Heseltine was first elected to Parliament in 1966. Over the next decade he advanced in the Conservative Party, and when Margaret Thatcher became prime minister in 1979 she appointed him secretary of state for the environment. In 1983 he became secretary of state for defense.
During the Thatcher years, Heseltine generally supported the government's military buildup and a tough stance toward the Soviet Union. He abruptly left the cabinet in 1986, however, when he found himself at odds with Thatcher for his role in the Westland Helicopter Affair. Heseltine preferred a European merger of the failing Westland firm with Italian and French aerospace companies, while Thatcher sought to join Westland with U.S.-based Sikorsky. Heseltine was also at odds with the Thatcher government on other matters.
Heseltine remained in the House of Commons, and in November 1990 he engineered a challenge to Thatcher's leadership. After one ballot Thatcher stepped aside, but Heseltine still faced two opponents for the party's leadership. Eventually John Major, chancellor of the exchequer, won the party election and became prime minister.
As a consolation, Major named Heseltine environment secretary, a post he held until 1992. Heseltine also served Major as industry secretary during 1992–1995 and deputy prime minister in 1993, a post he held until 1997. After the 1997 Labour victory, Heseltine left the government. He remained in Parliament until 2001, when he was given a life peerage as Baron Heseltine.
Justin P. Coffey
Heseltine, Michael. Life in the Jungle: My Autobiography. London: Hodder and Stoughton, 2000.