Monitor: Response to the former MP's disclosure of gay experiences and speculation on his political...
All the News of the World: MICHAEL PORTILLO
Saturday 11 September 1999
PORTILLO IS poised to make his move at the Tory party conference, where he will give Hague his full support - in other words, he will tell him that he wants his job. If he wins, then the real action will start. For Portillo will be a much more formidable opponent for Mr Blair, and he knows it. An impressive speaker, a knowledgeable and tricky political animal, and a man reborn on a platform of honesty and frankness - it all adds up to serious competition for "Teflon Tony". The Mirror welcomes this. Britain needs an effective Opposition and Mr Hague has simply not provided it.
MICHAEL PORTILLO'S decision to come clean on having been actively gay when he was a student at Cambridge University has little in common with other politicians' decisions to "out" themselves. Mr Portillo, in common with many members of his party, has taken a less open and honest position. It is difficult not to come to the conclusion that Mr Portillo's softer image and clean breast have more to do with his political career.
WHEN HE gave his interview to The Times, Michael Portillo expected it to appear in a quiet time in his career, but it has actually been published in an atmosphere of high excitement because of the death of Alan Clark. It is a slightly uneasy situation for a man who is seen as a future Conservative leader.
MR PORTILLO'S future is uncertain. The metropolitan culture of tolerance - or indifference - towards gay sex may not be as widespread as is often claimed. And, inevitably, there will be those who choose to doubt whether he really has changed since Cambridge. Michael Portillo certainly has the gifts to rise in politics. The extent to which he is allowed to use them will depend not only on the Tory party, but on the instincts of the British voters.
ONE WONDERS if Alan Clark would have approved of his probable successor Michael Portillo's decision to out himself. Probably, Mr Clark would have admired the honesty involved, and he, generally, had a high opinion of the former Defence Secretary. Portillo once told a gathering of students: "Our standards of public life are far above what you will find in many other parts of the world." He went on: "Go to any other country, and when you get an A-level you have bought it." Mr Clark had approved. "Thank God he's around," he said. "Since when has it been a gaffe to say what everyone knows to be true?"
MICHAEL PORTILLO'S sexuality should be of no concern to any of us. But, in revealing that he has had homosexual experience, Mr Portillo has done a favour both to himself and to many others in private life. Honesty should mark another stage in society's growing up process, through the realisation that public and private lives are separate things. Many of those who would enrich public life are put off by having their private affairs dragged through the mud. Mr Portillo deserves support and thanks.
THE CONSERVATIVE Party's return to office can, after today, only be helped by the selection of Mr Portillo. That he has made mistakes in the past, most notably with misjudged platform speeches, is undeniable. But that which does not break us makes us strong. Mr Portillo's past errors have forced him to think more painfully and honestly about modern politics, and he has emerged from that as an impressive symbol of a politician's ability to learn anew without compromising on essential principles.
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