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Thursday, 7 September, 2000, 12:46 GMT 13:46 UK
Tarzan's tale

Michael Heseltine, aka Hezza, Tarzan or the blonde bombshell
One of the big beasts of the Thatcher years released his version of that era's political history on Thursday with the publication of Michael Heseltine's memoirs, Life in the Jungle.

And the one-time deputy prime minister, political assassin of prime minister Margaret Thatcher and lord of the political jungle - his autobiography's title refers to his nickname "Tarzan" - has fulfilled expectations by having another go at his old boss.

Mrs Thatcher was poisonous and disturbingly aggressive, says the Henley MP, who is standing down at the next election.

Clarke 'should have been leader'

He also reveals how John Major, the rival who won the 1990 Tory leadership and become prime minister instead of him, had later wanted Mr Heseltine to succeed him rather than William Hague.

The blonde bombshell - another of Mr Heseltine's many nicknames - also says he never thought he should be leader of the Conservative Party. It was his colleague Ken Clarke, former chancellor and a fellow pro-European, whom he always believed should have taken over the top job.

Mr Heseltine says the Tory Party's Eurosceptism has left it "unbalanced", and that this would not stand the test of time should the Conservatives ever return to government.

In the book, Mr Heseltine also sheds more light on his side of the Westland affair - the event which led to his dramatic resignation from the cabinet by walking out mid-meeting.

Westland walk-out

In a trenchant attack on Mrs Thatcher he accuses her of having pursued a secret agenda. "Hezza" - yet another nickname - who was defence secretary at the time, had wanted the troubled helicopter firm to be taken over by a European consortium.

But Mrs - now Lady - Thatcher was insistent that the US firm, Sikorsky, should have it instead.

Mr Heseltine writes that the prime minister was strongly influenced by US General Alexander Haig, secretary of state during the Falklands War, but then a senior adviser to Sikorsky's parent company.

As General Haig admitted later, he was 'calling in his markers' for providing US radar cover for British aircraft in the south Atlantic. "This though was never revealed to us as the ministerial debate on Westland continued," Mr Heseltine says.

Life in the Jungle is published by Hodder and Stoughton.

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See also:

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Heseltine: Bring back Clarke
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