Heseltine: A Life in the Political Jungle part 1

Heseltine: A Life in the Political Jungle part 1



it was however the birthplace of Michael dipped in hesitant well that's an extraordinary thing 21st of March 1933 that's where I was born at least have an Alsatian dog called Bob is to guard my pram Michael was the son of a manager at the local Steel Works a territorial army officer Rupert Hazeltine and his wife I we came from with a relatively prosperous middle-class background the members of a wonderfully happy childhood and all the security instability it gives and I think of the determination to do the best one can to preserve that in one's own family my father a profound interest in what I was doing I think he was very proud of me maybe over proud of me to me he was the rock he died while he was still a very young man yes it died in 1957 what was that like indescribable you said it made you grow up yeah I mean I became head of the family and you know to change his things as a child Michael Heseltine failed to shine however at roseberry a bubble favored by the Welsh middle classes he did at least make an impact one prefect reported his rebellious objectionable Idol imbecilic inefficient antagonizing untidy lunatic Albina I suspect that I wasn't their popular with my school boys I daresay the house master didn't think much of me who ever knows you know all I know is that when after that place I didn't feel that I had achieved what I was capable of then came Oxford here Michael Heseltine found himself at home his talent his ambition suddenly blooming in the political hothouse of the Oxford Union this was for me whatever I was interested in tended to be focused on the ladder of the Oxford Union and I spent a huge amount of time there I love the people I loved the clash of the debate I loved the idea the institution according to friends his ego was rarely afflicted by doubt nor did he hide from them his vaulting ambition he took an envelope out of his pocket drew on the back series of straight lines each straight line a different decade in the 20th century he said now this is the 50s I'm gonna get a good degree in the 60s I'm going to make a lot of money the 70s I'll be a member of parliament and he wrote it on the oath in the 80s it'll be a cabinet minister and the lunches was Prime Minister Downing Street he put down so we all laughed like drains I remember it extra clearly because I I had it in my hand and Michaels told me I see he said keep that it so it might be really valuable one day of course I didn't keep it I wish I had now did does show aside to Michael's character that term is relevant to the sort of man he is a scourge of the Tory toughs at Oxford he plotted against the old guard and was then himself elected as president of the Union a traditional springboard for aspiring prime ministers but first he needed to make money he got a job as a trainee accountant I had a red velvet waistcoat suede long blonde hair and I was in accountants office in the city of London and they must have taken one look at this and said what on earth have we got here Heseltine was in a hurry and ready to take a risk turning from accountancy to property he invested a thousand pounds from his grandparents in a run-down Hotel in West London it was it was quite an experience because this hotel was over the central line and when people to come in you had to get him to sign the book before the whole thing started to shake like this and it very quite unnerving you get their suitcase get halfway upstairs and is they feel a little building up from that anyway we managed to survive by the sixties the property developer had moved into a new business as a very exciting post-war regeneration of the creative world and we were part of that his most famous title man-about-town was a pioneering venture much admired in those glassy days there wasn't such thing as men's fashion or men's cosmetics or that you see now in the in the men's magazines there was no there was no advertising there was no revenue was a touch daring and the some Tories offensive a threat to his all tines ambitions for a seat at Westminster the nipples went and sales fell and struggled Gannett has met about two and then it became about time then it became time and then he left one more word to lose you know and it was down not only was his magazine fit but michael heseltine the property speculator had also piled up big losses it was an alarming predicament it was hairy it really hairy and you thought the stage when on a Friday night the finance director of the company would turn up with a list of creditors and there were three columns and this wasn't all the creditors that's just three columns solicitors letters column one writs column two and writs 14 days ago column three and I've always said to anyone who wanted to survive in the capitalist system always pay column three we lived absolutely on a knife-edge and he worked terribly hard and on Saturday mornings we would go into the office and look at the bills and see what we could afford to pay and what we couldn't in today's money his debts were almost a quarter of a million he was on the verge of insolvency a disaster for anyone ambitious for a major role in public his only hope was a last ditch visit to the bank manager Ben the problems he said how much do you need I said I need 80,000 pounds he said what you got so I said I've got a house a car and a watch he said I'll take a lot and then he stood up and he offered me his hand he said I'll say goodbye to you now because this is my last official engagement for the NatWest I retired tonight and I have said a prayer kept up in