Michael Heseltine

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The Right Honourable
The Lord Heseltine
Lord Heseltine, Deputy Prime Minister, UK (1995-97) (10559130986).jpg
Heseltine, photographed in 2013
Deputy Prime Minister of the United Kingdom
In office
20 July 1995 – 2 May 1997
Prime Minister John Major
Preceded by Geoffrey Howe (1990)[a]
Succeeded by John Prescott
First Secretary of State
In office
20 July 1995 – 2 May 1997
Prime Minister John Major
Preceded by Barbara Castle (1970)[b]
Succeeded by John Prescott (2001)[c]
President of the Board of Trade
and Secretary of State for Trade and Industry
In office
11 April 1992 – 5 July 1995
Prime Minister John Major
Preceded by Peter Lilley
Succeeded by Ian Lang
Secretary of State for the Environment
In office
28 November 1990 – 11 April 1992
Prime Minister John Major
Preceded by Chris Patten
Succeeded by Michael Howard
In office
5 May 1979 – 6 January 1983
Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher
Preceded by Peter Shore
Succeeded by Tom King
Secretary of State for Defence
In office
6 January 1983 – 7 January 1986
Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher
Preceded by John Nott
Succeeded by George Younger
Shadow Secretary of State for the Environment
In office
19 November 1976 – 4 May 1979
Leader Margaret Thatcher
Preceded by Timothy Raison
Succeeded by Peter Shore
Shadow Secretary of State for Industry
In office
28 February 1974 – 19 November 1976
Leader Edward Heath
Margaret Thatcher
Succeeded by John Biffen
Minister of State for Aerospace and Shipping
In office
24 March 1972 – 28 February 1974
Prime Minister Edward Heath
Preceded by Frederick Corfield
Succeeded by Stanley Clinton Davis
Member of Parliament
for Henley
In office
28 February 1974 – 7 June 2001
Preceded by John Hay
Succeeded by Boris Johnson
Member of Parliament
for Tavistock
In office
31 March 1966 – 28 February 1974
Preceded by Henry Studholme
Succeeded by Constituency abolished
Personal details
Born Michael Ray Dibdin Heseltine
(1933-03-21) 21 March 1933 (age 84)
Swansea, Wales, UK
Nationality British
Political party Conservative
Spouse(s) Anne Heseltine
Alma mater Pembroke College, Oxford
Military service
Allegiance  United Kingdom
Service/branch  British Army
Years of service 1959
Rank Second Lieutenant
Unit Welsh Guards
a. ^ Office vacant from 1 November 1990 to 5 July 1995. b. ^ Office vacant from 19 June 1970 to 5 July 1995. c. ^ Office vacant from 2 May 1997 to 8 June 2001.

Michael Ray Dibdin Heseltine, Baron Heseltine, CH, PC (born 21 March 1933) is a British Conservative politician and businessman. He was a Member of Parliament from 1966 to 2001, and was a prominent figure in the governments of Margaret Thatcher and John Major including serving as Deputy Prime Minister under the latter. In 1990 he stood for the leadership of the Conservative Party against Margaret Thatcher and although he was unsuccessful in his bid, his action triggered Thatcher's eventual resignation.

Heseltine entered the Cabinet in 1979 as Secretary of State for the Environment, where he promoted the "Right to buy" campaign that allowed two million families to purchase their council houses. He was Secretary of State for Defence from 1983 to 1986. In the latter role he was instrumental in the political battle against the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament. Heseltine was considered an adept media performer and a charismatic minister, although he was frequently at odds with Thatcher on economic issues and was one of the most visible "wets" in that regard. He resigned from the Cabinet in 1986 over the Westland Affair and returned to the back benches. Following Geoffrey Howe's resignation speech in November 1990, Heseltine challenged Thatcher for the leadership of the Conservative Party, polling well enough to deny her an outright victory on the first ballot. He lost to John Major on the second ballot. Major later returned Heseltine to the Cabinet.

