Politics: A pack of eccentrics join hunt for Portillo

AS MICHAEL Portillo celebrated his selection for the Kensington and Chelsea seat on Tuesday night, a local Tory member cast a knowing eye over the gay rights protesters gathered outside the meeting.

The elderly gentleman smiled serenely at the OutRage! demonstration before delivering his verdict on the gruelling three-week by-election campaign that lay ahead. "Pretty soon, this is going to be the only blood sport left," he chuckled.

And as nominations officially opened yesterday for the wealthiest, not to say haughtiest, constituency in the land, the fences and fox hounds of the Portillo Hunt became clear.

Between now and polling day on November 25, the former defence secretary will be up against one of the largest and wackiest fields of candidates seen in a by-election for years. Close to both Westminster and the nation's travel-allergic media, Kensington and Chelsea is the perfect location for a celebrity poll and the pack will be desperate to harry, chase and wound one of the Tory party's wiliest wild creatures.

Taking in Harrods, Kensington Palace, the Kings Road and the Victoria and Albert Museum, K&C, as aficionados call it, is a prime piece of political real estate that offers a mid-term shop window for the Government and the Opposition.

Labour's strategy for the seat was outlined yesterday with its prospective candidate, Robert Atkinson, proclaiming that his was "the only one- nation party" in the contest. Just as important as his rhetoric was the appearance alongside him of Mr Portillo's nemesis at the last general election, the fresh-faced MP for Enfield Southgate, Stephen Twigg. An enduring symbol of Labour's biggest ever general election victory, Mr Twigg still casts a totemic spell over the party's activists and will be wheeled out at every opportunity in the hope that he can work his magic once more.

Mr Twigg is, of course, openly gay, but he pledged that his party would concentrate on policy and not seek to dwell on Mr Portillo's admission of his own "homosexual experiences". Instead, Labour will claim repeatedly that Mr Portillo typifies the Tories' lurch to the right.

Unfortunately for the former defence secretary, such restraint on matters sexual is unlikely to be shown by his most recent bogeyman, the OutRage! spokesman and by-election veteran Peter Tatchell. Mr Tatchell has already attempted to make his mark on the contest, haranguing Mr Portillo even before he was selected, over his alleged hypocrisy in opposing the equal age of consent and supporting the ban on gays in the military.

For entirely different reasons, the man described by his acolytes as the lost leader of the Thatcherite right, faces equally vitriolic attacks about his sexual history from Adrian Rogers, a former Tory who intends to fight on a "pro-family" ticket. A politician who makes Mr Portillo look like a lily-livered Liberal, Dr Rogers quit the Tories this year after he was threatened with expulsion for supporting the UK Independence Party. He believes that all homosexuals are "deviant".

At the other end of the single currency spectrum, John Stevens, the leader of the Pro Euro Conservative Party, will try to appeal to moderate City types in a seat where the party gained its highest vote in this year's European elections.

No by-election would be complete without the Monster Raving Loony Party, although its candidate, Alan "Howling Laud" Hope, is perhaps no match for the late, great, Screaming Lord Sutch. Mr Hope's pledge to clean up the Thames by releasing alligators into the river should however enliven proceedings.

But for sheer eccentricity, it will be hard to beat Lord Burford, the bearded boy wonder of the hereditary peerage and recently adopted prospective candidate of the Democratic Party, an obscure Euro- sceptic group formed last year by a Worcestershire businessman. Mr Portillo may regarded as one of John Major's infamous "bastards", but even he cannot compete with the lineage of a direct descendent of the illegitimate offspring of Charles II and Nell Gwynn.

The leaping lord, who shot to prominence by pouncing on the woolsack to protest at the Government's plans to remove voting rights from his pedigreed chums, got his campaign off to a flying start when Black Rod threw him out of his own press conference because it was held on parliamentary premises. A true believer that he is descended from the "real" Shakespeare, the seventh Earl of Oxford, he has achieved that rare feat of making the yogic flyers of the Natural Law Party look like models of logic and normality.

Other minority parties contesting the poll include the Liberal Democrats, the UK Independence Party, the Greens and the Campaign for Living Will Legislation. Others are sure to follow before the nominations close on Wednesday.

Yet even Lord ("Call me Charles") Burford is unlikely to ruffle the feathers of the refined residents of Kesington and Chelsea, home to a Tory association whose last two parliamentary candidates comprised a tipsy driver (Nicholas Scott) and a maverick womaniser (Alan Clark). From Mr Scott's scrapes with his motor to Mr Clark's scraps with "the coven", his mother and two daughter mistresses, K&C has seen it all and hardly batted an eye lid.

With a majority of 9,000 in 1997, the seat remained an immovable rock of Tory loyalty that even Labour's historic landslide could not shift. The new battle, featuring what one local Tory described as "a by-election of peers, queers and old dears", should prove as durable.

