In Depth

Who was Edward Heath? And what was his secret?

Rumours followed Ted Heath throughout his parliamentary years: but it's never been claimed he was a paedophile – until now

Edward 'Ted' Heath, who ten years after his death has been named by Wiltshire Police as a suspected paedophile, was one of the unlikeliest Prime Ministers, a job he held from 1970 to 1974. It is hard to imagine anyone like him getting elected today.

He was a life-long bachelor who refused to discuss his private life, other than his passions for classical music and sailing his yacht, Morning Cloud.

Although he was a grammar-school boy from a lower-middle-class background – quite unlike his immediate predecessors, Harold Macmillan and Alec Douglas-Home, both of them Old Etonians – he didn't have a populist bone in his body. 

As for his sexuality, rumours swirled around him "like a mist of innuendo", as the Daily Telegraph recalls.  

Yes, he was "prickly" with women – and absolutely loathed Margaret Thatcher, who stole the party leadership from him in 1975 – and many suspected he was homosexual. But no one ever offered any real proof to support the rumours – and, until now, there has never been any talk of paedophilia. Nor is there any reason to believe that, if he was homosexual, it should have any bearing on the likelihood of him committing child abuse.

How did he become PM? 

After serving in the Army in World War Two, he won the south London seat of Bexley – an hour or so from the coastal town of Broadstairs, where he was born – and went on to serve the constituency until 2001. He became party leader in 1965, when Harold Wilson was Labour prime minister. He led the Tories to victory over Labour in the 1970 election.

How did he lose it?

Ted Heath's Government never had it easy: it was blighted by the Troubles in Northern Ireland and two miners' strikes, the second of which caused Heath to introduce the infamous Three Day Week, to conserve energy. He lost two general elections in 1974 to Harold Wilson and the following year was ousted from the Tory party leadership by Margaret Thatcher. He never forgave her, snubbing her from the backbenches and being dubbed the 'Incredible Sulk'.

What about girlfriends?

The Daily Mail says there were only two women in his life (other than Thatcher): Kay Raven and Dame Moura Lympany.

Kay was a Kent girl he knew from his childhood and who hoped to marry him after the war. "The story is that she became tired of waiting for him to make up his mind until, in 1950, she wrote to him to say she had met an RAF officer and was going to marry him."

Dame Moura was a concert pianist. During Heath's premiership, says the Mail, a Tory grandee, Sir Tufton Beamish, told her: "Moura, Ted must get married. Will you marry him?"

She agreed, but Heath never asked. Years later she told the TV interviewer Michael Cockerell that the most intimate thing Heath had ever done was "put his arm around my shoulder".

So, was he gay?

Homosexuality became legal in England and Wales only in 1967 – and then only between two men aged over 21 – and so it is very possible Heath suppressed his homosexuality for the sake of attaining public offices.  

As The Times reports, Michael Bloch, author of Closet Queens, concluded: "He was that rare being, a gay man who decided that he was going to reach the very top and to do that he had to keep his sexuality repressed and bottled up."

But neither of his official biographers, John Campbell and Philip Ziegler, found any proof. Ziegler considered him "pretty sell sexless", adding: "I have come across no evidence remotely plausible suggesting that he ever had intercourse with anyone, male or female."

What about the rumours?

There were many, dating back to his earliest days as an MP…

The 'cottaging' allegation: 

During an MI5 vetting procedure in 1955, ahead of Heath joining the Privy Council, the young MP was warned to stop cottaging – looking for sex with men around public lavatories – according to a 2007 article by Brian Coleman, a Conservative member of the London Assembly. Coleman claimed it was "common knowledge" in Tory circles but offered no tangible evidence.

The 'honeytrap' story:

In 1965, shortly after becoming party leader, Heath was supposedly the target of an attempted Cold War sting, according to a former Czech spy, Josef Frolik, who told the story in a book published 20 years later. The plan was to invite Heath to Prague, where he was to be seduced and blackmailed by a young male musician. But – possibly tipped off by MI5 – Heath turned the invitation down.

The 'young Oriental man':

A gay couple – Jeremy Norman and Derek Frost – who visited Heath at his 14th-century home in Salisbury shortly before his death in 2005, were surprised to be greeted at the door by a young, educated Oriental man, Geoffrey Levy writes for the Daily Mail. The young man was "comfortably close enough to the rather enfeebled Heath" to join in the conversation "as a friend" – leaving Norman under no illusion that he was a "secret boyfriend".

Levy concludes: "The sexuality of Sir Edward Heath hasn't really mattered at all. The dreaded word 'paedophile' risks changing all that."

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