BBC TwoNewsnight Review
Page last updated at 15:25 GMT, Thursday, 11 September 2003 16:25 UK

Michael Portillo

Michael Portillo

Michael Portillo was born in North London in 1953.

His father, Luis, had come to Britain as a refugee at the end of the Spanish Civil War, and his mother, Cora, was brought up in Fife. She met Luis while she was an undergraduate at Oxford.

Michael attended a grammar school, Harrow County, and went to Peterhouse, Cambridge, where he gained a first class degree in History.

After leaving Cambridge in 1975, Michael worked briefly for a shipping company before joining the Conservative Research Department where he stayed for three years.

At the 1979 General Election he was responsible for briefing Margaret Thatcher before her press conferences. For the next two years he was special adviser to the Secretary of State for Energy.

Brighton bomb

He worked for Kerr McGee Oil (UK) Ltd from 1981 until 1983 when he returned to politics as a special adviser to Nigel Lawson, the then Chancellor of the Exchequer.

In December 1984 Michael won the by-election in Enfield Southgate, following the murder of Sir Anthony Berry MP in the Brighton bombing. Michael represented the seat for 13 years but was defeated in the 1997 Election.

As a member of the House of Commons, Michael was a whip, Parliamentary Under Secretary for Social Security, Minister of State for Transport, Minister of State for Local Government and Inner Cities; and as a Cabinet Minister was Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Secretary of State for Employment, and Secretary of State for Defence. He was admitted to the Privy Council in 1992.


After his 1997 electoral defeat, Michael returned to Kerr McGee as an adviser. He also turned to journalism, writing about walking as a pilgrim on the Santiago Way, and working as a hospital porter.

He wrote a weekly column in The Scotsman, presented a three-part series for Channel 4 about politics called Portillo's Progress, and made radio programmes on Richard Wagner and the Spanish Civil War.

Michael was re-elected to Parliament in a by-election in Kensington and Chelsea in November 1999 and was Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer from February 2000 until September 2001.

Following the Conservatives' election defeat in 2001, Michael contested the leadership of the party. He was unsuccessful, and decided to return to the backbenches, eventually leaving the House of Commons in 2005.

Since leaving politics, Michael has devoted himself to writing and broadcasting. He writes for the Sunday Times, is a regular on BBC One's political show This Week and Radio 4's Moral Maze, and has made several more TV documentaries.

In 2008 he was also chairman of judges for the Man Booker Prize.

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