Michael heseltine

A politician’s guide to non-denial denials

Michael Gove was deployed to the Commons on Monday afternoon to answers questions on the ministerial code, an hour-long appearance in which he was (inevitably) asked about that day’s Daily Mail splash: ‘Boris: Let the bodies pile high in their thousands’. An awkward question for any minister to handle, you might think, but the oleaginous Gove just about got away with it. Asked directly about the reports, the Cabinet Office minister gave a lengthy reply which contained this key passage to wriggle out of trouble again: Tens of thousands of people were dying. The Prime Minister made a decision in that meeting to trigger a second lockdown. He made a

Michael Heseltine’s lone Brexit intervention highlights the Tories’ new-found unity

Was Theresa May’s big Brexit speech simply a string of ‘phrases, generalisations and platitudes’? That’s the claim from Michael Heseltine over the weekend. The Conservative peer made the Observer front page with an attack that’s said to break the Tories’ short-lived Brexit unity. He says May’s pitch on Friday fell flat as it only ‘set out the cherries that Britain wants to pick’ and complains that rightwing Tory MPs held ‘a knife to her throat’. But if anything, Heseltine’s lone criticism highlights the Tories’ newfound unity over Brexit. If you’d told Theresa May this time last week that the most prominent Tory to criticise her plans after her speech would be Heseltine

The Spectator’s Notes | 8 June 2017

By the time you read this, the campaign will have drawn fractiously to its close, so here is a strong overall impression drawn from it, which stands whatever the result. Watching a large number of debates and question and answer sessions with party leaders and the public, I noticed, even more insistent than in the past, the righteous tone of the recipient (or would-be recipient) of state money. Whether it was a teacher or health worker, a person on benefits, a young woman wanting her tuition fees paid, or an old man sitting on a house worth (say) £750,000 and demanding that the state bear his putative long-term care needs

The political dinosaurs aren’t helping matters

As a type of (Platonic) gerontophile, I never expected to say this, but can the dinosaurs not shut up? In recent weeks the nation has had to suffer repeat appearances on the television by Lord Heseltine.  In each interview the Remain-supporting peer appears ever more viciously angry – brimming over, indeed with a sort of concentrated, zealous fury at a nation that dared defy his imprecations on how to vote last June. Then this past weekend we had to witness the Leave-supporting Lord Howard talking up the possibility of war with Spain over Gibraltar.  This morning’s papers as a result get to talk quasi-seriously about a military confrontation over the rock. 

Diary – 30 March 2017

Last week’s events in London raised a recurrent dilemma for journalists, including me. It is a huge story when a terrorist kills four people then is shot down in Palace Yard, Westminster. Yet dare we say how fortunate we are that since 9/11 Muslim terrorists have proved incapable of mounting an attack remotely as lethal as that on the Twin Towers? An intelligence officer told me recently that he worries far more about Russia than about Muslim suicidalists, and this must be the rational assessment. The public needs awakening to the menace posed by Vladimir Putin’s adventurism. Meanwhile, Khalid Masood’s dreadful deed reflects the flailings of a death cult. These will

Welsh secretary accidentally ‘unsacks’ Michael Heseltine

It’s not turning out to be a great day for the government. After announcing a u-turn on the NICs rise in last week’s Budget, Philip Hammond has spent the afternoon having to face down angry MPs in the Chamber. Now it turns out that a ‘clerical error’ has meant Michael Heseltine has been temporarily ‘unsacked’ from his post as a government advisor. After the government sacked the Tory grandee last week over his Lords rebellion on Article 50, many were surprised today to receive a letter from the Welsh Secretary declaring that he was counting on the ‘expertise of Lord Heseltine’ for the upcoming City Deal for the Swansea Bay

In defence of Lord Heseltine

Lord Heseltine has been denounced because he says he will vote against the government over Brexit in the House of Lords. It seems terrifically unfair. Has there ever been an occasion, in his long political career, when he has not been in favour of British membership of the EU (or EEC)? Why should he change now, aged 83, from that honourably held, spiritedly asserted, if wrong, position? Can’t a few Europhiles, in the mirror-image of John Major’s Eurosceptic ‘bastards’, be bastards too? The only inconsistency in Hezza’s last stand is that this is the one time in his half-century stance on Europe when he has asserted the right of Parliament

James Forsyth

George Osborne interview: smaller government is not enough

[audioplayer src=”http://rss.acast.com/viewfrom22/putin-s-empire-building/media.mp3″ title=”James Forsyth and Fraser Nelson discuss Osborne’s election manoeuvres ” startat=839] Listen [/audioplayer]Puccini’s doesn’t seem like George Osborne’s sort of restaurant. It is a pizza-and-pasta place in the safely Labour constituency of Salford and Eccles, Greater Manchester, most notable for the fact that Sir Alex Ferguson once took his whole squad there. (‘Penne alla Giggs’ is still on offer to prove it.) In recent years, however, the Chancellor has become something of a regular — he has even taken the Prime Minister along — and is made welcome to the point that when we met there last Thursday diners queued to be photographed with him. The Chancellor used

Carry on, Major

As Prime Minister, John Major was intolerant of opposition from within the Conservative party over the EU — memorably calling Maastricht rebels ‘bastards’. It was unwise, and the bad blood it created within his party has been swirling around ever since. Now that the tables have turned and Sir John now finds himself the rebellious outsider on Europe, it is tempting for those on the Conservative party’s Eurosceptic wing, who for so long were denounced as freaks, fruitcakes and swivel–eyed loons, to take the same approach. Their instinct is to denounce Sir John, Michael Heseltine, Ken Clarke and others as dinosaurs seeking to deny the will of the British people. A

A choice of gardening books | 1 December 2016

Garden design usually breaks out of its confines to become part of the general consciousness only in Chelsea Flower Show week, but this year there have been so many events to mark the tercentenary of the birth of Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown — the most prolific and talented designer of the 18th-century landscape garden — that even the general public has noticed. Most events have occurred under the umbrella of the Capability Brown Partnership, the brainchild of a landscape historian called John Phibbs, who has spent several decades studying Brown’s 170-odd landscapes and advising some of the owners on their recovery, care and conservation. Capability Brown: Designing the English Landscape (Rizzoli,

Michael Heseltine: I strangled my mother’s dog

Oh dear. It seems Michael Heseltine ought to prepare for a visit from the RSPCA in the next week or so. The former Deputy Prime Minister has admitted to a crime, in an interview in this month’s Tatler. The 83-year-old conservative makes the confession that he strangled his mother’s pet dog, by the name of Kim. The incident occurred after Kim, an Alsatian, started biting Heseltine when the politician attempted to stroke him: ‘I went to stroke him and he started biting me. If you have a dog that turns, you just cannot risk it. So I took Kim’s collar – a short of choker chain – and pulled it tight.

The three Europhiles take on the three Brexiteers

Today it was a case of the ghosts of governments past as George Osborne, Michael Heseltine and Vince Cable were hauled before the Commons Business Committee to discuss the UK’s industrial strategy. What followed was a bit of a love-in as Heseltine commended Osborne for his time in the Cabinet – praising Cameron’s government for working on industrial strategy ‘on a bigger scale than any previous government’. Less popular during the session were the Brexit bunch. Heseltine mocked May’s three Brexiteers – Liam Fox, Boris Johnson and David Davis. When asked by Richard Fuller how important it was for Britain to secure free trade agreements, he jokingly replied that he

The Boris, Cameron ruck over EU

David Cameron and Boris Johnson are the two biggest beasts in the Tory jungle. But they are currently involved in an increasingly undignified scrap over Brexit. As I say in The Sun today, it is hard to see how it ends well for both of them or the Tory party.  As one Cabinet Minister lamented to me recently, ‘it is a personal fight’ between Cameron and Boris and that ‘the Conservative party is on a hiding to nothing.’ Boris and Brexit is the itch that Cameron can’t resist scratching. When Iain Dale asked him about Boris going Out, Cameron—in effect—accused the former Mayor of putting his personal ambition ahead of

