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 Personal: Michael Portillo
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Carolyn and Michael Portillo
Carolyn and Michael Portillo

Michael Portillo's shock defeat in 1997 provided the highlight of election night for millions of voters keen to see the Tories sent packing.

It left in tatters his gameplan of inheriting, from the right, the party leadership on John Major's departure. But Portillo's time in the political wilderness gave him a useful opportunity to reassess how to best present his beliefs and ideals, and to rebuild his image.

The new model, touchy-feely Portillo first impinged on the wider public consciousness in 1998 when Portillo's Progress was screened by Channel 4. Around a million viewers tuned in to see Portillo explore his Spanish roots - his father was a left-wing refugee who fled Franco's fascists.

Other notable moments of his personal journey of political self-discovery included him listening in to focus groups indelicately give their views of the onetime Thatcherite standard bearer while he listened behind a screen.

Appearances at job clubs in deprived areas of the north, as well as brief spell of "work experience" as a hospital porter in London, enabled Portillo to reconnect with the public which had grown to dislike him during his time in the Tory cabinet.

But unfortunately for Portillo it was a new persona that failed to find favour with enough of the party's MPs to see him realise his dream and become party leader.






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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