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Wednesday, October 14, 1998 Published at 22:01 GMT 23:01 UK

UK Politics

Sir Ted's 'sulk' is over

A host of notables attended the launch

The former Tory Prime Minister Sir Edward Heath told guests at the launch of his autobiography that his quarter-century "sulk" was over.

Guests at the unveiling of Sir Edward's book, The Course of My Life, laughed and cheered as he said his famous "longest sulk in history" was at an end.

He did not miss the opportunity to take a sideswipe at his old adversary Lady Thatcher - the woman who successfully challenged his leadership of the Conservative Party 25 years ago.

'I'm enjoying myself'

He said: "Now we can say that for all of us, the sulk is over ... though to be absolutely truthful, there may be one left in it - and as you can see, I'm enjoying myself ..."

There was more laughter when the 82-year-old who is said to have difficulty even enunciating Lady Thatcher's name, said: "I'm delighted John Major as my successor - at least, my successor but one - is here."

[ image: Sir Edward served in the Royal Artillery]
Sir Edward served in the Royal Artillery
Wednesday's Westminster bash was attended by a host of notables including the former Prime Minister John Major and his wife Norma.

Mr Major, who is working on his own memoirs, said he was at the event because "I have known Ted a long time".

He has yet to read the book.

"I'm looking forward to it," he said.

Former Chancellor Ken Clarke, there with his wife, Gillian, was a government whip when Sir Edward was Prime Minister.

Mr Clarke said he believed he appeared in Sir Edward's book in a minor way, but that the mention could not be disparaging "because he's told me I won't be upset".

[ image: After his first election victory in 1950]
After his first election victory in 1950
Other guests included actress Dulcie Gray, former deputy prime minister Michael Heseltine, the Archbishop of Canterbury Dr George Carey and former Tory MP Edwina Currie.

The autobiography reveals that the lifelong bachelor lost out in love because he devoted so much of his time to his career.

Sir Edward, then the working class son of a Ramsgate builder, met Kay Raven in the village where they both lived and her father was the doctor.

They kept in touch throughout WWII, when he served in the Royal Artillery.

Sir Edward's account reads: "After I returned home in 1946, we still remained separate because we were working in different parts of the country.

"One day she suddenly let me know that she was marrying someone else.

[ image: Lost love ...]
Lost love ...
"I was saddened by this. I had been under such pressure, re-adapting myself to civil life and earning a living, that maybe I had taken too much for granted.

Speaking to his guests on Wednesday, the MP for Old Bexley and Sidcup said that his years in power had been misconstrued, and that the electorate had supported Britain moving into Europe.

He denied ever disguising the fact that the objective of the EC was political union.

He said: "No one today should be allowed to get away with the line that we always pretended it was something else and that we deceived the people."

Thanks for 1971 bonus

Sir Edward, who has criticised Tory leader William Hague's policy of going into the next election ruling out single currency membership, added: "Every item in the EU's programme has been accepted by this country, right down to the single market which was sponsored by Lady Thatcher, and so we go on, and we shall continue to go on."

He disclosed that he recently received a letter from a woman pensioner saying "I have been trying to write to you for some time to thank you for the Christmas bonus of £10 you gave us in 1971 but I have been very busy ... Now as I am 94 I feel the time has come to write and thank you ..."

'Remarkable phenomenon'

Sir Edward told guests: "The history of 1970 to 1974 [when he was Prime Minister] has so often been misconstrued.

"Those who followed wanted it to be misunderstood because they wanted to establish their own situation.

"But when one looks back at those three-and-three-quarter-years, it was really a remarkable phenomenon."

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