As a key ally of Major, Heseltine rose to become President of the Board of Trade and, from 1995, Deputy Prime Minister and First Secretary of State. He declined to seek the leadership of the party following Major's 1997 election defeat, but remained a vocal advocate for modernisation in the party. Heseltine was seen as a "One Nation" Tory, epitomised by his support for the regeneration of the City of Liverpool, at a time when it was facing economic collapse. The subsequent transformation of Liverpool, with his support, saw Heseltine having the award of Freeman of the City of Liverpool bestowed upon him in 2012.

Early life[edit]

Michael Heseltine was born in Swansea in Wales, the son of Rupert Heseltine, a factory owner and Eileen Ray (Pridmore). He is a distant descendant of Charles Dibdin (from whom one of his middle names was taken). His father's ancestors were farm labourers in Pembrey. His mother originated in West Wales and his maternal great-grandfather worked at the Swansea docks[1] (as a result, Heseltine was later made an honorary member of the Swansea Dockers Club). His maternal grandfather, James Pridmore, founded West Glamorgan Collieries Ltd, a short-lived company that briefly worked two small mines on the outskirts of Swansea (1919–21).

Heseltine was brought up in relative luxury at No. 1, Uplands Crescent (now No. 5). Heseltine told Tatler interviewer Charlotte Edwardes in 2016: "At prep school, I started a birdwatching club called the Tit Club. Every member was named after a member of the tit family: the Marsh Tit, the Blue Tit. I was the Great Tit". He once feared the story might reach the press: "I just know if that had got out when I was in active politics, I would never have recovered".[2] He enjoyed angling in Brynmill Park and won a junior competition.[3] He was educated at Shrewsbury School.[4]


Heseltine campaigned briefly as a volunteer in the October 1951 General Election before going up to Pembroke College, Oxford, where, in frustration at his inability to be elected to the committee of the Oxford University Conservative Association, he founded the breakaway Blue Ribbon Club. Julian Critchley recounted a story from his student days of how he plotted his future on the back of an envelope, a future that would culminate as Prime Minister in the 1990s. A more detailed apocryphal version has him writing down: 'millionaire 25, cabinet member 35, party leader 45, prime minister 55'.[5] He became a millionaire and was a member of the shadow cabinet from the age of 41 but did not manage to become Party Leader or Prime Minister.

Heseltine's biographers Michael Crick and Julian Critchley recount how, despite not having an innate gift for public speaking, he became a strong orator through much effort, which included practising his speeches in front of a mirror, listening to tape recordings of speeches by television administrator Charles Hill, and taking voice-coaching lessons from a vicar's wife. In the 1970s and 1980s Heseltine's conference speech was often to be the highlight of the Conservative Party Conference despite his views being well to the left of the then leader Margaret Thatcher. The Oxford Union minutes record after a debate on 12 February 1953 that “Mr Heseltine should guard against artificial mannerisms of voice and calculated flourishes of self-conscious histrionics; this is only worth saying because he has the makings of a first class speaker”.[6]

He was eventually elected to the committee of the Oxford Union after five terms at the University.[7] On 30 April 1953 he opposed the setting up of the Western European Union (a European defence treaty), not least because it might antagonise the USSR following the supposed “recent change of Soviet attitudes” [i.e. after Stalin’s death]. On 4 June 1953 he called for the development of the British Commonwealth as a third major power in the world (after the USA and USSR).[8] At the end of that summer term he challenged unsuccessfully for the Presidency but was instead elected to the top place on the committee.[7] In his third year (1953–54), he served in top place on the committee, then as Secretary, and then Treasurer.[9][10][7] As Treasurer he attempted to solve the Union's financial problems not by cost-cutting but by an ultimately successful “Brighter Union” policy of bringing in more students for food and drink, and by converting the Union cellars into a venue for events. The Union's Senior Member (the university don which every society was required to have) resigned in protest at what he saw as Heseltine's profligacy, and was replaced by the young Maurice Shock.[11]

