Michael Heseltine finds himself in an unusual position. He is one of the most distinguished Conservatives in the country, but is completely at odds with the party’s stance on the biggest issue of the day. While most Remain-supporting Tories – not least the Prime Minister – have taken the referendum result and run with it, Lord Heseltine has remained steadfast to his view that Brexit is an unmitigated disaster.
In this week’s episode of Free Exchange, the CapX podcast, he tells Robert Colvile that he has become a controversial figure. But that it is “the Conservative Party that has changed. Not me.” Brexit, he says, is the most catastrophic domestic British political decision in his lifetime. So catastrophic, in fact, that it may never happen. Can anything good come from it? He doesn’t think so. And he thinks that the arguments for leaving the EU are built on either deception or a misunderstanding of how the modern world works.
It isn’t just Brexit that has Heseltine so gloomy. It has come as a surprise to him that the battles against the hard left that his generation thought they had won for good in the Seventies and Eighties are having to be refought in the 21st century. For Heseltine, Prime Minister Corbyn is “a chilling prospect. I never thought for an instant that it would be possible, but the last election changed my mind.”
Beyond Brexit and Corbyn, the Tory big beast also discusses why nothing in politics changes, how to get industrial policy right, why politicians should focus on investment not consumption, and what has motivated him throughout his successful careers in both business and politics.
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