Michael Heseltine will be forever associated with dramatically toppling Margaret Thatcher as Prime Minister and Leader of the Conservative Party in November 1990. However, in Life in the Jungle
, his eagerly awaited autobiography following departure from public office as Deputy Prime Minister in 1995, Heseltine has written an absorbing account of life in the thick of the Westminster jungle over the last quarter of a century. This is a long but never dull book that covers Heseltine's adolescent struggle with dyslexia, presidency of the Oxford Union, his forays into the property world, the formation of his successful publishing group Haymarket, and early days as a junior minister in Edward Heath's administration. What is particularly engaging about the book is the sheer energy and scope of Heseltine's political initiatives, including selling Concorde, his courageous anti-racist positions in the aftermath of Enoch Powell's "rivers of blood" speech, urban regeneration in the inner cities, and selling off council houses. His entrepreneurial instincts consistently vindicate his belief that if his Conservative colleagues in the 1980s "had known more about the world as it is and not how theory says it ought to be, they might have been able to make more temperate and rational contributions to the great economic debate of the 1980s".
The Thatcher years, and Heseltine's own sensational resignation over the Westland affair in 1986, are dignified but a little colourless. Thatcher's behaviour over Westland is viewed as "an affront to the standards of government in which I profoundly believed". The challenge to Thatcher in 1990 vividly recaptures the tense manoeuvrings for power that brought Heseltine within a whisker of the top job, whilst his account of the Major years offers engrossing but generous accounts of his by then junior colleagues, and his final startling dalliance with a challenge for the leadership following the resignation of John Major. Life in the Jungle is a fascinating portrait of one of the most charismatic and principled Conservative politicians of recent decades, and is required reading for anyone interested in British politics in the latter half of the 20th century. --Jerry Brotton
In this forthright book, he recounts not just the story of his political life but of his business career as well. (Eurobusiness