Lord Speaker's Corner: Lord Heseltine
17 July 2023
Hear from former Deputy Prime Minister, Michael Heseltine, as he speaks to the Lord Speaker about an extensive political career spanning almost 60 years in Parliament.
In this episode
'Liverpool changed me. There's no doubt in my mind.'
Talking about his career in Parliament, Lord Heseltine said he hoped his involvement in the regeneration of Merseyside after the 1981 riots would stand as his political legacy. He told Lord McFall that one of the most moving moments of his life came when he was offered the freedom of the City of Liverpool.
In this wide-ranging interview, Lord Heseltine also discusses further devolution in England, the UK's relationship with Europe and calls for a 'Marshall Plan for the developing world' in order to tackle migration.
Watch the interview
Read a transcript
Well, welcome, Lord Heseltine, Michael, you have a vast experience over the past seventy years as one of the most influential statesmen. Looking back over that time, how has politics changed and what position do you feel we're in at the moment?
I don't think politics ever does change. I mean, I think - read Shakespeare and every piece of devious behaviour, every plot, it's all there, all the weaknesses of human beings, he parodies it brilliantly.
I've never taken a view that there's something new about politics. You're dealing with human nature and, by and large, that's a very encouraging and exciting thing to think and be experienced by.
Of course, there are the exceptions and they're the ones who get the headlines and often create the public impression but they are, fortunately, for all of us, a very small part of the total.
I'm hesitant about seeing something different about the present circumstances. Of course, the challenges are different because, of course, society evolves and different problems emerge. Today, I think the great change ... Well, this is the most extraordinary thing because one of the big issues today across the world is immigration and understandably, in recent years, people have felt pretty cheesed off, because their living standards, at best, have remained static.
People, quite understandably, hope things are getting better and they haven't been getting better, and so they look for people to blame, the BBC, the civil servants, but top of the list, immigrants, and the problem is going to get worse, for the simplest of reasons, because whilst we may have our anxieties about our relative underperforming living standards, literally billions of people have got one of these [a smartphone] and they can see how we live.
They're not crooks, they're not evil people. In the main, they're relatively young people who say, "Well, I want a share of the action. I've got my own life to live. I've got children and dependents and I'm going to try and get them into this totally different world that now represents what we regard as the western world", so they're going to keep coming.
Global warming, what is it? 70 million people are going to be dispossessed by rising sea levels. Where are they going to go? Of course, you can say they move a bit further inland but once you start telling people to move, they, understandably, start saying, "Well, why don't I choose where to move to?"
The whole immigration issue, which is now increasingly toxic in democratic politics is in its infancy compared with what generations yet to come are going to face.
Is that a dismal message then for politics? Is there hope somewhere?
Well, you know, you shouldn't be in politics unless you've got something called hope. I mean, what's the point? I suppose you could say, "Well, things are pretty ropy and they're not likely to get much better but, at least, I can try and help those who are in increasing trouble" but that would be a very depressing approach to life.
Certainly, it's something that never occurred to me, there's a limit to what anyone can do and the circumstances are always very stretching, but there are things you can do and there are things that can help and if you can be in a position and you have the ideas and, above all, the drive to pursue them, then you can have an extraordinary, exciting, and I hope, comfortable life.
But given the political situation where we have elections every four or five years and we have manifestos, is it not the case that we can't solve problems in four or five years, so the discourse in politics, the engagement we have with the electorate has to change?
Well, you raise an important point about whether democracy can deliver the perfect solution. I think you're back with Churchill, it's not a good system until you look at all the others. The great thing is there are these temptations in the human psyche, get power, hold it, at any cost, and that's what people at the extreme do. We've seen catastrophic consequences in my lifetime, the Second World War is a classic example of that, but you've only got to look at problems going on in the Sudan or the problems we saw recently in southeast Europe, to realize that that nasty tendency of the accretion of power, the abuse of power is an element and that is why democracy is such a vital protection.
