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Edward Heath

Edward Heath's Speech

Edward Heath, the son of a builder, was born in Broadstairs in 1916. He studied at Balliol College, Oxford and served in the British Army during the Second World War.

A member of the Conservative Party, Heath worked for the Conservative Central Office before being elected to the House of Commons in 1950.

In 1955 Anthony Eden appointed Heath as his Chief Whip. Later he served as Minister of Labour (1959-60) under Harold Macmillan. As Lord Privy Seal he led the British team negotiating entry into the Common Market. A passionate European he was devastated when Charles De Gaulle vetoed Britain's entry in 1963. In the Alec Douglas-Home administration Heath was President of the Board of Trade.

The Labour Party won the 1964 General Election and the following year Heath was elected leader of the Conservative Party. He lost the 1966 General Election but defeated Harold Wilson in 1970.

Heath successfully led Britain into the Common Market. However, many in his party was unhappy with this policy and it created deep divisions that lasted for over thirty years.

Heath also came into conflict with the trade unions over his attempts to impose a prices and incomes policy. His attempts to legislate against unofficial strikes led to industrial disputes. In 1973 a miners' work-to-rule led to regular power cuts and the imposition of a three day week. Heath called a general election in 1974 on the issue of "who rules". He failed to get a majority and Harold Wilson and the Labour Party returned to power.

In 1975 Heath lost the leadership of the Conservative Party. However, he remained in the House of Commons as a backbencher until 2001 when he agreed to join the House of Lords.

John Simkin

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