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

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

Guru Careers: Graduate Software Developer / Junior Developer

£20 - 28k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Graduate Software Develop...

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Trainee Teacher - Maths

£18000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This organization is the larges...

Recruitment Genius: Delegate Telesales Executive - OTE £21,000 uncapped

£16000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: High quality, dedicated Delegat...

Recruitment Genius: Field Sales Consultant - School Playground Designer

£25000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A fantastic opportunity has ari...

Day In a Page

Read Next
The Queen at Derby day during the Epsom Derby Festival, 2013  

As an MP, I shouldn't have to swear allegiance to the Queen – I serve my constituents, not her

Richard Burgon
Fifa president Sepp Blatter  

Fifa presidential election: If I had a vote, I would back Sepp Blatter

Sean O'Grady
Fifa corruption: The 161-page dossier that exposes the organisation's dark heart

The 161-page dossier that exposes Fifa's dark heart

How did a group of corrupt officials turn football’s governing body into what was, in essence, a criminal enterprise? Chris Green and David Connett reveal all
Mediterranean migrant crisis: 'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves,' says Tripoli PM

Exclusive interview with Tripoli PM Khalifa al-Ghweil

'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves'
Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles: How the author foretold the Californian water crisis

Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles

How the author foretold the Californian water crisis
Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison as authorities crackdown on dissent in the arts

Art attack

Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison
Marc Jacobs is putting Cher in the limelight as the face of his latest campaign

Cher is the new face of Marc Jacobs

Alexander Fury explains why designers are turning to august stars to front their lines
Parents of six-year-old who beat leukaemia plan to climb Ben Nevis for cancer charity

'I'm climbing Ben Nevis for my daughter'

Karen Attwood's young daughter Yasmin beat cancer. Now her family is about to take on a new challenge - scaling Ben Nevis to help other children
10 best wedding gift ideas

It's that time of year again... 10 best wedding gift ideas

Forget that fancy toaster, we've gone off-list to find memorable gifts that will last a lifetime
Paul Scholes column: With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards

Paul Scholes column

With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards
Heysel disaster 30th anniversary: Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget fateful day in Belgium

Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget Heysel

Thirty years ago, 39 fans waiting to watch a European Cup final died as a result of a fatal cocktail of circumstances. Ian Herbert looks at how a club dealt with this tragedy
Amir Khan vs Chris Algieri: Khan’s audition for Floyd Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation, says Frank Warren

Khan’s audition for Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation

The Bolton fighter could be damned if he dazzles and damned if he doesn’t against Algieri, the man last seen being decked six times by Pacquiao, says Frank Warren
Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

Fifa corruption arrests

All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

How Stephen Mangan got his range

Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor