Maggie's 25 mins with Ted Heath
Mrs Margaret Thatcher paid a 25 minute pre-lunch call on Mr Heath at his Belgravia home today.
It was officially described as a courtesy visit. Neither would say afterwards what they talked about.
She would have liked Mr Heath to join the new Opposition front bench team right away. But he is just not in the mood.
Mrs Thatcher presides as Party Chief at her first Shadow Cabinet meeting this evening.
Before leaving Mr Heath's home in a mustard coloured sports car, she said of the conversation with the ex-Premier she had toppled: “It was quite private. Mr Heath looked well.”
The deposed Tory leader spent the day at home and will soon be going to Spain for a holiday, during which he will consider his future.
Mr William Waldegrave, who was head of Mr Heath's office, when Leader of the Opposition, said in a BBC radio interview [end p184] that it had been perfectly honourable for Mrs Thatcher to fight for the job. He added: “But it does mean that there is always a danger that those who live by the sword, die by the sword.
“She will have a difficult task in seeing that we do not have a constant series of electoral battles for the Leadership in the next few years.”
Meanwhile there was much talk at Westminster about the need for reconciliation and restoration of Tory unity.
It was a bustling, businesslike Margaret Thatcher who emerged from her home in Flood Street, Chelsea, this morning after a good night's sleep and a breakfast of grapefruit, poached egg and coffee.
“There is so much to be done” she said. “One hasn't got time to feel butterflies.”
Yes, she was a bit apprehensive at starting a new job, but she would be so busy there would be no time to think about it.
No, she would not discuss her plans other than to say that she was going to the Commons to set up her office “under new management.”
Mrs Thatcher was driven to the Commons by Joan Hall, former MP for Keighley.
“One has to go into the Commons and get the office of the Leader of the Opposition started under new management,” these things don't happen on their own,” she said.
Then she added: “I haven't had time yet to think about my Shadow Cabinet. I have been considering it but it is such a puzzle, there is so much talent that it could take a long time.
Mrs Thatcher was greeted with loud cheers by Tory backbenchers when she entered the Commons during question time this afternoon.
As she passed her defeated rival Mr. William Whitelaw on the way to her seat, Mr. Willie Hamilton (Lab. Fife Central), called out: “Give him a kiss, Maggie.”