At the end of the Trinity (summer) Term 1954 he was elected President of the Oxford Union for Michaelmas term 1954, largely on the strength of his business management, and with the assistance of Union contemporaries Anthony Howard and Jeremy Isaacs, both of them Labour supporters; Heseltine had even, for a brief period that term, joined a protest group against the British government's decision to develop an H-Bomb. He had done little study at University, and passed his finals with the help of last-minute coaching from friends. After graduating with a second-class degree in Philosophy, Politics and Economics, described by his own tutor as "a great and undeserved triumph", he was permitted to stay on for an extra term to serve as Union President.[9][10][7] The Union cellars were opened on 30 October 1954 and he persuaded the visiting Sir Bernard and Lady Docker to contribute to the considerable cost.[12] Debates over which Heseltine presided included censorship of the Arts (no vote taken), welcoming the decline of British Imperialism (defeated 281-381) and calling for a “change in the principles and practice of British Trade Unions” (carried 358-200).[13]

National service and business career[edit]

After graduating he built up a property business in partnership with his Oxford friend Ian Josephs. With financial support from both of their families they started with a boarding house in Clanricarde Gardens and progressed to various other properties in the Bayswater area.[14] Edward Heath, then a government whip whom he had met at the Oxford Union, was his referee when he applied for the Conservative Party Parliamentary Candidates’ List in October 1956.[15] Heseltine also trained as an accountant but after failing his accountancy exams in 1958 could no longer avoid conscription into National Service.[14]

Heseltine later admitted to admiring the military as his father, who died in 1957, had been a Lieutenant-Colonel in the Royal Engineers in the Second World War and active in the Territorial Army thereafter. Heseltine felt that his business career was too important to be disrupted although he and his father took the precaution of arranging interviews to increase his chances of attaining an officer's commission in case he had to serve.[14] Heseltine had been lucky not to be called up for the Korean War in the early 1950s or the Suez Crisis in 1956 but in the final years of National Service, already due for abolition by 1960, an effort was made to call up men who had so far managed to postpone service. Despite having almost reached the newly reduced maximum call-up age of twenty-six, Heseltine was conscripted in January 1959, becoming a Second Lieutenant in the Welsh Guards. Heseltine left the Guards to contest the General Election that year; according to Ian Josephs this had been his plan from the start,[16] and he was exempted on business grounds from the remaining sixteen months of service. During the 1980s his habit of wearing a Guards regimental tie, sometimes incorrectly knotted with a red stripe on the neck, was the subject of much acerbic comment from military figures and from older MPs with extensive war records. Crick estimated that he must have worn the tie on more days than he actually served in the Guards.[17]

Heseltine built a housing estate at Tenterden, Kent which failed to sell and was beset with repair problems until after his election to Parliament,[18] founded the magazine publishing company Haymarket in collaboration with another Oxford friend Clive Labovitch and early in the 1960s acquired the famous (but unprofitable) magazine Man About Town whose title he shortened to About Town then simply Town. In 1962, he also briefly published a well-received weekly newspaper, Topic, which ceased publication but whose journalists later became The Sunday Times Insight Team. Between 1960 and 1964, he also worked as a part-time interviewer for ITV.[19]

After rapid expansion, Heseltine's businesses were badly hit by the Selwyn Lloyd credit squeeze of 1962 and, still not yet thirty years old, he would eventually owe £250,000 (over £3 million at 2007 prices). He claims to have been lent a badly needed £85,000 by a bank manager who retired the same day. Later, during the 1990s, Heseltine joked about how he had avoided bankruptcy by such stratagems as paying bills only when threatened with legal action, although he eventually settled all his debts. It was during this stressful period of his life that he took up gardening as a serious hobby.

