Edward Heath was born in Broadstairs in Kent in 1916. He studied Politics, Philosophy and Economics at Balliol College Oxford, won an organ scholarship and became President of the Oxford Union. He served with the Royal Artillery during the Second World War.
He entered Parliament in 1950, as the MP for Bexley. He served in the Conservative Governments from 1951 until 1964, including as Chief Whip (1955-59) and as Minister of Labour, Foreign Office Minister and as Secretary of State for Industry, Trade and Regional Development in which role he was responsible for the abolition of Retail Price Maintenance. He became the first elected and first State-educated Leader of the Conservative Party in 1965 and held the role until 1975.
Sir Edward was Prime Minister from 1970 until 1974 during which time he successfully negotiated Britain’s entry to the EEC – a feat that had eluded previous Labour and Conservative Governments. His government had to tackle unprecedented trade union militancy, manage the impact of the first oil price shock in 1973 and seek to bring terrorism under control in Northern Ireland. The Heath Government was the first to achieve a power-sharing approach in the Province in 1973.
In the years after losing office, Sir Edward played a big role in fostering links between the West and the People’s Republic of China and served on the Brandt Commission on International Development. In 1990 he flew to Baghdad and successfully negotiated the release of some of the ‘human shield’ hostages being held by Iraqi leader, Saddam Hussein.
He continued to sit in the House of Commons as the Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup until his retirement in 2001 and was the Father of the House between 1992 and 2001
Her Majesty the Queen appointed him a Knight of the Garter in 1992. He described the day of his inauguration as being “the proudest day of my life”.