People perhaps don't make sometimes the most sophisticated judgment but they are a check on the abuse of power and I think that there is a priceless connection between the need to consult the people and listen to the people and the exercise of power.
Looking back over your long career, you faced many challenges and we can come onto some of those later on. I know you have said that your legacy will be trees, but what's your political legacy, you feel?
Oh, well, it has to be Liverpool. Liverpool changed me. There's no doubt in my mind. I started the regeneration in London. It was London and its derelict Docklands that really got me going.
Perhaps in terms of buildings, money spent, visible success, London is still the example I would choose, but it isn't, because 18 months after I had become involved in Liverpool, replicating what I had been doing in London, they rioted.
Toxteth riots. I said to Margaret, an interesting conversation this actually, in terms of Margaret and her reputation.
We're talking about Margaret Thatcher.
We're talking about Margaret Thatcher. Yes. Look, I said, "As Conservatives, we have to be completely on the side of law and order and the backing of police and absolutely no question at all.
I think there's something more complex about these riots, and if you let me, prime minister, I'd like to just say to my junior ministers, you look after the shop, I'm off to Liverpool" and I arrived and I didn't have any great agenda, except as I had said to the prime minister, "I want to get inside this thing."
The first two or three days were welcoming, "Very good to see you, Secretary of State, of course, it's only the riots that brought you here but anyway, here you are, and you're listening and we like that, we appreciate that."
Then, of course, inevitably, on day four, the journalist, there's always one of those in the back of the crowd, "Secretary of State, you've been here for four days. What are you going to do about it?"
Well, what had I found in those three days? It was indelible, in my memory, everybody knew what was wrong, he was wrong, she was wrong, they were wrong, everybody was wrong, except me.
No one had any positive contribution to make about what they would do, so I was asked this question, "What are you going to do about it?" Well, I could have said, "Well, I'll go back and talk to my friends in London and I'll tell them what the problems are" but that didn't wash with me.
I spent another couple of weeks going all around, looking for things that I thought could be done, which would actually show people that this atmosphere of decline and despair could be remedied and changed.
After my three weeks, I gave a press conference and I published a list of 30 projects that I said, "Look, let's start here" but the problem with that was, who was going to start?
For 18 months, once a week, I turned up at Liverpool, I has a taskforce from public and private sector. They did the hard slog all week. They had a notebook, a page a project. Thursday night, we went through the notebook. Any trouble, I spent Friday trying to sort it out.
What changed me? For the first time, I was involved, personally, in acute levels of poverty and despair, in acute examples of dereliction, in a public environment of hopelessness.
I thought, "I better hang around and try and do something. People have been generous." One of the most moving moments of my life, to be honest, was when the mayor of Liverpool, Joe Anderson at the time, came to see me in London and said, "We'd like to give you the Freedom of the City." This was a council of 60 Labour councillors giving a Tory the Freedom of the City. It brought tears to my eyes.
I would like just to ask you a couple of questions in that, because when you went there, some of the news stories were 'the prime minister wants him out of the way. You know? He's going up to Liverpool and, by the way, this is an impossible job, so why is he taking that on?'
Going from those stories to getting the Freedom of the City from Labour people and sitting beside Joe Anderson when you got it, how did you achieve that? Because politics is not easy. Politics is very difficult. You seem to have shown the graft and the desire for engagement and listening to people, which in today's social media is missing that discourse of listening, engaging with people, and understanding them.
Give us more insight into that.
Yes. I think I can help you with that, because if there's a problem about politics, it's two mountaintops, and the more articulate politicians get to the top of the mountaintops and bang on at each other, and their supporters follow the lead, so anything the Labour Party does is wrong, anything the Tory party does is wrong, the Lib Dems don't matter, they can't do anything, and that is the dialog. Whatever comes up, it's coloured against that background.
I had a list of 30 things in Liverpool that I thought needed to be done. It was no use being in Conservative central office and saying 'how do I go about that? 'The first question would be who owns this piece of sand? Classically, it was a piece of derelict land. Who owns it? Find out, sit down. What do you want to do about this? Oh, well, the local authority won't give ... I said, okay, we'll go and see the local authority together. You want some government money? Okay. I have a budget, I can help a bit but I'm not going to spend money on this land unless we get somebody who will say, "If you do this, I will do that." You've got a builder who says, "Yeah. If you clean that up, I'll build a house."
