Heseltine Roars – Cameron Would Do Well To Hear The Last Of the Big Beasts
12th January 2013
Michael Heseltine has publicly told Prime Minister David Cameron that he would be wrong to go for what would effectively be an In-Or-Out? referendum on Europe.
Heseltine has done so for two reasons: firstly he believes it to be a foolish political decision by the leader of the party of which he remains a passionate member and secondly, because he can say it and will be listened to. The last point is the most important because Heseltine is a Big Tory Beast. A veritable lion of Toryism.
And here’s the rub. The Tory Party has few proper beasts. It has few who command to be heard when they roar. For the Party is dull, just as the LibDems are dull and so too Labour. This was never the case. Now the Cages of Political Beast are left unlocked because that rare species has gone. Yet there are huge issues that demand Big Beasts to say things, be heard, to be sent to sort Great Troubles. This is also what the public thinks. A few examples:
A major city of the United Kingdom is in flames. For 40 days and 40 nights, Belfast has burned. Shots have been fired. The sham of the Blair Settlement is as charred as the building blocks of what should have been his greatest achievement (his biggest was to XXXX-Up the UK). And yet where is the Big Statement from David Cameron, the man who passes himself off as Prime Minister? Where is the high profile Cameron visit to Belfast to demand these are terrible events up with he will no longer put? Nowhere, that’s where they are.
And where are the forehead smacking and feet shuddering statements and initiatives from Theresa Villiers. Who?
There are perhaps a handful outside Westminster who have heard of Villiers. Yet this woman – a refugee from that other Something-Up of Blairite proportions, the Department of Transport – is Secretary of State for Northern Ireland.
Villiers is the person appointed to fix Northern Ireland; she is the person we should be watching, hanging on her every word as kids under ten throw rocks and petrol bombs at UK policemen. We get? Nothing! (We would of course if this were happening in her Tory constituency of Chipping Barnet.)
Crisis? You would hardly know it from Ms Villiers. Hardly a soul knows her name. An, admittedly small, telephone straw poll last night from this writer’s office among reasonably informed adults and voter-age teenagers found no one who had heard of her and certainly no one who knew what she looked like. A part of the UK burns and the profile and the words of the person in charge are unknown and unheard. There is no beast to roar good sense into the debacle that is Northern Ireland. Where else?
Abroad the really nice William Hague travels willingly to lie for his country. On big issues he sounds insignificant. Yet once, even as a teenager, he electrified the Tory Conference with his conscience rattling speech that the nation (and the Party) needed big ideas expounded by big ideas.
Today Hague has said nothing outside Cabinet that is memorable. Yet this man is there to manage in every country, in every institution from the UN to NATO to the EU the image of the British Isles. Remember anything he has said? Of course not. We are reduced to remembering that he is bald – that is such a bad moment for us all.
So the Heseltine image of Beasts and Statesmen is all but gone. But there must be some in the grim and corrupt lair that is Parliament? Ken Clarke? He was once a great Chancellor Hardly heard and rarely noticed. He is now silent and obscure with no visible passion other than cask ale and jazz trombones. The others?
Thatcher sits unknowingly in her SW1 drawing room. Carrington, wisely has gone to his estate (as Macmillan said he would) to keep his own counsel his and despair of the great upper chamber with its dropped aitches, flat vowels and time servers and none with original thinking. Howe’s voice grows weak with age and his memory becomes uncertain – yet this is the man whose valedictory Commons speech tolled the bell on Thatcher’s premiership.
And on the other side of the House? There is no one whose intervention can have the Press Gallery scratching at their pads and frissons of holding some front page somewhere. No ghosts even. No Callaghan. Certainly no Anthony Crosland. No Roy Jenkins. No Michael Foots.
Ironically, the only beast to prowl the corridors of common sense and devastating intervention must bide his time until electorate disaster strikes (in 2015?). Boris Johnson is the only beast of Heseltinean mane. Well south of the mythical Watford Junction line – that is the start of southern England – people wait for Boris. If they could, southerners bin Cameron and would cheer Boris into his place. They long for the rabble rousing roars that would give the southern English the warm feeling that Beasts once more ruled the UK.. North of that line, north of Watford, Boris is detested because he stands for everything that the Midlands and much of the North detest: upper class right to rule and roar at lessers and for fags to grill their toast and anchovy paste.
There of course we have it. The United Kingdom has become a spiteful nation with no care but self-care. It is a nation split as a consequence of the the Blair divisions of 1999 Devolution of powers from Westminster to Cardiff, Belfast and Edinburgh. The UK is no longer a united kingdom. Thus Westminster has become a village in which there is no place for big ideas. Beasts Not Wanted on whatever voyage the British expense craving politicians think they’re taken the nations.
Social reform, health and education may be billed as new thinking but this is nonsense. Nothing is stretched. Nothing is grabbed and molded anew. No truly big ideas, no truly big men. No Barbara Castles. No Harold Macmillans. No Joe Grimmonds. No Enoch Powells. No Thatchers. No Mad Monks to stir the Commons Tea Room cups of political curiosity and set normally sedate men and women trotting to their green benches to hear what was to be said.
Thus Heseltine is an endangered species and Boris’s time has not yet come and may never do so. Best then Mr Cameron – who displays little sign of what he stands for other than power – should listen to the last of a generation that was not always admired but was, with very good reason, always heard.