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Wednesday, 20 June, 2001, 15:38 GMT 16:38 UK
Portillo: The right person for the Tories?
Michael Portillo has become the first person to enter the race for the leadership of the Conservative Party.Disclaimer: The BBC will put up as many of your comments as possible but we cannot guarantee that all e-mails will be published. The BBC reserves the right to edit comments that are published.
Announcing his candidacy he said the party needed to adopt a public tone that was more "moderate and understanding".
The Conservatives were thrown into disarray by the sudden resignation of William Hague following their disastrous defeat in last week's general election.
The election process for the Tory leadership will take most of the summer and several other party heavyweights, among them Kenneth Clarke and Ann Widdecombe, are considering their position.
Is Michael Portillo the best person for the job? Can he revive the fortunes of the beleaguered Conservative Party?
The Conservatives have not yet realised that it's pointless choosing people like Portillo, who appeal to Conservative MPs and activists - their votes aren't the important ones. They have to pick someone who appeals to non-Conservative voters, to try and bring them round. The Labour party found Tony Blair - the Conservatives may eventually discover Kenneth Clarke...
Ian Vickery, UK
Bring back the Iron Lady! Margaret Thatcher was the best Prime Minister this country's ever had. In her absence, if Portillo is Tory leader next time round, then I'll probably vote blue - after all, he comes recommended by Maggie herself!
There is no way Portillo will win now that two charming and charismatic right-wingers are fighting him. Mr Davis and Mr Duncan Smith are not all dull and will definitely put a stop to apathy with their electrifying stage presences
Nigel Grensitt, UK
Let it be Portillo please, then we can have lots of lovely re-runs of that moment in 97 when his world collapsed.
Time to get the beers in for Portillo 2 - Losing the election.
The Tories must not be influenced, by the liberal media's anointing of Tory leaders. If the "press" influence the process, it's like the enemy appointing your Generals.
In two General Elections the Labour Party has won because thousands of traditional Tory voters were so fed up of being ignored by their party that they decide that they would give Labour a chance. Yet, the Conservative are still trying to tell the populace what they will do, rather than listening to what the populace wants and forming policies around these wishes. Until such time as the Conservative Party listens to the wishes and aspirations of the traditional Tory voters, the leadership of the Party will be somewhat irrelevant.
If the Tories continue to be as "Right Wing", obstinate, stupid and insular as they were formerly, then Michael Portillo is precisely the right man to ensure that their political aspirations will never see the light of day again. If, on the other hand, they wish to provide a reasonable and constructive Opposition for the good of the citizenry instead of themselves, then Kenneth Clarke is probably the best bet. Although I do not agree with the Tories on many points it is not a good idea to have effectively a one party state which is the case, at the moment, since the Tories lack brains and the Liberals lack muscle .
You don't really need an intelligent
or charismatic leader to lead an extreme right
wing party into power. If you need proof
of this just look at the Republicans here in the US.
The Tories need to look for a pretty face (Portillo hasn't got one) to run the party because it's obvious the electorate look no further. Proof - well just look at how well Labour are doing with Blair. If William Hague had been judged on ability rather than looks then who knows what would have happened.
If the Tory party is ever to see power again it will have to have a high profile leader. Michael Portillo is the only hope they have. If he occupies the centre ground, as most expect him to do, and surrounds himself with a shadow cabinet of similarly charismatic individuals, then we could well see a pretty swift change in the Tories' fortunes. I'd bet my bottom dollar that Portillo is the man Blair most fears - he's an absolutely natural speaker and will make Blair's dull, irritating 'four words and pause' method of delivery seem positively juvenile by comparison.
T. Matuk, Germany
I personally think that Ken Clarke would be people's choice, but he will be unpopular with the "men in grey" because of his European stance. Any candidate that has the Thatcher support, must understand, it is the "kiss of death". They may get the leadership, but they have little chance of the premiership, if they follow her principles.
Portillo? No. Clarke? No. It will be Iain Duncan-Smith - like Blair relatively unknown at the time of appointment. He's a warm man with outstanding abilities and the skill to unite the party.
Those who accuse the Tory party of bandwagon
jumping have got it very wrong. They are all exercise
freaks indulging in a bout of collective knee jerking at
every political fad that comes along.