In 1967, Heseltine secured Haymarket's financial future by a deal with British Printing Corporation. In return for managing several of BPC’s magazines, Haymarket sold a 60% stake to BPC, whilst Heseltine and other directors retained smaller shareholdings. Under the management of Lindsay Masters, the company grew, publishing a series of profitable motoring, management and advertising journals. BPC’s stake was bought back in the early 1970s whilst Heseltine was serving in the Heath government. Heseltine acted as a consultant to Haymarket during his periods out of government office (1974-9 and 1986–90) and resumed management of the company after Masters’ retirement in 1999.[20]

Heseltine’s ownership of Haymarket has made him a large personal fortune. As of 2013 he was ranked 311th in The Sunday Times Rich List with an estimated wealth of £264 million.[21]

Parliamentary and ministerial career[edit]

Member of Parliament[edit]

Heseltine contested the safe Labour seat of Gower at the October 1959 General Election.[22] In the 1964 general election he contested the marginal constituency of Coventry North, which he lost to the incumbent Labour member, Maurice Edelman by 3,530 votes.

Heseltine was successful at the 1966 general election, becoming the Member of Parliament (MP) for the safe Conservative seat of Tavistock in Devon. After the abolition of the Tavistock constituency he represented Henley from February 1974.[23]

Early front bench career[edit]

Following the Conservative victory in the 1970 General Election Heseltine was promoted to the Government by Prime Minister Edward Heath, serving briefly as a junior minister at the Department of Transport before moving to the Department for the Environment where he was partly responsible for shepherding the Local Government Act 1972 through Parliament. In 1972, he moved to the Department of Industry.[24]

In 1972, Heseltine was a strong supporter of Heath, who was suffering from an open rebellion against his leadership of the Conservative party by Enoch Powell and Ronald Bell. Heath retaliated by persuading Heseltine to oppose Bell - whose own seat was to be abolished in the forthcoming round of boundary changes - and challenge him for the Conservative nomination for the new seat of Beaconsfield. A struggle within the local Conservative ranks ensued. Bell's campaign against Heseltine, who had Heath's backing, was masterminded by Hugh Simmonds, chairman of the Young Conservatives, and Bell narrowly survived.[25]

As Minister for Aerospace in 1973, Heseltine was responsible for persuading other governments to invest in Concorde and was accused of misleading the House of Commons when he stated that the government was still considering giving financial support to the Tracked Hovercraft when the Cabinet had already decided to withdraw funding. Although his chief critic Airey Neave disliked Heseltine as a brash 'arriviste', Neave's real target, in the view of Heseltine's PPS Cecil Parkinson, was Heath, whom Neave detested and later helped to topple as party leader in 1975.[24]

Heseltine was Shadow Industry Secretary throughout the Conservative's 1974–79 time in opposition gaining notoriety following a 1976 incident in the House of Commons during the debate on measures introduced by the Labour government to nationalise the shipbuilding and aerospace industries. In the days before television's broadcasting of proceedings in Parliament, accounts of exactly what happened vary but the most vivid image portrayed Heseltine seizing the Mace and brandishing it towards Labour left-wingers who were celebrating having won the vote and singing The Red Flag. The Speaker suspended the sitting.[26]

Member of the Cabinet[edit]


Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher appointed Heseltine to the Cabinet as Secretary of State for the Environment in 1979 following her election victory in May of that year.

He was a key figure in the sale of council houses under the Right to Buy policy the Conservatives had promised in the election campaign. In the Housing Act 1980 and subsequent acts, he had charge of the legislation. Some 6 million people were eligible; about one in three actually purchased their home. Heseltine noted that, "no single piece of legislation has enabled the transfer of so much capital wealth from the state to the people." He said that the 'right to buy' policy had two main objectives: to give people what they had wanted, and to reverse the trend of ever-increasing dominance of the State over the life of the individual. He said: "There is in this country a deeply ingrained desire for home ownership. The Government believe that this spirit should be fostered. It reflects the wishes of the people, ensures the wide spread of wealth through society, encourages a personal desire to improve and modernize one's own home, enables parents to accrue wealth for their children and stimulates the attitudes of independence and self-reliance that are the bedrock of a free society."[27]


