No turning back for Portillo as he quits Thatcherite group

Click to follow
Indy Politics

Michael Portillo, once described as the natural heir to the leadership by the Conservative right, has resigned from the Thatcherite No Turning Back group.

Michael Portillo, once described as the natural heir to the leadership by the Conservative right, has resigned from the Thatcherite No Turning Back group.

The shadow Chancellor and Francis Maude, the shadow Foreign Secretary, left the group in protest at media leaks after a private dinner last week. "Michael and Francis feel that they can no longer stay in a group which had hitherto depended on good fellowship," a source close to Mr Portillo said.

Both men lost confidence in the group after a report suggested that Mr Portillo had been barracked during a private dinner because of his stance on "inclusiveness".

Conservative MPs were said to have attacked Mr Portillo's parliamentary performance. But his revelations about past homosexual experiences are also thought to have angered some right-wing MPs. It has even been suggested that Baroness Thatcher told friends her chosen heir had "become very confused".

However, friends of Mr Portillo claim he sees this account of the dinner as grossly misrepresentative. One said: "The meeting was in fact constructive and friendly rather than aggressive, as it was reported."

Since his defeat as MP for Enfield Southgate in the 1997 general election, Mr Portillo has tried to steer the Conservative Party towards a more tolerant and "inclusive" vision.

His conference speech in Bournemouth this year surprised many allies with its open emotionalism and plea for Conservatives to respect minorities, including homosexuals.

The No Turning Back group was founded after the 1983 general election in honour of Lady Thatcher's 1981 party conference speech in which she said: "You turn back if you want to. The lady is not for turning."Members of the group, which has long been the most influential parliamentary caucus of the Tory right, include shadow cabinet ministers such as David Willetts, Liam Fox, David Heathcoat-Amory and Iain Duncan -Smith. John Whittingdale, William Hague's parliamentary aide, also takes part.

The resignation of two shadow cabinet ministers closely associated with Lady Thatcher will be seen as drawing a line under the Thatcherism era.

Comments