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ON THIS DAY

09 January 1986: Heseltine quits over Westland. The Defence Secretary, Michael Heseltine, has resigned from his Cabinet job in a row with Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher over the Westland affair. Mr Heseltine stormed out of a meeting at Number 10 today saying his views on the future of the Westland helicopter company were being ignored. He said the final straw came when Mrs Thatcher insisted all his public comments on Westland would have to be vetted by officials before being released. In a statement to reporters later this afternoon, Mr Heseltine said: “If the basis of trust between the Prime Minister and her Defence Secretary no longer exists, there is no place for me with honour in such a Cabinet.” The row over the company’s future has split the Cabinet.
Mr Heseltine was alone among ministers backing a European consortium’s rescue package – while Mrs Thatcher favoured the deal being proposed by the American Sikorsky Fiat group. Mr Heseltine – with the backing of the Defence committee – claimed the European deal, which was initially worth more financially, could form the basis of a strong arms industry to rival the Americans. Critics claimed the orders were based on aircraft still in the design stage. Westland’s directors are urging shareholders to back the Sikorsky package. The American group has now offered to match the European offer. Its orders are also seen as more secure, because they are linked to aircraft already in production. Mrs Thatcher has appointed George Younger to replace Mr Heseltine as Defence Secretary. Malcolm Rifkind will take over the vacant role of Secretary of State for Scotland. Mr Heseltine’s sensational departure from his Cabinet role is bound to fuel rumours that he is aiming for the top job, as Conservative party leader. (Source: BBC)
Comment: The Editor attended the Press Conference at the MoD given by Mr Heseltine post his removal. Michael Evans of the Times asked him whether in view of the fact that his successor had been appointed so quickly whether he had been set up by Mrs T. “that’s a very good question, And that’s a very good answer!” was the reply,

10 January 1991: Last ditch efforts to avoid Gulf War. The United Nations Secretary General will leave shortly for Baghdad in a final diplomatic effort to avoid war against Iraq. Javier Perez de Cuellar is expected to raise the possibility of sending a UN peacekeeping force to Kuwait to oversee the peaceful withdrawal of Iraqi troops. Saddam Hussein is under UN orders to pull his soldiers out of Kuwait within five days. A Security Council resolution authorises the use of force against Iraq if he fails to comply. Talks in Geneva between the Iraqi Foreign minister, Tariq Aziz, and the American Secretary of State, James Baker, broke down yesterday. After more than six hours of negotiations, Mr Baker said he had heard nothing from the Iraqis to suggest they were preparing to meet the UN deadline. An official statement from Iraq today said the army was longing for a showdown. Mr Perez de Cuellar will meet Saddam Hussein in two days’ time. UN officials have denied there are any specific peace plans on offer, but a spokesman confirmed there had been some discussion about a peacekeeping force. The UK Foreign Secretary, Douglas Hurd, said the time for diplomacy was past: “If Saddam Hussein does stay in Kuwait then he will be attacked… It’s not going to be altered one way or the other by little bits and pieces of gestures.” Mr Baker is on his way to Saudi Arabia where he will be discussing plans for war rather than peace. He said: “I think there is still a path for peace, that path leads from Baghdad now and the choice is with the government of Iraq.” Britain’s ambassador to Iraq, Harold Walker, has been recalled from Baghdad following the breakdown of yesterday’s talks in Geneva.

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