Lord Heseltine: Conservative Party faces ‘significant’ period in opposition over Brexit

Tory grandee Michael Heseltine has warned the Conservative Party that it is at risk of spending a “significant” period in opposition if it does not commit to staying in the European Union.

The former Deputy Prime Minister has urged members of his party to stop trying to be more like Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage.

Speaking to The Yorkshire Post, he said: “I’m very disappointed that the Conservative Party seems to be devoting its energies to prove how pro-Farage they are.

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“Farage and everything he represents in my view is a disaster for this country, for the North, South, East and West.

Lord Michael Heseltine. Pic: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire

“The fact that the Conservative leadership struggle appears to be centred on embracing him and his ideas in my view will simply just keep the Conservative Party out of power until it wakes up.”

Lord Heseltine also said he would refuse to back any candidate in the upcoming Tory Party leadership race unless they support Britain remaining in the EU and offer a second referendum to consolidate that policy.

The former Deputy Prime Minister also said the main reason why Yorkshire was lagging behind in devolution was due to the “limited progress” in creating structures that would make the Government respond to the region’s wishes.

He said: “What I am deeply concerned about is that the objection to making a relevant economic-wide community is the self-interests of the existing power structure, whether they are the local councillors. the local bureaucrats or whatever it may be. They are all clinging onto structures, which reflect the past and not the future.”

The Tory grandee was in Leeds yesterday to deliver a keynote speech at the launch of the Royal Town Planning Institute’s (RTPI) Ambitions for the North report.

Lord Heseltine talked about how he played a key role in leading urban regeneration in Liverpool after rioting took place in the city in the 1980s.

He rejected the idea of there being a designated cabinet minister for the Northern Powerhouse as it would require one for other areas of the British economy as well.

“What is important is to change the structure of Whitehall to make sure that from the Prime Minister down, views of the conurbation authorities are at the heart of Government policy making,” Lord Heseltine said.

The former Deputy Prime Minister also warned the Conservative Party not to overlook Northern cities.

He said: “It can’t win without the great support it has enjoyed historically in the North of England.

“It can’t win and if it doesn’t understand that then it doesn’t deserve to win but my own view is that the Conservative Party being the rational and sane body that it will realise that and will make sure that it appeals.

“It’s problem is Brexit. That is so divisive and that division itself could keep the Conservative Party out of power for a significant period.”

The Ambitions for the North report was launched in partnership with think tank IPPR North and set out ambitions for spatial planning in the North.

Sue Manns, vice-president of RTPI, said: “The North starts from a position of strength and the arguments for investment in connectivity to overcome transport problems are now heard beyond the North.

“While investment is key to driving economic growth, there is a need for a clear strategy if we are to ensure that the benefits from this investment are spread across the North.

“The RTPI is clear that the next phase of the Northern Powerhouse agenda should focus more on place making and quality of life and the spatial framework launched today forms part of this journey.

She added: “Economic planning for the North needs to be coupled with vision and ambition for improving the places in which people live and businesses operate.

“It must be connected to aspirations for quality of life, of how people want to live, study and work etc.”