Why Michael owes it all to Dusty Springfield

The Agreeable World of Wallace Arnold

Share
Related Topics
I have long been a tremendous fan of Mr Michael Heseltine, never more so than now. It is good to see the Old Lion has lost none of his appetite for rough and tumble. I applaud his reaction after the two feeble Chief Whips of the Labour and Liberal (dread word!) Parties began to whine their little heads off after falling for the Conservative Party's good-natured and highly seasonal "doubling-up" gag. Michael responded by calling these whingers "silly" and "hysterical" and "totally synthetic". Spot on, Michael!

Michael has never lacked pluck. I remember well those days in the late 1950s when he was scratching a living as a male model. He would spend his time parading up and down the Kings Road in all the very latest "with- it" knitwear in the hope of catching the eye of some eagle-eyed fashion photographer. He was mustard-keen, even then, and never missed a trick to bark back at his critics. At one of his first outdoor "photo-shoots", the photographer asked him to lean a little more heavily on the farm-gate and look "a little more rustic" in his blue-and-white polo neck with mother- of-pearl inlay. "This is one of the most absurd suggestions I have heard in my entire career!" he snapped back. "It is arrant nonsense and the grossest hypocrisy to suggest that I do not already look extravagantly rustic! I demand a retraction!" Alas, his modelling career failed to prosper. After one catalogue for female nightwear and accessories - his startling resemblance to the popular singer Miss Dusty Springfield won him the job - it all seemed to peter out. During the whole of 1959, he managed to find only one assignment, modelling shoe-laces under the title "The Shoe- Lace Makes The Man" for a company based in Leighton Buzzard which was to fold within the year.

But Michael's temperament was soon to find its perfect outlet. Parading in Tootal co-ordinates through the streets of Henley-on-Thames one crisp spring morn in early '61, he caught the eye of the chairman of the Henley Conservative Party. At that time, Henley Conservatives had been searching high and low for a suitable candidate to put forward in the next election. The chairman - a retired colonel of impeccable integrity - collared the young Heseltine there and then. "Excuse me," he said, laying one arm on his shoulder, "but are you by any chance... Miss Dusty Springfield?"

Michael has never been slow to seize his moment. He must have realised that his answer would set the seal on his future in politics. All his natural reserves of political acumen would have to come into play - yet he must never be found guilty of fibbing. "Good question, if I may say so," he replied, "And I welcome the opportunity to discuss this matter in a calm, sensible way, free from the hysterics and silliness foisted upon busy men of affairs by the shrill demands of the media. And let me add this. We in Britain are sick and tired of those who seek to run down this great country of ours. It is time we called a halt to their cynicism. It is time we said `Enough is Enough'. It is time we flew the flag for Great Britain, saying, loud and clear, in the words of our forefathers `Britons never, never, never shall be slaves!' "

It was a remarkable speech. By the time he had finished, the streets of Henley were packed with ordinary men and women stamping and applauding. No doubt a fair proportion believed they had been witnessing an impromptu medley from the chart-topping Miss Dusty Springfield. But there were, however, still a handful who must have realised that this was a human being of such integrity that he was destined for a place in the Cabinet. Michael Heseltine MP was indeed on his way.

This was years ago. Michael is now a figure of such eminence in the Conservative Party that one is constantly being pestered to polish off an obituary of him for one newspaper or another. "Mace Man Dies" is the heading for my obit of him in the Telegraph. "Death of Minister Who Stormed From Thatcher's Cabinet" reads the heading in the Times. And two of his most memorable political sayings are shortly to be immortalised in my forthcoming Arnold's Book of Political Quotations. They are: 1) "How dare you suggest I will stand against Mrs Thatcher! She has my fullest support!" and 2) "I have been persuaded by my colleagues to stand for election as Leader of the Conservative Party."

And what of his future? On Thursday's Newsnight he remained certain that the Conservatives will sail through the next election with flying colours, guaranteeing his employment for the next five years. But I couldn't help but notice a telling detail: he was dressed in Tootal Co- Ordinates, topped off with the very latest in fashionable knitwear.

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Jemma Gent: Management Accountant

£250-£300 Day Rate: Jemma Gent: Are you qualified accountant with previous exp...

Richard Bishop: Accounts Payable Clerk

£11 - £13 Hourly Rate: Richard Bishop: Are you looking for a purchase ledger r...

George Parlour: Accounts Assistant

£13 - £15 Hourly Rate: George Parlour: Do you want to give something back? Th...

Danielle Degan: Cash Allocations Clerk

£10 - £13 Hourly Rate: Danielle Degan: Are you an experienced Accounts Assista...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Daily catch-up: opening round in the election contest of the YouTube videos

John Rentoul
Anthony Burgess, the author of 'A Clockwork Orange' and 'Earthly Powers,' died 17 years ago  

If Anthony Burgess doesn’t merit a blue plaque, then few do

John Walsh
No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor