People: Portillo steps into the television cabinet

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The Independent Online
Michael Portillo, politician-turned-presenter will tonight prove his credentials as a broadcaster when he tops the bill of a new television series.

The former cabinet minister and darling of the Tory right was no stranger to publicity at the height of his political career. And, since losing his Enfield Southgate seat to Labour at the General Election, Mr Portillo has chosen to stay in the limelight.

His second television appearance, following BBC2's well-received One Foot in the Past when he charmed his way around a stately home, focuses on the politics of the 1840s and the Conservative in-fighting which led to the fall of a Prime Minister, years of Tory opposition, and the rise of Benjamin Disraeli. The programme, titled Leviathon, charts the split in the Conservative Party, sparked by the corn laws and the end of protectionism, through the long years of opposition, the brick- by-brick rebuilding of the party and Disraeli's ascent to power in 1874.

Some of the parallels with today's Tory party are deliberate. Mr Portillo was familiar with party divisions during his time in government - although, unlike Disraeli, he never openly challenged his leader.

These insights and his enthusiasm for history were, no doubt, what drew the makers of the BBC2 programme, which will be shown at 7.30pm, to the former politician.

Mr Portillo's easy manner in front of the camera and his lesser-known sense of humour appear to have made him a popular choice for the programme makers. He is currently said to be considering several offers of broadcasting work.

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