Monday, 21 June 2010

Heath And Brown

At least that copper's happy
I almost missed Charles Moore's interesting review of a startling new biography about Edward Heath in yesterday's Sunday Telegraph. Had it not been for the fact that I was looking up the latest footy scores (7-0 to Portugal against the North Koreans, eh? See article below) I would never have seen it and missed a treat. The book is by Philip Ziegler who I imagine is the same author who in the late 1960s wrote one of my favourite books about the Black Death. Hang on, I'll check.

(Time passes...)

It is he.

Moore gives some examples from what we are to believe is a whole litany of character flaws associated with Heath. I'd always wondered why my grandmother threw a (full) cup of tea at her television when his face appeared on it 30-plus years ago. Well, perhaps here's why:
Although he faithfully sets out the virtues – honesty, courage and determination – Ziegler gives a catalogue of blemishes. Here is a tiny selection of the numerous examples. At the Oxford Union, Heath declared that, "Women have no original contribution to make to our debates." He did not answer the plaintive letters of Kay Raven, the only person who ever came close to being his girlfriend, but when she finally gave him up and married someone else, Heath was angry with her. In sharp contrast to the young Margaret Roberts (soon to be Thatcher), who stood, in the 1950 general election, in the seat that adjoined Heath's, young Ted took his constituency workers for granted and treated them like children.
Heath grabbed perks and luxuries, scoffing chocolates by the boxful, demanding money for his travels from commercial interests and taking no trouble about the comfort of those who had to travel with him. When, as Leader of the Opposition, he took up sailing, his yacht Morning Cloud cost £20,000 a year to run. Various businessmen paid for the yacht, but Heath was not worried by the danger of a quid pro quo: he got around the problem by never thanking them. "Gratitude," as Ziegler puts it, "was not one of his more marked characteristics."
At this point we realise that Heath must have been an absolute nightmare to work with, for, near or under. It's also pretty clear that no matter how smart and even gifted he might have been, and I am unconvinced that genuinely intelligent people are unpleasant to those who work for them (Maggie wasn't), he had not clue-one about motivating people and would not have survived for long beyond his cloistered, soft-furnished world. And yet it goes on. More is yet revealed about the man who took us in to the EEC on the back of a pack of lies, out-Laboured Labour with the NUM and behaved as though he and only he understood human nature, when quite the opposite was patently the case. As Moore goes on:
He had a huge sense of entitlement...[but] Ziegler points out, he had no gift for exposition, because he was utterly uninterested in what others thought. This is why people felt cheated, and still do to this day, about the terms on which Heath took Britain into the EEC. He never took the British people into his confidence.
Once, when attacking free-market attitudes, Heath said: "What distinguishes man from the animals is his desire and his ability to control and shape his environment." Is that really the key distinction? This arid, managerial philosophy was reductive of human freedom and possibility. It also ensured that the country was very badly run. The famous U-turn over economic policy and state support for industry, the rigidities of the Industrial Relations Act, the hopelessness of trying to control prices and incomes, the defeat by the miners were all related to the beliefs and character of the man who presided over these disasters.
Moore then goes on to say that Ziegler's book provides a first class illustration of Heath's character and its flaws and his subsequent failures, but the historian does not provide any political explanations, so Moore then offers one of his own which resonates with another, recently departed, deeply flawed but clever prime minster of Britain. Moore says, of Heath, tellingly:
Heath's future opponent, Keith Joseph, persuaded Margaret Thatcher to vote for him as leader in 1965 on the grounds that "Ted has a passion to get Britain right". Perhaps he did. He was certainly brave in pursuing what he believed in. But he got Britain wrong.
I can't help thinking he had Gordon Brown in mind when he wrote that. But then it struck me: of course he didn't. There's no comparison. Heath might have been a selfish, puffed-up, interventionist Tory Europhile with a talent for music and boats, but he was no liar (not even on Europe - I suspect he really believed them) and he knew how to go when the time came. He also stayed in Parliament till nearly his dying day, maybe to spite Margaret Thatcher ("that evil woman") or - more likely in my view - because he liked being an MP and he was good at it. But where's Gordon? The contrasts with Brown are there for all to see, and I've just touched on one or two of them.

The point is, if Heath was a terrible Prime Minister (and I'm certainly not alone in feeling he was), then Brown was a catastrophe (ditto). If you were forced to choose between the lesser of these two weevils, my guess is that you'd plump for Heath, though through gritted teeth, naturally. I would.

My God, we don't half pick 'em.


  1. Heath, Bliar, Brown.

    Perfect examples of why voters should be required to pass an intelligence test before being let anywhere near a ballot box.

  2. Interesting post Denverthen. I didn't realise much of that about Heath. He was kinda before my time.

    Compared, however, with Brown, the very devil himself comes out looking not too bad.

    There's nothing worse than a policeman who steels, or a priest that fiddles...

    Gordon told us again and again about his moral compass, and went on and on about the values that his father the “meenister” had instilled in him.

    Then he behaved like he had no values at all, and the moral compass had been discarded with his move to Downing Street...well, things get lost in moves.

    Heath and Brown seem to have had (in common with all other prime ministers of my knowledge) not the tiniest shred of understanding of what life is like for the people they are elected by to work for.

    Not a clue of what it's like to live on next to nothing, in a council estate, with terrible neighbours in a tiny little house with just enough room to squeeze the obligatory furniture and a wage that just stretches with care from one week to the next, buying cheap everything.

    They have no idea what it’s like to have cheap everything: cheap clothes that look awful after 2 washes, cheap food that tastes horrible, cheap furniture that falls apart or wears after a few weeks, cheap carpets that look worn after the first 10 pairs of feet have walked over them.

    No wonder people took advantage of the great credit boom that Brown and Blair allowed and that none of the many leaders of the Tory Party ever seriously questioned (on the basis that their mates were making a fortune out of it... and they were too).

    Public spending was OK as long as it was being spent on moats and trees and manure and Tudor beams.... Not so great when it is being spent on schools.

    Oh damn... sorry.... I’m ranting off subject.... Great post though.

  3. "......and that none of the many leaders of the Tory Party ever seriously questioned (on the basis that their mates were making a fortune out of it... and they were too).,,,,,"

    Obviously you have been asleep the last couple of years then ?

    Fact : The Conservative shave been banging on about this for several years.

    Fact : Brown's many colleagues have done well out of Directorships and paid Consultancy roles in the financial sector. Not seen many Conservatives there though.

    Fact : Labour Conferences and their sideshows were funded by a variety of financial institutions.

    Can you show a single case of a Conservative Shadow Cabinet MP (or a backbencher) benefitting from the credit boom or would the real facts spoil a good old anti-Conservative rant ??

  4. Hey Old Timer, tris has a point, even if it seems to be a rather lopsided one. Cameron's "we're all in this together" trope does have an element of "we all caused this together" (meaning his mates in the higher echelons of the British moneyed elite) doesn't it? And you've made yourself a serious hostage to fortune there. All anyone has to do is come up with one Tory trougher who flipped for victory and your point is torpedoed, in spite of the FACT that the Labourist troughers were by a million miles the most egregious and shameless. Abuse of office? They invented a new paradigm for that.

    Broadly, your points are powerful - mainly because they're all absolutely true! But don't have a crack at tris. He's one of us, but he ultimately has his own agenda - and an entirely noble one at that! (Even if it's wrong ;)

  5. You're a rather rude person old timer.

    I don't normally engage with people who start off their argument with "have you been asleep for..."

    Why do that? There's no need. I wasn't rude to you, or indeed to anyone else. However, as you are clearly elderly, and as the man whose space we are using is a thoroughly decent lad whose politics and mine aren't the same, but with whom, nonetheless, I've had many an interesting debate, I'm not going to walk away.

    Don't you think that the people in the City and in the banks who made the most horrific and obscene amounts of money out of the complete freedom that the SFA gave them were not, largely speaking, Tory supporters, and at the top probably a few Tory Lords. They have been traditionally, because traditionally Labour wanted to tax them till the pips squeaked. I know 5 people who had pretty good jobs in the banks, taking home vast bonuses, and every one of them votes Tory because it was only a matter of time before the tax went up if Labour were in. And they were right. And the Tories were against it.

    I can’t remember a single person on the Tory benches raving about the boom time. I only remember Cable; of course he’s now a Tory.

    In any case the bulk of my post was an Anti Labour rant, I merely made one comment at the end which indicated that I thought that the Tories were just as bad and I stand by that.

    People working in a factory in my home town at minimum wage, living in rented accommodation, and having nothing at the end of the week, didn't cause this mess, and I'm not entirely sure that Davenick is going to be able to sell them the 'all in this together' line.

    As for the Tory troughers the Telegraph's list stands as proof there are many, including one who is in court along with the four Labour thieves (allegedly) and the Secretary of State for War (or Secretary of State for doing exactly what the American President orders), who has a special line in being a cheat, a liar and a bigot.

  6. Denverthen:

    Thank you for your support. I know how difficult it is to mediate between two people having a go on a blog.... and tried not to piss either off. It's always happening on mine! (Thank goodness).

    As I said I wouldn't normally engage with someone who takes an aggressive attitude in a discussion from the first line. Especially when he is unjust. It’s childish and the mark of a poor debater... It rather reminds me of a street fighter.

    I mainly criticised Brown, whom I consider to be the worst chancellor and the worst prime minister in living memory... and when you consider some of the pillocks we've had that's saying something. That makes the “anti Tory” accusation rather flimsy.

    Secondly, there is any number of Tories who benefited from the boom in house prices, changed houses in order to do so, Nadine Dories comes immediately to mind, but a quick look at the list from the Daily Telegraph will doubtless reveal many others. They were on the fiddle every bit as much as the Labour troughers.

    Of course they have mentioned the lack of control in the last couple of years since the wheels came off the country... and since there has been great political advantage in doing so. Prior to that Vince Cable, the new Tory, was the only person who mentioned that this was heading for trouble. Vince and my mate Nick... but he’s not a Tory.

  7. PS... where am I being lopsided?

  8. "PS...where am I being lopsided?"

    Lol. Don't you start! I only said "a little" in that there was a hint of anti-Toryism in you comments. Juuust a hint, mind.

    Great follow up coms, btw.

  9. LOL... I am anti Tory, and anti Labour ...... and the Liberals are as far as I can see are rather like the ugly fat chic at the club, ready to jump into bed with the first person who asks them.

    But let's be honest, the “big two” have brought us, between them, to a pretty pass.

    We're being asked again to tighten our belts, but it seems to me that has happened over and over. It's always jam tomorrow.

    I'm wondering why Norway can manage, and Finland, Denmark, Sweden, Holland... oh for sure they have little local difficulties but they have all the things we don’t have. ... nice trains, clean hospitals, roads that aren’t full of holes, integrated transport that it a pleasure to ride, clean towns....

    For the UK if it's not the Labour lot ruining the economy it's the Tory lot ruining society.... and as I say the Liberals, who are now finished in my opinion. We've have two Liberal/Labour governments here, so we know, vote Liberal get Tory at Westminster; vote Liberal get Labour at Holyrood.

    I dunno why Wales and Scotland can't join the countries like the Norden group and be successful.

    Oh dear, I’m not good at sticking to the point, am I?

    As you say, old Heath was a bit of a pain in the butt!!!

  10. "But let's be honest, the “big two” have brought us, between them, to a pretty pass."

    Well, no. I'm afraid I don't agree with this entirely. I think in the 250-odd year history of the two party system there have been good and bad governments from both sides - or incarnations of those sides.

    In addition, I still have some faith in the idea of English (Liberal) Toryism. But I freely admit there are some paradoxes in my way of thinking to which I can't seem to find decent solutions as yet (at least not ones I'm ready to publish on here). For instance, I believe in social One Nation conservatism (which implies some degree of intervention), but I also believe not just in small government but in *tiny* government (the libertarian in me). I believe in the Union, but I also firmly believe in the right of member states to self-determination (but not counties in England like Cornwall. That's just taking the mickey). If, for instance, Scotland voted to secede, then so be it. The rest of the Union would have just to deal with it. By the same token, if Scots voted not to, nationalists would have to do the same thing. That's why I think Salmond is still stalling over the referendum (he thinks he'll lose it and thus lose influence. He's calculating that Scotland's voice is louder within the Union rather than out of it, and Cameron knows that, hence the total absence of coalition policy on Scotland!).

    One more paradox for you: I believe the great Adam Smith when he said that there are some places, such as education, where the market probably should not go, but I also believe in laissez faire economics and support Michael Gove's policy initiatives on opted-out schools.

    It's complicated, but the more I read history - political, biographical, economic, national and international, the closer I get to answers. What, at least, I do now know is that they are certainly not simple.

  11. I really meant that, compared with other European countries we are not in a good state. I’ve lived and worked abroad and here with foreigners who simply can’t believe how primitive everything is in Scotland for the not so wealthy. So, I mean that between them, with their extremes at times and now their “couldn’t get a cigarette paper between them”, it is their faults that we have a third world infrastructure, bad education, below European standard health service; the most expensive petrol despite being oil rich, the lowest pensions for old people, the highest teenage pregnancies and worst drugs record, appalling drink problems, vast illiteracy.... blah blah blah... it can only really be blamed on a succession of governments.

    I’m not overly patriotic I guess. I have no feelings at all about the UK, but I am quite fond of Scotland. I like England, and Wales, but I don’t feel in any way part of them, any more than I feel a part of Malta or Iceland. They are abroad and interesting, maybe even exciting, but not home. If I could learn a Scandinavian language and get a job there, I most certainly would. They have a style of government and a way of living that I can associate with, and of course standards of living that most people here can only dream of.

    There’s a Libertarian side of me too.... although you’d never guess it.... the side that hates being told what to do, and how to do it, but I also believe in a welfare system that the fair and decent and looks after the less fortunate. Mind, that’s only the less fortunate that can’t help themselves.

    I nmay come over as a Liberal, but I’d be more than severe with drinkers who think that it’s reasonable to disturb others with their drinking, or with boys who think that the state should keep their bastards, and girls who use babies as a passport to a life on benefits. I could be quite a right winger on things like that. (After 2, I’d have them sterilized so they couldn’t go on).

    We’re all a mixture of conflicting emotions, some reasonable, some probably not. I don’t really see a problem with that... it’s the human condition...

    The one thing I am passionate about is that I hate the UK. Not England, not Wales, but the idea of a self important UK, its history and its present.... and quite probably its future really repel me. Funny guy.

  12. It seems we're in the same (or similar) boat. Perhaps the contradictions aren't ours. Perhaps they're inevitable because they're really perception of external contradictions. One thing is certain, speaking for myself, they're bloody hard to deal with.

    You're passionate disgust with the United Kingdom is fascinating to me, and, I must concede, historically speaking, not entirely unsupportable.

    Clearly, I need to think a lot more deeply and critically about my self-proclaimed devotion to that. It's something I've never really properly questioned, if I'm honest. Wonder why...

  13. Corrections:

    Sheesh, and they call me a teacher of English (I think ;)

  14. LOL

    Talking of contradictions, I note that I said that I had no feelings for the UK and then I said I hated it. And all within two paragraphs!

    I meant that I have no feelings of patriotism. It wouldn't consider fight for or dying for the UK, or “doing” anything else for it; that to me is a concept as remote as fighting for Mars.

    I hate the structure; the London-centricity of it all. I listen every morning to the Today programme and almost nothing is relevant to us. (Well, why do you listen, you idiot? I hear you say: Good question.) Yet the BBC announces it as if there are no people in these islands to which it does not apply.

