Thursday, January 12, 2006

Michael Heseltine - My Part in His Downfall

Michael Heseltine has today called for a fresh inquiry into the Westland Affair and the release of paperwork relating to the crisis under the Freedom of Information Act. He also alleged there was an illegal "concert party" - an arrangement between various investors to secretly manipulate share price - to buy the company, including the late financier Sir James Goldsmith. And in evidence, he cites a book I published nearly four years ago called HERE TODAY, GONE TOMORROW by Sir John Nott, the former Defence Secretary who was Chairman of Lazard, Westland's bankers. Heseltine said today: "What I said at the time was true, and every time there is a revelation it confirms what I said. John Nott's autobiography was another very interesting step in that direction and he names people involved. He was forced to take the names out, but if you look at the index to his memoirs you will see that the name Jimmy Goldsmith features there but if you look up the biography text it's gone." I remember the day well. The book was about to be sent out to bookshops and we were told by the Daily Telegraph's libel lawyers that a page had to be removed - they were serialising the book the next day. It ended up being a page one news story. We ended up having to send all the books down to a warehouse in Cornwall for them to replace the offending page. Not part of the game plan at all. I can't confirm what Heseltine says about James Goldsmith, but he is probably right about the index. One other thing I remember is being at a small private dinner in October 1985 at which one of Michael Heseltine's senior civil servants was present. He was adamant that Heseltine was looking for an issue to resign over. We all poo poohed the very thought, yet three months later he was gone. Coincidence? You decide.

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