IDS tells Lord Heseltine: Voices from the past should remain in the past

Posted On: 
18th May 2016

Iain Duncan Smith has launched a caustic counter-attack on Tory grandee Lord Heseltine as party splits over the EU continue to widen.

Lord Heseltine yesterday attacked Boris Johnson for his remarks during the EU debate
PA Images

The peer yesterday lambasted Boris Johnson for making "preposterous, obscene political remarks" during the referendum campaign, after the former London mayor appeared to compare the EU project to Hitler's ambitions.

Lord Heseltine also questioned whether Mr Johnson could go on to become party leader in light of recent events and expressed concern about the MP's judgment.

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Iain Duncan Smith, the former work and pensions secretary who is in favour of leaving the EU, said Lord Heseltine has “demeaned” the referendum campaign through his “childish” name calling.

“I must say it’s always good to hear voices from the past, I’d be grateful if they remained in the past. They had their opportunity and their fight,” he told the BBC.

“And Michael Heseltine was part of a government that told me as a backbencher that we’d reached the high watermark of European federalism, that we had game, set and match, we had won all of the debates - seems déjà vu now, because it’s almost the same argument put forward by the Prime Minister.

“We’ve had four further treaties, more powers given to the European Union. The high watermark of European federalism is nowhere near reached.”

He added: “So my simple comment is look, cut the name-calling, because this is childish and the public is fed up with it. And all of you in the past or whatever, who were once responsible for these actions, the best thing you can do is say let’s engage in the debate and stop calling people names. Because I think that demeans us, and I don’t think politicians should do that.”

Speaking earlier this morning, Mr Johnson said people reacting angrily to his comments on the EU “should cut out the synthetic outrage about things I haven't said and stick to the facts”.

“The facts are the EU is now producing about 60% of laws made in this country, it's changed out of all recognition from what we signed up to in 1972, it is making it impossible for us to control our borders and it costs about £300m a week,” he said.

The row comes as David Cameron today pledged a “One Nation” Queen’s Speech as he seeks to unify his party amid mounting acrimony over the EU referendum.

Speaking to the BBC, Lord Heseltine, a long-time supporter of Britain's EU membership, said he would now be "very surprised" if Mr Johnson went on to become Conservative leader.

"I think that every time he makes one of these extraordinary utterances, people in the Conservative party will question whether he now has the judgement for that role."

"He is behaving now irresponsibly, recklessly and I fear that his judgement is going," the peer added.

The former deputy prime minister was also scathing about the references to Hitler, saying: "The idea that a serious British politician can in any way invoke that memory, I find, frankly, I had better contain my language."