Portillo pleads his case to the Tory core voters

FOR ALL his protestations that he has no designs on the Tory leadership, a throwaway remark by Michael Portillo yesterday suggests that he still has a grand sense of his destiny.

Travelling by train to Wellingborough, Northamptonshire on the first day of his campaign to re-enter political life, Mr Portillo reflected on his decision to come clean about his homosexual experiences at Cambridge.

"I think it will be of greater interest to historians than journalists," he said, without a shade of irony.

Travelling second class, and sans entourage, it was the only hint of the arrogant former Tory darling - apart from a well-smoothed quiff. His chief concern now was the tabloids. Despite his best efforts to pre-empt them, he knew that as he spoke they would be trying to track down past lovers. But it was not himself he was worried for, he stressed: "I have always felt very comfortable with the whole thing," he said. "I am sorry for the people who will be dug out because they are not used to the press."

Still he said resignedly, even if someone did spill the beans, he was happy to have "knocked the rumour-mongers on the head". "I was fed up with it and I didn't see why I should have to go through my whole career with it. There was an opportunity. While you are out of parliament no- one can demand your resignation."

Nevertheless, Mr Portillo's postbag was bulging yesterday. He seized on an envelope which bore handwriting he recognised. He smiled as he scanned the contents, before stuffing it in his briefcase.

"I'm very struck by some of the people who have come out with very favourable comments," he said. "Nigel Lawson, Chris Patten, Tim Yeo, Malcolm Rifkind and William Hague - and I am sure there will be others. I really am touched by that. Quite a few people have stopped me on the street and said, `well done'."

Mr Portillo may be quietly confident that the plum Kensington and Chelsea seat will soon be his, but he is a canny enough operator to know that a little modesty is in order.

"If they thought I was in any way taking them for granted that would do me enormous damage, so I don't take it for granted by any means," he said. "There will be lots of good candidates and they are under no obligation to choose me."

He is also aware that his tough stance on gays in the army while Defence Secretary now smacks of hypocrisy. "If ministers allowed their judgement on matters of national security to be formed by casual experiences they have had at university, that would be a very poor state of affairs," he said, smoothly.

At Wellingborough Station Mr Portillo was met by Peter Bone, the cheery prospective parliamentary candidate in this marginal Labour seat (187 majority) and the fuschia-clad Lady Fry, chairman of the local Conservative Association. The visit was scheduled months ago, but no one guessed what a big event it would become.

Jean Woodcock, 83, a lifelong Tory voter, was hosting a coffee morning. The shortbread was baked and her Spanish greeting ("Encantanda" meaning "I'm charmed to meet you") well rehearsed. Mr Portillo's recent admissions did not phase her. "As I've got older I've become more liberal," she said. "The man is solid gold. He's married, happily it seems."

Presumably satisfied that his admission had not upset the Tory grassroots, he began his speech with what was a rather daring anecdote. He said he was glad to meet people beforehand because he lived in fear of introductions: "I remember one time when a lady was fumbling with my CV," he said already eliciting sniggers from his audience.

"She said, `I just want to tell you all about Michael Portillo's biological details. Oh no, I'm sorry. I mean I just want to tell you about all the positions Michael Portillo has been in'." He paused. "That didn't sound much better."

The ladies of Wellingborough loved him. And so did the men. As one elderly gentleman told him: "We very much hope you will be able to ginger up Mr Hague and provide some opposition."

Careful. You could almost hear the alarm bells ringing in Mr Portillo's head. It was time for some more modesty: "I would love to be there to help.But let me tell you, if I was there it isn't going to be the difference between night and day. It's just one more pair of willing hands to join the team."

Voices
A Russian hunter at the Medved bear-hunting lodge in Siberia
Save the tigerWildlife charities turn to those who kill animals to help save them
News
Davis says: 'My career has been about filling a niche - there were fewer short actors and fewer roles – but now I'm being offered all kinds of things'
PeopleWarwick Davis on Ricky Gervais, Harry Potter and his perfect role
News
i100
Sport
Frank Lampard will pass Billy Wright and equal Bobby Charton’s caps tally of 106 caps against
sportFormer Chelsea midfielder in Etihad stopgap before New York contract
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
The first film introduced Daniel Radcliffe to our screens, pictured here as he prepares to board the train to Hogwarts for the first time.
booksHow reading Harry Potter helps children grow up to be gay-friendly
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from Aladdin is performed at the Tony Awards in New York in June
theatreBrit producer Lythgoe makes kids' musical comedy a Los Angeles hit
Sport
Usain Bolt of Jamaica smiles and shakes hands with a competitor after Jamaica won their first heat in the men's 4x100m relay
sport
News
Chancellor George Osborne, along with the Prime Minister, have been 'complacently claiming the economy is now fixed', according to shadow Chancellor Ed Balls
i100... which is awkward, because he is their boss, after all
Life and Style
A small bag of the drug Ecstasy
Health
Life and Style
Floral-print swim shorts, £26, by Topman, topman.com; sunglasses, £215, by Paul Smith, mpaulsmith.co.uk
FashionBag yourself the perfect pair
News
news
News
Netherlands' goalkeeper Tim Krul fails to make a save from Costa Rica's midfielder Celso Borges during a penalty shoot-out in the quarter-final between Netherlands and Costa Rica during the 2014 FIFA World Cup
newsGoalkeepers suffer from 'gambler’s fallacy' during shoot-outs
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'
filmReview: A week late, Secret Cinema arrives as interactive screening goes Back to the Future
Extras
indybest
News
i100
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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

(Senior) IT Support Engineer - 1st-3rd Line Support

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful IT service provider that has bee...

Wind Farm Civil Design Engineer

£55000 - £65000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: The Green Recruitmen...

Principal Marine Mechanical Engineer

£60000 - £70000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: The Green Recruitmen...

Principle Geotechnical Engineer

£55000 - £65000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: The Green Recruitmen...

Day In a Page

Save the Tiger: Meet the hunters tasked with protecting Russia's rare Amur tiger

Hunters protect Russia's rare Amur tiger

In an unusual move, wildlife charities have enlisted those who kill animals to help save them. Oliver Poole travels to Siberia to investigate
Transfers: How has your club fared in summer sales?

How has your club fared in summer sales?

Who have bagged the bargain buys and who have landed the giant turkeys
Warwick Davis: The British actor on Ricky Gervais, how the Harry Potter set became his office, and why he'd like to play a spy

'I'm a realist; I know how hard this business is'

Warwick Davis on Ricky Gervais, Harry Potter and his perfect role
The best swim shorts for men: Bag yourself the perfect pair and make a splash this summer

The best swim shorts for men

Bag yourself the perfect pair and make a splash this summer
Has Ukip’s Glastonbury branch really been possessed by the devil?

Has Ukip’s Glastonbury branch really been possessed by the devil?

Meet the couple blamed for bringing Lucifer into local politics
Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

In grandfather's footsteps

5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

Martha Stewart has flying robot

The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

A tale of two presidents

George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover

The dining car makes a comeback

Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover
Gallery rage: How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?

Gallery rage

How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?
Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players

Eye on the prize

Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
Women's rugby: Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup

Women's rugby

Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup