Friday, August 27, 2010
Edward Heath and Asperger syndrome
Below is the text of an entry for my enormous list of famous autistic or possibly autistic people that I am going to add some time, whenever I find the time. What do you think? Any errors?
Sir Edward “Ted” Heath KG MBE (1916-2005) former Conservative Prime Minister of the UK from 1970 to 1974, leader of the Conservative Party from 1965-1975, Deputy Chief Whip and Chief Whip of the Tories in the 1950s. As a PM Heath took Britain into the EEC. He has been described as “the first modern Conservative leader”. In 1968 Heath sacked Enoch Powell from the shadow Cabinet following a negative response to Powell’s “rivers of blood” speech. Powell is also in this list. Sir Edward was not a great orator, but he was able to give speeches without consulting notes. When Heath was deposed as the leader of the Tory Party by Margaret Thatcher he was not a gracious loser, earning him the nickname “the incredible sulk”. Heath remained in politics until 2001, but refused to serve in Thatcher’s cabinet. Sir Edward’s political ambitions had an early origin – in an admission interview for an Oxford University college, Heath cited “a professional politician” as his chosen career (Thomson 1980). Sir Edward was a world-class yachtsman and an accomplished musician. Heath never married and one anecdote suggests that he did not feel comfortable in the company of women. According to one source there were women that he was fond of, but they married other men. Like a number of other unmarried men in this list, Heath has been the subject of speculation that he was a closet homosexual, despite a lack of evidence. Heath did not smoke and rarely drank. As a personality Heath has been described as “remote and aloof” (MailOnline 2005), “cool and withdrawn”, “a loner”, “Stiff and awkard (sic) socially” (Thomson 1980 p.248), a politician who did not have the benefit of being able to make small talk, outspoken, “an efficient and unpopular” whip (Thomson 1980 p.250), “a bloody bad-tempered man” (Thomson 1980 p.250) and an “extraordinarily self-sufficient” man who enjoyed people but possibly did not need them (Thomson 1980 p.250). It was argued that Heath might have had “mild” AS in a 2005 letter to the editor of the Independent in response to earlier articles and an obituary of Sir Edward Heath. There has also been online speculation about Heath and the autistic spectrum.
About Sir Edward Heath
BBC News (2005) Former PM Sir Edward Heath dies. BBC News. July 18th 2005.
[includes links to videos and an audio documentary]
Evans, Katherine (2005) Condition can mean a lifelong struggle. (letter) Independent. August 5th 2005.
[a brief counter-argument to the earlier letter to the editor by Patience]
Heath, Edward (1998) The course of my life: the autobiography of Edward Heath. Hodder and Stoughton, 1998.
Heffer, Simon (2010) Tony Blair's memoirs: a strange book by a gifted man. Telegraph.co.uk September 2nd 2010.
[This review of Tony Blair’s memoir A Journey makes reference to “the autism of the Heath memoirs”.]
MailOnline (2005) The incredible sulk. MailOnline. July 18th 2005.
Patience, Linda (2005) Signs of Asperger’s syndrome? (letter) Independent. August 3rd 2005.
[a letter to the editor in response to earlier articles and obituary of Sir Edward Heath, arguing that Heath could have had “mild” Asperger syndrome]
Thomson, George Malcolm (1980) The prime ministers: from Robert Walpole to Margaret Thatcher. Nationwide Book Service, 1980.
Link to my big list:
A referenced list of 173 famous or important people diagnosed with an autism spectrum condition or subject of published speculation about whether they are or were on the autistic spectrum