Portillo: I was tempted, but I will never fight Hague for leadership

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Indy Politics

Michael Portillo declared yesterday that he would never challenge William Hague for the leadership of the Tory party, even though he had been tempted to run for the post four years ago.

Michael Portillo declared yesterday that he would never challenge William Hague for the leadership of the Tory party, even though he had been tempted to run for the post four years ago.

The former secretary of state for defence attempted to dismiss for good speculation about his ambitions when he said that he was Mr Hague's "loyal supporter".

Yet in his first public comment on John Redwood's challenge to John Major in 1995, the new MP for Kensington and Chelsea revealed that he had been set to enter the race four years ago.

Mr Portillo admitted that telephone lines were installed at his office near Westminster in preparation for a possible campaign should the race go to a second round. In the event, Mr Major won a sufficient number of Tory MPs' votes and hung on to power until the 1997 general election.

"I was not prepared to run against a sitting prime minister or leader of a party," he told the BBC's Breakfast with Frost programme. Many of his opponents claimed that his failure to run showed a lack of judgement and nerve.

Having been asked directly if he would "never ever" run against Mr Hague for the leadership, Mr Portillo made his clearest statement yet that he would not. When asked: "Would you say here and now that you would never ever run against William Hague, if he was running - you would never run?" Mr Portillo said: "Yes."

"If William is there as leader, I am his loyal supporter and I will be with him side by side. I think there's a lot of mischief being made about this," he said. "We will manage this problem by showing over a period of time that we do actually think alike and do share thoughts, share dreams for the party and share a vision for the party."

He is expected to spend several months on the back benches before Mr Hague invites him into the Shadow Cabinet.

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