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Thursday, 27 April, 2000, 09:15 GMT 10:15 UK
Heseltine: Political CV
Heseltine waves
Goodbye: Michael Heseltine is leaving the Commons
Michael Heseltine has spent a lifetime in the corridors of power but never realised his great ambition - leader of the Conservative Party and the country.

One of the most charismatic figures in the party, he was once seen by many as a natural heir to the Tory crown after Margaret Thatcher.

In November 1990, he brought about her downfall by challenging for the leadership.



There is no place for me with honour in such a Cabinet.

Michael Heseltine
1986
But John Major snatched the crown from Mr Heseltine - just as he was sensing victory.

In a political career spanning three decades Mr Heseltine has climbed up and slid down the greasy pole more than once.

He has been charged with a lack of frankness, resigned on a matter of honour and brandished the Commons mace at Labour MPs.

Controversial politician

Michael Heseltine was born in Swansea to Anglo-Welsh parents and educated at Shrewsbury School and Pembroke College, Oxford.

After university and a spell of National Service, Mr Heseltine entered the property market using a legacy of 1,000.


Mr and Mrs Heseltine
Married to Anne the couple have three children
But he made his millions - after a number of setbacks - in publishing, his fortune resting on Haymarket Press with its business and trade magazines.

Mr Heseltine first entered parliament in 1966 as MP for Tavistock and began working up the political ladder in the government of Sir Edward Heath.

In 1973 he was accused of a lack of frankness before a Commons Select Committee after providing conflicting answers to a parliamentary question and to a select committee.

Three years later he famously removed the mace and brandished it - he said he offered it - towards Labour left-wingers who were standing singing The Red Flag.

When the Conservatives came to power in 1979, Mrs Thatcher appointed Mr Heseltine Secretary of State for the Environment.


Commons career
1966: Entered parliament
1974: Shadow Industry Secretary
1979: Environment Secretary
1983: Defence Secretary
1986: Resignation from Cabinet
1990: Leadership challenge
1990: Environment Secretary
1992: President of the Board of Trade
1995: Deputy Prime Minister
First Secretary
In 1981 - at the time of the Toxteth and Brixton riots - Mr Heseltine was sent in as the trouble-shooter to deal with the explosion of violence in Britain's inner cities.

In a Cabinet reshuffle a few months before the 1983 election, Michael Heseltine was made Secretary of State for Defence in succession to John Nott.

Three years later - still at the MoD - he resigned in spectacular fashion - storming out of a cabinet meeting after strong disagreements over the Westland helicopter company.

Mr Heseltine favoured a European dea for the company. He had support from the Defence Committee and some back-benchers, but most of the Cabinet were against him.

On the back benches Mr Heseltine opposed the community charge saying it it would antagonise left-wing councils and jeopardise inner-city regeneration.

And he became increasingly critical of Mrs Thatcher's cool attitude to Europe as he advocated greater links between national parliaments and the European Parliament.

Toppling Thatcher

Eventually he took his revenge. After Sir Geoffrey Howe's resignation from the government in November 1990, he wrote an open letter saying the departure was potentially a crisis.

A few days later - after a devastating resignation speech in the Commons by Sir Geoffrey Howe - Mr Heseltine announced that he would challenge Mrs Thatcher.

He fought a personality-led campaign and in the first ballot won 152 MPs votes to Mrs Thatcher's 204.

Despite being only four votes short of outright victory, she stepped down after advice from her Cabinet.

John Major and Douglas Hurd entered the fray for the second round and when Mr Major nearly secured outright victory, his rivals were persuaded to concede gracefully.

Mr Major immediately gave Mr Heseltine a Cabinet job - and asked him to find a fairer replacement for the poll tax.

His solution - a banded property tax - took the sting out of a vote-losing issue.

Mr Heseltine was an astute politician, and his challenge to Mrs Thatcher was, despite all he said, the end of a long campaign for the leadership.

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See also:

27 Apr 00 | UK Politics
Heseltine bows out
01 Aug 99 | UK Politics
Heseltine backs Blair's euro campaign
11 Oct 99 | UK Politics
Heseltine warns of Eurosceptic threat
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