Heath was British Conservative prime minister from 1970 to 1974, a troubled period which came to be seen as reflecting the failure of post-war consensual Conservatism, and produced a backlash in his party that brought Margaret Thatcher to the leadership in 1975.
As prime minister, Heath's policies seemed muddled. His only clear success was in fulfilling his long-held ambition of taking Britain into the European Community, in 1973. He preserved the consensual and moderate policies of his 1950s predecessors, but he also felt obliged to restrain public expenditure through deflationary policies, and to tackle increasing labour unrest by trying to reduce the power of trade unions. When faced with the muscle of the militant miners' union, however, Heath backed down, executing a 'u-turn' for which the Conservative Party's right wing never forgave him. Mass strikes continued, in parallel with ongoing violence in Northern Ireland. The 1974 General Election was inconclusive and Heath resigned as prime minister, to be replaced by Harold Wilson and a minority Labour government. The following year Thatcher replaced Heath as Conservative leader.
Heath remained in parliament until 2001, a constant reminder to Thatcher of the party's moderate and Europhile traditions, which Heath angrily believed she had betrayed. He died on 17 July 2005.