Heseltine became the troubleshooter to deal with the explosion of violence in Britain's inner cities in the aftermath of the Brixton and Toxteth riots of 1981. As Environment Secretary he opened Britain's first Enterprise Zone at Corby in Northamptonshire. Heseltine was responsible for developing the policies that led to five bi-annual National Garden Festivals which began in 1984. He established Development Corporations that were directly appointed by the minister and overrode local authority planning controls, a controversial measure in Labour strongholds such as East London, Merseyside and North East England.[28]


Heseltine then served as Secretary of State for Defence from January 1983 in which he used his presentational skills being used to take on the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament in the June 1983 General Election. After the incident with the Commons' Mace, Heseltine acquired the nickname Tarzan and was caricatured as such, complete with loin-cloth, in the "If" series drawn by satirical political cartoonist, Steve Bell. Heseltine has claimed never to have been bothered what people called him, although the nickname amused his wife: "It was quite fun to be married to Johnny Weissmuller".[2] During the 1980s this macho image was reinforced by the satirical ITV puppet show Spitting Image, which portrayed him as a camouflage-clad warrior reminiscent of the 1960s white British mercenary of the Congo, Col. "Mad Mike" Mike Hoare. This was after an occasion when, as Defence Secretary in Margaret Thatcher's government, he had been persuaded to wear a camouflage anorak over his suit while inspecting troops in the rain on 6 February 1985 when he deployed 1,500 police and soldiers to fence off RAF Molesworth to prevent anti-nuclear protesters from entering the cruise missile base.

In January 1986, he resigned in a bitter Cabinet dispute with Thatcher over the Westland affair. He apparently gathered up his papers and rose from his seat proclaiming, "I can no longer be a member of this Cabinet" and then marched out of the Cabinet Office. Within hours he issued a statement denouncing Thatcher's managerial style and suggesting she was a liar who lacked integrity.[29]

Heseltine later said that he regretted resigning from the Cabinet in 1986, as he subsequently often wondered if he and Nigel Lawson might have been able to persuade Thatcher to abandon the Poll Tax.[30]

Backbenches and leadership contest[edit]

He returned to the backbenches where he became increasingly critical of Margaret Thatcher's performance, declining to support the passage of the Community Charge (popularly known as the poll tax) through Parliament in 1988. He actually voted against the government only when he supported an amendment proposed by his ally Michael Mates that would have adjusted the charge tax to take account of ability to pay. He abstained in the December 1989 Conservative party leadership election, in which Sir Anthony Meyer challenged Thatcher for the party leadership and repeatedly insisted that he could "not foresee ... circumstances" in which he would challenge Thatcher himself for the leadership. Following Geoffrey Howe's resignation speech on 13 November 1990,[31] his position changed and Heseltine announced his candidacy for the leadership of the Conservative party.

During the subsequent leadership election on 20 November, he polled 152 votes (40.9%) in the first round of voting by Conservative MPs, enough to prevent an outright Thatcher victory. (The rules required an incumbent leader to obtain a majority of at least 15% on a first ballot; Thatcher polled 204 votes, equal to 54.8%). Heseltine was thought by many pundits to be on course to beat her in the second ballot as many Conservative MPs were now rumoured to be ready to switch support from Thatcher and only 27 would had to have done so to give Heseltine the overall majority he would need in the second ballot.[32]

With lukewarm support from her Cabinet, most of whom had told her that she could not win and faced with the bitter prospect of a Heseltine premiership, Thatcher withdrew from the contest and announced her resignation on the morning of 22 November, although she continued to serve as Prime Minister until a new party leader had been chosen.[33]

