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Michael Portillo talks to John Humphries
"I've been building up a friendship with William Hague"
 real 28k

The BBC's Sean Curran reports
"Michael Portillo is back in the thick of things"
 real 28k

The BBC's John Kampfner reports
"If the Tories do badly next time around Mr Portillo will be associated with this defeat"
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Wednesday, 2 February, 2000, 10:54 GMT
Portillo promoted in Tory shake-up

William Hague shocked Westminster with the surprise move

Michael Portillo has finally returned to the Conservative frontbench after only two months since he re-started his career as an MP by winning the Kensington and Chelsea by-election.

Party leader William Hague made Mr Portillo his shadow chancellor in a surprise re-shuffle on Tuesday.

John Redwood and John Maples, the environment spokesman and the foreign affairs spokesman have both been sacked.

Francis Maude moves over from his role as shadow chancellor to pick up Mr Maples' brief, while millionaire businessman Archie Norman replaces Mr Redwood.

Poisoned chalice

Mr Portillo, seen by many as a possible successor to Mr Hague told the BBC that despite the severe difficulties likely to be faced by the party in attempting to win the next general election he did not see his new job as "a poisoned chalice".

Protesting his loyalty to his leader he said he had been: "A good friend of Mr Hague for many years."

I am not going to challenge Mr Hague - our fortunes are linked.
Michael Portillo
"I don't know two Conservatives who think more closely together."

He then launched into an attack on the government's economic policy criticising the increasing tax burden which he said was making the UK's economy less competitive.

Mr Portillo also criticised the prime minister for being "bent on taking us into the euro - a currency which is performing spectacularly badly".

He added that it "beggars belief that the government wants to lock us into a permanent single currency".

Archie Norman will be the first of Mr Hague's new team to face a test in the Commons when he takes on his opposite number, Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott on Wednesday.

Back in the frontline

A Former defence secretary, Mr Portillo lost his Enfield Southgate seat in the 1997 general election.

But after spending 30 months in the political wilderness he won in Kensington and Chelsea with a majority of 6,706.

The by-election had been prompted by the death of controversial MP Alan Clark.

Mr Hague said Mr Portillo was a "proven political heavyweight" and that Mr Norman, formerly Shadow Europe Minister, was one of "Britain's most successful businessmen".

He said: "They are going to be adding their enthusiasm and talent and energy and skill to the work of our party over the coming months and we are all looking forward to it."

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See also:
01 Feb 00 |  UK Politics
Hague's team for the election
26 Nov 99 |  UK Politics
Michael Portillo: A political rebirth
01 Feb 00 |  UK Politics
John Redwood: Heavy fall thwarts high hopes
26 Nov 99 |  UK Politics
Portillo returns to Parliament

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