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Tuesday, 23 November, 1999, 15:07 GMT
Portillo tipped for return to Westminster
Michael Portillo: Casualty of 1997 general election

Michael Portillo is tipped to provide the Tories with some badly needed good news with a much-predicted victory at the Kensington and Chelsea by-election.

A total of 18 candidates are contesting the by-election, which will be held on Thursday. It was caused by the death of former Tory Minister and author Alan Clark.

Pundits regard it as a certainty that Mr Portillo will be back in the House of Commons before the weekend.

Alan Clark: Held the seat with a majority of more than 9,000
The seat is one of the staunchest Conservative strongholds in London. But Tories will have extra reason to celebrate if the former defence secretary is victorious.

A win would mean the return to Westminster of one of the party's major figures after a 30-month exile in the political wilderness following his unseating at the 1997 general election

Tory supporters would also take heart from a high-profile victory in the capital after several days in which the headlines have been dominated by the Lord Archer scandal.

Hypocrisy allegations

Despite the likelihood of success, Mr Portillo has not had an easy ride during the campaign.

His disclosure that he had "homosexual experiences" as a student at Cambridge led to him coming under attack not only from gay right campaigners but also senior Tories.

Peter Tatchell of the OutRage! pressure group claimed Mr Portillo was a hypocrite because he had upheld the ban against gays serving in the armed forces when he was defence secretary.

Peter Tatchell
He eventually relented on a threat to stand against Mr Portillo as an independent candidate.

However, protesters have still tried to disrupt Mr Portillo's campaign appearances.

Former Conservative cabinet minister Lord Tebbit accused his own party's candidate of misleading the public when it emerged that Mr Portillo's "homosexual experiences" included an affair which had lasted several years.

However, the other candidates in the by-election have mostly tried to attack Mr Portillo on policy rather than personality.

Labour's candidate is Robert Atkinson, the leader of the Labour group on the local council. He finished second in 1997 when Mr Clark had a majority of 9,519.

The Liberal Democrats are again fielding local councillor Robert Woodthorpe Browne who was third last time.

Both Labour and the Lib Dems have tried to highlight Mr Portillo's record in past Tory governments - such as his part in the introduction of the hugely unpopular community charge or poll tax.

Among the other candidates is the peer, the Earl of Burford, who is standing for the Democratic Party.

He was banned from Parliament last month after he leapt on the woolsack in the House of Lords and accused the prime minister of treason for abolishing the right of hereditary peers to sit in the chamber.

The full list of candidates:

  • Labour: Robert Atkinson
  • Liberal Democrats: Robert Woodthorpe Browne
  • Green Party: Hugo Charlton
  • Independent Environmentalist Stop Climate Change: John Davies
  • Democratic Party: Charles, Earl of Burford
  • UK Independence Party: Damian Hockney
  • Daily and Sunday Sport Party: Louise Hodges
  • Official Monster Raving Loony Party: Alan "Howling Laud" Hope
  • Campaign for Living Will Legislation: Michael Irwin
  • People's net dream ticket Party: Lisa Lovebucket
  • Equal Parenting Party: Peter May
  • UK Pensioners Party: George Oliver
  • Legalise Cannabis Alliance: Colin Paisley
  • Conservative: Michael Portillo
  • Referendum Party: Stephen Scott-Fawcett
  • Pro Euro Conservative Party: John Stevens
  • Stop Tobacco Companies Farming Our Children: Tonysamuelsondotcom
  • Natural Law: Gerard Valente.

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See also:
08 Nov 99 |  UK Politics
Tatchell changes tactics against Portillo
08 Nov 99 |  UK Politics
Portillo hits at Tebbit over gay jibe
05 Nov 99 |  UK Politics
Labour to fight Portillo 'on policy, not personality'
03 Nov 99 |  UK Politics
Westminster awaits Portillo
04 Nov 99 |  UK Politics
Peer ejected from by-election launch

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