every day since I can't only tell you that as the New Year dawned I got a anxious voice from his successor you'd better come and see me he said but the deal was done to add to his income and to raise his profile Michael Heseltine had a go at television I think there must have been a misunderstanding I thought it was a political interview but it was personality and the widest and it couldn't have got much wider sense of the word Miss World 1963 Carol drone Crawford from Jamaica age 20 height 5 foot 4 vital statistics 34 22 34 when you actually were walking in front of the judges first when you had an unusual swimsuit on but did you have any other sort of tactics no at 7 minutes I think I asked her about 70 questions did you smile at them or with them no I did you just stood there no matter how wide I tried to couch the question like what's your favorite part of London hi got a yes/no or numb and by the end of seven minutes the sweat was streaming down my brows I was getting desperate I couldn't start asking the same questions all over again it was pretty hairy despite the turbulence of his business career the would-be prime was always on the lookout for a seat at Westminster and in 1966 at the age of 33 he was Julie elected to Parliament Michael Heseltine was on his way it is now 25 years since his first speech from the platform he was a precocious showman we are involved in a struggle for the very heart of society the fit to nationalize our aircraft and shipbuilding industry is not just a threat and an erosion of freedom for those industries it is a challenge to us all we shall fight it with all our parliamentary [Applause] [Applause] but it was his showmanship in the Commons which first propelled him onto the public stage the occasion a knife-edge vote on nationalization we'd had dinner with Michael in the house and he said I think you should come up afterwards it it might get exciting there had been a fairly tough debate with passions running quite high we waited with great excitement for that result to be announced when he came back the government will read out the result and said the governments of one by one and we couldn't understand how this had happened the rumor went round at render which was packed that the Labour whips had treated by Counting a Labour man twice the government whips had indeed breached parliamentary convention to steal a victory passions were running pretty high quite a lot of alcohol I suspected being consumed in the course of the evening then some of the Labour members started singing the red flag yeah The Devil's ball all the best tunes and that's one of them I just think you remember looking down on just the hate sort of blue and gray suits jostling each other well new blows insurance either suddenly I looked out of the corner of my eye and I know he'd pick mace and had started to twirl it round his head the mace is a solemn symbol elements authority shock horror Willie with his Jarl shaking said you can do anything in the house but you cannot cannot touch the mace I think one of the things was that the mace is very light it looks very heavy but that shit's Hollow and so you know this gesture of him sort of somebody on the head with it arose from that I mean it was Tarzan waving things around a bit you know we never waved and thing like that was the most organized deliberate gesture I don't think it was a calculated thing at all he simply lost his cool I didn't lose my cool I offered them the mace which was the gesture can measure it with what they were doing I quickly took the vase off him and put it down beyond the table and I think Michael then quickly disappeared out of the house as we all did the next day Michael Heseltine hits the headlines but said he was sorry I think that it probably doesn't do the dignity of Parliament any good and I understand that and I greatly regret it I remember listening to the apology and thinking if this man is genuinely apologetic well happy face surprised hesitant himself paints a loftier portrait of his role in that notorious Frakker above the fray he was avert a bitter of justice they cheated that is the issue they got their legend by cheating and the one thing I will not tolerate is people who cheat in that way and that is actually as the story unfolds has always been the point at which I dig in in any case Tarzan was born a tag that would stick to his great political advantage certainly it elevated his status enormous Lee in the party he was a man who spared to take on labour at his most extreme that autumn he electrified the party conference with a sustained onslaught against the Labour government the reality lay in Blackpool last week a one-legged army limping away from the storm they had created left left the performance made him a conference darling but a darling with known false modesty I had started becoming well-known for party conference speeches I was now a figure a national figure and a very substantial following and I'm sure they're without that they're either gone his leader Margaret Thatcher distrusted this rising star from the very start Michael was a very able orator he could put his view very well to a party conference and very well in the house he was not so good at formulating policy and and I think one of these the mistakes often that the press and public make is they were chaps a good orator he'll be a good minister the two things are quite different but Margaret Thatcher had noticed her future rival was growing in power and popularity impossible to ditch [Applause] May 1979 the Tories are in office once more where there is discord may we bring harmony where there is Error may we