The pressures of modern politics mean that ministers are often “here today, gone tomorrow”. By the time awkward questions are asked, they have handed over to someone else and the responsibility trail goes cold.
Not with 88-year-old Michael Heseltine who spoke at a Downtown lunch this week. He was appointed Environment Secretary 42 years ago and immediately began tackling Liverpool’s dereliction by getting private investment to match the government’s derelict land grant. Two years later he really became focused on the city as Toxteth went up in flames.
With everyone blaming everyone else he came up for weekly meetings to get projects going like the Garden Festival, Albert Dock renewal and the Mersey clean up. He was the Clerk of Works he told the lunch.
30 years later David Cameron asked him to have another look at Liverpool. Heseltine says the city was transformed, not just physically but in the attitude of people. The blame culture had been replaced with a can-do spirit so that he and his aide Sir Terry Leahy had little to do.
But enough of Hezza’s history, he has interesting views on the present and future. With Vauxhall and Nissan getting major investment to stay in the UK, I asked him if the suggestion by Remainers like him, that such companies might quit Britain if we left the EU had been proved unfounded. Was Project Fear discredited? He replied that I could point to individual decisions, but he was unrepentant that it was a bad move particularly for young people and with tension in Northern Ireland.
I also asked him about the imminent prospect of Liverpool losing its World Heritage status in a row over plans to develop the North Docks. He said he had written a fresh letter to UNESCO, calling on them to visit the city before a final decision is made. He told me that whatever happened, Liverpool would thrive.
He felt the government had brought the devolution agenda to a standstill. He remained convinced in local decision making and having an individual who could be held accountable for decisions. No reference was made to the planned 2023 referendum in Liverpool which could see the abolition of the post of elected mayor after just a decade.
We might think that Lord Heseltine is hardly a Tory at all with all his support for big spending on regeneration. In that context what he had to say on the dangers of inflation was interesting. He claimed Covid had masked underlying issues for the British economy and too much government spending would bring inflationary dangers. He said private investment was crucial.
It was another great Downtown event with the old maestro, let’s hope it won’t be the last.
AN UNDISPUTED GOAL.
Now let me make myself really unpopular. I was at Wembley in 1966 when controversy erupted over whether a ball from Geoff Hurst had crossed the line. I know we got a fourth, but people were on the pitch and the game should have been stopped.
My point is that once again we have won with a disputed goal. It was a very soft penalty and I think the Danes behaved with great dignity.
Let’s win the Euros on Sunday with a fantastic open play goal from Raheem Sterling that cannot be disputed.