25 April 2007

An Edward Heath non-story

If Brian Coleman, conservative Member of the London Assembly for Barnet and Camden, is to be believed Sir Edward Heath was warned by police to stop "cottaging" for gay sex in the 1950s because it could harm his political career.

Writing in the New Statesman Mr Coleman said:“Ted Heath managed to obtain the highest office of state after he was supposedly advised to cease his cottaging activities in the Fifties when he became a Privy Councillor.” Mr Coleman claimed that it was "common knowledge" among Tories that Sir Edward had been given the warning he was being positively vetted for membership of the Privy Council in 1955. Not only that but gay men had in effect run the Conservative Party in London, whether as officials, councillors or volunteers.

Sir Edward, was Prime Minister from 1970 to 1974. He died in 2005. His biographer, John Campbell, does not believe that there was any evidence that he was gay "except for the faintest unsubstantiated rumour of an incident at the beginning WWII ". His view is that Heath could have been a latent or repressed homosexual or heterosexual, or simply asexual.

Derek Conway , who succeeded Sir Edward as Conservative MP for Old Bexley and Sidcup, said there had never been any hint of impropriety in the former prime minister's life. "If there was some secret I'm sure it would have come out by now," He said.

I think Derek Conway is probably correct: if there had been any substance to the cottaging story I’m sure it would have come out before now especially since he was a shade less devoted to Thatcher. The 80s would have been the time for the story, if there was one, to emerge - perhaps as part of a whispering campaign to see Heath out of parliament.

If, in the unlikely event, the story is true then being discreet was a no-brainer if he wanted the highest office. He was Chief Whip when Harrow MP and Foreign Office minister Ian Harvey was found cavorting with a Coldstream Guardsman in St James’s Park. Needless to say his ensured that his next career was pursued outside of Parliament...


Steve Bates said...

jams, I learn something every day at your site. Heretofore, I had always assumed that the British mixed gay sex and politics... indeed, most any sex and politics... more successfully and with less government-shaking scandal than Americans, at least by the Seventies or so. I guess I was wrong.

I do believe we've got you beat in the post-Clinton era, though. We have a few openly gay members of Congress, one at least with considerable seniority, but the only gay member in serious trouble last year was one who just couldn't stay away from his own young congressional pages. Need I mention that he was a Republican? :)

jams o donnell said...

Sex scandals have brought down a fair few British politicians over the eyars. Even in the 90s a bit of cruising gone wrong put paid to the career of a cabinet minister

Chris Smith was the forst openly gay MP when he came out in 1984. It wasn't until 1997 that an openly gay man was elected to parliament (ie out before electiopn). That said an MPs sexuality does not seem to be an election issue here. This as it should be.