bring truth where there is doubt may we bring faith and where there's despair may we bring hope Michael Heseltine knew he'd be in the cabinet but he expected a rather better job than the one that was on offer when I went to see Margaret in Downing Street and she said I'd like you to be energy secretary and I might say my face fell on my health I just saw that as just trying to preside over massive nationalized industries and spending one's time trying to deal with the union's of effectively ran so much of them so I said no I don't want to do that I think there was a real feeling in the back of Margaret's mind at all time that Michael shouldn't have a job really central to the economy she felt he was by nature an interventionist hesitance defiance worked he got environment an ideal post in which being for once in step with Thatcher he could sell her most radical policy with his own brand of personal conviction we shall give a legal right to counsel and new town tenants to buy their homes at market value but subject to a discount however the appearance of harmony between Hazeltine and his leader concealed a friction which was eventually to corrode the relationship she was extremely difficult to deal with I can remember going with my permanent secretary to discuss housing policy and i–i Frank I came out of the meeting ashamed wasn't what I'd said it's simply that you know we had to listen to all this stuff about council tenants with underfloor heating they left on all day I was sitting there waiting to come back from cabinet and he threw his cabinet folder at the desk and said I can't work with this woman doesn't listen and you've talked about agriculture we heard about her brother got farm in northeast of England I mean it was also trivial to deal with great issues of state or big matters of policy couple of months later he was invited by mrs. Thatcher to I think he was boxing to checkers and he said I'm not going I don't want to spend a day with her and she just was look in the end I'm a British public school boy who have been brought up to treat women with a certain deference to stand behind it and open doors and all this sort of thing and here in cabinet you would just find yourself interrupted all the time and I had to learn that the only way to deal with her was to wait until she paused and then start again otherwise you just never got a word in edgeways and you know your arguments were dismissed with a lot of hectoring sort of chat and you just had to say it you can't let her get away with this and so I I would wait wait so they'd listen to some flow had stopped and then I'd start quietly again until I'd made the points and tended to make you didn't always win but I won more often that I lost some people would cave in or simply say they got soaked that's why you didn't cave in in the summer of not one Britain's inner cities exploded Toxteth in Liverpool worst of all the air was just completely black with smoke a you negate dairy have been broken into all the milk bottles were being used for Molotov cocktails hearing the constant sound of police banging the tensions and sirens and alarms and whistles and chanting you just felt like the whole city had just descended into anything hundreds of police off were injured one rioter was killed the damage to property 7 million pounds when riots broke out in Toxteth and indeed in another English cities there was real concern in Whitehall nothing like this had happened before civil service didn't know where it would end up ministers didn't know where it would end up unemployment in top among the black community was almost 60% the riots served a notice on the government that in the inner cities at least Thatcherism was failing I've never been anywhere where I felt the pall of defeat so heavy over over a district there was a deeply hurt community and there was a lot of anger that needed to be heard and taken seriously the government did indeed take it seriously I think everyone is horrified and as well as being very concerned indeed that anything like that could happen again here we must try to find out why I don't think there's a simple explanation Michael Heseltine seized the moment he would leave Whitehall and focus on Liverpool to the exclusion of all else a huge political gamble it put him at the very heart of a very hot story his message was simple I'm here to listen if he wanted to say something to him it was a little bit like running alongside the bus because he was in a hurry and you you had to say what you wanted to say very quickly that phrase I'm here to listen is a standard stock phrase from politicians from anybody who's not going to do anything if he said it once he must have said it ten times it was like a mantra I do not have a pot of gold and what he was saying was I'll come here and do what I can but there's no money at his very first meeting leaders of the black community staged a walkout judging his PR offensive to be a political stunt but he persevered going to their home ground through the ruins of Toxteth to a community center still seething with rage and resentment back again almost 20 years on was welcomed is very different Special Branch man we brought up from London who was protecting us gave me a brown envelope and said you stay in the car and I said what's in the brown envelope he said it's my gun I don't want my gun to be taken while I'm there hazard I never flinched he went in he knew he was going into a room of people who'd been on some have been on the streets the nights before and he was quite sure than unless he talked every person every interest in in Merseyside he wouldn't get the roots of the