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BBC BREAKFAST WITH FROST INTERVIEW WITH SIR EDWARD HEATH MP, FORMER PRIME MINISTER, MAY 6TH, 2001
Please note "BBC Breakfast with Frost" must be credited if any part of this transcript is used
DAVID FROST: And now the general election is almost upon us and that means that after more than 50 years Sir Edward Heath will be leaving the House of Commons, an extraordinary career and a unique perspective on British politics and he's here today. Are you going to miss the Commons Ted?
TED HEATH: Yes of course but on the other hand it'll give, leave me free to do a lot of other things and people say oh you're just retiring, if they saw the number of letters I already had from people asking me to do things now that I've got the time, then they'd realise there's no question of retirement.
DAVID FROST: One can't imagine you retired and just tending the garden?
TED HEATH: No.
DAVID FROST: No it's just not on.
TED HEATH: Too much to be done.
DAVID FROST: What, how do you view this upcoming election Ted, I mean do you regard it as a foregone conclusion, what do you feel?
TED HEATH: Well the first thing which I feel is it's very odd to have a meeting of the Cabinet to decide about it on Bank Holiday Monday, it's incredible. They think they're going to impress us by their determination and we ought to win, well it's ridiculous. But as far as the general position is concerned, well of course any opposition in the position of the Conservative Party has got a very tough thing if it, if it's trying to throw them out. If one looks back at history there are very few instances in which an opposition has at first got rid of the government. I got rid of them but they had had two elections and that's rather different. So it's a very tough business for the Conservatives and as far as the government party is concerned well then I think they've got to show that they've learnt the lessons of the last four years. You see when they came in it was 18, after 18 years in opposition and two leaders who had failed to achieve success and what they didn't realise was that being out for 18 years means they didn't really know what the position was, hardly anybody had had the experience of government so we had a lot of false starts and failures and so on. Now they've got to show that they've learnt the lessons of that if they want to persuade people that they should be returned again.
DAVID FROST: And what about, which of the things has most damaged the Tories, could, could this race row going on for a month, could that have been avoided?
TED HEATH: Well it's very technical isn't it, as to whether it could have been avoided or not. I think a lot of people are being wise after the event.
DAVID FROST: But you said the reason that Mr Hague couldn't move more speedily against John Townend and the others, was that he couldn't afford to upset the extreme right which is much more powerful now than it was when you were there?
TED HEATH: Oh yes that's certainly true and it didn't really get power until, until when the last Conservative Prime Minister, when James was Prime Minister, and that had a history in Europe and he came back from this conference and said it's a good conference, it's good for Britain, it's good for Europe, it's good for the world. But then he didn't force that through and he wouldn't have had to force that through, if he put in the House straight away, two days or three weeks each then we would have passed the agreement reached at the conference but he didn't do that and the result was that when the Danes rejected it in the summer he said 'oh well we must wait and see when the Danes pass it'. Now why should we wait for the Danes? I mean we last had the Danes in the 8th, 9th Century I think it was, well there's no reason why we should do what they do and as a result the enemies got to work and when we came in to the autumn session they finally beat him. That was a grave mistake.
DAVID FROST: What about the mistake of going further against Europe now, I mean you must despair obviously of the current policy on Europe among the Conservatives?
TED HEATH: Oh yes, it'll never happen, they'll never be returned so long as they have that policy, it doesn't make any sense at all. To say that we won't do anything for ten years, how, how can any politician have a situation in which he can say I won't do something for ten years, it's just not practical politics, nobody can foresee politics for ten years or policies or what the world's going to be like in ten years time. So that's all got to be dropped.
DAVID FROST: And in fact how does your wing of the party, which has been in eclipse for the last four years, your wing of the Tory Party, how does that, and it's got smaller and smaller, how does that ever get back into a position of power in the Conservative Party?
TED HEATH: Well it'll get back by persuading people that if they want to be in power in the party then they've got to have policies which appeal to the broad mass of the people and that's what we'd always succeeded in doing. We had people of course, some on the right and some on the left, the great mass were in the middle and they secured support, that's what we want to gain and the party's got to show that it's prepared to do that.
DAVID FROST: What will be your answer, I had a letter this week from a viewer who, who said that he lives in a constituency with a Europhobe, very, very Eurosceptic Tory against a pro-European Labour man and he's pro-Europe, what should he do?
