Some headlines are too good to ignore. They demand to be read. “Heseltine’s dog-strangling confession comes after admission of wanton killing of 400 squirrels,” is how one online news service summarised today’s revelation ‎that the former Deputy Prime Minister Michael Heseltine has admitted to strangling his mother’s pet alsatian.

In an interview with Tatler magazine, presumably to promote his new book about his vast garden, Hezza claimed that the dog had bitten him. He responded by pulling on its chain until it went limp, he was quoted as saying. You read that correctly. Tatler says he claims to have killed his mother’s dog. Yes, it was decades ago. But even so, this is a dead dog we’re talking about and this is Britain, where dogs and cats are more popular than people.

It was always possible that Heseltine – one of the consummate big beasts of his era but an inveterate political gambler ‎- would go too far. Now he has.

When he warned that if Britain did not join the euro the UK economy would collapse and that we would all be homeless , forced to rely on crumbs of charity from passing American tourists and kindly, wealthy gentlemen with large arboretums (like wot Hezza has got), we generally forgave him his monumental mistakes. That’s because he’s such a classy individual with such terrific hair.

‎When he predicted that the euro would be a great success, most of us even overlooked that and resisted the temptation to mock.

Even when he admitted to killing 400 grey squirrels, the nation was forgiving. Grey squirrels are nasty incomers who must be resisted. Or is that red squirrels. I always get them confused.

Then, when he got Brexit wrong and refused to accept the result, joining his fellow one-time euro enthusiasts (Ashdown, Blair, and so on) in seeking to fight the electorate’s decision, it was midly annoying, but also quite entertaining in a futile way.

Only real hardline Brexiteers‎ had always hardened their hearts against Hezza. But they were mainly furious Thatcherites who could never forgive him for bringing about her downfall in 1990, twenty six years ago. Which is quite a long time past.

Forget all that. This, this is unspeakable. That was a British dog, albeit of Alsatian origin. We do not go in for dog-strangling. This is Britain. Only in the most controlled circumstances, and then with a vet in charge, will we contemplate a dog’s passing being hastened. Yet Heseltine seems to have admitted to strangling a dog.

In terms of British public opinion this is by far the worst thing he has ever done. There will now be a storm of protest. Old ladies will boo him in the street. Animal charities will issue statements saying that his act of murder was reprehensible and stress that there can never be an excuse for dog-strangling. Hezza will be lucky to get to the end of the week without having to promise to go on a re-education course – filmed by the BBC – so that he might be taught by vets, and dogs, that dog-strangling is not acceptable in the modern era.

This one will run and run. Unlike the dog in question.