But that is very technical, but something much more subtle happened, because the people who came together no longer were shouting abuse at each other. They were looking at a piece of land and working out the technical problems of actually turning it into a green site and putting a house on it. They became friends, because they had a drink together in the pub at the end of the meeting.
That process, which accelerated later on dramatically in a thing called City Challenge, brought together people who, in their traditional working mode, never met, never talked. They filled in forms, they had telephone calls, but they never sat there and said, "Look, we're all basically on the same side. This is Liverpool, we'd like to help" and once that happened, the human relationships changed and I think I did play some part as a catalyst, but in the process, it made me realise of the huge potential there is in the devolution of power to the local communities of this country.
Yeah. In fact, I was going to suggest you acted as a facilitator and as a catalyst but along with that, there was a human element to it as well, that you just get down to people as to what they felt, how you could move forward together. It wasn't you leading out front. It was you engaging with them and walking along with them was the problem. Would that be fair enough to say?
Yes, but again, I've been extremely fortunate. I've had a number of interests and a number of careers. First of all, I started a business, much of it in property. Secondly, I was a birdwatcher and deeply involved in environmental culture. I came from South Wales where we were a relatively prosperous middle-class family but you couldn't drive very far without knowing that there was another world.
All of these things, did I think equip me. When we sat at these meetings, these endless meetings, I could talk to the property people, as someone who knew what it was about, how to do it. I had done it on a private scale.
I was equipped by my background for the process of facilitating. I think my understanding coming from South Wales of the two nations did much influence me, that ... Well, the most shocking thing that happened to me at Liverpool, and I was deeply shocked, when some Conservative supporter said, "Why are you bothering there? There's no votes for us there." I was really absolutely shocked that they could think like that.
Absolutely. In many ways, you have continued that journey and you did the development corporations. I think just in the past few weeks, you visited Teesside and when we had the Levelling Up Bill here, I actually predicted to my staff that you would come in and they said, "Why?" Because I said, "He's the grandfather of levelling up and devolution."
How much farther do we need to go today in that to ensure, if you like, a UK-wide more harmonious engagement where we don't see London being exceptional?
A long way. This is the tragedy. If I could roll back and change history, I would go back to Radcliffe Moore's report of 1968, which the then-Labour government commissioned, and, basically, the report looks at the public administration at local level in this country and it found out that there were 1300 authorities and why? Because historically, the pattern had evolved when the only means of getting anywhere was either by foot or horse, so you couldn't get very far and, therefore, you needed this proliferation of authorities to administer public welfare.
Radcliffe Moore looked at the 1300, analysed the contemporary position of the 1960s, and said, "You need 60." I was Peter Walker's junior minister in the then-1970 government, which had to deal with this proposal and the conservative party couldn't live with the abolition of the two tiers, too many Tory councillors and it was too important a part of the political structure but Peter managed to persuade them to take the 1300 down to 300 and, basically, that's where we are.
We need 60. If you have 60, by and large, you have identifiable units, the large cities, Bristol, Manchester, Liverpool, London, of course, Newcastle, and you have counties, and that takes you to about 60 authorities. They're all different, they all have different strengths and opportunities, different weaknesses and they, by and large, attract a loyalty, because people know which county they're in and that sort of thing, and there's a regiment of there's a cricket team or whatever it may be, that is the building block upon which Radcliffe Moore said we should build a modern society. He was absolutely right.
Now so far, we've got to the point where we have now got mayors in most of the major conurbations and one or two missing but, by and large, we've made progress there but we've made very little progress in the unification of the counties, one or two have done it, but not that many.