problem [Laughter] it was a vital meeting if it hadn't happened if we'd refused to come here then the whole point of the of the visit to Liverpool would have been an overhang by endless repeated allegations that we were frightened we weren't talking just like all the others it had to be done and it was done it'll never be forgotten by those of us who are here but it I think it was a breakthrough I think people had thought that meeting felt he was a Republican do business with this guy you know perhaps he's a senior person like in the government's if we can influence him perhaps something something will happen something will change well there we are that's that's a piece of memory lane I said to myself in stages here is Michael Heseltine discovering the working classes as it were speaking as a member of the working class and I had a little trouble about it what you can't deny is it on Merseyside he applied himself he I think did raise the morale insofar as a Tory can raise morale on not hesitant didn't have a pot of gold but he did have a scheme and it was a smart one he'd get the chairman of Britain's biggest companies to come here and see for themselves and ever unabashed he'd appoint himself as their tour guides from the ruins well I effect of being taken around the site places Liverpool was that people were very awestruck at what I was seeing they were seeing to be acres of housing that's been destroyed and you then come across the places that were still burning from the riots and I think they were horrified but the bus trip is Apps is central to the philosophy and it's all about the branch management it's all about the fact the power gone to London all these were isolated cities without natural leaders i sat them all down in the Adelphi Hotel for tea and there this was the moment when they thought the big touch was coming and I was good after their money and so I stood up I said I'm only going to ask you for one thing whereas 30 heads went down like this and I said I don't want your money 30 smiling faces sort of sat up again all I want is for you to Dedic delegate to me from one year one of your brightest young managers to come and think these things through with my officials in the department and they were so pleased that there was no money for that I could get back on their train that they did it Michael Hazeltine Michael's heartbeat with it he really felt very committed to it it was he was the managing director and he loved being the managing director and for a time he was the managing director local one day he did a tour around the cathedral and he looked out and there was this Vista of of Wasteland and he talked about his vision about one day there will be houses here and people will want to live in that part of the city and we will make the city a living breathing vibrant entity again I think what we did was to be your sense of can do in in the city and above all else what we did was to fuse the strengths of the public and the private sectors to get people to work together the minister did make an impact there would be new houses and the Albert Dock was transformed from decay into a tourist attraction and there was more but his intervention in Liverpool found more favor with the opposition than with some of his cabinet colleagues I think there were good many of us who had doubts about Michael going to Liverpool after the Toxteth riots indeed there were some of us who doubted whether people should be rewarded at all for rioting it was almost an invitation to people in Birmingham or Newcastle or anywhere else where there were difficulties to riot in order to get attention and that is no way a country I think Liverpool with Michael he'll die in fires hour he recognized a problem he had proper sympathy for words in a way that some Tory didn't he thought they needed help in proper one nation Tory style I would certainly have agreed with Michael that there was a lot to be done in Liverpool to reconstruct but I think it should have been done by both stick and carrot and and not just a rich diet of carrots Michael Heseltine went to the Tory conference that autumn resolved to sway skeptics in his own party urging them to offer black people and poor people compassion not a cold shoulder in those days in that gathering it was a speech of rare courage there's one labor exchange in central Liverpool where there are 20,000 people unemployed we must realize the scale of impact of concentrated unemployment the hopelessness that it creates what talk of equality of opportunity what does it actually mean those words in the inner cities today what does it mean to the black communities we now have large immigrant communities in British cities and let this party's position be absolutely clear they are British they live here they voted it was a masterful display of using a platform as a real leader moving on thought and activity I remember mark Margaret very rarely went to listen to him she watched him on television and said look at that hair she'd say look at that hairs with wall folio room Norman Tebbit fast emerging as Margaret Thatcher's favorite Rottweiler also spoke about the riots at his words with his leader at hand were in vivid contrast to the one nation language of Michael Hezekiah yes Liverpool is a black spot let's never forget it and let's never forget the history of why it got that way how many jobs went west as it was out brothers and they came out once again from factory after factory let's not forget what caused the unemployment I grew up in the 30s with an unemployed father he didn't riot he got on his bike and looked for work and he kept looking I thought it's