Michael Portillo: My Life in Media


Michael Portillo, 54, is a broadcaster and regular commentator on BBC1's This Week. He made his name as a Conservative MP and minister and was one of Margaret Thatcher's keenest admirers and champion of her poll tax. Under John Major he became the Defence Secretary. Tonight he rekindles his admiration for the Iron Lady on BBC4, in Portillo on Thatcher: The Lady's Not For Spurning, at 10pm.

What inspired you to embark on a career in the media?

When I was kicked out of Parliament in 1997 I had to find another way to make a living, and my notoriety was helpful in starting a new career in the media. When I was young my two ambitions had been to be a politician or a television presenter, and now I have done a bit of both.

When you were 15 years old which newspaper did your family get, and did you read it?

The Guardian, and the New Statesman. I read them avidly, and I probably knew more about politics then than I do now.

And what were your favourite TV and radio programmes?

It's a Square World, Rowan and Martin's Laugh-in, Around the Horn and I'm Sorry I'll Read That Again.

Describe your job?

On Thursdays at 11.35pm I share with Diane Abbott MP a sofa that's too small for us on the This Week programme on BBC1. On Wednesdays I often battle it out on Radio 4's The Moral Maze. On Fridays I often pen 1,300 words for The Sunday Times. I make documentaries as often as I can, and the latest is on the long shadow cast by Margaret Thatcher over the Tory Party. On most other days, I make speeches!

What's the first media you turn to in the mornings?

Radio 4's Today programme. I simply couldn't start the day without Today.

Do you consult any media sources during the day?

I read The Times and I have the BBC pop-up on my computer. I might catch The World at One or PM on Radio 4.

What do you tune into when you get home?

I am usually late home having made a speech and I flick on Five to see CSI or any of the spin-offs.

What is the best thing about your job?

I am not in a hierarchy. I work for nobody and nobody works for me. Also, after years of sharing collective responsibility I am now free to say what I believe.

And the worst?

Being a freelance is like being an actor. You don't know when you will next work, and especially you don't know when you will be deemed out of fashion.

How do you feel you influence the media?

I have no such illusions! When I write or speak on politics it is from the perspective of someone who spent years on the inside. But whilst I hope that can be of interest I don't expect it to be influential. If I wanted influence I would have stayed in politics.

What's the proudest achievement in your working life?

I am proud of a documentary I made about my father, who fought in the Spanish Civil War against his brothers on the other side. The film was in the form of a railway journey. I made it after he died and it was a tribute to the suffering of his life.

And what's your most embarrassing moment?

I wince when I recall that as Secretary of State for Defence I made a political speech invoking the motto of the SAS "who dares wins". Only once I had spoken did I realize that it was disrespectful to our armed forces.

What is your Sunday paper?

I take The Daily Telegraph and The Sunday Times.

Name the one career ambition you want to realise before you retire?

I would love to make a documentary good enough to win an award. Then I would feel that I had really accomplished my transition from politics to media.

What would you do if you didn't work in the media?

I would be forced to write a book. That might be no bad thing, because I know that just now I am putting it off.

Who in the media do you most admire and why?

Sir David Frost visited my school sixth form, which was why a career in the media appealed to me. he remains wholly unpretentious, natural and friendly and I give him high marks for not allowing his achievements to go to his head.

The CV

1975: Graduates from Cambridge joins Conservatives as researcher

1979: Becomes an adviser to the trade and industry secretary. MP for Enfield and Southgate 1984

1997: Ousted in 1997 election. Returns to parliament in 1999, resigns in 2005

2002: 'Great Britons' documentary for BBC, travel show for Channel 4. Begins 'Dinner with Portillo' on BBC4

2003: Appears with Andrew Neil in This Week

2004: Columnist for The Sunday Times and New Statesman's theatre critic

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Life and Style
A monstrous idea? Body transplants might no longer be science fiction
Science An Italian neurosurgeon believes so - and it's not quite as implausible as it sounds, says Steve Connor
Sport
Demba Ba (right) celebrates after Besiktas win on penalties
footballThere was no happy return to the Ataturk Stadium, where the Reds famously won Champions League
Arts and Entertainment
Natural beauty: Aidan Turner stars in the new series of Poldark
arts + ents
News
Mia Freedman, editorial director of the Mamamia website, reads out a tweet she was sent.
arts + ents
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
The write stuff: masters of story-telling James Joyce, left, and Thomas Hardy
arts + ents...begging to differ, John Walsh can't even begin to number the ways
Sport
Jose Mourinho on Sky Sports
footballEXCLUSIVE COLUMN Paul Scholes: It was not a leg-breaking tackle, as the Chelsea manager had claimed
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Ashdown Group: Senior Web Developer - C# / ASP.NET - London - £55K

£45000 - £55000 per annum + Excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior Web Deve...

SThree: Internal Recruitment Consultant (In-House)

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £45K: SThree: Are you an ambitious, money moti...

Ashdown Group: Graduate Graphic Designer - Peterborough - £18,000

£22000 - £23000 per annum + training: Ashdown Group: Graduate Graphic Designer...

Sphere Digital Recruitment: Sales Manager / Account Director – DSP / Ad tech / RTB

£50,000- £70,000 + commission : Sphere Digital Recruitment: This DSP is an onl...

Day In a Page

HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower