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The BBC's political correspondent Nicholas Jones
"Nobody in the Conservative Party has managed to silence Ted"
 real 56k

Sunday, 20 May, 2001, 11:35 GMT
Heath: Tories need defeat
William Hague, Margaret Thatcher and Sir Edward Heath
Criticising his successors is "a tradition" for Sir Edward
Former Conservative Prime Minister Sir Edward Heath says the party needs to be defeated to force it back onto the centre ground of British politics.

He told a Sunday newspaper he believed most people had already made up their minds who they will support on polling day - with Labour likely to attract a "very high vote indeed".


One good thing is that people have already made their minds up... that may lead to a very high vote indeed, certainly for the government side

Sir Edward Heath
The comments - on the same day polls suggest Labour has a 19% lead over the Conservatives - come 10 days after Sir Edward called Tory leader William Hague a "laughing stock".

The veteran MP, aged 84, is stepping down at the election after 51 years in the House of Commons.

The comments were dismissed by shadow home secretary Ann Widdecombe, who said: "He was saying we were extreme and needed to be beaten soundly all through the four elections that we won in the 80s and 90s."

An ardent supporter of closer European integration, Sir Edward has been consistently critical of the anti-euro stance and tough asylum policies now being pursued by the Tories.

The Independent on Sunday quotes him as saying: "I think to win widespread support on a sufficient scale to become the government again they will have to broaden the whole approach."

The newspaper says that when asked if the Conservative Party needed another election defeat to force it back onto the centre ground, Sir Edward replied: "I think it is - yes".

Pessimistic prediction

He went on to say the Tories had "an enormous job" and a party "very seldom" returned to power from an election defeat at the next attempt.

And in a pessimistic prediction he adds: "I have found that if some project is defeated you have to wait 15 or 20 years before getting it through."

Despite his outspoken views the newspaper says Sir Edward still plans to vote Conservative and will be campaigning in seats where he has been invited by pro-European one-nation candidates.

He goes on: "One good thing is that people have already made their minds up what they are going to do in voting.

"They don't think it's necessary to go to meetings. They know what they are going to do, and will go and do it.

"That may lead to a very high vote indeed, certainly for the government side."

Mr Hague reacted to Sir Edward's last critical outburst - when he criticised the party leader's "bash bash bash" Commons question time style - by calling it "a tradition".

"Ted has a little dig at the leader now and then. That comes with the territory," Mr Hague said.

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