despicable it was a quite deliberate attempt to recover for the right of the party the balance that my speech had self-evidently shifted and it was despicable because I mean I got on my bike from Swansea to London Norman had doubtless got on some bike from somewhere to London but I was dealing with people who were old ill-educated living in squalor without any prospect that probably affording the fare to get to London the tensions within the cabinet had exploded into the conference chamber out of what would become a very dirty war the victory in the Falklands was a triumph from Aceh but she still had to reckon with Michael hesitant by now he was such a big and hungry beast in the Tauri zoo that she was almost bound to promote him Margaret Thatcher was never keen to see Michael Heseltine playing any major role on the economic front because she distrusted his basic philosophy while valuing his tremendous political talents and I think she chose very skillfully and making him defence secretary because that was a crucial area of policy it was one of the trump cards if you like the Conservative Party had in the 1980s to me being sector state for defense in the Tory government is one of the greatest honors that you can receive and one of the greatest signals of trust in your abilities in your judgement because you were carrying responsibility of life and death his most pressing task was to counter the growing public hostility to the deployment of a new generation of nuclear missiles on British soil his target a campaign for nuclear disarmament CND the decision had been taken to deploy American Christmas stars in the UK without a democratic debate none whatsoever people like us thought that was wrong CND could marshal upwards of 100,000 demonstrators at any time passionate but peaceful articulate and resolute but anathema to the Secretary of State for Defence I despised them I felt deeply and strongly that they were wrong and many of them were motivated for reasons which had nothing to do with Britain's self-interest I did believe do believe that one was fighting a battle for the security and safety of the Western world so this was not because of a game I mean this had to be won Heseltine was tailor-made for this campaign but CND was not impressed I think frankly most of us thought that the stunts that he went in for the flak jacket and the parades were very much a case of his making himself look foolish though Rep role as defender of the nuclear faith Heseltine refused to meet his adversaries in public debate we tried to engage in the debates and we thought the government of the day should actually be responsible and should engage in that debate clearly they refused to do so she thinks that you didn't have the guts to debate the issues on her she doesn't think that this oldest trick in the business she had it all her own way if ever I'd accepted it and I wasn't gonna make myself such a fool as to do that my problem was trying to get that message over to a British public so he hasn't got the guts to do it you know we will just have a chance and I anguish over what to do she was very pretty attractive woman seemed extremely reasonable if CND was smart Michael Heseltine thought he was smarter he picked his moment choosing to address a Tory rally a stone's throw from Green uncommon the epicenter of the anti-nuclear protest and I got the meter it was mayhem all these women screaming ranting raving shouting I need a police escort to get me from the car to the hall halfway through the mob the police with me in the middle literally began to bend under the weight of the pressure of these people I had never really experienced you know women behaving like that and I found it somehow more sinister that it was my own sex rather than you know you spent sort of your booze but you don't somehow expect that sort of really vicious behavior from women Michael Heseltine played it for all it was worth I had it game set and match because I just stood up when I got to the meeting by which time it was being covered extensively when if my pocket said I don't debate with the mobs on the street I am a democratically elected Secretary of State in Parliament I will debate and the press the next day was sensational it changed the whole tone of the debate the missile's Julia arrived but the demonstrators often ignoring CN DS plea for nonviolent protest refused to admit defeat I had to fight my way through picket lines of mobs on the campuses of this country wherever one went there they were and there's not value didn't relish that it was very frightening because seriously frightened seriously frightening seriously frightening I mean it was a brick that missed me about about that much and smell the eggs were commonplace when they don't hurt much I don't advocate it but you can survive eggs but the bricks get nasty Heseltine was a hero to his party but in cabinet he was locked in combat with a familiar adversary the issue was a defense contract for two new frigates the bidders Swan hunter on Tyneside and Cammell Laird from Liverpool Cammell Laird had been involved in what one might call has ever bought sickness a lot of industrial travels and therefore late and poor quality work and I didn't really believe their promises for the future which from Michael Heseltine standpoint was not the issue at stake Norman Tebbit instructed camels to bid for only one of the two ships while swans went on for the two behind your back Oh he'd never told me never never told me he instructed camels to bid for one the immediate effect of course is that the whole of the overheads of the camels yard was placed on one frigate there's