Over the weekend on 24–25 November, many Conservative MPs were faced with the anger of their local party members who overwhelmingly supported Thatcher but did not at that time have a vote in leadership elections, and opinion polls showed that chancellor John Major would also boost Conservative support if leader (previously Heseltine's unique selling-point). In the second ballot, a week after the first, Heseltine's vote actually fell to 131 (just over 35%) as some MPs had voted for him in the first ballot as a protest against or to try to oust Thatcher but preferred to vote for other candidates now that they had a wider choice. John Major, with 185 votes, was only two votes short of an overall majority. Heseltine immediately and publicly conceded defeat, announcing that he would vote for Major if the third ballot went ahead (it did not, as Douglas Hurd, who had finished a distant third, also conceded). Although for the rest of his career Heseltine's role in Thatcher's downfall earned him enmity from Thatcher's supporters in the Conservative party, this opprobrium was not universal. In a reference to the reluctance of the Cabinet to support Thatcher on the second ballot, Edward Leigh said of Heseltine: "At least he stabbed her in the front".

Return to the Cabinet[edit]

Heseltine then returned to government as Secretary of State for the Environment, with particular responsibility for 'reviewing' the Community Charge, widely and correctly expected to lead to the 'poll tax' being abolished, allegedly declining an offer of the position of Home Secretary. Following the 1992 general election he was appointed Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, choosing to be known by the title, dormant since 1974, of President of the Board of Trade and promising to intervene "before breakfast, dinner and tea" to help British companies.

Heseltine's responsibilities also included Energy, which was previously a separate ministry. When plans were made in 1992 for the privatisation of British Coal it fell to Heseltine to announce that 31 collieries were to close[34] including many of the mines in Nottinghamshire that had continued working during the 1984–85 strike. Although this policy was seen by the Nottinghamshire miners as a betrayal, there was hardly any organised resistance to the programme. The following week a threatened rebellion by some Conservative MPs over the plans led to the number of closures being scaled back to the ten least viable mines.[35] The government stated that since the pits were losing money they could be sustained only through unjustifiable government subsidies. Mine supporters pointed to the mines' high productivity rates and to the fact that their monetary losses were due to the large subsidies that other European nations were giving to their coal industries. While Heseltine is generally seen as a One Nation Conservative, his reputation in the coalfields remains low.[citation needed] The band Chumbawamba released the critical song "Mr Heseltine meets the public" that portrayed him as an out-of-touch figure; the same group had once dedicated a song to the village of Fitzwilliam, West Yorkshire, which was reduced to a ghost village by the closure of the local coal pits.

On 21 June 1993, Heseltine suffered a minor heart attack while in Venice, which led to concerns about his ability to remain in government after he was shown on television leaving hospital in a wheelchair. In 1994 Chris Morris jokingly implied on BBC Radio 1 that Heseltine had died, and persuaded MP Jerry Hayes to broadcast an on-air tribute. Morris was subsequently suspended. Heseltine, who after being seen as an arriviste in his younger days was now something of a grandee and elder statesman. In 1994 he re-emerged as a serious political player, helped by his flirting with the idea of privatising the Post Office. HIs testimony for the Scott Report during the Arms-to-Iraq Inquiry in 1996 revealed that he had refused to sign the certificates attempting to withhold evidence. The cover of Private Eye announced "A Legend Lives" and one major newspaper ended an editorial by proclaiming that the "balance of probability" was that Heseltine would be Prime Minister before the end of the year - this being at a time when John Major's leadership had lost much credibility after the scandals following his "Back to Basics" speech. However, there was to be no leadership election that autumn.

Deputy Prime Minister[edit]

In mid-1995, John Major found himself consistently opposed by a minority of Eurosceptic MPs in his party (known as the Maastricht Rebels) and challenged them to "put up or shut up" by resubmitting himself to a leadership election in which he was unsuccessfully opposed by John Redwood the Secretary of State for Wales. There was speculation that Heseltine's supporters would engineer Major's downfall in the hope that their man would take over, but they stayed loyal to Major.

