Portillo goes through the keyhole for BBC series

Michael Portillo, whose last major television appearance gladdened the hearts of many, has landed a new, sadly temporary, job as a TV presenter and architecture pundit.

The former secretary of state for defence is to present, presumably without a trace of irony, an episode of BBC 2's architecture programme, One Foot in the Past.

Sources at the BBC yesterday described Mr Portillo, the former MP for Enfield and Southgate, as a "natural presenter, very charming and knowledgeable", as he waxes lyrical about his favourite building, Wotton House in Buckinghamshire.

The stately home, which is not open to the public but is owned by a friend of Mr Portillo, is an 18th- Century house rebuilt in the early 19th Century by the currently fashionable architect Sir John Soane (1753-1837).

Mr Portillo is seen walking in gardens around the house, dressed casually in a jacket and open-necked shirt.

The BBC's press office first described the gardens, designed by Capability Brown, as a "perfect wilderness" before getting cold feet and insisting that the word "wilderness" would not be appearing in the programme's title.

During the programme Mr Portillo confesses that it is the "ruthlessness" of Sir John Soane's replacement of the old main part of the building that he admires most.

Showing TV audiences a hitherto hidden sensitive side, the former darling of the Tory right apparently wishes Wotton House were his because it would be "the kind of place to write poetry, fall in love or even hatch political plots". In fact ,Wotton House belongs to a friend of Mr Portillo's, a Mrs Brunner.

Mr Portillo shows a "well-formed" knowledge of architecture, according to the BBC, and Sir John Soane makes a curiously appropriate architectural hero for a politician.

Soane is described by the Penguin Dictionary of Architecture as a "master of illusion", who used mirrors, natural light and firelight to transform his buildings.

And Soane is even more appropriate for Mr Portillo, who was asked to present the programme after he lost both his seat and his hopes of leading the Conservative Party. Penguin says of Soane: "Despite his genius, he never achieved complete confidence and authority, even in his own style."

But there the parallels end. Soane, a neo-classicist who used touches of romantic and picturesque style, was trained in Italy and was "profoundly" influenced by French architects. Michael Portillo remains profoundly Euro- sceptical.

The programme, to be broadcast on 9 July, is the first in a series that will also include celebrity presenters such as One Foot in the Grave star and life-long socialist Richard Wilson.

Princess Diana's stepmother, Raine Spencer, who is as noted for her taste in bouffant hairdos as Michael Portillo, will present an edition of the programme from Cheltenham. Paul McCann

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Account Manager - Media Sales - £36,000 OTE

£28000 - £36000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This award-winning company, whi...

Recruitment Genius: C# .NET Developer / Application Support - Junior

£21000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This business has an industry r...

Recruitment Genius: Office Administrator

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: They make daily deliveries to most foodservice...

Recruitment Genius: Transport Planner

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: They make daily deliveries to most foodservice...

Day In a Page

Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

Turkish President Erdogan could benefit politically from the targeting of the PKK, says Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: Our choice is years of Tory rule under Jeremy Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

Our choice is years of Tory rule under Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

Yvette Cooper urged Labour members to 'get serious' about the next general election rather than become 'a protest movement'
Singapore's domestic workers routinely exploited and often abused in the service of rich nationals

Singapore's hidden secret of domestic worker abuse

David Cameron was shown the country's shiniest veneer on his tour. What he didn't see was the army of foreign women who are routinely exploited and often abused in the service of rich nationals
Showdown by Shirley Jackson: A previously unpublished short story from the queen of American Gothic

Showdown, by Shirley Jackson

A previously unpublished short story from the queen of American Gothic
10 best DSLRs

Be sharp! 10 best DSLRs

Up your photography game with a versatile, powerful machine
Solved after 200 years: the mysterious deaths of 3,000 soldiers from Napoleon's army

Solved after 200 years

The mysterious deaths of 3,000 soldiers from Napoleon's army
Every regional power has betrayed the Kurds so Turkish bombing is no surprise

Robert Fisk on the Turkey conflict

Every regional power has betrayed the Kurds so Turkish bombing is no surprise
Investigation into wreck of unidentified submarine found off the coast of Sweden

Sunken sub

Investigation underway into wreck of an unidentified submarine found off the coast of Sweden
Instagram and Facebook have 'totally changed' the way people buy clothes

Age of the selfie

Instagram and Facebook have 'totally changed' the way people buy clothes
Not so square: How BBC's Bloomsbury saga is sexing up the period drama

Not so square

How Virginia Woolf saga is sexing up the BBC period drama
Rio Olympics 2016: The seven teenagers still carrying a torch for our Games hopes

Still carrying the torch

The seven teenagers given our Olympic hopes
The West likes to think that 'civilisation' will defeat Isis, but history suggests otherwise

The West likes to think that 'civilisation' will defeat Isis...

...but history suggests otherwise
The bald truth: How one author's thinning hair made him a Wayne Rooney sympathiser

The bald truth

How thinning hair made me a Wayne Rooney sympathiser
Froome wins second Tour de France after triumphant ride into Paris with Team Sky

Tour de France 2015

Froome rides into Paris to win historic second Tour
Fifteen years ago, Concorde crashed, and a dream died. Today, the desire to travel faster than the speed of sound is growing once again

A new beginning for supersonic flight?

Concorde's successors are in the works 15 years on from the Paris crash