One Conservative prime minister took us into Europe, another started to turn her party against it, and now a third is leading the retreat. Michael McManus asks what past big beasts of the Tory jungle would make of election 2017by Michael McManus / May 4, 2017 / Leave a comment
During my time running Edward Heath’s office, he and I had just two conversations of substance on the subject of European integration.
The first took place very shortly after I entered his employ. I told him I thought John Major had been very sensible to negotiate opt-outs from both the single currency and the social protocol of the Maastricht Treaty. It was a brief and unpleasant exchange. “Sometimes people just have to be told what to do,” he snapped, when I told him I thought the social protocol was misguidedly anti-competitive and unnecessarily intrusive. The second occasion came when he summarily sacked and replaced me because I had been selected as a parliamentary candidate and had publicly stated my strong personal opposition to the UK ever joining the euro. I also said the entire experiment would end in disaster: an even greater heresy.
After the vote to leave the European Union on 23rd June last year, my old friend Gyles Brandreth, a writer and former Tory MP, said to me how fortunate it was that Heath had not lived to see the day—because it would surely have killed him, just a fortnight shy of his century. When I recounted this comment at a meeting at Westminster, the former MEP Tom Spencer disagreed: Heath would have rallied and fought against Brexit until his dying breath.