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Friday, September 24, 1999 Published at 12:43 GMT 13:43 UK

UK Politics

Tebbit hits out at Portillo 'deviance'

Lord Tebbit, critic of "the permissive society"

Lord Tebbit has dealt a blow to Michael Portillo's hopes of a political comeback by accusing him of lying about the extent of his sexual "deviance".

In a letter to the Spectator magazine the Tory peer, who earned nicknamed the "Chingford skinhead" for being in the vanguard of the Thatcherites in the 1980s, the former cabinet minister accused Mr Portillo of lying about his homosexual past.

In the letter Lord Tebbit alleges Mr Portillo, who is seeking the Tory nomination for the Kensington and Chelsea by-election, failed to tell "the complete truth" when he said he had "homosexual experiences" in the past.

[ image: Michael Portillo sought to
Michael Portillo sought to "clear the decks" for his comeback by talking about his sexual history
Lord Tebbit says he had given his support to Mr Portillo's attempt to return to the Commons "in the belief that he had no more than a brief encounter when little more than a schoolboy, which I am told is not that uncommon", but "we now know his deviance continued for almost a decade".

'Society has changed, not me'

When Mr Portillo talked of his homosexual experiences earlier this month he said they were confined to his youth and there had been "nothing of that sort" since.

But hard on the heels of his partial confirmation of rumours that had been around Westminster for years, gay rights campaigner Nigel Hart revealed he had an eight-year affair with Mr Portillo after Cambridge University.

In his letter Lord Tebbit concedes that he "can imagine a man with a gay past being elected prime minister". But he adds that it is not his own views of "what is right" that have changed, but society.

The peer writes that he remains "a vocal critic of the permissive society".

Michael Portillo, currently seen by the Thatcherite right as their best hope to replace William Hague as Tory leader, spoke publicly about his sexual past in an effort to "clear the decks" for his bid to win the Tory nomination for Kensington and Chelsea.

The safe Tory seat was left vacant following the death of Alan Clark last month.

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