Heseltine, who showed his ballot paper to the returning officers to prove that he had voted for Major, commented that "John Major deserves a great deal better than that from his colleagues".[36]

He was then promoted to Deputy Prime Minister and First Secretary of State. In this capacity he chaired a number of key Cabinet committees and was also an early key enthusiast for the Millennium Dome. In December 1996, Heseltine, angering Eurosceptics, joined with Conservative Chancellor Kenneth Clarke in preventing any movement away from the government's official refusal to decide on whether or not to join the single currency.

Heseltine suffered further heart trouble early in 1997, and declined to stand for the Conservative Party leadership again after the 1997 General Election, although there was still speculation that Clarke might have stood aside for him to stand as a compromise candidate. He became active in promoting the benefits for Britain of joining the Single European Currency, appearing on the same stage as Tony Blair, Gordon Brown and Robin Cook as part of an all-party campaign to promote Euro membership. He was also made a Companion of Honour in the 1997 resignation Honours List.[37]


Lord Heseltine, June 2010.

Heseltine stood down from his Henley-on-Thames constituency at the 2001 election, being succeeded by Spectator editor Boris Johnson, but he remained outspoken on British politics. He was created a life peer 12 July 2001 taking the title Baron Heseltine, of Thenford in the County of Northamptonshire.[38]

In December 2002, Heseltine controversially called for Iain Duncan Smith to be replaced as leader of the Conservatives by the "dream-ticket" of Clarke as leader and Michael Portillo as deputy.[39] He suggested the party's MPs vote on the matter rather than party members as currently required by party rules. Without the replacement of Duncan Smith, the party "has not a ghost of a chance of winning the next election" he said.[39] Duncan Smith was removed the following year. In the 2005 party leadership election, Heseltine backed young moderniser David Cameron.[40]

Following Cameron's election to the leadership he set up a wide-ranging policy review. Chairmen of the various policy groups included ex-Chancellor Kenneth Clarke and other former Cabinet ministers John Redwood, John Gummer, Stephen Dorrell and Michael Forsyth as well as ex-leader Iain Duncan Smith. Heseltine was appointed to head the cities task force having been responsible for urban policy twice as Environment Secretary under Thatcher and Major.

In 2008 Heseltine took part in the BBC Wales programme Coming Home about his Welsh family history. He said in this programme that he regarded Wales as his home and identified strongly with his Welsh ancestry.[41]

In March 2011, he was asked to head an audit of the UK's industrial performance for Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne and HM Treasury, upon which—after 11 years as a member of the House of Lords—he made his maiden speech in the chamber.[42]

Heseltine was interviewed in 2012 as part of The History of Parliament's oral history project.[43][44]

No stone unturned[edit]

Heseltine speaking to Policy Exchange in 2013

Following the arrival of the Coalition into power in 2010, he was commissioned to draw up "Plan H" or "No Stone Left Unturned" to stimulate growth in local areas. Since then, 81 out of his 89 recommendations have been adopted. At the 2013 Budget, the Coalition pledged to pool billions of pounds of regional spending into a single fund in a bid to de-centralise public spending and boost economic growth outside London.[45]

Other Heseltine comments[edit]

Heseltine criticised the Coalition's policy on Europe, but he did support the tightening of immigration laws. He also supported George Osborne's Budget measures in 2013 and Iain Duncan Smith's welfare reforms, but showed concerns over the legalisation of same-sex marriage.[46] In June 2013, he voted against Lord Dear's wrecking amendment, thus ratifying the same-sex marriage act.[47][48]

He described the 2016 Brexit referendum's decision to leave the European Union as 'the greatest constitutional crisis of modern times' and condemned Leave campaigner Boris Johnson as a coward for pulling out of the Conservative leadership election after winning the referendum, likening him to 'a general who has led his troops to the sound of guns, and, at first sight of battle, has left the field.'[49][50]

Family and personal life[edit]