The politics, the party politics of doing something are extremely difficult and how do I know? Well, I have to tell you, because in Scotland and Wales, in the 1990s, I used primary legislation to get rid of all the two tiers, they're all unitary authorities now, and I was helped, because there weren't many Conservative councillors and so on, the backbenches of my party, there was little interest in the subject but in England, there was massive interest in the subject.
The fact is we have not made enough advance. Now if you could make advances, and you could, you could and should, then what you can do is to take the powers of London, which are all functionally divided, housing, transport, education, skills, home office, whatever it may be, they don't meet either.
When someone says to the home office, "What's the problem about Liverpool?" They will say, "We want a Chief Constable, we're doing this, we're doing that." Well, that is an important part of Liverpool's problem but what about the housing? What about the transport? What about the education and all of these other things? There is no coordinating process.
First of all, Whitehall has got to go back to the position where there are regional groupings of the Whitehall departments. Secondly, it needs a central grouping under a senior cabinet minister of the relative departmental ministers. Thirdly, they then need to say to the elected mayor of the 60 authorities, "You work out the strategy that is relevant to your area, strengths and weaknesses, opportunities, threats, and we will work with you in partnership and we will mould the money that government can afford to meet your strategic vision."
That has a terrific effect and the real tragedy is that every other capitalist economy in the world does it, except us.
Yeah. Yeah. When I took up this position, my first visits were to Belfast, Edinburgh, and Cardiff. It was to bring people together, to establish an informal inter-parliamentary group, which is now established here with House of Commons representative and House of Lords representative.
In the run-up to the Brexit internal market bill, the First Minister of Wales in speaking to the Institute of Government said that the House of Lords was really, really helpful but this isn't rocket science. This is just bringing people together to understand them and to engage them.
I feel certainly, as one who comes from Scotland that we could be a foreign land in many ways, in terms of people having other people's ears on that. Do we need more of that engagement and to make it more formal, so that we can get UK-wide full engagement?
I hesitate to, especially to you, talk about Scotland and Wales but my feeling is that the devolution arrangements have actually been devolution of Whitehall to Cardiff, Edinburgh and Belfast.
I don't think that's the right end product. I think that, again, it's not for me to work these things out but Swansea, Cardiff, mid Wales, north Wales, Pembrokeshire.
You can do the same thing in Scotland, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Dundee, Aberdeen, the Highlands. I think that devolving on within the devolved authorities would be a very exciting project.
Absolutely. I'm strictly non-political in this position, so no comment, but what I will do, I'll say the comments of Professor James Mitchell of Edinburgh University, public policy expert, and he had an article in the Holyrood magazine, a number of months ago, stating that in many ways, in his opinion, Holyrood is a mirror image of Westminster, in that we don't have that further devolution element. You have people with the same views as yourself on that.
The reform the House of Lords is on agenda, whether it was the Conservative manifesto in 2019 or the report with Gordon Brown for the assembly of the nations and the regions. If we're going to reform, what would you advocate for the House of Lords?
Well, if I ... You'd have to be prime minister to be in a position-
... drive such an agenda, and I would not drive it all, because it's one of those wonderful things that if only we reform the House of Lords, but how? And what will be the consequences?
Basically, you couldn't invent the House of Lords. I mean, it's an anachronism. It's part of our history. It's an evolution. It's where it is. But the moment you started to rationalise it, you'll end up with what? A second House of Commons? Is that really going to change anything? If you bring the bitterness of party politics into a second chamber, probably not coincidental in its electoral strategy with the existing ones, so you get the blockage of changing power like you get in Congress? Would it attract better debates?
I, personally, because I can see where the momentum takes you, and I know it won't be any better and it won't solve anything, I would not, myself, commit the government I led to anything like the time-wasting debates that would be necessary to bring about an unpredictable change.
Would you sanction incremental change?
Well, there's been incremental change. We've seen the hereditaries down to a relatively small number. We've had the life peers introduced. It hasn't done anything to change public mind about these things.
But the House of Lords has got one great strength, in my view, and that is that the debates are polite, they are often conducted by people who are real experts in their field, who do not actually subscribe to one party doctrine or another, who genuinely give their time, because they have a contribution to make, and because it's all rather low-key, the government can use it as a testing ground or admit when it got something wrong without a terrible sort of, "Government Defeated" headline all over the place.
