Michael Heseltine Warns Of 'Chilling' Similarity Between 'Extremes Of 1930s' And Today's Political Crisis

Former Tory deputy prime minister says targeting "foreigners and the elite" has a "chilling appeal".

Former Tory deputy prime minister minister Michael Heseltine has warned of the “chilling” similarity between the “extremes of the ’30s” and today’s political crisis in the UK.

The Conservative peer, once touted as a Tory Party leader, hit out at messages that target “the bureaucrats of Brussels, the foreigners, and the elite” as they appealed to people who are “looking for alibis” when faced with stagnant living standards.

He said the “extremes of the ’30s” were also caused by “economic stress”.

His comments came after a prominent Labour MP defended comparing some Tory Brexiteers to Nazis.

David Lammy, a high-profile campaigner for a new Brexit referendum, had hit out at members of the European Research Group (ERG) of Tory MPs who have urged Prime Minister Theresa May to take a tougher stance on EU withdrawal.

On Sunday, Lammy defended his views when asked on BBC1′s The Andrew Marr Show whether a comparison he previously made between the ERG and the Nazi Party and South African racists was unacceptable.

“I would say that that wasn’t strong enough,” the Tottenham MP replied.

Later asked about Lammy’s comments on Channel 4 News, Lord Heseltine admitted he had been “very reluctant” to compare the current crisis in the UK with the rise of extremism in the 1930s even though he had been “very aware of it”.

The former MP has been a high-profile critic of Brexit and has made a series of speeches opposing it.

He told Krishnan Guru-Murthy: “I’ve been extraordinarily reluctant - and indeed if you hadn’t asked me, I wouldn’t have brought it up - to start creating an atmosphere in which this becomes part of the tableau.

“The fact is, this is a parliamentary democracy. We are the great tradition of democrats in this country, and I am appalled by anyone who starts talking about the extremes of yesteryear.

“But you can’t escape this chilling thought: the extremes of the ’30s was born of economic stress, and the thing that is driving the extremism today is the fact that since 2008 we have had frozen living standards and people are looking for alibis.

“And if you put together the bureaucrats of Brussels, the immigrants and the foreigners and the elite ... all that sort of stuff ... it has a sort of basic, chilling appeal for people who are desperately looking for an alternative.

“The fact is, if you have a stagnant economy, you have to work your way to improve that economy.”

Michael Heseltine addresses anti-Brexit campaigners in Parliament Square as they take part in the People's Vote March in London.
Michael Heseltine addresses anti-Brexit campaigners in Parliament Square as they take part in the People's Vote March in London.
Press Association

Earlier, Lammy had accused Tory Jacob Rees-Mogg of promoting the “racist” AfD, or Alternative for Germany party.

Lammy added: “They’re happy to use the phrase ‘grand wizard’. KKK is what it evokes to me when I think of that phrase and the Deep South.

“I’m sorry, but very, very seriously, of course we should not appease that, of course we should not appease that.”

The AfD was founded in 2013 as a Eurosceptic party in Germany, and has since campaigned for tougher immigration laws. Rees-Mogg has previously denied supporting the party.

When it was put to Lammy that he was saying Mr Rees-Mogg and former foreign secretary Boris Johnson are equivalent to Nazis, Lammy said: “Ask Boris Johnson why he’s hanging out with Steve Bannon.”

Rees-Mogg, who heads the ERG, tweeted: “I feel sorry for Mr Lammy, comparing a Parliamentary ginger group with an organisation and creed that killed six million Jewish people makes him look foolish and his comments unbalanced. It damages his reputation.”


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