Lord Heseltine: “If you’re only thinking about getting into politics, don’t”
Michael Hayman | 23 October 2023
Lord Heseltine has seen it all on the frontline of British politics. Seven Hills chairman and Change Makers podcast host Michael Hayman meets him at home.
This profile was originally published in City AM.
“How many politicians does anyone remember?” asks Lord Heseltine – resolute that his mark on British public life, along with the other big beasts of the political jungle, is merely temporary.
He reveals the answer to me for the Change Makers podcast: “I have no illusions that politics is very much here today, gone tomorrow.”
We’re sat together amid 70 acres of glorious gardens at Thenford House, alongside his three dogs, Fred, Fergus and Fritz. This trio of disruptors have decided to join us and Heseltine knows who calls the shots. ‘I have no authority over these dogs,’ he says. And I can tell you, on this he wasn’t wrong.
‘Exciting, changing, unpredictable.’ Not words describing a life in business and politics, but the ever-changing nature of the gardens that he and his wife, Lady Ann Heseltine, have spent almost 50 years transforming.
Walking through them with him, you get a sense that this has truly been the project of his life. Even during his government years, he revealed: ‘I would come back home with the red boxes at a weekend, go through them on a Saturday morning and then walk out into the gardens. Everything was then left behind.’
I first met Michael Heseltine in the 1980s. And our paths have crossed in every decade since. So, I knew from the get-go that this encounter would be no story of a drift into rural dotage. He remains as sharp today as he was at the dispatch box, even aged 90 and with his famous blonde mane now a snowy white.
He still stands tall at more than 6’2”, with the posture of a much younger man. On the outside a political giant, but within a much more nuanced figure: ‘[Ambition] means much less than is attributed to me. I think as a young person I was quite nervous. I’m not a great social communicator.’
For a person famed for their communication ability, it’s quite a revelation. But let’s be clear, he’s never short of an idea to make you think.
‘Do something that makes you look forward to Monday morning,’ he says, but with a word of warning for those merely tempted to follow in his footsteps: ‘If you’re only thinking about [getting into politics], then don’t. You’re not up for the stress, the strain, the relentless pressure and the inevitable criticism.’
For Heseltine, he was to learn the truth