The British constitution is a very sophisticated process. Nobody would create it if they started with a piece of paper and a crayon, but that's not the point. It's what we've got, and before you change it, you should be very clear that what you're putting in its place is better and, therefore, more effective in delivering what people want, and I don't see what that would be.
You think the concept of a second chamber is really important in terms of keeping a check on the main chamber?
I think the second chamber does have the advantages of a more informed debate, a quieter debate, less publicity, and, therefore, the ability of governments to be more flexible in the way they decide policy.
All of that is a plus. Going to a replica of the House of Commons, which, in one way or another, is what it would be, would not, in fact, enhance those attributes.
We see the debt ceiling negotiations in Congress and it went to the very edge, as a result of that. If someone was elected to the House of Lords, in my own mind, I would envisage me going to a community hall and people asking me what I'm going to do to repair the local school, to ensure a more adequate facilities in the hospital, to fill in the potholes in the road, and if I said to them that, "Look, I don't take part in any financial debates", I'm sure, and you'd have had this in Liverpool, "What use are you?"
Well, of course, but you've got to face it, public don't like us. They don't trust us. They don't believe we're up to any good. 'What are they in it for? They're only in it for their own purposes.'
Journalists, estate agents, and politicians, you do the public opinion testing, we're all at the bottom of the queue and I think we always have been and, sadly, I don't see how that changes.
But I understand why it's the case, because, you see, if you're a senior minister, the only decisions you're ever asked to make are those that nobody else can make. They're all controversial. In the nature of human beings, if you agree with them and you do what they think is right, they think you're a good chap, well done, all that. If you disagree with them, they think you're an idle shirker who never listened, who doesn't give a damn, dah, dah, dah.
Every day, you are making these decisions. You are accumulating an awful lot of enemies. Every day, let alone over a year or five years. But that's the business you're in. You know?
Yeah, but you need resilience as a politician.
You need resilience.
You've demonstrated that admirably.
That's a very important point, because young people say to me, "I'm thinking of going into politics." I say, "Don't. If you are only thinking about it, don't. It's a tough, thankless, 24/7 career and in the end, you'll be kicked out. You've got to have that determination and that tenacity and that conviction and, I hope, the vision."
When you're a minister, perhaps you were irritated with the House of Lords holding up your legislation at times. Now you're on the other side of the fence here. There's a real merit in being able to hold up legislation for a while.
Yes. I had a ... Now I can't remember what it was but I remember being absolutely furious with the House of Lords over a piece of legislation that I was responsible for and Peter Carrington, Lord Carrington, was the leader of the House of Lords at the time, or leader of the Conservatives in the House of Lords perhaps. That would have been the case.
I came to see him and I said, "This is intolerable. These unelected people are stopping the government's mandate and you've got to ..." I had some wild scheme that I wanted him to pursue. He said, "Michael, we don't behave like that here." He was quite right.
But, yes, I mean, in the House of Lords, I don't, myself, play a big part but on the big issues in which I have a voice and some experience, I value the opportunity to be able to express it in the House of Lords and, certainly, on Europe and on devolution, I have participated and will continue to participate.
Absolutely. Your voice is still very strong here and people come in and they listen to you and understand. One of your former party colleagues who is a cabinet minister is now in the House of Lords and when I asked him what the difference between the House of Commons and the House of Lords was, he said, "Well, believe it or not, when I was in the House of Commons and I made speeches, nobody listened to me, but, surprisingly, when I'm in the House of Lords and I make a speech, people come up and make comments and ask me about it."
Maybe that's because of the length of time that people have been in politics, the lack of party-political confrontation here that I have described this place as, in many ways, the best think tank in the country.
I think you make an important point and I think that, by and large, in the Commons, the speeches are about proposed legislation and they're relatively narrow in their focus, and they're relatively partisan in their concept whereas in the Lords, you have both such a wide range of experience, not just from ex-politicians but from people from a whole range of very important public and private sector activities, that you are getting an expertise that you could never replicate in the House of Commons.
