Michael Heseltine

From Academic Kids

Missing image
Michael Heseltine walks out of the cabinet meeting having resigned, January 9, 1986

Michael Ray Dibdin Heseltine, Baron Heseltine, CH, PC (born March 21, 1933), is a British Conservative politician and businessman. He is a patron of the Tory Reform Group.


Heseltine was born in Swansea, Wales, was educated at Shrewsbury School and then attended Pembroke College, Oxford and became President of the Oxford Union. From this period there is an apocryphal story that he wrote on the back of an envelope 'millionaire 25, cabinet member 35, party leader 45, prime minister 55'. He went on to make millions in the publishing industry through his company Haymarket, which publishes magazines and to be a member of the cabinet before the age of 40 but not the last two.

He became an MP in 1966 when he was elected as member for Tavistock in Devon. Following the Conservative victory in the United Kingdom General Election in 1970, he was promoted to the ranks of government by Prime Minister Edward Heath.

In oppostion during the 1974 - 1979 period he became Shadow Industry Secretary. He also became notorious following an incident in 1976 in the House of Commons during the debate on measures introduced by the 1974 - 1979 Labour Government to nationalise the shipbuilding and aerospace industries. Accounts of exactly what happened vary, but the most colourful image portrayed Heseltine seizing the mace and brandishing it towards Labour left-wingers who were celebrating winning the vote by singing the Red Flag, his long fair hair flowing behind him. Heseltine subsequently acquired the nickname Tarzan.

He was appointed to the cabinet of Margaret Thatcher as Secretary of State for the Environment in 1979. He was sent in as a troubleshooter to deal with the explosion of violence in Britain's inner cities, in the aftermath of the Brixton and Toxteth riots during the early 1980s. He then served as Defence Secretary from 1983 until 1986, when he resigned over the bitter dispute over Westland Helicopters known as the Westland affair.

He retired to the backbenches, where he became increasingly critical of Margaret Thatcher's performance as Prime Minister. He challenged Thatcher for the leadership of the Conservative Party in November 1990, but the contest – which Douglas Hurd also entered – was eventually won by John Major. He returned to government as Secretary of State for the Environment (with particular responsibility for replacing the poll tax), later as President of the Board of Trade and then Deputy Prime Minister. He was also an early key enthusiast for the Millennium Dome.

In 1993 Heseltine suffered a heart attack, leading to health concerns, particularly because he was televised leaving hospital in a wheelchair. (In 1994, Chris Morris implied on BBC Radio 1 (as a joke) that Helestine had died, which was sufficiently plausible that fellow MP Jerry Hayes broadcast an on-air tribute. Morris was subsequently suspended for the prank.)

After Labour won the 1997 election, he was unable to stand for the Conservative Party leadership again because of health problems, but 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 by John Major in the 1997 resignation Honours List.

He resigned his Henley-on-Thames constituency at the 2001 Election but remained outspoken on British politics. He was given a life peerage as Baron Heseltine, of Thenford in the County of Northamptonshire.

In December 2002 Heseltine controversially called for Iain Duncan Smith to be replaced as leader of the Conservatives by the "dream-ticket" of Kenneth Clarke as leader and Michael Portillo as deputy. 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.

Member of Parliament from 1966 to 2001:

External Links


Preceded by:
Peter Shore
Secretary of State for the Environment
Succeeded by:
Tom King
Preceded by:
John Nott
Secretary of State for Defence
Succeeded by:
George Younger
Preceded by:
Chris Patten
Secretary of State for the Environment
Succeeded by:
Michael Howard
Preceded by:
Peter Lilley
Secretary of State for Trade and Industry
Succeeded by:
Ian Lang
Preceded by:
Office in abeyance
Deputy Prime Minister of the United Kingdom
Succeeded by:
John Prescott

Template:End boxcy:Michael Heseltine de:Michael Heseltine


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