Boris Johnson is clearly the best man to lead the Conservative Party.
Jonathan Kerr, UK
The sensible thing for the Tories to do would be to find out who is Lady Thatcher's favoured candidate - then go for someone else!
The Tories only have to keep their heads and wait. The fools who go on about them being too right-wing have completely lost touch with reality. The left lost all the debates long ago, but keeps trying to fool us that it is compassionate. It concentrates on losers and with political correctness tries to make anyone who wants to succeed in life look like a heartless villain. But it won't last, Britain is a naturally right-wing country. Labour will fall apart in the next 5 years when it realises that it can't please a lot of people without taxing them to the hilt and giving into political pressure from Brussels.
You must be joking.
Peter Allingham, UK
Tony Blair may also have reinvented himself before coming to power, but he was not a high profile figure in the years before he became the leader of the Labour party as Portillo was pre-1997. So it wasn't quite as obvious. And Blair has changed the direction of his party to get Labour elected. Portillo has only changed himself and would have no chance of influencing the rest of the Tories to think along the same lines on any single issue let alone a complete manifesto.
Given the widespread joy in 1997 when Mr. Portillo lost his seat, I hardly think he is likely to win support and respect from the electorate in the next election.
Arnoud V, Netherlands
There are arguments against Portillo and most of the other "front-runners". Portillo is seen as insincere following his apparent conversion from the right wing of the party to the left. Clarke cannot unite the party because of his pro-euro stance and Ann Widdecombe only has narrow appeal. My view is that a more junior candidate should step forward. My nomination is Dr Liam Fox who as a former GP knows a thing or two about what is wrong with the health service, among other things.
The only "right" person for the Tories is Margaret Thatcher but they blew it when they discarded her.
Joe Ewing, England
What is the point of electing Michael Portillo as leader of the Conservative party if the sole purpose is to bring the party to the centre. We already have a centre party in the UK. It is called New Labour. The Lib Dems occupy the centre left that was vacated by old Labour. The Tories should choose a leader that represents the views of their party and not the present view of the country held by voters. Only then can we all have a fair choice of who we want to govern us. The Tories are right wing and always have been. A leopard cannot change its spots whoever they elect as leader.
Portillo is liked by the media - but few others. Give me Ken Clark (without euro-fanaticism) and David Davis to establish the Conservatives as a credible opposition first.
Conniving, hypocritical, opportunistic, and driven by blind ambition at the expense of anything else.....of course he's the perfect person for the job.
And as for reviving the fortunes of the Conservative party(ies). If they really believe that their electoral wipe-out was caused by the leader's lack of hair and Yorkshire accent, and that therefore electing a "handsome" leader will reverse this, then God help them - because the electorate certainly won't!
David Patrick, Reading, UK
Portillo? I don't think so. He carries with him too much political baggage from the past. Fresh faces are needed in politics. A sort of 'anti-politician' type of politician is now required to break down the crumbling and utterly out of touch party circus and political elite now in charge of this great country.
I believe that Michael offers the Tories their best opportunity of having a leader with genuine prime ministerial qualities since Margaret Thatcher
More to the point, are the Tories the right party for Mr. Portillo? The next four years will either see more disastrous in-fighting over Europe or an exodus of pro-Europeans, leaving him with a party who don't share his "friendly debate" view. If he wants to be Prime Minister, he's backed the wrong bunch to get him there.
David M, UK
I think maybe he could be good for the country, if not for the Tories' chances at the next election. At this point we desperately need an opposition different from Blair. Someone to defy the Murdoch press and argue a liberal, even a libertarian agenda. In that sense being despised by the tabloids is a point in his favour.
Michael Thomas, UK
Regardless of the personalities, it seems to me axiomatic that any leader of a demonstrably unpopular party has to have a wider appeal to us, the voters, than to the Parliamentary party.
Forget Portillo, Widdecombe and the rest. The ONLY possible leader is Ken Clarke. If he had been leader instead of Hague then we might not have had to endure another Labour government intent on stealth taxes and destroying small business. As for the euro - it's going to happen, we're only delaying the inevitable!