I offered Zac Goldsmith £50 to stay 20 feet away from me

I once tried to bribe Zac Goldsmith with a £50 note, but he didn’t bite even back then. He was about 15 years old, and the reason for the hush money was pure self-preservation. He was already good-looking and I knew he’d be even more so at 20, so I offered him 50 quid to stay 20 feet away from me for the next 15 years if he saw me talking to a girl. My bribe worked with his younger brother Ben, who grabbed the loot and never kept his side of the bargain. That was in 1997, when Jimmy Goldsmith formed the Referendum party and I covered its first

Sajid Javid positions himself as a Thatcherite and Eurosceptic

Sajid Javid might be downplaying it at this conference – when asked by Andrew Neil yesterday if he would throw his hat into the leadership ring, he said ‘of course not’ – but he is seen by many as a future Tory leadership candidate. Javid’s life-story has marked him out. He is the son of a bus driver who came to this country from Pakistan, had a successful business career and rapid rise up the greasy pole – he was the first member of the 2010 intake to make Cabinet. His speech to conference this morning wasn’t a tub-thumper. But it was striking how he positioned himself as both a Thatcherite,

The ‘semi-detached’ member of Margaret Thatcher’s cabinet

John Biffen was mentally ill. This is the outstanding revelation of Semi-Detached, a memoir which has been assembled from his diaries and from the autobiographical writings which he completed before his death in 2007. During the mid-1960s he tried psychotherapy, which he described as ‘lugubrious’, ‘painful’ and ‘not a cure’. He got far better treatment from a Harley Street specialist, Peter Dally, who regulated his lithium doses with blood tests and improved his health to the point where he felt able to join the shadow cabinet in 1976. He served as Trade Secretary under Mrs Thatcher and later as Leader of the House. Biffen loved gossip. He reports a lunch

Can Lord Heseltine save the England cricket team?

Apologies may be in order. A few weeks ago, I was advocating aid for Australia. As we had set the place up, we had a duty when this once-proud daughter house was sliding into decline. We used criminals to get the country going, which worked well. Hard, amoral characters, they built a nation in their own image. That was Australia for two centuries: hard, amoral – and good at cricket. Then everything seemed to be going wrong. Perhaps it was the southern sun’s fault: melting down toughness and leaving a vacuum for decadence. It was time for the mother country to come to the rescue with fresh supplies of convicts

Michael Heseltine: HS2 is about more than mumbo-jumbo economics

The government is trying to pick up steam on High Speed 2 (again) by wheeling out Michael Heseltine to make the case for the project. Tonight at the Royal Town Planning Institute, the former Transport Secretary will argue that the new line is about spreading prosperity and doing ‘the right thing’ for our country: ‘HS2 is about our country’s competitiveness for a half century or more. It is about so many more people sharing growth that has, for too long, been concentrated on London and the South East. It’s all about drawing together our economy as a whole as well as improving our access to the enlarged, and enlarging, home

Ukip’s supporters are anxious, not awkward

I guess the ‘unite the Right’ memo has not got through to some Tories, with Michael Heseltine calling Ukip ‘a racist party’ and James Wharton saying they’re ‘an awkward group of strange people’. That may be unwise — rather like attacking your customer-base — but it’s also untrue. Small Right-wing parties have a huge disadvantage because, although lots of people are socially conservative, soc-cons tend on average to be low in social skills and charisma and so the normals are easily driven away by the weirds, especially when immigration is an issue. But the early stages are the hardest, when any party right of the mainstream can become toxified and

When Michael Heseltine turned up at a Thatcher book signing

At the launch of my biography of Margaret Thatcher, I was flattered to see Michael and Anne Heseltine joining the signing queue. It was very sporting of him. When they reached me, Anne asked for my inscription, but Michael said he wished his copy to be blank so that he could quickly sell it. I think — unusually for him — that he misunderstands the way this strange market works. The most common question I am asked by audiences about Mrs Thatcher is something to do with Carol and Mark. Did she bring them up successfully? Was she a good mother? etc. The fact that this comes up so often