Exclusive: Michael Heseltine fears British people are 'too rich to push' for economic recovery
Lord Heseltine believes Britain lacks drive but senior government adviser points to rising employment and house prices as signs the economy was recovering
Following stints with Reuters and the Press Association, Martin Hickman joined The Independent as a news editor in 2001. He became the Consumer Affairs Correspondent in September 2005 and has run the paper's trenchant campaigns on packaging, bank charges and factory-farmed chicken. He writes on subjects as diverse as food, finance, energy and fashion. With Tom Watson, he is author of a new book on the phone hacking scandal, Dial M for Murdoch - News Corporation and the Corruption of Britain.
Monday 25 March 2013
British people may be so wealthy that they lack the “national will” needed to secure an economic recovery, Lord Heseltine has suggested.
In an interview with The Independent, the former Deputy Prime Minister said that one theory why Britain's growth was sluggish compared with India and China was because – unlike the UK – those countries had "real problems".
One of the Government's senior advisers, Lord Heseltine has been consulting with George Osborne on regenerating British cities. Most of the recommendations in his regional growth report were accepted by the Chancellor in last week's Budget. But asked whether it was essential that the country's economy improved, the 80-year-old peer replied: "It's not essential. It doesn't need to. It can go on drifting down.
"There is no God-given rule saying you've got to have a well-performing economy. It could be an indifferent economy. It's a question of whether the national will is there; whether we want it. And the richer you get the less imperative there is."
Lord Heseltine – who sought to revitalise Liverpool after riots in 1981 while a cabinet minister under Margaret Thatcher – said: "Maybe one of the problems of advanced economies is that people are sufficiently well off that they don't need to drive themselves any more. All these comparisons with China and India are ridiculous. I've just come back from India. You know why they've got to drive themselves – they've got real problems! While in this country there are people with problems, the vast majority of people have standards which are not comparable with the Third World."
Asked whether he believed poor growth stemmed from a lack of desire, Lord Heseltine replied: "It could be. I don't personally subscribe to that view but I don't discount it as a possible thought … I think there is in the nature of most people a desire to do something and to do it better, and do it to a degree of personal satisfaction."
He pointed to rising employment and house prices as signs the economy was recovering – and queried the official GDP statistics. Asked whether he thought the figures were wrong, he said: "That would be the question I would ask every day if I were in government: how do you square these statistics with all the evidence that is being produced – not all, but a lot of it."
- 1 This 'woman calls police to order pizza' story isn't going where you're expecting
- 2 Marijuana use by teenagers does not result in a lower IQ or worse exam results, study finds
- 3 Watch what happened when food critics were unknowingly served McDonald's
- 4 Jimmy Carr's controversial Oscar Pistorius joke goes too far at the Q Awards
- 5 NHS staff banned from drinking tea or coffee on the job because it looks like they're not working hard enough
Renee Zellweger on plastic surgery: 'I'm living a more fulfilling life and I'm thrilled that perhaps it shows'
Kim Jong-un 'purge': Six North Korea officials missing for weeks 'may have been executed'
Diwali: What is the festival of lights – and how is it celebrated around the world?
Nathan Cirillo: Final pictures emerge of soldier moments before he was shot dead by Ottowa gunman
Jimmy Carr's controversial Oscar Pistorius joke goes too far at the Q Awards
Of course, teenage girls need role models – but not like beauty vlogger Zoella
Cameron is warned 'no possibility' of UK reducing immigration and that bid to bring in quota on migrant workers would be illegal
Support for EU membership 'at highest level since 1991' with most Brits wanting to stay 'in'
Thousands with degenerative conditions classified as 'fit to work in future' – despite no possibility of improvement
Residents should throw a street party and mix with immigrant neighbours, councils told
Russell Brand threatened with arrest after filming outside Fox News headquarters
£300 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: SSRS Report Developer – 3 Mon...
£95 - £150 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: Key Stage 1 teacher require...
£32000 - £39000 per annum + benefits + bonus: Ashdown Group: Generalist HR Man...
£18000 - £30000 per annum + uncapped: SThree: Do you feel like your sales role...