Yeah. I remember in the Brexit debate, when we were talking about Article 50, or Prime Minister Theresa May's proposals, that a number of peers spoke about Article 50 and then Lord Kerr of Kinlochard stood up and says, "Well, I can tell you about Article 50, because I wrote it. It was with this pain, which I wrote it." You can't get experience like that elsewhere.
No. You can't replicate that. No.
But now, Lord Heseltine, you're an unaffiliated peer and looking back at the legal landscape, certainly, when I went into the House of Commons in 1987, there was an ideological element to our politics with Labour, working class, supporting workers, social justice, Conservatives, aspiring middle class people, business and law.
With the social media, we now have identity politics, to an extent, and it would seem, to me, that the ideological element has been lost, in part, in place of the identity politics. Say, for example, Labour voters now, what the polls would tell you is that the preponderance of university-educated individuals voting for Labour, millennials voting for Labour, the urban areas voting for Labour whereas with the Conservatives, you would have the rural areas voting for it, and maybe a higher proportion of non-university people being in that.
Now I only cite what the opinion polls are seeing, is there a kernel of truth in that?
If I may pick your first point up about me being an unaffiliated peer. I mean, this is funny.
But it is ... I mean, I make few claims myself but in life, in the last 70 years, quite difficult to think of a big political battle in which I haven't been at the forefront on behalf of the Conservative Party. Actually, I'm a member of the Conservative party and they're constantly writing and asking me for funny. It's quite fun. I sent to the Scottish Conservatives, because they've got a saner view about Brexit.
But the idea that I am unaffiliated, I just find a joke of major scale.
But on the analysis that you put about the party changes, I think this is probably about Brexit and frozen living standards. I think that Brexit is such a historic disaster that a large number of the sort of people who are involved in the world that is affected by Brexit have lost faith in the Conservative Party whereas a lot of people, particularly, working class people in the red wall seats still believe that their economic fortunes can be changed if the government changes, because we got rid of the bureaucrats and the BBC and the blob and all this other rubbish.
They're learning the hard way, that they were deceived, and my guess is that the Labour Party will make inroads into that sort of constituency, much less in the constituency that is an anti-Brexit-oriented constituency.
Yeah. There's an apocryphal tale that when you were at Oxford, you wrote that you wanted to be a millionaire at 25, in the cabinet at 35, and the prime minister at 55.
What do you say to people ... Because, again, I remember that in one debate or one interview, you said that we betrayed our young people. Given that we need hope in politics and you reinforced that earlier in your conversation, what hope can we give young people at the moment?
Yes. Hope is very important. Yes, I have said we have betrayed a generation and I believe it profoundly. The world is shrinking. A major reason why it's shrinking, but in my long political experience, time and again, I came across the role of government and the technological interface that sustains the industrial base and I discovered very early on, first in space and then in defence industries, the enormous cashflow that central governments are providing to force-feed the technological advance.
Silicon Valley, good slogan, everybody likes it, we all want to be Silicon Valley, Silicon Valley is the agency of the American defence budget and the space agency. That's where the money comes from, on dramatic scale. I can give you the figures, the Star Wars program, the screen that would stop enemy rockets.
Ronald Reagan's thing.
Ronald Reagan's Star Wars. General Abraham sitting in my office, $29 billion Secretary of State and today, I could do a partnership with Heriot-Watt University in Glasgow who are at the leading edge in this technology, $100 million out of my $29 billion. I think he thought I would smile with appreciation. What I heard him say was, "I got $29 billion of taxpayers money and I know where every advanced technological base is taking place and I'm going round all of them and do partnerships and all of it will go back into the American industrial base."
China, that is a government using public money to create what has to be the most extraordinary transformation of any society in human history. India, massive scale. Europe, massive scale. Where are we? On the fringe.