Andy, Nottingham, UK
Portillo should take at least one leaf out of the Labour party's book - he should adopt the policy of a referendum on the euro. This would finesse the problem (just as Labour has done), by making it a matter of conscience for individual Conservative MP's. In practice, this would not greatly change the party's perceived stance on the euro, but it could enable Ken Clarke to team up with Portillo as a potential Chancellor of the Exchequer - a post for which he would be well respected in the country.
I'm not a Tory supporter, but even I can see that whoever they choose from this shortlist (Portillo, Widdecombe, Clarke etc), will be a disaster for them. They need to spend the next few years as Labour did in their wilderness years - bringing on and nurturing young vibrant individuals who are in touch with the 21st century, who can see what their people need and get behind policies that matter to them. They missed the chance to do this while Hague was treading water for 4 years; they mustn't do it again. If they persist with the last century Thatcher ideals they seem so bent on clinging to, they will soon be gone for good.
Mr Portillo should give way to Miss Widdecombe or Mr Duncan Smith. This would be the last nail in the coffin of this organisation that is increasingly becoming a geriatric club of racist little Englanders.
I have met Michael Portillo twice and found him to be an affable and intelligent man with a good sense of humour. Regardless of who leads the Tories, I will never vote Conservative. However, I would prefer Portillo at the dispatch box than some of the unbearable authoritarian right-wingers in the shadow cabinet.
I have always been on the right of the Conservative party, but if we have any chance of ever winning back power, we need to appeal to the public. I can't believe I'm saying this, but we need Ken Clarke.
Darren Webb, USA
Portillo and Widdecombe played key roles in this election, which proved to be an absolute fiasco. Therefore, I believe they have a nerve to even consider standing for the leadership of the Conservative Party.
Only Kenneth Clarke is a viable option for leader at this time, with Ian Duncan-Smith as his deputy. I believe this team could unite the party and provide at least some opposition against the Labour Government.
Portillo is the ideal leader for the Conservative Party. A leader no one would elect for an unelectable party. There simply isn't any belief in the capability of the party to govern or create policies that anyone wants. The Conservative party needs an electable face, and the only one I can think of is Chris Patten a man the Parliamentary Party wouldn't back. Oh well I guess we're going have to get used to a one party state.
Potillo, Clarke, Widdecome,Lilley, they have all had their day and blew it and the electorate do not forget their past history. Fresh faces with fresh ideas are the only things that will change the Tory party in the eyes of the electorate. Frances Maude and Ian Duncan Smith seem to fit the bill.
It doesn't really matter who becomes leader, so long as they change the party name, by putting "New" in front of it, change the logo and produce pledge cards. The UK electorate will fall for it and the party will come to power!
Those who criticise Portillo's apparent "conversion" evidently know very little about his diverse background as a son of an anti-Fascist Spanish socialist and a teenage Labour party supporter. This is not the first time that he has had a "conversion", and to me his conversion is no more "unprincipled" than the conversion of new Labour to core Thatcherite economic and trade union policies. It is a matter of moving with the times.
Portillo therefore represents an opportunity for Conservatism to move away from its own slightly sad (and relatively recently adopted) form of Conservative Utopianism which wishes that single parents and homosexuals didn't exist and that all the immigrants would go home. Hopefully, as the son of a refugee and as a very intelligent politician Portillo is the man to restore the Tory Party to the centre-right and to give it a new philosophy and some fresh ideas. Those who wish to see Labour in power for another 20 years forget what happened to the !
Tories after 18 years. Single party politics is not good for party or nation. I hope he becomes leader and I will judge who to vote for in 4-5 years time on his policies and by the results the Labour party has achieved.
Malcolm Haig, UK
I think the relevant question for the Conservatives is will the people want this leader to be the next PM? I think that Michael Portillo is "damaged goods" as far as the electorate is concerned and could not envisage him as a future leader. I really think they need someone completely new, with no skeletons in the closet.
I believe that Michael Portillo, is probably the last best hope for the Conservative party. He 'seems' to combine a sincerity and understanding that other potential Tory candidates sorely lack. However, the true test of his more social liberal views will come when he has to implement these beliefs into party policy.
