The Heath Experiment: The Conservative Government 1970–4
‘We’re a working-class family and no two ways about it’, Edward Heath’s father once declared to a biographer.1 This was strictly true when Heath’s father had been a carpenter and his wife originally had been a domestic servant, but not, of course, when the father later became a master builder. In few other countries in the world would such distinctions matter, but Heath always bore the scars of his journey through the British social structure of his time. It was a long haul from a grammar school in Broadstairs to Balliol College, Oxford, to be then commissioned in the Army during the Second World War in which he saw active service, and, after it, briefly, to be a higher civil servant and also a journalist, and then, from 1950, a Conservative MP. As late as 1963, the social elite that had run the Tory Party had been powerful enough to ensure that Lord Home had become its Leader and for a time Prime Minister. Heath supported Home’s candidature, and even the admiring James Prior believed that Heath did so because he believed that this was the best way to ensure his own eventual succession.2 Soon after the Tories had been consigned to Opposition following electoral defeat in 1964, Home was prevailed upon to introduce a system of election for the leadership of the Conservative Party, and, when he stepped down in 1965, Heath defeated Maudling and Powell for the succession.
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