The current series of Speaker’s Lectures is on ‘What if?’, inviting speakers to address counter-factuals. The first was given by Lord Adonis on ‘What if Roy Jenkins had become Prime Minister in 1968’? On Monday evening, I gave the lecture on ‘What if Edward Heath had resigned in October 1974 and Willie Whitelaw had become Tory Leader?’
In the lecture, I addressed four questions. First, how plausible is it that Willie Whitelaw would have succeeded to the party leadership had Heath stood down in October 1974? Second, if Whitelaw had become leader, what philosophy, or what strand of Conservative thought, would he have embraced? Third, how effective would he have been in leading the party? Fourth, flowing from this, would he have been in a position to lead the party to election victory? I also went on to consider what may have happened under a Whitelaw government.
This was the fourth Speaker’s Lecture I have given, since the lectures were introduced. As regular readers will know my previous lectures were on Enoch Powell, Parliament and Political Parties, and Eleanor Rathbone. As the Speaker regularly points out, and did so again on Monday, I have turned up for every Speaker’s Lecture since they were introduced in January 2011, the only person to do so. Even the Speaker has missed some, with me having to chair them in his absence.
For those wanting to know the answers to the questions I posed, you can watch the lecture on BBC Parliament. Each lecture is usually broadcast the following Saturday, but on this occasion this Saturday’s slot will be occupied by a Lord Speaker’s Lecture, given by BBC Chairman, Lord Hall of Birkenhead. Keep an eye on the schedule for when it will be broadcast…
UPDATE: The lecture will be broadcast on Saturday, 30 March, at 9.00 p.m