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?
SPONSORED FEATURES
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + competitive: SThree: Are you looking to take your ...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £40000 per annum + competitive: SThree: Exciting career prospect for ...

Recruitment Genius: Account Manager / Media Sales - OTE up to £30,000

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This award-winning company, whi...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Software Developer

£40000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique & exciting opp...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Daily catch-up: Ancient Labour rivalries – Bevan versus Morrison

John Rentoul
Labour leadership hopefuls, from left, Yvette Cooper, Liz Kendall, Andy Burnham and Jeremy Corbyn on the BBC  

If you’re thinking of voting for Jeremy Corbyn, here are my promises to you

Andy Burnham
A groundbreaking study of 'Britain's Atlantis' long buried at the bottom of the North Sea could revolutionise how we see our prehistoric past

Britain's Atlantis

Scientific study beneath North Sea could revolutionise how we see the past
The Queen has 'done and said nothing that anybody will remember,' says Starkey

The Queen has 'done and said nothing that anybody will remember'

David Starkey's assessment
Oliver Sacks said his life has been 'an enormous privilege and adventure'

'An enormous privilege and adventure'

Oliver Sacks writing about his life
'Gibraltar is British, and it is going to stay British forever'

'Gibraltar is British, and it is going to stay British forever'

The Rock's Chief Minister hits back at Spanish government's 'lies'
Britain is still addicted to 'dirty coal'

Britain still addicted to 'dirty' coal

Biggest energy suppliers are more dependent on fossil fuel than a decade ago
Orthorexia nervosa: How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition

Orthorexia nervosa

How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition
Lady Chatterley is not obscene, says TV director

Lady Chatterley’s Lover

Director Jed Mercurio on why DH Lawrence's novel 'is not an obscene story'
Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests

Set a pest to catch a pest

Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests
Mexico: A culture that celebrates darkness as an essential part of life

The dark side of Mexico

A culture that celebrates darkness as an essential part of life
Being sexually assaulted was not your fault, Chrissie Hynde. Don't tell other victims it was theirs

Being sexually assaulted was not your fault, Chrissie Hynde

Please don't tell other victims it was theirs
A nap a day could save your life - and here's why

A nap a day could save your life

A midday nap is 'associated with reduced blood pressure'
If men are so obsessed by sex, why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?

If men are so obsessed by sex...

...why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?
The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3

Jon Thoday and Richard Allen-Turner

The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3
The bathing machine is back... but with a difference

Rolling in the deep

The bathing machine is back but with a difference
Part-privatised tests, new age limits, driverless cars: Tories plot motoring revolution

Conservatives plot a motoring revolution

Draft report reveals biggest reform to regulations since driving test introduced in 1935