no way they could win no way and therefore they lost I think there's a lot of RG bhaji between Michael and I as to who was trying to rig the process he was in the best position to do so because he was the secretary of state ordering the ordering the ships but I think it's fair to say that I was I was backing swans I took them out of the cabinet because this was a cheat and I would not tolerate that so we had this big conflict which had to be resolved eventually in cabinet committee as she summed up the cabinet on his side I ends down in that committee and was rather pleased with myself I said at the end of the cabinet I wouldn't accept that decision and nor would I I've done it was a resigning his suit yes I would have resigned it was a cheat but ever let somebody behave in that way because they'll do it again you know it seemed on such a ridiculously small issue I mean he would have made a laughingstock I think if he had actually resigned ever this one type of frigate order either way the threat worked Michael Heseltine was not yet to be thwarted Norman Tebbit was required to back down we eventually decided the best thing to do was for me to concede so the Prime Minister overturned the ruling that she'd given at the end of cabinet in order to resolve the dispute but she hated that she hated that and I think that when the Western dafair blew up a little bit later she was in no mood to humor Michael Heseltine a second time Westland was a small helicopter company in big financial trouble the defense secretary saw its salvation in and link up with Europe harded the stuff of high drama also it seemed I had some sympathy with his view that we there was future in European based defense German we would be dangerous if we became totally dependent on American provision of all our kids all our equipment and part of the house the interest in having competitive defense market you should allow proper European competition the Westland board thought otherwise they wanted to cut a deal with the u.s. manufacturer Sikorsky and they had the Prime Minister and their side Faysal tine went into battle a cabinet committee was summoned to settle the issue he had a majority of the committee with him and for that reason it wasn't resolved then and it had to be put off and he had to be given more time according to Hazleton a date for a further meeting was then fixed by number 10 only to be canceled at the last minute that is an abuse that is a cheat I have been titled I was entitled as a cabinet minister to have my views considered by cabinet I know that michael says that he thought he was not allowed to put Westland on a cabinet agenda Western was not a big enough thing ready to be on a cabinet agenda it should have been dealt with by the Economic Committee of the cabinet all the relevant subcommittee of that and it was as the clash between Thatcher and Hazel time sharpened the defense secretary found himself isolated you had a company that was in financial trouble you had another company that wanted to buy it and you had this cobbled together invented by politicians alternative consortium how could you possibly think the latter was preferable to the former one was all on paper all in the imagination and the other was a real-life business a conflict over the future of a small firm in the West Country had now erupted into a fateful struggle a matter of high principle or the inevitable clash of two outsized egos it wasn't really about Westar who cared about Westland as potted health company in the West Country it was nothing to do with that it was a clash of personality is it who's going to get his way he is or she is and there was a humble civil servant sitting in number 10 well had a feeling of foreboding that here was a clash of the titans and the making and probably the fallout would drop on people like me who could do very little about it certainly the the Rao was by now headline stuff day after day after day fed I will be frank by both sides the personality problem was aggravated it was Michael Heseltine was always in touch with the press always ready to try to use them to further his own purposes I was at that stage fighting for what I believe to be an important principle and my political life that was obviously is associated with it we realized very early on that we were participants which is strange for reporters and a bit unnerving to suddenly find the phone rings at home and it is Michael Heseltine and then your approach from the other side or then burnin Ingham the press Secretary's on to you according to Michael Heseltine the Prime Minister a formidable pressure from across the Atlantic long after the event I heard that Al Haig who had been of course Secretary of State in America at the time of the Falklands and had been therefore helpful to mrs. Thatcher was reputed to have said I called it my marker and what do you think he meant by I called in my marker he obviously must have rung mrs. Thatcher and said look you know remember what we did your charge is that she was improperly influenced I can only quote I called in my marker from a former Secretary of State in the American administration and I think that she should have told us that such pressure had been brought to bear in December 1985 Margaret Thatcher summoned her closest allies to discuss Hesseltine problem but I knew Michael would cause trouble that was in his nature but I had given him every opportunity every opportunity to be a very good member of the team misty then said well wish I have to fire him them well well and so I said well Prime Minister he may well be justified but I have to tell you that Michael heterodyne is