Heseltine questions 'national will to improve economy'

Lord Heseltine Lord Heseltine's plans to rejuvenate city economies were accepted by his party

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Lord Heseltine has suggested the wealth of British people means they lack the "national will" needed to match growth rates in places like India and China.

He told the Independent the "richer you get the less imperative there is" for people "to drive themselves".

The former Conservative deputy prime minister said "all these comparisons" with India and China "were ridiculous".

He said he was just back from India: "You know why they've got to drive themselves? They've got real problems."

Last week in the Budget, Chancellor George Osborne admitted the UK's economic recovery was taking longer than expected but insisted "we are, slowly but surely, fixing our country's economic problems".

Start Quote

Maybe one of the problems of advanced economies is that people are sufficiently well off that they don't need to drive themselves any more”

End Quote Lord Heseltine Conservative

His comments came just after he had announced that the official forecast for growth in the UK economy this year had been halved to 0.6% from the 1.2% predicted in December.

India's economic growth projection for this year has also been cut, but in its case to 5%. China's economy grew at its slowest rate for 13 years in 2012 - but at 7.8% was still far ahead of UK figures.

'Ridiculous' comparisons

Lord Heseltine dismissed comparisons between the UK and the two faster growing economies.

"Maybe one of the problems of advanced economies is that people are sufficiently well off that they don't need to drive themselves any more," Lord Heseltine said.

"All these comparisons with China and India are ridiculous. I've just come back from India. You know why they've got to drive themselves? They've got real problems. While in this country there are people with problems, the vast majority of people have standards which are not comparable with the Third World."

Asked whether he believed poor growth stemmed from a lack of desire, Lord Heseltine replied: "It could be. I don't personally subscribe to that view but I don't discount it as a possible thought... I think there is in the nature of most people a desire to do something and to do it better, and do it to a degree of personal satisfaction."

Lord Heseltine, whose plans to improve the economies of English cities other than London were accepted by the government this month, was asked by the Independent if it was essential to improve the economy.

He replied: "It's not essential. It doesn't need to. It can go on drifting down.

"There is no God-given rule saying you've got to have a well-performing economy. It could be an indifferent economy. It's a question of whether the national will is there; whether we want it. And the richer you get the less imperative there is."


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  • rate this

    Comment number 117.

    We are where we are because of successive politicians with no relevant experience killing our economy. From Thatcher onwards we have lost industries that were once world-class. After 40 years of decline we are tired. We need INDUSTRY LEADERS to run our economy NOT talentless politicians and skill-free civil servants. We need a revolutionary shift in how we run our country AND WHO RUNS IT.

  • rate this

    Comment number 116.

    True - we have no will because we have lost faith in politicians in general. What exactrly has any government done to improve life for ordinary people? Government are the mouthpiece of bankers and business. They put those interests first - whatever colour the party.
    We need a new way of running the country - with honesty and unpaid MPs.

  • rate this

    Comment number 115.

    I'm no Tory but Hezza has been right on interventionist Industrial policy and is probably right here.
    Market fanatics go on about the marvels of the mystery of the market giving us growth, soince 1979 it hasn't happened as industry disappeared leaving us dependent on the banks
    Hezza's interventionist ideas are anthma to them they have the benefit of working in every country including the US

  • rate this

    Comment number 114.

    @Paul. You could always do what a lot of now wealthy people have done, find a niche or talent, start your own business and work hard at it. Most successful entrepreneurs have come from tough backgrounds and usually start with no money of their own.

  • rate this

    Comment number 113.

    Heseltine: "British people may be so wealthy that they lack the 'national will' " to recover


    It's the already wealthy who have no reason to enable the majority to afford to take part in the economy, 3 million earn less than 10K and over half the work force need some form of benefit.

    Meanwhile their employers build high profit empires on the back of the same benefits

  • rate this

    Comment number 112.

    #78 "Heseltine may be a Toff" sadly I doubt most people will read past that point.

    Heseltine is a successful businessman (one of the last to be an MP?) starting with a small loan from family he is worth £100m+, despite being virtually bankrupt at one point.

