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Friday, September 10, 1999 Published at 17:39 GMT 18:39 UK

UK Politics

Portillo pledges support for Hague

Michael Portillo: Pleased by messages of support

Michael Portillo has insisted he will not contest the leadership of the Conservative party, if he is re-elected as an MP.

On a walkabout in Wellingborough, Northamptonshire, the former defence secretary said that challenging William Hague was not on his agenda.

"If I come back my mission would be to help William Hague become Prime Minister," he told BBC Radio 4's The World at One.

[ image: Portillo will contest Alan Clark's former constituency]
Portillo will contest Alan Clark's former constituency
But he did not rule out pursuing the leadership of the Conservative Party at some later date.

"My approach to ambition has always been that it is better not to have some target I might never fulfil but rather to enjoy each thing that I do as my career progresses," he commented.

Mr Portillo also said he had no regrets about his disclosure in an interview to the Times newspaper that he had "gay experiences" while a student at Cambridge.

Supportive comments

"I felt that if I am going to return to Parliament it would be useful to clear up these things [gay rumours] and I am pleased I have cleared them up," he told sixth formers at a question-and-answer session at Sir Christopher Hatton School, Wellingborough.

Mr Portillo added that he was not unduly afraid of the media investigations his comments might provoke.

"It is not as if they have not been digging for the last ten years," he said.

Mr Portillo said he was pleased by the many supportive comments he had received following the revelation.

"I have found that people today have not changed their attitude to me at all," he commented.

Wellingborough constituency chairwoman Lady Fry said she thought Mr Portillo had been "extremely courageous and honest and forthright".

Mr Portillo, who lost his seat at the last election, has put his name forward to take up the London seat of Kensington and Chelsea, left vacant after the death of the maverick Tory MP Alan Clark.

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