ALTHOUGH he will celebrate his 78th birthday in July, Sir Edward Heath shows no signs of ringing the selection committee at Old Bexley and Sidcup and retiring into history. Indeed, any suggestion that the former prime minister is also to become the former Father of the House is denied by the great man, who says there is 'absolutely no truth whatsoever' in such a surmise.
However, it is unlikely Sir Edward will remain an MP after the next election, particularly because he would be honour-bound to see through the full term, which could make him 85 by the time he finally vacates his seat below the gangway.
It is no great surprise, therefore, to hear that Sir Edward has told close friends in the past few months that he is 'almost certainly expecting to stand down'. Despite his dislike of campaigning, he may yet surprise us by standing one more time, although his attack in today's European on John Major's European policy could be a further sign of his impending departure.
If he does go, there are hopefuls in the wings. Among them is Robert Vaudry, Sir Edward's former private secretary, who left his master in 1992 to work for the stockbrokers Morgan Stanley, and later set up a political consultancy, Constituency Research. Vaudry may be too closely allied to Sir Edward for the likes of some constituency members, however, and is pessimistic about his chances. Nevertheless, he tells me he would love to contest the seat.
BEFORE his recent troubles, Tim Yeo - invariably pronounced Yo, Yao and even, on one occasion by James Naughtie yesterday, Yoa - was set to launch an energy conservation campaign, and press releases to local newspapers were being drawn up. The release stressed the importance of conserving household energy, describing the home in glowing terms as the place where all good things happened. Fearing the barbed wit of the press, however, the release has been withdrawn.
Dressed for success
WITH THE death of Brian Johnston, we have lost a wonderful cricket commentator, bon viveur and all-round nice guy. Some would even say a snappy dresser, too, although there must be some reservations about his choice of footwear. His taste in clothing came in handy on one occasion for, of all unlikely people, Lord Home of the Hirsel.
As parliamentary private secretary to Neville Chamberlain, the then Alec Douglas-Home was instructed to join the prime minister for his fateful meeting with Hitler in Munich, but did not have time to return home and pack before the flight. In desperation, he descended on his brother William, the playwright, who shared a flat with Johnners, a fellow Etonian and Oxonian, who was then in the family coffee business. After making a selection from his brother's wardrobe, Douglas-Home borrowed a shirt and tie from Johnners, caught the flight to Munich, and the rest is history.
THE international expansion of Marks & Spencer is working wonders for the spread of franglais. Its English label '40 Pork Cocktail Sausages' is translated into French as '40 Bangers Anglais pour l'Aperitif'.
Mum's the word
IN THE foreword to Belinda Hadden's The Ageing Parent Handbook 1994, Carol Thatcher talks about her 'awesomely energetic and fit parents', and admits she couldn't complete the book's questionnaire on how to cope. Perhaps she was put off by the first question: 'Have you a parent or relatives who will, one day, look to you for advice and support?'
ALAN CLARK, whose appearance was a highlight of the Scott inquiry, will deliver a Sunday Times lecture next month entitled Degenerative Tendencies in Long-Serving Administrations.
A DAY LIKE THIS
6 January 1917 Mary Clark writes to her father: 'I travelled with a Belgian girl of about 25. Her home is in the part of Belgium occupied by the British, six miles behind the first line of the trenches. One Sunday it was actually bombarded. At one farm the father was not well and was sitting in front of the fire. His young daughter of 20 was too frightened to go out. A shell fell through the roof into the kitchen. When the noise was over the girl found herself lying on the floor, and, as she felt no pain, thought she had been knocked over by some furniture. When, however, she tried to rise, she found that her right leg had been blown off from just below the hip. The next day the girl died in hospital, and four weeks later her father died. He had not been seriously injured, but he could never for one moment forget her piteous pleading that the doctor should kill her rather than let her live like that.'Reuse content