winning this argument and that if indeed you do find him then I think that he will attract great sympathy and he will become a martyr to the European Court is that what you want in a crude attempt to smear Hesseltine over Westland someone chose this moment to leak a confidential letter to him from the Solicitor General it was a botched effort which merely left the impression that Margaret Thatcher's government was unraveling at the next cabinet the Thatcher or Hazeltine would have to back down the night before we had dinner together very late at night in a liquor restaurant and he he said he was telling me what what he would not be able to accept and I said but if it doesn't happen he's always will be fine it'll be all right I'm sure we'll sorted out listen if you don't I said you're going to have to resign aren't you he looked at me and he said yeah you could be right I think she entered that last cabinet in the belief that a line had to be drawn under this affair once and for all but she maneuvered him she was out to humiliate him I think the cabinet had split I think 21 to 1 against Michael by large it was one to one hammer and tongs Michael and Margaret both of them exhibiting one of the features of their conversation which I'm afraid I slightly share myself in other context neither would allow the other to finish a sentence before coming in and going back at the other the cabinet meeting was in full swing with all of us say Michael decided we must exercise the principle of collective responsibility and suddenly nickridley raised the question of who should approve the press statements of Michael Heseltine the Secretary of Defense I put it to him and then nickridley put it to him twice Michael said well I must approve them I'm the head of the department and primary said oh no as this involves other departments everything was come through me must come through burdening him has been dr. the difficulty was Michael would he accept that no Secretary of State for Defence is going to tolerate that you'd have been made a laughingstock he closed his cabinet folder and he said as collective responsibility has broken down I could no longer serve in this cabinet and walked out leaving an empty chair and a very silent cabinet with a prolonged pause following his exit from the room it was all somewhere because never actually quite clear well he long as no one's will call a comfort break or worried actually left silence was broken by Margaret saying well I think we'd better have some coffee and everybody laughed because it had to broke the tension outside number 10 a startled cameraman scrambled to catch his soundbite wrong to say anything at this instance I have resigned from the cabinet and I will make later today it was desperately desperately sad and he thought he was a goner really it was again a silly issue on which to resign a really silly issue on which to resigned but Michael Heseltine counters that he was left with no option I would have looked muted from number 10 the Ingham machine would have gone to work and they just said he's finished these this is what happened to remember all the sort of the stuff about you know not one of us with all that sort of poison that used to come out when somebody was on the slopes and I'd have had the full wrath and venom and trickery frankly of of the the number-10 publicity machine thrown against me in effect Michael Heseltine had been cornered by Margaret Thatcher I had no interest in resigning it's completely out of character of me that I should actually want to give up on the most exciting and responsible jobs in in a field of career that I loved to spend for wasted years if I was back in government for years of my life were invested in that issue of principle principle Tarzan may have been down but he was by no means out he was to be back with a vengeance the Prime Minister herself and her political advisors took booth at Michael Hill the time was a bit of a busted flush out on the back benches she became extremely disillusioned with him and he became her number one enemy as a man of first-class political talent there aren't many Michael Heseltine's in politics on any side and you don't lightly discard them if we'd had Michael at all times leader ruin all hell let loose you can see part two next Sunday at the earlier time of 10:45

24 thoughts on “Heseltine: A Life in the Political Jungle part 1

  1. A client of mine says he sat next to Heseltine at dinner once and found Hezza to be a really boring man whose sole topic of conversation was…Michael Heseltine

  2. Some excellent advice by Michael Heseltine: "You can survive eggs, but the bricks gets nasty"

    I thought Maggie Thatcher wasn't into red tape, yet she wanted Westland to be buried in red tape: "[Westland] should have been delt with by the economic committee of the cabinet, or the relevant sub-committee of that."

    I mean, if she wanted to get rid of red tape, why was there a sub-committee of the economic cabinet?

  3. A ghastly snivelling liberal snob; never a Conservative,…brought down the greatest Prime Minister this country has ever known,
    the quite brilliant and resolute Margaret Thatcher.
    Part of the One Nation, No Nation clique of 50's genteel decline that paved the way for trade union tyranny and industrial decline of the 1960's and 70's. Central to the ineptitude of Heath and Major,…brought us the EU catastrophe, the ERM fiasco
    and disastrous 15% interest rates, boom and bust,…led to the Tories worst ever G/E defeat in 1997 to old demon eyes Blair.
    Heseltine, a fake and a fraud and a phoney.

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