Heseltine declares himself 100% healthy

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LOOKING tanned and fit, Michael Heseltine dismissed suggestions that John Smith's fatal heart attack had put a question-mark over his own political career.

After addressing a Scottish Conservatives' conference subdued by the death of the Labour leader, Mr Heseltine answered questions about his own fitness following the heart attack he suffered last summer while on a weekend holiday in Venice.

'I would question any suggestion that I am not 100 per cent. I put that question to my doctors, that I was not going to be a lame duck.

'They know a great deal about my heart. They have seen inside it. My doctors were categoric that I should go back,' the President of the Board of Trade said.

Asked on BBC Television whether he and his family had reconsidered his future as a result of Mr Smith's fatal heart attack, Mr Heseltine said: 'No.'

He said he had lived with the pressures of political life for a very long time. 'There is one thing people don't fully understand. There are people - and I think I am one - who are under less strain and less stress in the cut and thrust of politics than outside feeling frustrated that they are unable to play a part in the life that one leads.

'It is important to realise that stress and strain are very different things to different people.'

Mr Heseltine said he had received a hand-written letter of encouragement at his hospital in Venice within hours of his heart attack from Mr Smith, who was recovering from his first heart attack. 'I was very cheered by that. He was a busy man and he could have waited until I came back to talk to me.

'I was deeply touched. It was a letter of great encouragement. He was a man who had a very good relationship in the House of Commons. There was a gleam in his eye. He just was a big man.'

Mr Heseltine said he had great difficulties in wanting to make the speech to the Scottish Tory conference yesterday while politics was still in mourning for Mr Smith. 'The stuffing was knocked out of one. This was such a close loss of such a significant figure that to get up and start doing the cut and thrust of party politics, the mood was just not there.'