Edward Heath

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Sir Edward Richard George "Ted" Heath, KG, MBE (9 July 1916 – 17 July 2005) was a British Conservative politician who served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom (1970–1974) and as Leader of the Conservative Party (1965–1975). He was a Member of Parliament (MP) from 1950-2001.

Born in Broadstairs, England, Heath went on to study at Balliol College, Oxford. In 1938, Heath went to Spain to witness the ongoing Civil War and then served in the British Army during the Second World War. Heath served as Chief Whip during the Suez Crisis of 1956 and formally became a cabinet member under Harold Macmillan as Minister of Labour (1959–1960), before leading the unsuccessful negotiations to join the European Economic Community in 1962-3. In 1965, Heath defeated Enoch Powell and Reginald Maudling for leadership of the Conservative Party. He lost the 1966 General Election to incumbent Labour Prime Minister Harold Wilson, but won the 1970 Election and became Prime Minister.

Almost immediately, Heath applied for Britain to enter the European Economic Community (now the European Union) and was successful. Heath oversaw the completion of the decimalisation of British coinage in 1971, and the reorganisation of the English counties. Heath's ministry also saw the worst period of the Northern Ireland Troubles: the imposition of Direct British Rule, Internment and the Bloody Sunday shootings of 1972. In 1971, Heath sent a Secret Intelligence Service officer, Frank Steele to begin negotiations with the Provisional Irish Republican Army. An attempt to set up a new power-sharing government (Sunningdale) was unsuccessful.

Heath angered trade unions by bringing in an Industrial Relations Act and attempting to bring in a prices and income policy. In 1973, a miner's strike caused Heath to implement the Three-Day Week to conserve electricity. With the slogan 'Who Governs Britain', Heath called for an election in February 1974 which resulted in a hung parliament. After unsuccessful coalition talks between Heath and Liberal leader Jeremy Thorpe, Heath resigned as Prime Minister and was succeeded by Harold Wilson. Another election was held in October of that year and the Labour Party won by a small majority.

Heath was defeated by former Education and Science Secretary Margaret Thatcher in the 1975 Conservative Party Leadership contest. Subsequently, Heath returned to the backbenches, from whence he was an active critic of Thatcher's government. He was a key member in the Brandt Commission into North/South problems (1977–80). Heath retired at the 2001 General Election and died from pneumonia in 2005.

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