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The BBC's Jonathan Beale
"Michael Portillo has suddenly gone from favourite to underdog"
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The BBC's Today programme
looks at the Tory leadership contest and interviews Mr Portillo
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Saturday, 14 July, 2001, 15:59 GMT 16:59 UK
Portillo 'expects to finish second'
Jacques Villeneuve and Kenneth Clarke at Silverstone
Ken Clarke meets racing driver Jacques Villeneuve at Silverstone
Michael Portillo has conceded that he has lost ground in the Tory leadership contest and no longer believes he will win in the next round of voting.

His admission came as he moved to protect his leadership hopes ahead of the screening of a secret video diary expected to portray him in an unfavourable light.

The shadow chancellor said he was braced for the worst when the election diary, compiled by Mr Hague's former press chief Amanda Platell, is broadcast on Channel 4 on Sunday evening.

The Tory leadership battle took another twist on Friday when Mr Davis quit the contest and urged his backers to switch their votes to right-winger Iain Duncan Smith.
Michael Portillo
Michael Portillo: braced for the worst

The shadow chancellor said on Saturday that Mr Duncan Smith had already overtaken him as favourite to succeed Mr Hague.

This leaves Mr Portillo, a noted Eurosceptic, battling it out with pro-euro former Chancellor Kenneth Clarke for second place in the final round of voting by Conservative members of parliament next Tuesday.

It is thought Ms Platell will accuse "Portillo's people" of briefing against Mr Hague and of trying to undermine him during the campaign.

Although her criticism is not thought to be aimed directly at Mr Portillo, it is bound to raise questions of his loyalty to Mr Hague at the time.

Portillo's defence

Mr Portillo told BBC Radio 4's Today programme on Saturday that he had given his full support to Mr Hague.

He said: "If there were an accurate account of the election campaign, that account would be one of how I supported William Hague every day.

From what I know of all this I am pretty sure this is going to be a pretty spiteful effort

Michael Portillo on Platell's video diary
"Not only politically and not only up to the hilt but how I supported him emotionally.

"Every day I was trying to boost his confidence and make sure he could go out there and give his best possible performance."

Mr Portillo said of the video diary by Mr Hague's former spin-doctor: "From what I know of all this I am pretty sure this is going to be a pretty spiteful effort."

Approaching ballot

Mr Portillo's pre-emptive strike comes as the remaining candidates in the leadership contest prepare for a frantic round of weekend campaigning ahead of Tuesday's ballot to eliminate one of them from the race.

Iain Duncan Smith
Iain Duncan Smith: Winning new backers
The 166 Tory MPs will choose which two challengers will go before all 300,000 Tory members, with the victor named on 12 September.

Mr Portillo was the early frontrunner, topping the first round of voting, but it is thought his campaign is losing momentum.

It is widely believed that he will struggle to win more than a few votes from the 35 MPs who backed Mr Davis or Michael Ancram, who was knocked out in Thursday's re-run first round.

Up to 12 of the 18 MPs who backed Mr Davis are expected to switch to Mr Duncan Smith, with up to six voting for Mr Clarke.

At least half of the 17 who backed Mr Ancram are expected to change their allegiance to Mr Clarke, with the remainder more likely to support Mr Duncan Smith than Mr Portillo.

Shadow defence secretary Mr Duncan Smith is continuing to talk down his chances.

"I am not optimistic," he said on Friday.

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See also:

13 Jul 01 | UK Politics
Tory race on knife edge
13 Jul 01 | UK Politics
And then there were three
13 Jul 01 | UK Politics
Dark horse bows out of race
11 Jul 01 | UK Politics
MPs face Tory vote pressure
10 Jul 01 | UK Politics
Dead heat forces Tory poll re-run
10 Jul 01 | UK Politics
Portillo under fire as Tory vote opens
12 Jul 01 | UK Politics
Ancram, the emollient earl
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