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A Game Of Two Halves From The Argus Michael Portillo calls himself a cork floating on the tide of fate.

After a chequered career in politics, the former cabinet minister drifted into broadcasting. He did so effortlessly with his easy manner in front of the camera. Yet it was not always thus. He lost his coach outlet atlanta estate ice in 1997 when Jeremy Paxman asked him if we were seeing the end of the Conservative Party as a credible force in British politics. The interview, on election night, preceded the news that Portillo had lost the rock solid Tory stronghold of Enfield Southgate and been kicked out. Two years later he came out of the closet in public, admitted to having had "homosexual experiences", and then went back coach outlet handbags hobo in. References to the exploits hung over his failed attempt to take the Tory party leadership after the 2001 general election. Later, in 2005, tabloid revelations about an extra marital affair emerged when a former mistress's partner committed suicide. Yet Portillo, 60 this year, remains married to his wife of 30 years, Carolyn Eadie. He is loved also by a TV audience of millions who have travelled the railways of Europe as his companion and welcome his curiosity and ear for the stories of social change. He has a breadth of knowledge which comes from being at the top of his profession and when we speak a day after the Bill allowing gay marriage has gone through Parliament, he has a position. A year earlier he opposed the proposal. But once a politician, always a politician. "I am very much in favour of gay marriage. I think it is going to happen around the world. The only choices David Cameron had were to be reactionary or receptive and my view is he did the only sensible thing, which was to be receptive. "But it certainly opened up the gulf between his idea of what the Conservative Party should be and the idea that many members of the Conservative Party think it should be." Portillo says the state has the right to define what marriage is. The definition changes over time divorce being one example and it is affected by law. He says the institution of marriage is strengthened by the legislation. Portillo has not set foot in the House of Commons since 2005. He is no longer a Conservative Party member and does not engage with party politics. The media career is his focus, apart from the odd "evening with" talk: "I suppose my old instincts die hard. I do like getting out and meeting people and of course that was part of my political career." He regularly talks politics on The Week and The Moral Maze, hosted Dinner With Portillo on BBC Four for five years, and often writes for the broadsheets. Despite the popularity of his Great Railway Journeys series, and documentaries such as living a week in the life of a single mother on benefits in Wallasey in Merseyside, he is questioned most regularly about politics. "The railway journeys are what they are and maybe that doesn't throw up too many questions, but on the other hand politics is all about opinions and perspectives." He joined the "slippery pole" of politics thanks to the Brighton IRA bomb of 1984. Sir Anthony Berry, who at the time held Enfield Southgate, was one of the five people killed in the explosion at The Grand hotel. Portillo won the ensuing by election. He lost the seat in 1997 and entered politics again in 1999 in a second London by election. "Alan Clark died and the seat of Kensington and Chelsea was vacant. I won and in each case the vacancy was by the death of a member. There was a rather strange symmetry about that." His passion for politics came thanks to two politically minded parents. His Spanish Republican father, Luis Gabriel Portillo, emigrated to England to escape the Spanish Civil War in the 1930s. His mother, Cora Blyth, was the daughter of a Scottish mill owner. Both had left of centre views; strange to think their son could hold Margaret Thatcher in such high esteem. "I got to know her in 1979 when I was responsible for briefing her before election press conferences. That was the election she first won. I was part of a little group of strong supporters called the No Turning Back Group." He was only a middle ranking minster but he met with her the day she resigned. "I tried to persuade her not to resign." Portillo is a man of contradictions. He once wrote a theatre column for socialist bible The New Statesmen and the readers rather liked him. "I didn't have any abusive mail. I just had one letter from an actress who said she was sorry I didn't like her performance. I felt really rotten. I didn't have the stomach to be a theatre critic." He's a keen patron of the arts. He chairs the Arts Endowment Fund and chaired the 2008 Man Booker Prize. He is currently filming a documentary about Pablo Picasso for ITV that will compare Picasso's strong Spanish identity despite exile in France with his father's experience as a refugee in England. On his reading desk is a three volume biography of Picasso and George Dangerfield's The Strange Death Of Liberal England. The latter is research for a BBC Radio 4 series about Britain 100 years ago. He finds consolation in art and calls the 2011 film about Mrs Thatcher, The Iron Lady, painfully true. "The dilemma of the sinking of the Belgrano during the Falklands coach outlet stores wrentham ma War, and the moment when she resigns and leaves Downing Street, coach outlet coupons free shipping were extremely accurate. It many ways it was a painful film but often works of art are painful." He recalls the time under Thatcher as "extraordinarily exciting" and a "rollercoaster". "We felt like we were participating in a really important revolution in the performance of the economy, in matters of taxation, in reforming the trade unions, in standing up to the Soviet Union and reforming vested interests in institutions." After his time under Mrs Thatcher, he entered the Cabinet of John Major's government between 1992 and 1997 first as Chief Secretary, then Education Secretary and later Defence Secretary. "I had two fascinating years at the Treasury.

I was Chief Secretary trying to deal with issues similar to today: public spending and a deficit. "While I was Secretary of State we changed it from a rather feeble UN operation to a robust NATO operation, and I'm pleased to say I don't think anybody has been killed in combat in the former Yugoslavia since that day in 1995.".


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