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Thursday, September 9, 1999 Published at 08:20 GMT 09:20 UK

UK Politics

Portillo: In his own words

Michael Portillo: Holding his hands up

Michael Portillo is the Tory's great blue hope. Thrust back into the limelight following the death of the flamboyant Kensington and Chelsea MP Alan Clark, he was supposed to be keeping quiet on his political ambitions.

It now transpires he had worked at length on a detailed interview with The Times newspaper. Most notable for the former Cabinet minister's admission of homosexual experiences during his time as a student, it also provides a compelling portrait of a man whom many in the Conservative Party would still love to see as a future leader and prime minister.

On Kensington and Chelsea ...

"We're talking soon after Alan's death and we can't go into that yet. I don't want to talk about it because it's presumptuous. I have always said that I will return to public life when the moment seems right."

On rumours of an affair with Peter Lilley ...

"No, I haven't [had an affair with Peter Lilley, the former Conservative deputy leader]. And I don't think we've ever talked about it other than to discuss whether to conduct libel proceedings."

On his homosexual experiences ...

"I will say what I want to say. I had some homosexual experiences as a young person."

On his opposition to lowering the gay age of consent ...

"I took the view that gay sex could easily be more traumatic for a young man of 16 than heterosexual sex would generally be for a girl of 16 ... by the way, do you think that's possibly true?"

On Margaret Thatcher ...

"By the way, she is in my experience a socially very tolerant person. For example, when Cecil Parkinson had that problem with Sara Keays, she was immensely understanding. She was really quite worldly about it all."

On his conference speeches ...

"You get so fixated with the idea that you've got to achieve a standing ovation, so you say some silly things and they get up on their feet, but that's not the point."

On politics and political ambition ...

"The thing about Parliament and government which is very hard to replicate elsewhere is the breadth of the canvas. And that is what is so interesting. You are looking at important events and important developments."

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