For the faithful, the prospect of electing a future Tory leader, and possible prime minister, is too tempting to resist. Mr Portillo's biggest advantage is that Labour are more scared of him than William Hague. If, as expected, his fox escapes the pack intact, animal-loving Tony Blair may come to rue the day.

KENSINGTON RIVALS: FROM HOWLING LAUD TO THE LEAPING LORD

Rob Atkinson

Labour Party

Energetic leader of the local Labour group who teamed up with Alan Clark's "coven" during the last general election

Irritant factor: kk

Entertainment value: Poor

Peter Tatchell

OutRage!

Determined to follow Mr Portillo every step of the way, already suffered a head-lock at the hands of Tory minders.

Irritant factor: kkkkk

Entertainment value: Excellent

Lord Burford

Democratic Party

The 34-year-old Citizen Smith of the red benches will be campaigning under the slogan "the will of the people not the party"

Irritant factor: kkk

Entertainment value: Excellent

John Stevens

Pro-Euro Conservative Party

Suave former Tory MEP has the funds and the City background to appeal to moderate Conservatives. Loathed by William Hague and Euro-sceptics

Irritant factor: k k

Entertainment value: Moderate

Dr Adrian Rogers

Integrity Candidate

Stood for Tories in 1997 against gay Labour candidate Ben Bradshaw. Beaten but wants to highlight his opposition to all things homosexual

Irritant factor: **

Entertainment value: Poor

Alan "Howling Laud" Hope

Monster Raving Loony Party

Currently Mayor of Ashburton, Devon, he is the party's most prominent elected official in the country. Crazy name, crazy guy

Irritant factor: k

Entertainment value: Guaranteed

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
Young Winstone: His ‘tough-guy’ image is a misconception
people
Sport
Adnan Januzaj and Gareth Bale
footballManchester United set to loan out Januzaj to make room for Bale - if a move for the Welshman firms up
Arts and Entertainment
Ellie Levenson’s The Election book demystifies politics for children
bookNew children's book primes the next generation for politics
News
Outspoken: Alexander Fury, John Rentoul, Ellen E Jones and Katy Guest
newsFrom the Scottish referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
News
i100
Sport
Yaya Sanogo, Mats Hummels, Troy Deeney and Adnan Januzaj
footballMost Premier League sides are after a striker, but here's a full run down of the ins and outs that could happen over the next month
News
Nigel Farage celebrates with a pint after early local election results in the Hoy and Helmet pub in South Benfleet in Essex
peopleHe has shaped British politics 'for good or ill'
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams' “Happy” was the most searched-for song lyric of 2014
musicThe power of song never greater, according to our internet searches
Sport
Tim Sherwood raises his hand after the 1-0 victory over Stoke
footballFormer Tottenham boss leads list of candidates to replace Neil Warnock
Voices
Strictly Come Dancing was watched by 6.9m viewers
voicesIt has been hard to form generally accepted cultural standards since the middle of the 19th century – and the disintegration is only going to accelerate, says DJ Taylor
Arts and Entertainment
Roffey says: 'All of us carry shame and taboo around about our sexuality. But I was determined not to let shame stop me writing my memoir.'
books
News
Danielle George is both science professor and presenter
people
News
i100
News
Caplan says of Jacobs: 'She is a very collaborative director, and gives actors a lot of freedom. She makes things happen.'
people
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 General

Selby Jennings: VP/SVP Credit Quant- NY- Investment Bank

Not specified: Selby Jennings: VP/SVP Credit Quant Top tier investment bank i...

Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executive- City of London, Old Street

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executiv...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: An international organisa...

Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwickshire

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwicksh...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

The West needs more than a White Knight

Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

The stories that defined 2014

From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?
Finally, a diet that works: Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced

Finally, a diet that works

Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced
Say it with... lyrics: The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches

Say it with... lyrics

The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches
Professor Danielle George: On a mission to bring back the art of 'thinkering'

The joys of 'thinkering'

Professor Danielle George on why we have to nurture tomorrow's scientists today
Monique Roffey: The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections

Monique Roffey interview

The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections
Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Their outrageousness and originality makes the world a bit more interesting, says Ellen E Jones
DJ Taylor: Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

It has been hard to form generally accepted cultural standards since the middle of the 19th century – and the disintegration is only going to accelerate, says DJ Taylor
Olivia Jacobs & Ben Caplan: 'Ben thought the play was called 'Christian Love'. It was 'Christie in Love' - about a necrophiliac serial killer'

How we met

Olivia Jacobs and Ben Caplan
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's breakfasts will revitalise you in time for the New Year

Bill Granger's healthy breakfasts

Our chef's healthy recipes are perfect if you've overindulged during the festive season
Transfer guide: From Arsenal to West Ham - what does your club need in the January transfer window?

Who does your club need in the transfer window?

Most Premier League sides are after a striker, but here's a full run down of the ins and outs that could happen over the next month
The Last Word: From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015

Michael Calvin's Last Word

From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015