Michael Portillo

Michael Denzil Xavier Portillo (born 26 May 1953)[1] is a British journalist, broadcaster and former politician. His broadcast series include railway documentaries such as Great British Railway Journeys and Great Continental Railway Journeys. A former member of the Conservative Party, he was Member of Parliament (MP) for Enfield Southgate from 1984 to 1997 and Kensington and Chelsea from 1999 to 2005.


Michael Portillo
Portillo in 2017
Born (1953-05-26) 26 May 1953 (age 68)
Occupation
  • Broadcaster (1998–present)
  • Politician (1984–2005)
TelevisionGreat British Railway Journeys, Great Continental Railway Journeys
Political partyFormerly Conservative
Ministerial offices
Secretary of State for Defence
In office
5 July 1995  2 May 1997
Prime MinisterJohn Major
Preceded byMalcolm Rifkind
Succeeded byGeorge Robertson
Secretary of State for Employment
In office
20 July 1994  5 July 1995
Prime MinisterJohn Major
Preceded byDavid Hunt
Succeeded byGillian Shepherd
Chief Secretary to the Treasury
In office
11 April 1992  20 July 1994
Prime MinisterJohn Major
Preceded byDavid Mellor
Succeeded byJonathan Aitken
Further offices held
Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer
In office
1 February 2000  18 September 2001
LeaderWilliam Hague
Preceded byFrancis Maude
Succeeded byMichael Howard
Member of Parliament
for Kensington and Chelsea
In office
26 November 1999  11 April 2005
Preceded byAlan Clark
Succeeded byMalcolm Rifkind
Member of Parliament
for Enfield Southgate
In office
13 December 1984  8 April 1997
Preceded byAnthony Berry
Succeeded byStephen Twigg

First elected to the House of Commons in a 1984 by-election, Portillo served as a junior minister under both Margaret Thatcher and John Major, before entering the Cabinet in 1992. A Thatcherite and a Eurosceptic, he was considered a "darling of the right" and was seen as a likely challenger to Major during the 1995 Conservative leadership election, but did not run. As Defence Secretary, he pressed for a course of "clear blue water"; purist policies separating the Conservatives from the Labour Party.

Portillo unexpectedly lost the hitherto safe Conservative Enfield Southgate seat at the 1997 general election. This led to the coining of the expression "Portillo moment". Returning to the Commons in the 1999 by-election in Kensington and Chelsea, Portillo rejoined the frontbench as Shadow Chancellor. Standing for the leadership of the party in 2001, he finally came in third place behind Iain Duncan Smith and Kenneth Clarke. He retired from the House of Commons and from active politics at the 2005 general election.

Since leaving politics, Portillo has pursued his media interests by presenting and participating in a wide range of television and radio programmes. Portillo's passion for steam trains led him to make the BBC documentary series Great British Railway Journeys, beginning in 2010, in which he travels the British railway networks, referring to various editions of Bradshaw's Guide. The success of the show led Portillo to present series about railway systems in other countries.