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 717.

    He's right,though from rags to riches and back again in three generations will be the outcome of the complacency however.

  • rate this

    Comment number 716.

    711.Al Gore
    I,unlike a lot of people dont believe its a conspiracy. I simply think that the condems are scared the unions will take control, drive up wages and prices AGAIN! and cant think of any better way than maggies mantra of it not being state controlled. After all, our current politicians arent exactly known for innovative, different ideas. i.e. They are clueless and we vote for them!

  • rate this

    Comment number 715.

    713 - I do like the stealth idea (as well as the co-op and John Lewis approach). I can't help feeling that things like water and energy should be in public ownership.

  • rate this

    Comment number 714.

    712. RedGrandslam
    Living standards in the UK have gone down due to mass immiogration,
    Hogwash. Countries that have higher immigration than the UK, e.g. Germany, France and Switzerland also have higher living standards. Explain that one.

  • rate this

    Comment number 713.

    708.Al Gore
    Interpretation of clause-4 would mean renationalisation.We can't afford the 100s of billions.However we could nationalise by stealth easily.Build power stations, sell power at the same price, but redistribute the profits back to the customer+lots of investment.eventually all the customers of the big six would move to the government/customer owned company.

  • rate this

    Comment number 712.

    What Lord Heseltine needs to understand is that what most people actally want is a quality of life. Unfortuately all govt policy is focused on increasing GDP which by definition reduces quality of life. Immigration been the main offender. Living standards in the UK have gone down due to mass immiogration, which is encouraged purely because more people living in a place increases GDP...

  • rate this

    Comment number 711.

    710 - I agree we should build them ourselves, improving infrastructure, increasing employment and try to ensure better control of the rampant cost of energy bills for the people of this country. You start to wonder why they don't...

  • rate this

    Comment number 710.

    705.Al Gore
    BTW. I'm all for scrapping the green tax to the electricity companies. I find it disgusting we are paying for gas plants/wind turbines/nuclear to be built and dont own it and then get charged for it!Take the subsidy, and some of our foreign aid,build it ourslves as state owned and sell the power to the co-op.Any profit is reinvested for more capacity and then evently becomes a co-op.

  • rate this

    Comment number 709.

    The rich are so rich they don't need work or innovate, the poor are so poorly rewarded they get little for any extra effort. I get fed up with the childish black/white arguments in this country. How about what is best is a mixture of systems. Some capitalist companies, some state owned, some co-operatives and some John Lewis style equitable ownership. One size fits all is shallow dogma.

  • rate this

    Comment number 708.

    706 - It is still French state-owned. I agree that we are subsidising France and are effectively being blackmailed but we have allowed our most incompetent public servants (politicians) to get us into this ludicrous position. We should bring back clause 4 and remove those who are running the country so badly that any private employer would sack them on the spot! We need good services everywhere.

  • rate this

    Comment number 707.

    339.P J Proudhon
    "Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah and yet more blah, blah, blah.

    That about sums up the hot air I'd venture."
    I feel you have only told half the story.

  • rate this

    Comment number 706.

    705 Al Gore
    EDF is only partially state owned. Its a public listed company on euronext paris. EDF is currently holding the UK state to a halt on new nuclear unless they guarantee prices. Not exactly in the interest of the UK, France surely. EDF and GDF are only sucessful as they own power in Belgium/Spain/UK etc. We need competition. State and Customer owned. Otherwise we subsidise France!

  • rate this

    Comment number 705.

    703 - with all due respect, do you realise EDF is state-owned? I really feel that blows away the myth that if it is state-owned it cannot possibly succeed. Unfortunately, we seem to have bought in to this myth to the extent that we would allow British tax payers to subsidise the cost of nuclear power plants + keep paying at a premium.

  • rate this

    Comment number 704.

    The vast majority of this country are on the minimum wage - do you understand what life is like on the minimum wage? This is probably true of the wealthy, but a quick comparison of other countries will show quite clearly that it is not true for most. If this was true, Germany would be knackered, given their high income, and not the worlds leader in engineering design. Posh culture the problem!

  • rate this

    Comment number 703.

    701.Al Gore
    Correct, but the opposite would allow the likes of Bob Crow to demand ever increasing wages of his workers without modernising/investing. Can you imagine if the utilities were state owned?Would we be paying less? We would be paying the same with blackouts.However making the customers the owners would have a completely different outcome. x profit kept for investment, x paid back.

  • rate this

    Comment number 702.

    Guilty. It is all my fault.
    I work to live. I do not live to work.

    Guilty, but happy.

  • rate this

    Comment number 701.

    700 - you're not wrong about the need for balance. However, the problem is that the pendulum has swung too far to the right.
    We are living in an age when money is taken from the poor (in the name of austerity) to give to the rich (exemplified by an ever-increasing gap between the rich and the poor). This is Robin Hood in reverse!

  • rate this

    Comment number 700.

    To clarify. Capitalism results in the workers efforts ending up in the pockets of shareholders (a minority). Socialism ends up the workers taking all the profits (a minority). We need a system where those who pay for the product benefit from the product i.e. customers/tax payer. The likes of Bob Crow and Bob Diamond are two sides of the same coin

  • rate this

    Comment number 699.

    When we look for the feet to lay the responsibility of our current dire mess at we should look nother further than our dysfunction democratic system and the MPs.
    Who else can possibly be to blame ?

    Red Ping or Blue Pong it matters not, they have both failed us for generations,

  • rate this

    Comment number 698.

    5 FishOnADish +44
    "If you went to a top Uni you are abused for being "privileged"and so on."
    "Yes the UK does hate success and successful people"
    Your view is a popular myth,the vast majority of people are not anti a first class education,or any successful businessmen,entrepreneurs,etc.
    They simply wish to be convinced it is possible for themselves as well,whatever their reality turns out to be!


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