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Founder member Michael Brown
"I don't think that Mr Portillo even quite knows which direction he's going in"
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Thursday, 2 November, 2000, 10:31 GMT
Portillo turns back on No Turning Back

Michael Portillo: Turned back on No Turning Back Group
Conservative frontbenchers Michael Portillo and Francis Maude have resigned from the Thatcherite No Turning Back Group.

The shadow chancellor and the shadow foreign secretary are said to have been angered by leaked media reports of the right-wing group's meetings.

Reports of one of the group's dinners have suggested that Mr Portillo was turned on by MPs who have long been considered his political allies after the party dropped its tax guarantee.

Other points of contention are said to surround the shadow chancellor's keynote address at the Conservative Party conference in Bournemouth.

In the speech Mr Portillo focused on a more tolerant social agenda and his own political journey instead of launching an attack on the government's tax policies.

The No Turning Back Group was formed in 1985 to defend the free-market policies of the then prime minister Margaret Thatcher.

Portillo 'confused'

The loss of two leading members is likely to reduce seriously the group's political influence.

Baroness Thatcher has been recently reported as saying she "no longer understands" Mr Portillo.

Her aides added that the former prime minister believes Mr Portillo, "has become very confused".

Explaining the resignation of the two frontbenchers, Tory sources said that Mr Portillo and Mr Maude believed that if they could not have a policy discussion in private there was little point in continuing with the group.

'More extreme than ever'

Responding for Labour, a spokesman said that the move did not represent a political repositioning within Tory ranks.

"The hard-right extremists in the Tory Party do not need a fringe group now that they control the Tory front bench.

"Under Michael Portillo and Francis Maude the Tories agenda is one of privatisation and cuts. They are now more extreme than ever before," he said.

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See also:

30 Oct 00 | UK Politics
Portillo hints at 8bn tax cuts
03 Oct 00 | Conservatives
Portillo aims for private health boost
03 Oct 00 | Conservatives
Portillo's symbolic speech
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