Portillo returns with a vow of loyalty

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Indy Politics

Michael Portillo made a triumphant return to Westminster last night after winning the Kensington and Chelsea by-election with an increased Tory share of the vote.

Michael Portillo made a triumphant return to Westminster last night after winning the Kensington and Chelsea by-election with an increased Tory share of the vote.

The former Defence Secretary ended two and a half years in the political wilderness by beating Labour with a majority of more than 6,700.

Mr Portillo held on to the 11th safest Conservative seat in the country with 56 per cent of the vote. After a week of troubles for the Conservatives it will come as a welcome boost to the party.

In his acceptance speech, Mr Portillo delivered a declaration of loyalty to William Hague. "I have been returned to parliament to be a loyal supporter of William Hague," he said.

Mr Portillo polled 11,004 votes, ahead of Labour's John Atkinson on 4,298 votes and the Liberal Democrats' Robert Woodthorp-Browne on 1,831. However some of the shine was taken off the victory by the substantial vote for the Pro-Euro Conservative Party which rallied with a sizeable 740.

William Hague welcomed the result last night as Mr Portillo clinched the seat with a majority. His return to Parliament will prompt inevitable speculation that Mr Hague's leadership would be under threat should he fail to improve the party's poll rating.

But The Independent understands that Mr Portillo has issued strict instructions to all his allies in the Commons to refrain from any such speculation. He has even said that he will not sit next to them in the chamber if they refuse to comply with his wishes.

However it is understood that Mr Portillo will be forced to spend at least a few months on the backbenches before being invited by Mr Hague into the Shadow Cabinet.

Many Tory MPs are desperate to see one of their biggest hitters return to the frontline of politics once more and he is almost certain to secure a high-profile job before the next general election. Mr Portillo's return to Westminster comes less than three months after his surprise decision to reveal to a newspaper this summer that he had had "homosexual experiences" in his youth.

The former MP had hoped to secure a safe seat at the next election, but Alan Clark's death forced his hand as both friends and opponents insisted that he had to stand in the by-election.

Peter Tatchell, of the gay rights group OutRage!, attempted to highlight Mr Portillo's "hypocrisy" in voting against an equal age of consent for gays, backing the Clause 28 ban on promotion of homosexuality in schools and retaining the ban on gays in the military.

However, he won the Tory nomination convincingly after assuring local party members that there there were no more skeletons in his past and giving a pledge of absolute loyalty to Mr Hague.

Since his shock defeat at Enfield Southgate at the general election, Mr Portillo has attempted to soften his image and promote a more liberal approach to social issues.

The results: Michael Portillo (C) 11,004 (56.39%, +2.77%) Robert Atkinson (Lab) 4,298 (22.03%, -5.93%) Robert Woodthorpe Browne (LD) 1,831 (9.38%, -5.90%) John Stevens (Pro Euro C) 740 (3.79%) Damian Hockney (UK Ind) 450 (2.31%, +0.85%) Hugo Charlton (Green) 446 (2.29%) Earl of Burford (Dem Party) 182 (0.93%) Colin Paisley (Cannabis A) 141 (0.72%) Michael Irwin (Will) 97 (0.50%) George Oliver (Pensioners) 75 (0.38%) Stephen Scott-Fawcett (Ref) 57 (0.29%) Ms Louise Hodges (Sport) 48 (0.25%) Gerard Valente (NLP) 35 (0.18%, -0.15%) Ms Lisa Lovebucket (Dream Tick) 26 (0.13%) Peter May (Parent) 24 (0.12%) John Davies (Ind E) 24 (0.12%) Howling Laud Hope (Loony) 20 (0.10%) Tonysamuelsondotcom (STCFOC) 15 (0.08%)

C maj 6,706 (34.37%) 4.35% swing Lab to C Electorate 65,752; Turnout 19,513 (29.68%, -25.03%) 1997: C maj 9,519 (25.67%) - Turnout 37,088 (54.71%) Clark (C) 19,887 (53.62%); Atkinson (Lab) 10,368 (27.96%); Browne (LD) 5,668 (15.28%); Ms Angela Ellis-Jones (UK Ind) 540 (1.46%); Bear (Teddy) 218 (0.59%); Oliver (UKPP) 176 (0.47%); Hamza (NLP) 122 (0.33%); Sullivan (Dream) 65 (0.18%); Parliament (Heart) 44 (0.12%)

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