Heseltine married Anne Harding Williams in 1962.[51][52] They have three children:[52] Annabel (born in 1963), Rupert (born in 1967) and Alexandra (born in 1966) and nine grandchildren.[53][citation needed] During the period Heseltine was the MP for Tavistock in Devon (from 1966 to 1974), Heseltine became part of a local 'fishing gang' with Ted Hughes. His wife was delighted, as an admirer of the poet, but Heseltine himself did not initially know who he was.[2]

At the beginning of November 2016, drawing on an interview with Tatler magazine,[2] it was reported that Heseltine had confessed to strangling his mother's alsatian in 1964, after the animal had drawn blood, which was falsely interpreted as him having killed the dog. A rumour about such an incident had been in circulation since a 1990 article in The Observer and an unauthorised biography. In fact, Heseltine had subdued the animal using its choke collar after it had attacked him.[54][55] In an interview with the Press Association, Heseltine said the dog was put down the next day at the vet's insistence, because it had become dangerous and a threat to his pregnant wife and elderly mother.[56]

In January 2017 Heseltine was convicted of careless driving and fined £5,000, following an incident on 19 June 2016 in which he pulled out into the path of a cyclist, causing serious injuries, including a broken arm and shattered knees, which required plates and pins.[57]

Thenford gardens and arboretum[edit]

The Heseltines purchased Thenford House and its grounds in 1976 and over the next 25 years restored 40 acres (16 ha) of woodland together with the walled garden, medieval fish-ponds and a 2 acres (0.81 ha) lake. At the turn of the century they decided to create various ornamental features in the garden and increase the range of trees and shrubs in the arboretum. Covering over 70 acres (28 ha) the arboretum is stocked with over 3000 different species.Their arboretum was featured in a one-off documentary on BBC Two in December 2005.[58][59] In October 2016 he and his wife Anne were featured on BBC's Gardeners' World, discussing their garden at Thenford House, parts of which were modelled after the gardens at Château de Villandry.[60] The garden is open to the public by appointment only.[61]



  1. ^ Gardham, Duncan (21 September 2008). "Lord Heseltine traces his roots to poverty in Wales". The Daily Telegraph. London. 
  2. ^ a b c d Edwardes, Charlotte (1 November 2016). "Lord Heseltine Talks Gardens, Politics and His Mother's Dog Kim". Tatler. Retrieved 1 November 2016. 
  3. ^ BBC Wales Coming Home - 29 September 2008
  4. ^ Michael Heseltine, Life in the Jungle, Hodder & Stoughton, 2000, ISBN 0-340-73915-0, p13-25
  5. ^ Andrew Marr, A History of Modern Britain (2009) p 418
  6. ^ Pearce 2016 p.539
  7. ^ a b c d Michael Heseltine, Life in the Jungle, Hodder & Stoughton, 2000, ISBN 0-340-73915-0, pp. 25-39
  8. ^ Pearce 2016 pp.541-2
  9. ^ a b Magnus Linklater; David Leigh (1986). Not with honour: the inside story of the Westland scandal. Sphere Books. p. 11. 
  10. ^ a b Crick, p. 357
  11. ^ Michael Heseltine, Life in the Jungle, Hodder & Stoughton, 2000, ISBN 0-340-73915-0, pp. 33
  12. ^ Michael Heseltine, Life in the Jungle, Hodder & Stoughton, 2000, ISBN 0-340-73915-0, pp. 35
  13. ^ Pearce 2016 pp.550-2
  14. ^ a b c Michael Heseltine, Life in the Jungle, Hodder & Stoughton, 2000, ISBN 0-340-73915-0, p39-47
  15. ^ Michael Heseltine, Life in the Jungle, Hodder & Stoughton, 2000, ISBN 0-340-73915-0, p46
  16. ^ Michael Crick, Michael Heseltine: A Biography, Hamish Hamilton, 1997, ISBN 0-241-13691-1, p79
  17. ^ Michael Crick, Michael Heseltine: A Biography, Hamish Hamilton, 1997, ISBN 0-241-13691-1, p92-3
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