Britain will experience a series of crises “fast and thick” as the country faces a “very nasty situation” in the coming months, former deputy prime minister Lord Heseltine has warned.
Following the UK’s fuel crisis and soaring global gas prices, the ex-Conservative minister accused the government of “lurching from crisis to crisis” and claimed it was “patently not in control”.
Lord Heseltine was a Tory minister when a Conservative government introduced a three-day working week in 1974 due to the impact of industrial action and an energy crisis.
And he was also a leading Conservative when the UK faced a “winter of discontent” during a series of strikes and rising inflation under a Labour administration in 1979.
There have been warnings that the UK could face similar 1970s-style crises this winter due to supply shortages, rising energy prices and a squeeze on people’s incomes due to inflation.
And, asked whether the country was heading for a similar situation in the coming months, Lord Heseltine told Sky News: “I think that we are heading to a significant increase in inflation, which will lead to increases in interest rates.”
The peer added, if he were Chancellor Rishi Sunak, he would be “extremely worried” about demands for support from various industries – but Lord Heseltine said he understood a ministerial reluctance to intervene.
“These crises in industry after industry are going to come now fast and thick in ensuing months and every time there will be a demand for taxpayers’ money,” he told the Trevor Phillips On Sunday show.
“Sooner or later there are going to be interest rate increases which, of course, will impact very dramatically on very large numbers of people – particularly those with mortgages.
“This is a very nasty situation, it’s a very complicated situation and I can well understand the government’s reluctance to introduce what will always be called a ‘temporary’ palliative.
“These palliatives are never temporary and they become built into the system and we are already running on borrowed time, so to speak, in economic terms.”
Lord Heseltine – who had the Conservative whip suspended in 2019 for saying he would vote for the pro-Remain Liberal Democrats in that year’s EU elections – launched a fierce attack on Boris Johnson’s administration and the Prime Minister’s upbeat “boosterism”.
“Boosterism, frankly, is good for those who believe in you,” he said.
“But it’s no good for people who are waiting to take positive industrial decisions, investment decisions, inward investment decisions, local strategic decisions.”
“Just take the phrase ‘Take Back Control’. That’s what we were told Brexit would do: ‘Take Back Control’.
“Can you show me any area where you think this government has actually achieved a greater degree of control? It is lurching from crisis to crisis and it’s patently not in control.”
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The peer was also scathing of the PM’s “levelling up” agenda, for which Mr Johnson has recently appointed senior cabinet minister Michael Gove to lead.
Asked about Mr Gove’s recent speech at the Conservative Party conference in Manchester, Lord Heseltine said: “He didn’t say anything, that’s the truth of it – it was all words, no plan, no action, no detail.
“So we’re waiting now on the white paper. I travel with optimism, as always, but I can’t pretend there’s many grounds for optimistic assessment [based] on anything that’s happened so far.”