Sir Edward Heath, former British PM, dies at 89

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Sir Edward Heath

Sir Edward Heath, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1970-1974 and leader of the Conservative Party from 1965-1975, has died at his home in Salisbury just a week after his 89th birthday.

Heath implemented the decimalization of the British coinage, led the United Kingdom into the European Economic Community, attempted to end industrial unrest with the Industrial Relations Act, initiated a failed power-sharing government in Northern Ireland, and, in order to cope with a coal strike on top of the 1973 fuel crisis, instituted a three-day work week in the UK.

Today he was eulogised by fellow politicians, including Baroness Margaret Thatcher, who succeeded Heath after he was ousted from the Conservative Party leadership in 1975. She said that with Heath's death Britain had lost a 'political giant'. There was also praise, from Heath's former political secretary Sir Douglas Hurd, for his contribution to the EEC.

'He got us into the European Union,' Sir Hurd said. 'I mean that is a huge step, a very difficult one, which I doubt would have happened without his particular kind of thoroughness and determination. That was an amazing achievement.'[1]

Prime Minister Tony Blair issued a statement describing Sir Heath as 'a man of great integrity and beliefs'.

Heath was offered the post of Ambassador to the United States in 1979, but declined. He continued to represent the constituency of Old Bexley and Sidcup as a backbench MP until his retirement in 2001. He was created a Knight of the Garter in 1992.