    Some doesn't apply to Wales, most doesn't to Scotland, Man, Jersey, Guernsey, Sark, NI, etc... but we're ignored.

    The history is important too, you're right. The injustices that have occurred are legend. The big bully neighbour!

    And yet I don't hate the English or their lovely country. One of my best mates is English (he comes out with the stock phrase, but it’s true Theo, isn’t it?), and some of the people I respect most are too.

    I just hate government from London by people who have only ever been here to shoot stuff.

    I realise that my argument falls flat on its face because for nearly 3 years we had the worst ever Prime Minister who came from less than 100kms away.... and Mrs Thatcher probably never shot anything here at all!


    I'll say.

    Now you've told me you're an English teacher, I'll be scared stiff this will come back with red marks ... "and must do better.... see me" at the bottom.

    (I was briefly a lecturer in French!)

  15. Tris

    I am sorry you took offence to a comment that was intended to be taken tongue in cheek.

    On reading your post again I don't see the particular wording that caused me to respond to you.

    Basically when I read your post it came across as comparing the Conservatives to Labour and finding them as corrupt.

    Now there was beyond doubt a couple of individuals in the 1990s whose actions were beyond the pale, however to seek to link in a carelessly throwaway fashion the Conservatives in 1997 to Labour in 2010 is, to my mind greatly offensive to the many, many Conservative MPs who acted properly and to the benefit of their Constituents.

    The corruption and greed, arrogance, disdain to voters, and sheer hypocricy displayed by Labour can in no way be compared to the Conservative Government in the 1990s.

    Labour have ridden roughshod over the electorate, emaculated Parliament, lied, distorted the truth, fiddled figures, Politicised the Civil Service, and attacked and villified anyone (even their own) who stood up against them or tried to reveal what was going on.

    You may remember the way Mo Mowlem was treated, the jury is still out on the death of Dr Kelly, and even a recently as last year senior Labour officials including Gordon Brown were fully aware and supportive of a disgusting attempt to smear leading Conservative figures.

    The Labour Government and its many cohorts, donors, supporters and fellow travellers, together represent some of the most disgusting individuals one is likely to come across in life.

    Comparing them and the 1990 Conservative Government in the same breath is not only unsavoury but also offensive to many.

    Further you made allegations about how the Conservatives "mates" were making lots of money. You seem to be unaware that Labour "cosied up" to the financial sector and released them from scrutiny and oversight. If anyone made money it was Labour donors in the financial sector.

    Your post also would suggest a lack of knowledge as to how the financial markets and investments work, as any money made in the value of shares would inevitably be reflected in the value of the pension funds. And let us not forget that even the Trade Unions are happy to invest and gamble on the stockmarket too. Any money made would be made by everyone rather than some top-hatted Conservative supporter. There has been a levelling of the voting population and many, many Conservative voters now live in Council houses and work in non-Tory style jobs. The days of them and us have long least for some of us.

  16. A top-class qualification and expansion if I may say, Old Timer (sorry tris :)

  17. --2--

    No what I did however mention was that they were rather quiet about the very very obvious crash that was coming. Here, I’ll quote:

    “No wonder people took advantage of the great credit boom that BROWN and BLAIR allowed and that none of the many leaders of the Tory Party ever seriously questioned (on the basis that their mates were making a fortune out of it... and they were too).

    Public spending was OK as long as it was being spent on moats and trees and manure and Tudor beams.... Not so great when it is being spent on schools.” (The moats and trees give it away)

    For goodness sake almost all of them read history at Oxford. Did no one mention the 1920s and the Crash... or was it all a list of kings to queens to learn. They must have seen it coming. You tell me I know nothing about the financial markets, yet I could see that if houses went up by 15 -20% pa and wages went up by 4 – 8%, there would come a day when the only people who could afford to buy a house would be those who already had one... or two, or three or four. Prince Charles and Mrs Parker Thingy for example.... or David Cameron, Tony Blair, Gordon Brown, Nick Clegg, etc

    Now, did not one of the Tory front bench see that coming?

