Magazine article The Spectator

On Track but Running out of Fuel

Magazine article The Spectator

On Track but Running out of Fuel

Article excerpt

Michael Crick's book is hardly a literary masterpiece. The pedestrian style is singularly ill-suited to the mercurial personality of its subject. The boring early chapters (57 pages) on the schoolboy and student Heseltine go on and on and on. There are even ten pages of hagiography of Anne Heseltine telling how `Christopher White [of the Ashmolean] thrilled Anne by also asking her to do some scholarly work at the museum', although it glosses over what was long-standing gossip at Westminster by but a fleeting reference to her at one time being `frantic with the thought that her husband might leave her'. In contrast with these pages of padding, the only thing for which Heseltine will be remembered, the political regicide which brought down our greatest post-war prime minister, is over and done with in a single chapter of 23 pages. Even allowing that this is not a political history of our times but a book about Heseltine, there is a lack of balance, in the exclusion from the story of Thatcher's downfall and the rise of John Major, of the parts played by others.

None the less the picture drawn of Michael Heseltine is one easily recognised by those who have known him. Crick takes the reader back to Heseltine's adolescence when what one can only describe as a political missile targeted himself on the office of prime minister. Like a laser-guided weapon, once assigned to his mission Heseltine has remained on track ever since.

As a colleague over many years I am surprised by nothing in this book except for some things left out. Crick rightly sees Heseltine's single-mindedness as both a strength and a weakness. …

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