Bad Blood: Powell, Heath and the Tory Party

Robert Pearce investigates the fierce rivalry of two very different Conservatives.

Ted Heath in 1966
Ted Heath in 1966

The ‘emergence’ of Sir Alec Douglas Home as Tory party leader, and prime minister, in October 1963 had produced turmoil among Conservatives. The ‘charmed circle’ had chosen a 14th earl who seemed desperately out of touch with the emerging Swinging Sixties, a verdict endorsed when a year later the party lost a general election for the first time since 1950. It was time for change, and in 1965 Home resigned, leaving Conservative MPs for the first time to elect a new leader. The Conservative party had to slough off the grouse-moor image and find a meritocrat who could rival Labour’s leader, and the new prime minister, Harold Wilson. The vote recorded on July 27th, 1965, did exactly this and was vaunted in the press as ‘honest rivalry cleanly settled’.

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