Michael Portillo is a accomplished writer, presenter & broadcastor a role he fell into after a successful political career. While in he government controlled public spending as Chief Treasury Secretary, then led both Employment and Defence. Now he is often seen cosying up to the opposition on the late night TV sofa of ‘This Week’ BBC. Michael has travelled America’s railroads. The ex-Conservative Cabinet Minister also weighs in on the debate in radio’s Moral Maze. After dinner Michael confesses that he often has problems with today’s politicians.
Michael was born in North London in 1953. His father, Luis, had come to Britain as a refugee at the end of the Spanish Civil War, and his mother, Cora, was brought up in Fife. She met Luis while she was an undergraduate at Oxford. Michael attended a grammar school, Harrow County, and went to Peterhouse, Cambridge, where he gained a first class degree in History.
He left Cambridge in 1975, and for a year worked for a shipping company. He moved to the Conservative Research Department in 1976, where he spent three years. At the General Election in 1979 he was responsible for briefing Margaret Thatcher before her press conferences. For the next two years he was special adviser to the Secretary of State for Energy. He worked for Kerr McGee Oil (UK) Ltd from 1981 – 1983. He contested the Birmingham Perry Bar seat at the 1983 Election.
In 1982 Michael and Carolyn married. They had first met when they were at school. Carolyn had become a chartered accountant and for the last fifteen years has been a ‘headhunter’ with Spencer Stuart Associates.
Michael returned to politics as a special adviser to the Chancellor of the Exchequer (Nigel Lawson) and in December 1984 won the by-election in Enfield Southgate, caused by the murder of Sir Anthony Berry MP in the Brighton bombing. Michael represented the seat for thirteen years but was defeated in the 1997 Election.
He joined the Government in 1986, and remained a member until 1997. He was a whip, Parliamentary Under Secretary for Social Security, Minister of State for Transport, Minister of State for Local Government and Inner Cities; and as a Cabinet Minister was Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Secretary of State for Employment, and Secretary of State for Defence. He was admitted to the Privy Council in 1992.
After his 1997 electoral defeat, Michael returned to Kerr McGee as an adviser. He also turned to journalism. He wrote about walking as a pilgrim on the Santiago Way, and working as a hospital porter. He had a weekly column in The Scotsman. He had a three part series for Channel 4 about politics Portillo’s Progress, and a programme in BBC2’s Great Railway Journeys series, which was partly a biography of his late father, and radio programmes on Wagner and the Spanish Civil War.
Michael was re-elected to Parliament in a by-election in Kensington and Chelsea in November 1999 and was Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer February 2000 – September 2001. Following the Conservatives’ election defeat in 2001, Michael unsuccessfully contested the leadership of the party. In 2005 Michael left the House of Commons.
He has made a number of television programmes for BBC2 including Art that shook the world: Richard Wagner’s Ring, Portillo in Euroland, Elizabeth I in the series Great Britons, When Michael Portillo became a single mum, Portillo Goes Wild in Spain (a natural history programme) and The Science of Killing (for Horizon). There followed documentaries on the unburied bodies from the Spanish Civil War and on Guantanamo Bay. In 2010 BBC Radio 4 carried his 3-part series “Democracy on Trial”. For BBC4 he has made several series of Dinner with Portillo, a discussion programme, and in 2008 The Lady’s not for Spurning (about Margaret Thatcher’s legacy). Since 2006 he has been on The Moral Maze team on BBC Radio 4. In 2003 he began the weekly political discussion programme This Week on BBC1 with fellow presenters Andrew Neil and Diane Abbott MP. He has made 100 programmes in the series Great British Railway Journeys and Great Continental Railway Journeys for BBC2. For six years he was a weekly columnist on The Sunday Times and was the theatre critic of The New Statesman between 2004 and 2006.
Matthew Willetts MA is the Director of Comicus who has over 35 years experience in television, film, theatre, and comedy club/cabaret entertainment, working as a performer, screenwriter, producer and agent. He lectured at Southampton Solent University in Comedy, Screenwriting, Television, Theatre & Radio. Matthew can sometimes be seen and heard on TV & Radio and often quoted in the national press and media publications. As well as speaking regularly at festivals and industry conferences, he has been a judge at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and the Montreux Television Festival.
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