Tributes of various sorts continue for the late Ted Heath, but one
distinction that he held is perhaps worth further notice: he was the
first prime minister since Winston Churchill to die a commoner. It’s
interesting how rare this is. Prior to him I can only count 12 others
on the list of prime ministers (13 if you include Palmerston, who was
an Irish viscount), and almost all of them because they died in office
or shortly after. (See list here.)

Politicians of all parties and political colours seem to relish the
baubles and gentlemanly atmosphere of the House of Lords – being
promoted from the animals to the vegetables, as someone put it. The
only prime ministers who really retired but never got a peerage were
the great Liberal leader William Gladstone, who declined an earldom,
and Churchill, who declined a dukedom. Illustrious company for “Grocer”
Heath to be found in.

Peter Fray

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