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Last Updated: Monday, 8 April, 2002, 17:27 GMT 18:27 UK
Tribute to Queen Mother
Rt Hon Ted Heath MP
Rt Hon Ted Heath MP

BBC Breakfast With Frost, interview with Rt Hon Ted Heath MP, 7 April 2002

Please note "BBC Breakfast with Frost" must be credited if any part of this transcript is used

DAVID FROST: And with us right now we have the Rt. Hon., the man who was Father of the House, who was in the, already in the House at the time that George VI passed on and so on, Ted, what are your memories of the Queen Mother, you must have known her for a long time?

TED HEATH: The memories do go back a long way and thinking back I was at Oxford at the time that Edward VIII abdicated. It wasn't, you know it wasn't known in the country this was going to happen, the country was shattered by it, there was a sheet which some people said was rather a dirty sheet circulating in the college setting out what really he was doing, what was going to happen. Then we had the, the election, well it wasn't the election it was a new King following him and I did just look up what I wrote about this because it was quite interesting, I think, I said "Although George VI was a delicate highly-strung man with none of the immediate charisma of his elder brother he was both dedicated and dependable and above all did not share his brother's fascination with Hitler and the Nazis". Well that was quite a statement about him at the time but it proved to be absolutely right. Of course he hadn't expected it, he hadn't wanted it and I think his Queen was very angry about it being forced upon them but from then on she helped him to build up the position and of course during the war years it was a tremendous performance.

DAVID FROST: It was indeed and what about your memories of him of herż

TED HEATH: Of her. Well of course I knew her well, I wasn't a personal friend in the sense that many others were but she was always extremely understanding and kind as far as I was concerned. What interested me is in all the commentaries which have been written and spoken and filmed during this period none of the, none have dealt with her knowledge of, love of and performance of music and music was a major factor in her life. Of course I saw a great deal of her in that respect as well and we had one great concert when I was at Number 10 to honour William Walden on his 70th birthday. She came, was delighted to do so and we had extra performances and at the end I said we now have a surprise, William Walden once told me what his favourite piece of music was which was the Schubert Trio in B flat and we are now going to have this, the Queen Mother sat in the largest chair, everybody else sat on the floor, they played the trio and we finished at one o'clock in the morning.

DAVID FROST: Really, so yet, love of music is an important thing to add and, and ballet I think she preferred to opera. Tell me what did you think as a great parliamentarian about the small disagreements, this week over the recalling of Parliament, some people said that was the right thing to do and that all the MPs should have jolly well turned up, which a lot of them didn't. Others said Tam Dalyell said your successor as leader of the House said that couldn't we have done 15 minutes on the Queen Mother and then got on to the subject of the Middle East or something like that. Where do you stand on that?

TED HEATH: Oh I think that Mr Blair did the right thing, it was absolutely right to recall Parliament for this purpose and this purpose alone. They're due to meet this coming week and they can then get down to the other problems.

DAVID FROST: And do you, and do you think that everybody should have turned up?

TED HEATH: Well there's no point in thinking that because they have their own will as to what they're going to do and many of them said they had other engagements, they were concerned with their constituencies and so on, and that they would pay their tributes in their own way.

DAVID FROST: And in terms of the editorials and so on today, a lot of them talk about one way or another the monarchy may well be safe but a slimmed down monarchy, do you believe in a slimmed down monarchy or is it fine the way it is?

TED HEATH: Well I don't know what they mean by a slimmed down monarchy and they've been very careful not to define it. There are people who are opposed to the monarchy altogether and who want to get rid of it, well they better say so if that's what they want, I don't believe it's the majority view by any means, either of members of Parliament or people outside and it would be a great mistake to follow that line. But as far as the particular performances of Parliament are concerned then many of us are no longer in Parliament but many are worried about the way in which Parliament is being carried on at the moment and very little attention is paid to what it says, the big issues don't come before Parliament, the Prime Minister himself goes off and follows policies which haven't been discussed with Parliament. There is now a big demand, there should be a thorough discussion about the questions of Iraq and this is absolutely right. One hears now as a result of this meeting that both Mr Bush and the Prime Minister want to deal with the Iraq but it's not their affair, it's a United Nations affair, they've got to realise this and Mr Bush can't run the world in the way he wants and he can't do it for ten years and then there will never be another war. That is absolute rubbish, there will always be wars, there will always beżof one kind or another.

DAVID FROST: And in summation would you say that in fact it's been a surprise, the mood of the nation, the queues at Westminster Hall, and so on, that it's in mood it's more like 1952 than you would have predicted?

TED HEATH: I think it is, yes, of course it's very difficult to predict these things but the other aspect of it is that if all those people who died at 75 had gone on living and were still with us until the moment when the Queen Mother died, then of course the numbers would have been altogether different. No I think that people have got a genuine concern in paying tribute to the Queen Mother and they believed have supported this country's interests throughout and done so extremely well and so quite naturally they express their views in this way.

DAVID FROST: Ted thank you very much for being with us. Ted Heath with his thoughts on the state of the nation and the state of the nation's grief.

END



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