Ken Beach, Germany
If the Tories really wish to ever gain power again, they must listen to the electorate and stop fighting amongst themselves. It is felt that Kenneth Clarke is the most popular Tory amongst the voters, but will the party realise that it is what the voters think that matters, not the cosy little club in Westminster?
I think he is probably the best option they have. Besides, anything is better than Widdecombe.
Jim Blake, UK
Politics is a dirty game in this country and Portillo has too many skeletons in his closet. He may be the best of a bad bunch but I think he would present too much of a target for the other parties to shoot at. I agree with other comments that the Tories need someone with the charisma of Ken Clarke but without his pro-Euro views, but they tried the "fresh face" approach with Hague and it proved disastrous.
The right-wing of the Conservative Party, who have already started tut-tutting about Portillo's past and his pleas to be more moderate and understanding, should realise that their man had his chance in this election and was roundly rejected by the electorate.
Good luck to Michael Portillo and his attempts to make the Tories electable again. This country needs a strong Opposition - a realistic alternative government - and he is the man who can deliver this.
It does not matter who leads that disjointed group known as the "Tory party" because they are so divided and confused about what is happening in society that I would like to put a bet on Labour winning the next General Election by a 150 seat plus majority!
Yes he would ensure that we don't get a Tory Prime Minister for a long long time!
So I support him in his leadership bid!
He is not a caring Tory.
Unless he's had a truly Damascene conversion he simply won't believe what he's saying. Tony Blair has combined his own basic principles with an ability to get elected and put his principles into practice. He might have changed his views on some particular issues, but his principles have remained. That's the difference. Portillo has made such an about turn - apparently - that I can't see how he can believe his own new stance and he will not persuade voters. And, no, we don't have short memories. We all remember exactly where we were when he lost his seat in 97, and we all loved it.
Go for it, Don Miguel. Another landslide for Tony Blair in 5 years time.
What ever happened to the "clear blue water" that Portillo spoke of just a few years ago? I suggest that the secret of success is to keep doing the right thing long enough! Portillo doesn't seem to know what he stands for now.
He will probably have a greater chance of winning if he stood for the Spanish general election instead - bring back Maggie.
Portillo's "conversion" to caring for society is as believable as Tony Blair coming out for the Socialist Alliance.
This was the man who gave us the poll tax, xenophobic rants to the Tory conference and whose demise in 1997 was symbolic of the out of touch Tory party. He cannot be believed and would, therefore, be a disaster as leader.
Andrew Dobson, UK
I think this was Portillo's plan from the start. Hague was merely the fall guy in an election they knew they wouldn't win.
It would be a good way of ensuring that neither me nor anyone I know will vote Tory next time round. He should go for it.
Ed, Reading UK
Portillo? Maybe. It all depends on whether he wants to be the Conservative Blair - drawing the party towards the centre, rubbishing old Tory nonsense as rabid euro scepticism, latent racism and hypocritical stands on social issues. On the other hand, if Portillo maintains Hague's rulebook, he'll just be a new, empty, pretty face.
Best of a bad bunch!
Michael Portillo could be the right person to lead the Tories but in order to succeed, he needs to bring together the party and unite under specific policies. Conservatives will win more seats in parliament if they appear united. However if the party chooses Ann Widdecombe as leader, then the Conservatives must be prepared to be in opposition for many more years to come.
Daniel Brett, UK
Michael Portillo is probably the most recognisable face in the party, other than Kenneth Clarke. If the Government is going to spend a fortune convincing us that the euro is a good thing, then someone of Portillo's standing is required to balance the argument and convince us of the reasons to say 'No' to the euro.
A smooth talking, charismatic match for Mr Blair! If Michael Portillo wins, the Tories stand a chance at the next election - assuming the Health Service, Education, the Railways and Euro have not been fixed by the New Conservatives, I'm sorry, Labour.
Mr Blair is a hard worker, but I wish Mr Portillo well, because we certainly need a more balanced Parliament next time around.
Widdecombe, Clarke or Portillo?
None of the above!
Portillo has always been a contender for Tory party leader and would have been when John Major stood down in 1997 except that he lost his seat. This has probably been a blessing in disguise for him as he was able to re-invent himself. Before 1997 no one would have used the words moderate and understanding to describe him and as the electorate have a very short memory span, he may well pull it off and appeal to them.
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