Whose side is he on? Heseltine calls for concrete plan for growth

Oct 31, 2012
The Mole

Heseltine's call for regional powers is anathema to Tories who cheered the abolition of Labour's measures

'TARZAN' is back – and wreaking havoc. Tory grandee Lord [Michael] Heseltine this morning handed Labour a big stick with which to bash the Government until the General Election by calling on David Cameron to put the economy on a "war footing" with more urgent action to create growth.

Tarzan spent ten minutes carefully side-stepping the man traps laid for him by Radio 4 Today presenter Evan Davies, insisting he was not criticising the Government but being a "constructive friend".

But by then, the damage had already been done. The former Tory cabinet mister and one-time deputy PM handed over his club – an 228-page report rubbishing current Treasury policy and demanding a "concrete" plan for growth - with perfect timing for Ed Miliband, the Labour leader. He was bound to bash David Cameron with it at Prime Minister's Questions this lunchtime.

Rachel Reeves MP, Labour's shadow chief secretary to the Treasury, said: "It's a damning indictment of this government that, halfway through this parliament, a former Conservative cabinet minister is still calling for a plan for growth."

Hezza says tax cuts – favoured by many Thatcherite Tories – and deregulation are not enough. He calls for intervention, with a national growth council chaired by the Prime Minister. He also returns to his old hobby horse – the regions – saying more resources should be pumped into the provincial cities, such as Liverpool, Leeds, Manchester and Newcastle, to stimulate growth.

That is all anathema to many Tories who cheered the abolition of the regional development councils set up by Labour.

Hezza also warns the Tory rebels who are lining up to vote against the Government on the EU budget tonight in the Commons that Britain must play a more active role inside Europe to stimulate growth, rather than be marginalised on the fringes.

And he made it clear he supported the leaked March letter from Lib Dem Business Secretary Vince Cable, which warned George Osborne, the Chancellor, that he lacked a "compelling vision for where the country is headed beyond sorting out the fiscal mess".

This may be seen as the last roar from one of the great beasts of the British political jungle. And it may be ignored by Cameron and Osborne (Daily Mail tweeter Tim Shipman says this morning the Hezza report will be filed in the nearest litter bin). But Hezza has the consolation of knowing his friends are listening – in the Labour and the Liberal Democrat parties – whatever he may have told Evan Davies.

HISTORY NOTE: Why 'Tarzan'? The nickname dates back to 1976 when Heseltine, then the Tory shadow industry secretary, seized the mace and started brandishing it towards members of the Labour government who were celebrating winning a Commons vote to nationalise the shipbuilding and aerospace industries. Heseltine refers to the nickname in his memoir, Life in the Jungle.

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On the one hand we have this maverick, Heseltine, rampaging about, spreading chaos and confusion and on the other hand we have a dithering, leaderless and rudderless Coalition who, frankly could not organise a p**s up in a brewery - the casualty of all this idiocy is our country and any economic recovery!