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 Overview: Michael Portillo
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Michael Portillo was the first to enter the race
Michael Portillo was the first to enter the race

Despite years of being touted as a future Conservative leader Michael Portillo failed to make it to the final round of the contest.

After losing out to Ken Clarke and Iain Duncan Smith, the man who seemed destined to lead the Tory party immediately announced his decision to quit frontline politics.

His failed leadership bid followed false starts in the past. In 1995 he failed to challenge John Major. In 1997 he was denied a shot for the top job after being swept out of Parliament when Tony Blair's landslide smashed into traditionally safe Tory seats like his former constituency of Enfield.

But on this occasion Portillo lost no time in throwing his hat into the ring, starting the race to replace William Hague by becoming the first to declare his candidacy less than a week after the defeated Tory leader threw in the towel.

After the first knock-out ballot of Tory MPs Portillo claimed frontrunner status, but ominously he did not secure the amount of votes many expected.

And his campaign began to stall, with newspaper allegations about financial donations to his constituency party and TV documentaries accusing his supporters of disloyalty to William Hague during the election campaign proving particularly damaging.

But the Michael Portillo who entered this race was hugely different from the brash Thatcherite figure he cut in 1995 or even 1997.

As well as providing one of the iconic images of the 1997 election, the shock of losing his Enfield Southgate seat sent him on a much publicised political journey.

Portillo fought his campaign preaching the gospel of social inclusion and tolerance, he quit the hardline No Turning Back group and was disavowed by his onetime patroness Baroness Thatcher.

Even more shocking to some in the party, shortly before returning to the Commons in 1999 he "cleared the decks" by confirming that he had had "homosexual experiences" as a young man.

Michael Portillo took himself on a political journey but seemingly failed to take enough of his supporters with him.






Audio/Video Clips
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All five candidates head-to-head on Question Time
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Michael Portillo’s official campaign launch, June 2001
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Michael Portillo announces he will run, June 2001
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The former defence secretary wins Kensington and Chelsea by-election, November 1999
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Portillo reveals past homosexual experiences, September 1999
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