Edward Richard George Heath (1916-2005)

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Sir Edward Richard George Heath, KG MBE (9 July 1916 – 17 July 2005) was Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from June 1970 to February 1974 and Leader of the Conservative Party from 1965 to 1975.Born in Kent, Heath studied at Oxford University and served in the Second World War. He was first elected to Parliament in 1950 for Bexley, and was the Chief Whip from 1955 to 1959. Entering the Cabinet as Minister of Labour in 1959, he was later promoted to Lord Privy Seal and later became President of the Board of Trade. In 1965, Heath won the leadership of the Conservative Party against Reginald Maudling and Enoch Powell. The 1966 election months later saw the Labour Government of Harold Wilson win a large victory, although Heath remained leader.Heath became Prime Minister after winning the 1970 election. In 1971, Heath oversaw the decimalisation of British coinage and in 1972, he implemented major reform to the UK's system of local government; these included a reduction in the number of local authorities across Britain as well as the creation of a number of new metropolitan counties. Possibly most significantly, Heath took the UK into the European Economic Community in 1973. Heath's Premiership also oversaw the height of The Troubles in Northern Ireland, with the suspension of the Stormont Parliament and the imposition of direct British rule. Unofficial talks with IRA delegates were unsuccessful, as was the Sunningdale Agreement of 1973, which caused the Ulster Unionist Party to withdraw from the Conservative whip.Heath also attempted to curb the power of trade unions with the Industrial Relations Act 1971, and had hoped to deregulate the economy and make a transfer from direct to indirect taxation. However, rising unemployment in 1972 caused Heath to reflate the economy at the cost of high inflation, which he attempted to control by a prices and incomes policy. Two miners' strikes, in 1972 and another at the beginning of 1974, proved damaging to the government, with the latter causing the implementation of the Three-Day Week to conserve energy. Heath eventually called an election for February 1974 in an attempt to win a public mandate to face down the miners' wage demands, but this instead resulted in a hung parliament, in which the Tories had the most votes but Labour had slightly more seats. Following a failed attempt to establish a coalition government with the Liberal Party, Heath was forced to resign as Prime Minister in favour of Harold Wilson, whose minority government won a small majority in a second election in October that year.Despite losing two general elections in quick succession, Heath vowed to continue as leader of his party. In February 1975, however, his former Education Secretary Margaret Thatcher challenged and defeated Heath to win the leadership. Returning to the backbenches, Heath became an active critic of Thatcher's policies as leader and, from 1979, as Prime Minister. He remained a backbench MP until retiring in 2001, serving as the Father of the House for his last nine years in Parliament. Outside of politics, Heath was a world-class yachtsman and a musician of near-professional standard. He was also one of only four British Prime Ministers never to have married.

Source: dbpedia

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