Leading Article: The right man for a night at Ally Pally

Click to follow
The Independent Online
IF A primary prerequisite for a successful career in politics is self-conviction and ego, then Michael Portillo, aged 411 4 , should go far.

He may or may not have known that his constituents and followers were organising a jamboree at the Alexandra Palace to celebrate his 10 years in Parliament, complete with autobiographical home-movies and fireworks, but whatever the case it is unlikely that he would have demurred with sincerely modest protests that it was all too much for someone so young, who had achieved so little. Far easier, in fact, to imagine him wondering why, of all the palaces available, it had to be this sad folly atop a suburban hill.

Mr Portillo is a strange one. Clever, privately courteous (though sometimes not - see his letter to Michael Heseltine), publicly arrogant; the kind of man who, as was said of someone else, looks likely to cover his mirror in love-bites; a peacock, but not a pea brain, who squawks some of the crudest messages that are currently to be heard in mainstream British politics. What's his game? Simply, perhaps, to take a doctor's hammer and tap the shins of the Conservative party's right wing - to hit the single mothers' spot, to evoke old national fantasies.

The right wing, bereft of Margaret Thatcher, are mooning over her pale Portillo shadow, simply because the right has no greater figure. Lord Tebbit is elevated out of the game. Mr Portillo is the only possible contender in a pretty weak field.

Alexandra Palace had its heyday as Britain's first television station, broadcasting flickering pictures of pre-war musical turns to a small but stunned public. The last interesting event to have occurred there was an exhibition of life-size models of dinosaurs. Both roles make it an appropriate venue to celebrate Mr Portillo and his politics.