Heath and Europe
Sir: The answer to the riddle of Mr Heath's pledge not to take Britain into the Common Market without the wholehearted support of Parliament and the people lies, I suspect, in his concept of leadership. He does not see a leader as a man on a white horse. He sees him rather as a computer programmer. Leadership, to him, consists of getting the full facts, taking the right decisions on them and ensuring that they are carried out effectively. I think he is convinced that when this is done, then in a computer age people will naturally follow. To him, if this is so, the wholehearted support he has spoken of can only come after this country is effectively in the Market. I don't think he ever intended it to be taken as a pledge to wait for the public's cheers before committing this country to membership.
I think that he genuinely does not understand that to most of us a ' leader ' does need a white horse and the wholehearted support' of Parliament implies a resounding free vote in his favour and the 'wholehearted support' of the people a general mood of enthusiasm before the event.
He has repeatedly stated the principle that as party leader and Prime Minister he has the right and the duty to call upon his supporters to support him. It just does not occur to him that in the eyes of many people this taints their support; that a lot of people think he is wrong to do it; and that he gives the appearance of deliberately turning into a narrow party issue what the vast majority firmly believes should be a national one. There are true elements of tragedy here.
Parliament will certainly vote in his favour. The people's representatives will have spoken for them. The ' right ' decision will have been taken. And yet the people may still reject this kind of leadership, believing that it is based upon a rejection of them. There may be a stain over Britain's entry which will take a very long time to fade. I wish it were not so, but I fear Mr Heath will learn to rue it and wish that it had been otherwise.
Another kind of leadership, a convincing vote in Parliament by members enjoined one and all to vote their consciences . . . but it is idle to speculate. If wishes were horses not only beggars would ride. Edward Heath would too. But they are not.
John Allan May 4/5 Grosvenor Place, London SW1