TED HEATH: Well that's for him to decide.
DAVID FROST: What would you do in that situation?
TED HEATH: Oh well I would vote Tory of course, at the same time making clear what my position was on Europe and I think everybody knows that in fact, but that's what some of the members are, some of the sitting members at the moment are very boldly doing but you must have a, for any party to be successful you've got to take a broad spread and that's what's got to come to our party.
DAVID FROST: And when will that happen, after another election? After this election? It could happen after a defeat, it wouldn't happen after a Tory victory though?
TED HEATH: No. But then you won't get a Tory victory like that, so you've got to have the change in any case, I see that some of the political theorists were forecasting that it wouldn't happen after this election and won't happen after the one after that. It's only after the third one there's a possibility that it might change, it's going to be a long process.
DAVID FROST: A long and, a long and arduous process one would have thought?
TED HEATH: Yes.
DAVID FROST: But the, but everybody's been comparing the way that the Tories have dealt with this recent race row with the way you dealt with Enoch Powell?
TED HEATH: Yes.
DAVID FROST: You would say that was the example they should have followed really, would you?
TED HEATH: Yes of course the difference is as they say, that I didn't expel Enoch Powell from the party, that is perfectly true, but they, their early resource in their present set up is to expel people from the party if they are as extreme as these two were. You see you now have this very limited agreement or arrangement for members as to the House of Commons then they've got to do their stuff or else they're expelled and they've already expelled two people at least for not agreeing with them over Europe. Well if they're going to do that then they must keep it up and with people who are feared as so great as these two did and now it's reported in the Yorkshire Post I think that he's announced privately that he's going to say the same things again once he's out of Parliament and won't be tied by the undertaking he gave. Well if that's the case he should certainly be expelled.
DAVID FROST: And what about the future, can you see who the next leader, whenever it is, of the Tories, people are talking about Michael Portillo, there's a boom list at the moment for Malcolm Rifkind and so on, can you perceive who is likely to be the next leader of the Tory Party?
TED HEATH: I think it's quite important, quite impossible at this stage and you always get this speculation about various people and different things and they move very quickly around. So I wouldn't like in any way to speculate as to who is going to follow and produce the desired result.
DAVID FROST: And what about your plans Ted, as you said you're going to be busy, you're not going to retire, is it true that you don't want to go, if elected, if invited, into the House of Lords?
TED HEATH: No absolutely true, yes.
DAVID FROST: Why's that?
TED HEATH: Because I think the House of Lords is becoming a farce and what I want is a second chamber which is properly constituted and voted upon by the whole population, so we would have two chambers. In 1968 when the House of Lords reform was proposed the one that was put forward was really very satisfactory and accepted wholeheartedly by the House of Lords itself. It reduced the numbers very severely and it reduced the numbers of the clergy and brought in fresh clergy and so on, when it came to the House of Commons and it's unfortunate in a way that the Home Secretary dealing with it was Jim Callaghan who had just had to devalue the pound and was very broken by it and he found himself faced with Enoch Powell and Michael Foot, Michael Foot wanted to abolish the Lords altogether and Enoch Powell wanted to put it back to the 14th Century and between the two of them Jim collapsed and so the whole thing fell. If it, if something falls in the House of Commons you've really got to wait for 20 years or more before you can start it again.
DAVID FROST: So there's no chance we're going to see you as one of the next people's peers?
TED HEATH: Fraid not, no, not at all and well there's plenty of other things to do but the present arrangement of the Lords to pick people out of five, 3,000 applicants who say they want to go in, and one of my constituents, there may have been more than one, I don't know, but one is a dear lady who's done a great deal of voluntary work and is now in her seventies I think, and she wrote a very bitter note in our local press this week saying why wasn't she one of the 3,000 chosen to go there because she felt she deserved it. Well that's not really a way in which you form an electoral college.
DAVID FROST: Well we wish you the happiest of non-retirements.
TED HEATH: Thank you very much.
DAVID FROST: Ted Heath.
TED HEATH: I hope this doesn't break our relationship?
DAVID FROST: No, no, we, absolutely not, people's peer, MP or just plain Ted, we look forward to welcoming you back.
TED HEATH: Thank you so much.
DAVID FROST: And Ted Heath.
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