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 177.

    163. benbowlane
    Britain is now in the third division when it comes to the work ethic.


    So quick to rubbish your fellow countrymen, no evidence, no stats, just prejudice.

    Having worked for many company's employing people of many nationalities I can honestly say the Brits are right up their with the hardest workers, highest commitment and also the smartest/brightest.

  • rate this

    Comment number 176.

    Most people would like to improve their lot, but at the moment they are struggling to live as they are, thanks to the mess that the 'fat cats' have got the economy into.

  • rate this

    Comment number 175.

    Oh dear, a senior Tory says something that might well be taken out of context from the anti Tory brigade and the BBC dresses it up and allows another HYS for them. Queue a raft of complaints from people labelling him as 'out of touch' and 'rich' when in fact he's a self made man and actually pointing out those who are well off don't actually need to worry about improving the economy.

  • rate this

    Comment number 174.

    161.Print This

    Rather than reading the headline, read what's in the story and what he is quoted as saying rather than spouting Labour one size fits all drivel that is designed to attack in order to take the heat of the failed Labour governments part in all this.

    There is no will to do anything in this country because we have no sense of togetherness anymore. It's all about the individual.

  • rate this

    Comment number 173.

    Why do we still value life by the £ sign?
    Look at the misery it causes.
    Yes we have spongers on benifits. We also have spongers at the top of society as well. Rich hoarding cash abroad, career polititians and their expenses.
    Run your model based on us all being sucesful. End result?
    Why is there only 3 steps on the winners podium?
    Its wrong that for every winner there has to be dozens of losers

  • rate this

    Comment number 172.

    Don't forget how much inverse snobbery there is. The rich & successful are often ridiculed, hated, vilified and jeered at.

    This kind of cultural programming causes too many of us hate the thing that drives us forward: wealth.

    We really need to lose that medieval hangup that money is evil.

    Never forget that it was the world's richest man, the Pope, that preached this and the glory of poverty.

  • Comment number 171.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 170.

    It is very easy for Mr Heseltine to say how good it is for the masses in the UK from his position of wealth, power and position. Sure, the UK is not as bad as it is in India, where Mr Heseltine has just come back from, but there are a growing number of soup kitchens, mental health patients on the streets and families waiting for homes. Let Mr Heseltine walk a mile in their shoes....

  • rate this

    Comment number 169.

    I suspect that the people Lord Heseltine knows personally may be so wealthy that they lack the will needed to secure an economic recovery but I’m not convinced that his analysis extends more generally to the population at large.

  • rate this

    Comment number 168.

    He is probably right. As a society we are not starving but the poor in countries like China and India are desperate. They look enviously at our lifestyles and their society/parents drive the next generation to succeed, hoping that they won’t have to endure the poverty they experienced. What they don't know yet is that money/ambition does not necessarily lead to happiness.

  • rate this

    Comment number 167.

    We're rich???
    He's the one who is rich,very rich!!!
    I wish as a pensioner who has worked all his life,I could say I feel comfortable with the state and other pensions I have paid into-but the fact that everything else is rising at far greater speed--fuel-food-clothing etc.makes my money buy less and less each month.
    Go away hezeltine-you euro loving fool!

  • rate this

    Comment number 166.

    Anthony Charles Lynton Blair taught that our salvation lay in the new "Invisible Earnings" from the bankers etc. so that effort in science, engineering and manufacture was old fashioned and pointless.

  • rate this

    Comment number 165.

    I see as usual, lots of knee jerk "Tory this, Tory that" comments. Oblivious to the common sense statement this left-leaning respected statesman is speaking. We've had to tighten our purse strings quite a bit, but our quality of living far outstrips that of India et al. That's his point.

  • rate this

    Comment number 164.

    What an idiot,complacency is the is the norm for upper class fools who've been given life on a plate,he has never done a days work in his life,was a member of the most destructive govt in our history who's greed and prejudice is still being felt today in whole regions wiped out socially and economically,boom and bust,Banking crime,EU fiasco etc....clear off you nasty nasty man!

  • rate this

    Comment number 163.

    It's not that people consider themselve well off, it's more a case of a sbstantial proportion of the country are so used to being provided for by the state that they don't see any reason to work. Britain is now in the third division when it comes to the work ethic. We have bred a nation of workshy skivers, malingerers and wannabees. We are now reaping what we have sown over the last 50 years

  • rate this

    Comment number 162.

    He's right, only unhappy Tory types value the economy above their own happiness, indeed most of them equate money to happiness, there's no saving them. As long as I've got a warm house, food, some good computer games and the great outdoors I couldn't care less about money, especially other people's money.

  • rate this

    Comment number 161.

    Typical out of touch Tory.

    Can't admit we're in a mess as a result of their failed policies based on blind ideology. Instead, let's blame the ordinary people getting absolutely hammered.

    If we were really rich, consumers would be spending, firms would be investing, tax receipts would be up, borrowing down and economy fine.

    More redundant, flawed logic and comment from a failed government.

  • rate this

    Comment number 160.

    Oh dear. More "How can a rich politician understand?" tripe from the likes of RayCraig (124), Endgames (118) and others.

    Heseltine is an entrepreneur with a proven record. He built a publishing, not a property empire Mikewow (128), from scratch. Sure, he could while away all his time in his garden - but instead he believes in public service.

    How silly to say he's wrong just because he's rich.

  • rate this

    Comment number 159.

    People are quick to comment without really looking at what Heseltine is saying. He didn't say people Britain have no money problems, and of course some have been driven into poverty. But British poverty can't be compared to third-world poverty - the vast majority of us have a roof over our heads and food to eat, even if life isn't a barrel of laughs. Maybe the drive to improve our lot has gone.

  • rate this

    Comment number 158.

    Lots of Chief executives ,directors, bankers and politicans dont need the will to ensure economic recovery, they get very well paid no matter how bad they are.


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