    But he is wrong about many people, possibly not most though. Look at the number of companies set up each year. UK has the will

  • rate this

    Comment number 111.

    So....a senior Tory slags off the strivers, the hardworkers who are the true wealth creators.

    Apparently we're not working hard enough.

    What planet is Heseltine on ?

  • rate this

    Comment number 110.


    Totally agree.

    Too many people worrying about the economy.

    Can you pay your bills ?
    Can you eat ?
    Are you warm ?

    Job done.

  • rate this

    Comment number 109.

    Quite right Heseltine. And just who are getting v wealthy at the moment? Yes its bankers and the richest 2%. Theyre too busy filling their pockets theyre not interested in innovation, investment or producing. I am reading his comments as not being about most people as we're all struggling.

  • rate this

    Comment number 108.

    89. grounsel
    small businesses are the future for this country: they are more dynamic, agile and flexible and many will become internationally successful.
    Agreed - and it also presents an opportunity to escape from the problem of the short-termist, unintuitive, bean-counting, hidebound, risk-averse biz-school management style that has contributed so little to our future. Work for yourself

  • rate this

    Comment number 107.

    small businesses are the future for this country: More of the 'experts' on here should get off their backsides and try!
    I successfully did that in the 80's & 90's but gave up in the end fighting the monetarist cycle of boom & bust. Fighting interest rates of up to 22% at times & constantly sick of having to beg people to pay their invoices. Nothing changes . . .

  • rate this

    Comment number 106.

    Not sure what he is suggesting that we do to fix our economy. Should we all be taking more risks, quiting jobs, creating new small companies with no guarantees. Like it or not we are competing with global and online organisations, as well as cheaper labour in other countries. If Germany and other countries can manage in this global economy why can't we? do we need to be poor to be successful?

  • rate this

    Comment number 105.

    I think this entire article pretty much sums up the typical Tory attitude to the economy. Ignorance made to sound like fact and an apathetic view towards the economy. Oh yeah sure, it wouldn't matter if the economy sank any lower, I mean after all that's only going to effect poor people and who cares about them? Scum bag politicians.

  • rate this

    Comment number 104.

    It is a sad state of affairs the people on the dole are better off than my parents were in the 40's and 50's they could never have been able to afford cars and TV's and the latest gizmo's like I-phone and tablets. Personally I think it is a disgrace that a lot of people have lost the will to work for a living. I have never been out of work in my life and anything I have I have paid for myself.

  • rate this

    Comment number 103.

    Business wants the best and is willing to pay for it. This means that unfortunately they are not willing to build it. So they don't invest in their existing staff and prefer to buy services or whole businesses instead of building these up. That is because business is run by rich greedy people who are not motivated to work for success because they can just buy it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 102.

    So. What he is saying is that the idea that the wealth creators will make us all richer cannot be relied upon. As if any of us believed in the first place.

  • rate this

    Comment number 101.

    It is true that Rich people are complacent and poor people are resigned to it. Nobody wants to make an effort when they see multiples of individual tax payers money wasted by government, whether central of local government. At grass roots the effort seems futile when at the top there is little care. Each official fiddling expenses or engaging in franchise mismanagement is huge waste.

  • rate this

    Comment number 100.

    @ roleypoley

    No fool, i would have paid my insurance premium in advance, so earned my entitlement ..... not arrived on a boat expecting a handout, or sat on my biutt watching jeremy kyle expecting to be kept

  • rate this

    Comment number 99.

    anyone who agrees the poulation of uk is well off should really take off their rose tinted specs..many are struggling to survive in this harsh economic climate ..millions on low paid jobs while fuel bills go through the ceiling.Don't make me laugh! This country is a mess because of greed and mismanagement stemming from the top.

  • rate this

    Comment number 98.

    Heseltine makes some excellent points, the rich are outside the standard UK-bound economy of trade and work. Their investments will keep working via overseas expending economies, ie expanding China. 89. Grounsel is right, the government should be backing and helping small businesses, it's one of the few areas where growth can genuinely happen and is part of the internet economy.


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