You ask the questions

(Such as: Edward Heath, is there a link between power and sex? And what do you think of Margaret Thatcher?)
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Born in 1916 in Broadstairs, Kent, Edward Heath studied PPE at Balliol College, Oxford. He became a Conservative MP in 1950, then chief whip, notably during the Suez Crisis, leader of the Conservative Party from 1965-75 and prime minister from 1970-74. Now Father of the House of Commons, he lives in a 13th-century house in Salisbury. His autobiography, The Course of My Life, is published by Hodder & Stoughton.

In light of the trend for the tabloids to investigate MPs' private lives, would you still go into politics if you had your time again?

Joanne Philips, Mansfield

Going into public life shouldn't obliterate an individual's right to enjoy a private life. The publication of an MP's private income could deter many of those active in business or the professions. After all, their wives have been wanting to find these things out for donkeys' years!

If you were stranded on a desert island with two colleagues from the House of Commons, who would you invite and why?

Ian Potter, Portsmouth

Of course, all my parliamentary colleagues are delightful, but perhaps it should be two Conservative Euro-sceptics, Bill Cash being one of them. Then I could be bored to death quickly, sparing me hardship.

What was your first impression of Margaret Thatcher when you originally met her? What do you think of her now?

Janice Wilks, Hereford

She was very forceful and impressive when we fought neighbouring seats in 1950. I gained Bexley and she lost in Dartford. As for now, our only recent exchange was about the IKEA chairs on the platform at the party conference. We were in broad agreement about them!

What's your earliest memory?

Emma MacCarthy, Paignton

Clambering out into our small garden and pulling all my father's vegetables out of the ground. He never let me forget it!

What three skills should every great prime minister have? Did you have them?

Geoffrey Goodins, Leeds

Patience, stamina and good luck. Two out of three isn't bad!

What adjectives would you use to describe Tony Blair?

Kevin Quinn, Walton-on-Thames

Popular, effective, shallow.

What advice would you give a schoolchild who told you they wanted to be prime minister?

David Johns, Blackheath

That, in the final reckoning, principles are more important to the individual than power.

When and where have you been happiest in your life?

Linda Allan, Norwich

Impossible to say - different experiences, different intensities, different types of happiness. How, for example, could I compare the pleasure of hosting a delightful lunch party at my home with the experience of conducting the London Symphony Orchestra or winning the Sydney to Hobart Ocean Race?

What's the worst part of the job of being prime minister?

Adam Shalson, Belsize Park

Losing it!

Have you ever been afraid while out sailing? What happened?

Joanna Kouti, Chalk Farm

I once described myself as having been "shit scared", after my boat nearly capsized during the 1979 Fastnet race. The phrase is a little vulgar, but I stand by it.

What has been your most embarrassing moment as a conductor?

Martin Gent, Cambridge

You can't afford to get embarrassed as a conductor - it is essential to retain the respect of the players. I do remember, however, Andre Previn telling me he was once on tour with the LSO when he had his arms up, preparing to conduct from memory, and he realised he had the wrong piece in his mind. The leader of the orchestra saved him.

Should William Hague have an image makeover? Give reasons.

Brian Midgley, Haywards Heath

What is needed is policies. On the other hand, perhaps the baseball cap was a bit of a mistake! He should stick to being his natural self.

What's the greatest regret you have about your political career? And in your personal life?

B Sheridan, Essex

Losing in 1974 and the fact that subsequent governments never gave the impression that they were fully committed to Britain's engagement in Europe. But I don't think that one ought to be consumed with regrets. I prefer to dwell on the positive.

Do you think that the current Conservative Party has made itself more unelectable since May 1997? What odds would you give them of getting in next time?

Charles Morgan, Manchester

I am not a betting man.

Why did you never marry?

Julia Bywater, Redditch

I never met the right person.

What was your impression of Saddam Hussein when you met him in 1990? How will the ongoing crises with Iraq end?

Kathryn Clinkscales, Maida Vale

He may be a bad man, but he certainly did not strike me as a mad man. It is impossible to foresee where the ongoing UN/Iraq dispute will end. With as few casualties as possible, I hope.

At what point in your life did you decide your ambition was to become prime minister? What motivated you?

Isobel Stephen, Fulham

I never did, as such. I was interested in politics from an early age, and was always driven by a desire to get things done.

Would you prefer to have traded places with your namesake, the band leader?

David Hasell, Kingston upon Thames

I still get the occasional letter confusing the two of us, but I always preferred symphony orchestras.

What's your favourite TV show?

Mark Burgess, London

At the moment, anything with Clive Anderson. I was on his programme a month ago, and he and his wife are coming to lunch with me next week.

If you had the choice, where would you most like to live in the world?

Sarah Landeg, Bermondsey

I am very happy living where I do in Salisbury, but Barbados is rather warmer at this time of year.

If you had to spend the evening with Margaret Thatcher, where would you go?

Bill Jones, Clapham

I have not received any such invitation for the past 23 years.

Would you agree that, at heart, all politicians are self-serving?

William McDonald, Cheltenham

Actually very few are. It's easy in an age of disaffection and cynicism to be sneering about public service, but most politicians work very hard.

Who do you feel is the most evil person you've ever met and why?

Alan Howell, Lincoln

Heinrich Himmler, whom I met after a Nazi rally in Nuremberg in 1937.

Is there a link between power and sex? Can you explain it?

Justine Hill, Raynes Park

The British now seem to be obsessed with both- presumably because some of them feel that they are getting too little of either!

You Ask The Questions

Next week: Noel Edmonds, then following, child care guru Penelope Leach

Please send any questions you would like to ask Noel Edmonds or Penelope Leach to: You Ask The Questions, Features Dept, The Independent, 1 Canada Square, Canary Wharf, London E14, 5DL. Or fax 0171-293 2182 or e-mail to yourquestions@independent.co.uk - by noon on Friday 27 November

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