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Last Updated:  Friday, 11 April, 2003, 18:16 GMT 19:16 UK
Portillo takes on check-out role
Michael Portillo at Asda in Wallasey, Liverpool
'Mike' has been working on a supermarket check-out
Millionaire Tory politician Michael Portillo is seeing how the other half live - by working on a supermarket check-out.

The former defence secretary has left behind his upmarket pad in leafy Belgravia for a three-up three-down terrace in Merseyside's working-class suburb of Seacombe.

The change in fortune is part of a secret BBC television documentary, in which Mr Portillo is experiencing life as a single parent.

The Kensington and Chelsea MP is caring for a mother's four children and filling in for her one day a week at Asda in Wallasey, Wirral on Merseyside.

Wearing a uniform with the name badge "Mike", Mr Portillo works on the clothes counter, serves customers, puts security tags on items, tidies up and enjoys breakfast with his new colleagues.

But the job has not come without its red-faced moments.

'Good laugh'

One shopper said: "I saw him serving sexy lingerie, including a thong and some frilly French knickers.

"He was a bit embarrassed at first, but seemed to be having a really good laugh as well."

Mike is really good at working the till and if he's after a job, we can offer him one
John Tobin

Store manager John Tobin said: "He's not work-shy and has adapted really well. Mike is really good at working the till and if he's after a job, we can offer him one."

An Asda spokesman added: "After recently being voted the Number One company in the UK, we are not surprised that people from all walks of life want to work for us."

As part of his role, Mr Portillo has been seen taking the children to school every day in a battered old Renault 5 and working as a classroom assistant at St Joseph's Catholic Primary.

Sharing news

Headteacher Barry Lyonette said: "He's been in the school working with the children.

The children have responded well to him and he has all the skills of an excellent teacher
Barry Lyonette
"He sits with them at circle time, which is when they share their news with each other and he makes a real effort to get down on their level, even sitting with them on the floor.

"The children have responded well to him and he has all the skills of an excellent teacher."

A spokesman for the BBC said: "We can confirm Michael is working with us on a news documentary which sees him playing the role of a single parent for a week.

"He is also working at the school as a classroom helper."

Change of scene?

Friends of Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith may be taken a keen interest in Mr Portillo's apparent "career change".

The Cambridge graduate, who is married to city firm head-hunter Carolyn, has been a thorn in Mr Duncan Smith's side.

He sparked a row earlier this year by claiming the Tory leadership was narrowing the party's appeal to voters and had brought the current troubles on itself.

Mr Portillo, who has no children, has insisted repeatedly that he will not stand for the Conservative leadership.

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