Edward Heath speaks - and the old devil is in the details

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The Independent Culture
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!"

If we had mixed together after the show, I would probably have pulled their legs about it! A sense of humour is not necessarily an advantage in a leader, but an ability to laugh a lot is essential. Later, when I became famed as a European, I found I could laugh at jokes in at least half a dozen languages. Later, I would get my staff to explain the jokes to me, but they never seemed very funny. (See my book: The Joy of Laughter.)

I HAVE always been lucky enough to be blessed with an ability to sail, and I have always believed in the art of buying a big boat, and getting the right crew, and leaving the details up to them. It is folly to believe that you can do everything yourself, like a sort of mad one-woman show, and I do believe there is no shame in being a good delegator.

On one occasion, I was conducting the European Youth Orchestra in Brussels, and heard that, on that very evening, I had come first in the Round Tasmania Yacht Race in Australia! Well, if that is possible without good delegating, I would like to know how. (See my book: The Joy of Winning.)

ONE OF the talents which I believe I have been lucky enough to develop is the art of meeting people. I don't mean talking to strangers, a thing which I leave strictly to canvassers, but the art of communicating with other famous people.

In my time, I have been lucky enough to meet American presidents, and popes, and other top-flight musicians, and amusingly enough, I have a large collection of photographs of myself with famous world figures, very often signed by the famous person or, if need be, solely by myself. If you are ever lucky enough to visit my family home in Salisbury, which I doubt, you will see this collection of photographs standing on the top of my favourite grand piano, where the closed lid makes a very good display case.

People sometimes ask me: "Why don't you open up the lid and play the piano for us?" And I say: "For goodness' sake! Because all the photographs will fall off! Not to mention the flowers!" (See my book: The Joy of Piano Arranging.)

And now, THAT woman...

I'm sorry, sir - I'm afraid that's all we have room for today. Some other time, perhaps...