and a half years in the top job were of power, postal worker and miners strikes, the three day week and television shutting down at 9.30 every night. But for most people of my age at the time, his best days were shared by the tv impersonator Mike Yarwood, whose political double act of Wilson and Heath was never the same after he was deposed by Margaret Thatcher in February 1975.

Anthony HOward recalls his career in The Times yesterday. And perhaps more sympathetically Bill Deedes remembers the man.

  • reality check

    he had the innocent blood of the bloody sunday victims on his hands and will never be forgotten for that

  • peteb
  • Brian Boru

    LOL As a southerner I find Bertie’s praise for Edward Heath most bemusing considering Bloody Sunday. I strongly disagree.

  • fair_deal

    My sympathies to any family he may have at their loss.

    On his politics IMHO the worst post-war UK Prime Minister.

  • reality check

    My sympathies to the relatives of the bloody sunday victims although they won’t be shedding any tears for heath’s death

  • yankinulster

    Aye, someone should have told the BBC’s Martina Purdy, before she erroneously said in her report that he’d gone off to the House of Lords. This mistake was caught and deleted from her next report, surely by some intern in the production room!

  • Ginfizz

    Fair_deal

    The worst post-war PM? Worse than Sunny Jim Callaghan? I don’t think so.

    Ted Heath was a man of enormous courage and determination – negotiating UK entry into the EEC will be his lasting legacy, even though his vision of Europe has been betrayed by the corruption and excessive bueracracy we see in Brussels today.

    Heath was prepared to tackle the fat, bungling, anti-competitive trade unions at a time when no-one else had the gumption to face them down. For those of us who did not live through that time, it’s hard to imagine now the immense power that the unions had.

    He will be remebered because of his long-running fued with Thatcher, but I do think that he should be credited with laying the foundations for the programme which Thatcher ushered in post 1979, especially post 1983.

    The lessons learnt from the 1970-74 Conservative administration where applied in the mid 1980’s. Thatcher lanced the trade union boil, but Heath began that process. For that Heath deserves some credit.

  • Sean Doherty

    John Kelly, quoted in todays Derry Journal, whose 17-year-old brother Michael was killed on Bloody Sunday, said no tears would be shed at Mr. Heath’s passing.

    “He treated the families of those killed on Bloody Sunday with contempt and the Inquiry with contempt. He took the truth to the grave with him and showed no feelings at all for the families when he gave evidence to the Inquiry,” Mr Kelly said.

    “He was given a second chance to tell the truth and clear his soul after Widgery with the second Bloody Sunday Inquiry but he certainly didn’t take that opportunity. Many a better person connected to Bloody Sunday, including Mrs. McKinney who passed away on Sunday ( the last mother of the Bloody Sunday dead to die), has died since then and Heath is not fit to lick their boots.”

    IMO John Kelly has summed up Heaths legacy in Ireland. A liar with blood on his hands.

  • reality check

    The blood is there for all to see apart from unionists as usual

  • ganching

    I attended the Saville Inquiry in London on one of the days when Ted Heath was giving evidence. He oozed superiority and gave the impression that everyone else in the room from the usher to the top barrister, was beneath his contempt. When asked questions he smirked or snorted with derisive laughter and at no point expressed regret for what had happened (although he may have done on another occasion). Throughout his performance a number of relatives were sitting in the gallery.

    Heath was obviously a very complex man and, in comparison with what came after him, he didn’t seem so bad but his behaviour that day seemed so inappropriate and disrespectful that I find it hard to feel much synmpathy for him.

  • Ginfizz

    ganching

    I doubt Sir Edward would have wanted your sympathy.

  • fair_deal

    Ginfizz

    1. Heath’s misdirection (at best) lies (at worst) during UK entry into the EC is a key contributor to the public antipathy to the issue to this day. This is the man who said those who talked of a European superstate and single currency were completely wrong but in his first meeting with the french president after entry he discussed the establishment of a single currency by 1979. When one of his civil servants pointed this out he was utterly disdainful.
    2. Courage and determination? Is that why he did a complete and utter economic volte face in 1972?
    3. I would also say our good monarch who has worked with almost all our post-war prime minister’s is a good judge of character, she detested him.

    I’d personnally have Jim down as the second worst if he’d the election in the autumn of 1978 he’d have been returned with a large majority.

  • Baluba

    Ar lámh dheis Dé go raibh a anam lofa…

  • Brian Boru

    I suppose in spite of my criticism of him, even I must concede he abolished the tyranny of Unionist Stormont, and its ways of rigging elections. That, and his taking of the UK into the then-EEC should be commended, but for me Bloody Sunday cancels out these.

  • Mick

    He’s also one of the last major political figures still left that went through the experience of WWII.

    I puzzled today over why I had no strong memories of him taking the UK into the EEC in 73 – arguably his most tangible political achievement when seen in the round. I can only suggest that at the time, it seemed much less important to us than his instituting the Border Poll, the publication of the green paper that led to Sunningdale and ultimately the short-lived power sharing executive and the industrial relations problems in Britain.

    It may be that for him, turning a substantial majority against joining the EEC to a substantial majority in favour was the completion of a great (post war) political theme of the past, rather than the opening up of a new one. After all it was to be twenty years before it had any visible economic and social effects on either Northern Ireland or the Republic.

  • aquifer

    How might he have dealt with the Ulster ‘Workers’ strike that later brought down the power sharing executive? The Labour Minister, Merlyn Rees, chose not to use the army to break the ‘strike’, which was promoted by paramilitary intimidation, and provoked in part by a continuing Provo bombing campaign.