Britain will experience a series of crises “fast and thick” as the country faces a “very ugly situation” in the coming months, former Deputy Prime Minister Lord Heseltine has warned.
After the UK’s fuel crisis and rising global gas prices, the former Conservative minister accused the government of “moving from crisis to crisis”, claiming that it “was obviously 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 Britain faced a “winter of discontent” during a series of strikes and rising inflation during a 1979 Labor administration.
There have been warnings that Britain could face similar crises in the 1970s this winter due to supply shortages, rising energy prices and a pressure on people’s income due to inflation.
Asked if the country was heading for a similar situation in the coming months, Lord Heseltine told Sky News: “I think we are heading for a significant rise in inflation, which will lead to rises in interest rates.”
Peer added that if he were Chancellor Rishi Sunak, he would be “extremely concerned” 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 fast and thick in the coming months now, and every time there will be a demand for taxpayers’ money,” he told the Trevor Phillips On Sunday show.
“Sooner or later there will be interest rate rises, which will obviously affect very dramatically a lot of people – especially those with mortgages.
“It is a very ugly situation, it is 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 are being built into the system and we are already running on borrowed time, so to speak, financially.”
Lord Heseltine – who had the conservative whip suspended in 2019 for saying he would vote for the remaining Liberal Democrats in this year’s EU elections – launched a fierce attack on Boris Johnson’s administration and the prime minister’s optimistic “boosterism”.
“Boosterism is honestly good for those who believe in you,” he said.
“But it’s not good for people waiting to make positive industrial decisions, investment decisions, inward investment decisions, local strategic decisions.”
“Just take the term ‘Take Back Control’. That’s what we were told Brexit would do: ‘Take Back Control’.
“Can you show me an area where you think this government has actually gained a greater degree of control? It’s moving from crisis to crisis, and it’s obviously not in control.”
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Peer was also at odds with the prime minister’s “leveling” agenda, which Mr Johnson recently appointed senior cabinet minister Michael Gove to lead.
Asked about Mr Gove’s recent speech at the Conservative Party’s conference in Manchester, Lord Heseltine said: “He did not say anything, it is the truth – it was all words, no plan, no action, no details.
“So we are now waiting for the White Paper. I travel as always with optimism, but I can not pretend that there are many reasons for optimistic assessment. [based] on everything that has happened so far. “