Heseltine admits Tory losses likely

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MICHAEL HESELTINE, President of the Board of Trade, has prepared the Conservatives for setbacks in the European elections by admitting that voters are still punishing the party for the recession, writes Stephen Castle.

Mr Heseltine told journalists that 'there is no escape for democratic governments from public protest in the midst of a recession' and that public perception of recovery lagged behind reality.

Asked whether this meant likely losses in next month's European elections Mr Heseltine replied: 'We have just had local government elections which reflected this mood, but we move on.'

In what some MPs will interpret as an overture to the right of his party, Mr Heseltine described himself as 'a product of the Thatcher revolution', adding: 'As someone who created his own business and had the privilege of selling council houses (as Environment Secretary) I was one of the earliest people out of the trenches.'

He said Labour's choice of leader would not make 'a hoot of difference'. Mr Heseltine added: 'The left of politics today has no ideas. The whole debate internationally is now being conducted on the right of politics. It was one of the criticisms made of John Smith, that he had no policies.'

Attacking opposition parties' commitment to the social charter Mr Heseltine released figures showing that in 1992, non-wage costs as a proportion of total earning were 17 per cent in the UK compared with 23 per cent in Germany and 29 per cent in France.