Edward heath: Prime Minister of Great Britain, scholar, yachtsman, politician, musician -- a man of many and diverse abilities.
Edward heath: Prime Minister of Great Britain, scholar, yachtsman, politician, musician -- a man of many and diverse abilities. At the age of 54 he has achieved much, rising from modest beginnings and progressing through scholarship and parliamentary ability to the pinnacle of British politics.
Today, he is firmly entrenched as chief designer of Britain's destiny, at least in the immediate years to come. Never known as a glib or particularly proficient orator he has, through force of personality, managed able and forcibly to convey his aims and thoughts to his supporters -- and the British public.
It was in the Common Market negotiations in the early Sixties that Mr. Heath made himself internationally known, after he had expanded his horizons as a teenager by travelling around Europe. During these travels, he developed what he later called "a feeling of wanting to belong" to the nations on the other side of the channel -- a feeling which made him such an able representative in Britain's early attempts to enter the European Common Market.
But even as his keen political sense developed in his early years, the young Edward Heath of modest beginnings in Broadstairs, Kent, was nurturing other abilities -- in particular, music. He quickly gained a high reputation on keyboard instruments, especially the organ. Even today music is of great importance to him.
More recently he has achieved another sort of fame -- as a yachtsman. His greatest success was scored in Australia in December 1969 when his yacht "Morning Cloud" won the Sydney to Hobart race.
He first entered Parliament in 1950 as M.P. for Bexley, Kent. His rise was rapid by Parliamentary standards, and in 1951 he was appointed to an Assistant Conservative Whip. When the Tories took office in 1952 he was made a Government Whip, and not long after became joint Deputy Chief Whip. In December 1955 he became Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury and Chief Whip, and in 1959 Mr. Heath was made Minister of Labour.
At the age of 49, in 1965, he was appointed Leader of the Tory Party -- the youngest since Disraeli. The fight was on. The deposed Conservative Government, with Ted Heath at the helm, battled for five years to regain power.
All the odds were against the Tories -- the opinion polls, the book-makers, and even a number of faint-hearted Conservative Party members.
Observers noted, however, that Mr. Heath seemed to be more at case with crowds and in public speeches than he had ever been before. He had found a new confidence, they said, and it was probable that this played a part in Mr. Heath's final victory.
But whatever the reasons, the Tories won. Mr. heath moved into Number 10, Downing Street, and chose a younger and smaller cabinet then his predecessor, Mr. Harold Wilson.
The new Government set about implementing its policies, and, as it did so, provoked a storm of criticism both at home and throughout the Commonwealth, over its policy to resume arms sales to South Africa. Among African loaders to protest at this proposed move were President Nyerers of Tanzania and Zambia's President Kaunda. Both leaders travelled to Britain to voice their criticism. While in Canada recently Mr. Heath heard the Canadian Premier Mr. Trudeau issue a warning of the dangers involved in any resumption of arms sales, but carefully explained his government's thinking on the matter.
Amid threats that come member countries might break-away from the Commonwealth if Britain doesn't abandon its proposal, Mr. Heath has left Britain to attend what could well prove to be a crucial meeting of the Commonwealth Prime Ministers' Conference in Singapore.