Of course, we want to be a leading edge but how do you become a leading edge if you can only afford so much and you've cut yourself off from the technological base and the funding of Europe? You can't.
To that extent, it's a delusion. Immigration, there is no solution to British immigration that does not, in fact, involve Europe, because they are coming from outside Europe into Europe and then from France into this country. The only credible solution is a two-fold solution, one is to put a wall, a ring, a protective barrier around Europe and that would be seen by many people as an immoral reaction to poverty outside but if you were to couple it with a Marshall Aid program, of the sort the Americans did after the Second World War and to come to deals with the countries from which the immigrants are coming to create the conditions that persuade them to stay there, then you have an effective policy and you have a moral policy.
We aren't part of that and we are talking about stopping the boats. They'll find another way.
Then environmental policy, I mean, we could debate how serious climate change is, I'm personally not going to risk by being on the wrong side of this issue, so do you think this country can solve the climate change issue? Inside Europe, with 400 million of us, we can do something, we can talk as equals to the big power blocks. Outside, do people really listen?
What we've done is to create a separate unity called United Kingdom. Outside one of the power blocks that is bound to affect us in numerous ways, and what I see is an empty chair in one of the major power blocks of the country, and it came home to me ... The other day, I was on holiday with my wife in Cyprus and I suddenly realised that Cyprus is closer to the centre of power in Europe than we are. That's unforgivable.
Yeah. In this post-COVID world, which we're now experiencing, has there to be a changing role for government? You mentioned about the Americans. We have the IRA Act, Inflation Reduction Act by the Biden administration, which is putting in over a trillion dollars in grants and tax-deductible allowances for that.
Do we risk it? We've really been left behind and is it too late? How do we get on that bandwagon?
This is how it always was. As I explained to you, the Star Wars program was exactly this in a different context. The Europeans are going to respond on a similar scale, compatible with the European economy, to what President Biden and the Chinese are already doing.
We have cut ourselves off, and so what is the solution? There is only one solution and that is to re-join the single market, and the quicker we realise that, and the quicker we do it, it can't be done tomorrow and it can't be done easily but it must be the purpose and if there is one criticism of body politics in this country today is that no serious politician is arguing this case.
I know why, because they're terrified of the populist voice and the effect on the populist votes in an election context, so there is a disconnect between the truth and reality of Britain's increasingly disconnected posture in the world and the ability to garner votes of people who think that Brexit was part of the problem.
Okay. We have to be part of a bigger fraternity.
We are part of Europe. We can either seek to influence it or let them make the decisions which will affect us anyway. We have been for 1,000 years and more, part of Europe.
Your experience at the end of the Second World War, the Marshall Plan, as you talked, you and your contemporaries seemed as if that experience, it infiltrated your very political and human being of the Second World War, is that correct?
You absolutely put your finger on the epicentre of my political faith. I helped to start, as an undergraduate at Oxford, a subunit of the local Conservative Party. It's called the Blue Ribbon Club. Blue cover, three interlocking circles in gold, United States, Commonwealth, Europe.
I was introduced to politics at the time the Conservatives were leading the vision of Europe. It was a very simple vision. It must never happen again. It started with the Schuman Plan, inspired by the men and women from the resistance movements and the prisoner of war camps, who had seen three wars in Germany and France in three-quarters of a century. It must never happen again.
The Conservatives developed Churchill's great speech, "We must create a kind of United States of Europe." He didn't say they must create, he said, "We must create" and then, of course, the great winds of change speech by Harold Macmillan explaining that the end of empire had come, we could no longer afford, even if we wanted to maintain that hegemony of such a large part of the world's surface. Ted Heath secured our accession.
My generation saw that as a vision, as compatible with the concept of humanity and peaceful conditions in a way that history had denied so many people. My party has blown it. It is unforgivable and it must be reversed.
Well, Lord Heseltine, can I thank you for the privilege of this conversation with you? Your resilience, your openness, your honesty, and your relevance to today's society is every bit as fresh as it was from day one, so it's been a real pleasure for me and thank you very much.
It's been a privilege, my Lord Speaker.