After suffering a stunning defeat in the 1964 elections, the defeated Conservative Prime Minister Sir Alec Douglas-Home changed the party leadership rules to allow for a ballot by MPs, and then resigned. Former Shadow Chancellor of The Exchequer Edward Heath won the Conservative Party’s Leadership election to become the party’s youngest leader, replacing Sir Alec Douglas-Home.
In this interview for Meet The Press, Heath is asked about Britain’s desire to join the Common Market, the NATO alliance, trade with the United States and questions that, according to France’s Charles DeGaulle, Europe was too dependent on the U.S. for trade and support, was the view also that Britain may be too dependent upon the U.S. too? Heath explained that, while not criticizing the U.S., it was healthy for Britain to stand on its own two feet. However, it was noted that in recent months, Britain was becoming more dependent on the U.S. in the area of trade and supplies, particularly in the area of aircraft parts.
The subject (inevitably) got around to Britain’s feelings about U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War; a war which was becoming increasingly unpopular among young Americans. Did Britain view our role in the war the same way? According to Heath, the British government was in general agreement with the U.S. with regards to Vietnam policy. The left-wing of British politics was critical, while the Conservatives were unanimous in their support. When pressed if the support of U.S. policy in Vietnam was something Edward Heath personally agreed with, Heath skillfully skated around the issue, saying as leader of the Conservative Party, he was in favor of U.S. Foreign Policy in Southeast Asia – not whether he was personally for it or not.
The subject of a possible summit between President Johnson and President DeGaulle was brought up. Heath was very much in favor of a Johnson/DeGaulle summit, feeling there could be much of value gotten from it, as long as it was done at the right time.
And the subject of British contributions to the World came up – of course, The Beatles were brought into the conversation, since the British Invasion of Rock music was having a profound effect on audiences both in the U.S. and Europe and this was also having a profound effect on Britain’s place in the world as a center of innovation.
That, and a wide range of other subjects were covered in this half-hour episode of Meet The Press, as it was aired on June 5, 1966. Informative, ironic and a historic look at our relations with Europe – and how they have become different in recent months. Also ironic is the announcement at the end of an upcoming program regarding LSD and an interview with Timothy Leary. The times, they were definitely changin’.