Portillo attacks Tory image

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MICHAEL Portillo has told the Conservative Party that its prospects are "no brighter" than when it lost the general election last year.

In an article in today's Independent, just before the Conservative Party conference, the former Tory defence secretary delivers a withering critique of the performance of the party since it lost power. He attacks its poor image and says it has made "no visible advance" since May 1997.

His words are sure to infuriate the Conservatives who are gearing up for their conference in Bournemouth. Mr Portillo attacks both William Hague and the Shadow Cabinet.

He says of the Tory party leader: "William Hague is thoughtful and principled, approachable and down-to-earth and has great self-composure, which must have come in useful already. But his image is poor. Like the party itself, he's thought to be aloof and out of touch."

Of the Shadow Cabinet he writes: "Shadow ministers have mainly failed to make an impact, and the parliamentary pool from which Mr Hague can choose new talent is, of course, very small."

Mr Portillo, the most spectacular casualty of the Tory rout in last year's general election when he lost his Enfield Southgate seat, says the continuing divisions over Europe have been damaging.

Essay, Review, page 7