Mark Leftly: France baiter Heath seems a good fit for a Tory safe seat

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The Independent Online

Westminster Outlook Allister Heath once told me that he was "too right-wing" for the Conservative Party's tastes, referring to his economic rather than social views.

My former boss, who now edits the City AM business newspaper that is so popular in London's financial district, caused a sensational diplomatic row with France this week.

Under a headline declaring France to be a "failed socialist experiment", Mr Heath thundered that the nation harbours a "generalised hatred of commerce, capitalism, success and hard work". He pondered: "Why would any investor with any sense want to purchase assets and employ people in France?"

Eschewing the seemingly antiquated practice of a dignified silence, the French embassy hit back with attacks on the quality of the NHS. In events that were surely borrowed from an unused script of The Thick of It, health secretary Jeremy Hunt tried to prove that the instant gratification of social media trumps a well-crafted letter by declaring: "We may face stiff competition from the French on cheese and wine, but there's a reason the NHS makes us more proud to be British than any other institution."

Stirring stuff, made all the more delicious by the fact that Mr Heath himself is French, but fell in love with our capital when he moved across the channel as a teenager to study at the London School of Economics.

This likeable hack doesn't like being described as an academic, yet he enjoys nothing more than exercising his first-class mind with thoughts of how a post-EU Britain would work. So, Mr Heath is an increasingly well-known, France-baiting, devoutly supply-side, brainiac Eurosceptic.

Too right-wing for this Tory Party? Nah, seems just the right time to woo him with a safe seat.