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Last Updated: Wednesday, 30 July, 2003, 14:46 GMT 15:46 UK
Portillo learns perils of childcare
Michael Portillo at Asda in Wallasey, Liverpool
Mr Portillo made a surprising supermarket worker
Wealthy Conservative MP Michael Portillo reveals his battles to look after an eight-year-old girl and her three siblings in a TV reality show.

Mr Portillo said caring for the girl in a terraced house in Merseyside while holding down a job in a supermarket was harder than anything he had faced in the Commons.

His travails came in the BBC Two programme My Week In The Real World, which features a number of politicians coping with normal people's lives.

Producer Alison Cahn said: "His biggest battle was with Ellie. She is this wonderful, very fiery and determined little girl. They are fairly evenly matched.

"There are moments of confrontation when you wonder what he is going to do. He never lost his temper but at times there was a stony silence and you could see on his face how difficult he found it.

"Getting the kids to bed was the thing he found the hardest. In one scene, Ellie is tired but doesn't want to go to bed and he makes her go.

"I asked him how it compared to having a war of words in the House of Commons and he said, 'it's tougher'."

Michael Portillo
The senior Conservative is more used to plush Belgravia
Mr Portillo, who does not have children, looked after Tasha, 12, Anton, 11, Jacob, 10, and Ellie - on a budget of 80 a week.

He drove the children to school and replaced their mother Jenny for a week as a classroom assistant and in Asda.

In one scene, Mr Portillo accidentally cracks an egg on the floor before retrieving it and putting in the children's meal.

Ms Cahn said: "He doesn't really cook at home, he goes out most of the time. So cooking was a bit of a problem."

Valuing money

She added: "He found the experience tough at times. He couldn't pay anyone else to do the cooking or the washing or look after the kids.

"He had to learn to count the pennies and value money in a totally different way."

The leadership contender was surprised by the friendly disposition of his Merseyside neighbours compared to his home in Belgravia.

Ms Cahn said: "He was really struck by how warm and welcoming the community was. People popped in for a cup of tea.

"He said he just wasn't used to that in Belgravia - people don't knock on your door there and come in for a cuppa."

Other politicians who have agreed to take part are Tory Alan Duncan and Labour MPs Peter Kilfoyle and Clare Short.




SEE ALSO:
Portillo takes on check-out role
11 Apr 03  |  Politics
Portillo stands by IDS attack
28 Feb 03  |  Politics


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