    There are the Tories I was criticising.

    But rest assured I hate them every bit as much as I hate Labour. Mr Nicholas Winterton who doesn’t think that people of his standing should have to travel second class on a train because he would meet ordinary people... is he not a Tory? Is he not a disgusting example of the kind of people we elect... along with the inaptly named Jim Devine. Which is the more repugnant? The ignorant, ill-educated slob from Scotland, or the ignorant, well-educated prep school then Rugby, doncha know, knob from England?

    I’m sorry, but you seem to write down to me, like I’m some sort of idiot. I’ve been ‘asleep’ for the last few years in the first post. And I seem to have ‘no knowledge’ of a variety of things in the second post.

    I’ve intruded upon our host for long enough.

  18. Old Timer: With respect it's hardly reasonable to suggest that I don't understand the workings of the financial markets when many of the directors of the banks have admitted that they didn't understand the financial instrument used in the recent debacle.

    The fact that pension funds are dependent upon markets cannot, with respect, be an excuse for the flagrant disregard for financial prudence which was overseen by the last government and practised by the disgustingly, obscenely rich bankers.

    In the time that this was going on I note that the only Conservative who mentioned the credit crisis and the lunacy of the boom was in fact Vince Cable who, at that time wasn’t even a Conservative.

    My biggest problem with what you were saying was that I was apparently embarking on an anti Conservative rant when I had, in fact, spent most of my post castigating the Labour Party.... which, let me say it loud and clear, I detest. (Please go back and read it.)

    The Labour Party is inherently corrupt; the trade unions are corrupt, and I've seen the workings of them, and how they manipulate members... I have been manipulated, or shall we say they tried so I left the union (a professional one). I detest them with a passion. (I do accept that without them the workers would be trodden upon. I have also worked in places where that happened, in order to maximise profits and the cost of life and limb, and sanity of employees.)

    I hate the Conservatives for sure, but I don’t remember at any stage mentioning the governments of the Thatcher woman or that little man with glasses who had problems with his backbenchers and some sort of a sordid sexual dalliance with the egg woman with the grating voice.

    No. I said nothing of them, because I know nothing of them. I can only remember that there was hardly a day went by at one stage without one of the other of them being caught with his pants round his ankles, and I seem to remember that one died with a rope around his neck, an orange in his mouth and a black bag over his head... not to mention his penis in his hand. Of their financial probity I know nothing.


  19. Old timer: talk about rose tinted spectacles, but the only spectacle I remember during the 1990s was the ones various members of the Conservative Party made of themselves. Are you remembering Lord Archer, The Aitkens, the Hamiltons, and of course that bastion of Tory probity Stephen Milligan who throttled himself in ladies undergarments while engaged to Julie Kirkbride. And of course our dear Prime minister who never went anywhere without his Trollope, that being Edwina Currie.

  20. What, exactly, is a "Munguin"?

  21. LOL @Denverthen

    A munguin (and you call yourself an educated man?) is an unlikely cross between a monkey and a penguin. As demonstrated by the fine looking young fella in Munguin's pic.

    They were originally to be found on the lower shelves of some larger Tescos, although they seem to have scattered over a wider area, and are no longer seen in their homeland. They are surprisingly intelligent and articulate media moguls. (Although they don't all come with such attractive scarves!)

  22. I suspect I'm no more (and probably a fair bit less) educated than your good self, tris ;)

    Even less so after a Friday night on the wine (like last night)! Ouch.

  23. I'm one of these rare things Denverthen...a pretty much tee-total Scot. Yep.. and not even an ex alcoholic one... just one that doesn't much like drink.

    I think I had a whisky around this time last year, and I did have a glass of wine in October last year. I'm pretty sure that was the last drink i had.

    Does make me sound like a complete bore! Doesn't it? But I'm not really

    Anyway, I have had the odd hangover, so I can sympathise. Specially if it was red wine... ouch!


Any thoughts?