Former Deputy Prime Minister Lord Michael Heseltine delivered a lunchtime lecture giving an insider’s view of the key characters and issues that have shaped modern British politics.
The Conservative politician, who worked directly with four Prime Ministers, spoke to a packed house drawn from all year groups in the Friends’ Recital Hall. The optional lecture, part of QE’s Flourish extra-curricular programme, was organised by Year 13 pupil Anish Kumar and the QE Politics Society.
Headmaster Neil Enright said: “We are keen for the boys to hear from leaders and influential thinkers in their respective fields. Lord Heseltine is a towering figure in British politics: it was an honour to welcome him to the School and we are most grateful to him for taking the time to visit and deliver such an insightful lecture drawn from a political career spanning some 50 years.”
Mr Enright thanked Anish and the Politics Society for organising the visit and paid tribute to all who had worked to ensure it passed off smoothly.
Lord Heseltine, who is 90, began his career as a property developer, before becoming one of the founders of the Haymarket publishing house. He served as a Conservative Member of Parliament from 1966 to 2001, when he was created a life peer.
Having previously served Ted Heath, he entered the Cabinet in 1979 under Margaret Thatcher as Secretary of State for the Environment. He served as Deputy Prime Minister and First Secretary of State within John Major’s administration. Later, he fulfilled advisory roles when David Cameron was Prime Minister.
Lord Heseltine began his lecture after a welcome from Anish – who introduced him as “one of [his] political heroes” – and warm applause from the boys.
In his lecture, he covered topics ranging from industrial strategy (a particular interest and area of expertise of his) and the revitalisation of the city of Liverpool (with which he has a special, and perhaps unique, relationship as a Conservative politician), to devolution. Famously a supporter of the European Union and opponent of Eurosceptics, he expressed his desire to see the UK return to the EU fold in the future.
In a Q & A session chaired by Anish, pupils then posed their own questions.
- On the future of the Conservative Party, he opined that it will find power from the centre-ground – an answer that was especially topical, given the recent Government reshuffle and the return to government of David, now Lord, Cameron;
- On the nature of a life in politics, Lord Heseltine said it was a privilege, but one that inescapably involved making unpopular decisions, often on “50:50” issues in which the side you support will think you reasonable and “a good, sensible bloke”, while those whose expectations are dashed will believe you don’t listen, don’t care and are in politics only for yourself!
- When asked about his proudest moment, he referenced his 1981 party conference speech;
- On whether he regrets not quite becoming Prime Minister, he answered in the affirmative and furthermore set out the approach he would take to transform the nation’s governance and economic strategy if he were in 10 Downing Street today.