How Successful Was Edward Heath as Leader of the Conservative Party Between 1965 and 1974?

1536 Words Feb 27th, 2013 7 Pages
How successful was Edward Heath as leader of the Conservative Party between 1965 and 1974?
Edward Heath led the conservative party through a difficult and revolutionary period in British politics from the years 1965 to 1974, punctuated by the joining of the ECC in 1973, prolonged damaging strikes, high levels of inflation, and many monumental U-turns through the period of his office. The concept of change is most notably seen right from the offset of his leadership as he was the first conservative leader to be elected democratically, by ballot, marking a turning away from the old boy network of Tory prime ministers preceding him. He himself went against tradition, coming from very humble backgrounds, having been through the grammar school
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Secondly, as Wilson faced crises in the failure of Trade Union reform and a stagnant economy, the Tories moved steadily to the right, many seeing this as a successful move by Heath. The move to the right got a massive publicity boost in Selsdon Park Hotel at a shadow cabinet meeting (January 1970) in the run-up to the election. In the public eye, the term ‘Selsdon Man’ (a phrase readily clutched by the media) meant a return to free enterprise -which directly contrasted Wilson’s policies of interventionism - the return to the values of hard work, trade union reform and a more efficient and independent industry. These ideas, although not particularly revolutionary in terms of policy for Tories, in election year provided a real incentive to frustrated voters, who looked at the struggling Wilson government whose interventionist policies were having little upswing effect on the economy. Many see the conference as an end of consensus politics, and the start of a marathon political battle between the two leaders. The fact that the Tories gained such publicity at Selsdon, and managed to convince the electorate that contrasting policies to the labour government such as the move to a more free market economy was necessary, showed Heath to be a successful leader in the outset of his campaign.
Heath can be seen to be a successful leader due to the fact he won the 1970 election, much to Harold Wilson’s surprise. However, many would place the win not down to the
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