Heath urges sacking of ministers: Major told to abandon right-wing dogma that could cost Conservatives power

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JOHN MAJOR should fire right-wingers in his Cabinet and abandon the dogmatic privatisation of services that should be the Government's responsibility, Sir Edward Heath, the former prime minister, said yesterday.

The Conservatives, he warned, were in danger of getting into the position Labour reached in the 1970s, when dogma cost them office.

In an interview with Roy Hattersley on GMTV, Sir Edward said:

'What worries me about all of this is that so much of it has now become a dogma, and we are in danger - perhaps already there - of getting into the position which the Labour Party got into when they nationalised a whole lot of productive industries for which there was not any justification except dogma. This eventually, I think, cost them their government.'

Sir Edward said he would not privatise the Post Office or prisons. 'I find the idea of giving over to private people the custody of people who have been found guilty of crime most distasteful . . . it has not worked in America.

'In government it is always a question of a balance, and we are now in grave danger of getting the balance wrong by just carrying on with the dogma.'

He painted Mr Major as a prisoner both of his right- wing Cabinet ministers, such as Michael Howard, Michael Portillo, Peter Lilley and John Redwood, and of his inheritance from Baroness Thatcher.

Asked if he thought the Prime Minister had got his party 'back into the mainstream of Conservatism', Sir Edward said: 'I would not go so far as to say that, no. He may himself have got views in that direction, but he has got members of his Cabinet who are exactly the reverse.'

Sir Edward said he would get rid of them, adding that they should not have been appointed in the first place because their views 'must have been well known'.

With Lady Thatcher gone, he said, there was there was still 'this emphasis that 'we are the radical party'. Well, in normal political terminology, radical and conservative are different titles, and we are conservative. We are Tory and we all know what that has been ever since Disraeli, and it has been very much a caring philosophy.

'It is interesting to look back to Harold Macmillan, who arranged that pensions would always be increased by more than inflation. Well, that was a caring approach. But now all of that has gone - and I deeply regret it.'

A lot of Mr Major's troubles stemmed from the inheritance Lady Thatcher left him, including her handling of the economy and Europe, Sir Edward said.

'The general public, the voters, are realising the consequences of what she did, and I think you will find now that there is far from agreement about her being the most successful Prime Minister of this century. That is not what history is going to say.'