Edward Heath Speaks - and the Old Devil Is in the Details

Article excerpt

TODAY I am proud to bring you exclusive extracts from the forthcoming memoirs of Sir Edward Heath, `Remember Me?', in which our greatest living statesman looks back over 50 years of politics and pouts.

In today's extract, Sir Edward reflects on the changes he has seen, and also, of course, on Margaret Thatcher's sheer bloody- mindedness.

BEFORE THE start of the Second World War {writes Edward Heath}, I was lucky enough to travel through Germany as a penniless student (see my earlier book, The Joy of Hitch-Hiking), and there I saw for myself what Hitler's Germany was like. Herr Hitler is much criticised these days, but I have to say, to be fair to him, that it was very efficiently run, and that everyone pulled their weight behind him. Not everyone who has run a large modern state has had the same experience! But Herr Hitler had the right idea - he evolved a master plan and left the details to others.

I was especially impressed by Herr Hitler's efforts to unite Europe, though I cannot say that his methods were such that a democrat could approve of them. I am sure that if I had encountered Herr Hitler in person at that time, I would have said to him, "Non, Herr Hitler! Arretez-la!" Looking back, I realise now that he probably didn't speak French, and would not have understood what I was saying. But languages are not everything. Later, when I became famed as a European, I did not waste time on learning languages. I relied on my staff to master the details. I never regretted it.

I WAS lucky enough as a boy to be endowed with a love of music and a gift for organising it. My first engagement as a leader was as conductor of the Broadstairs carol concert, and subsequently I have conducted some of the finest orchestras in Europe. I am proud to say I have never accepted a penny of payment in any case, nor indeed have I ever been offered any.

My motto in music is the same as in anything else: it is not worth doing unless you are the boss, and let the chaps get on with doing everything. Though, my goodness, I have often looked out at some great orchestra as I was waving my baton at the audience, and thought: "Heavens above! What ARE they up to? They seem barely capable of playing together under my beat! …