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Michael Denzil Xavier Portillo is a British journalist, broadcaster and former Conservative Party politician and Cabinet Minister. Portillo was first elected to the House of Commons in a by-election in 1984; a strong admirer of Margaret Thatcher and a Eurosceptic, Portillo served as a junior minister under both Thatcher and John Major, before entering the cabinet in 1992.
Michael was born in North London in 1953 and attended a grammar school, Harrow County, before graduating from Peterhouse, Cambridge, with a first class degree in History. He then worked for a shipping company for a year before moving to the Conservative Research Department in 1976.
At the 1979 General Election he was responsible for briefing Margaret Thatcher before her press conferences and for the next two years was special adviser to the Secretary of State for Energy. He worked for Kerr McGee Oil (UK) Ltd from 1981 to 1983 and contested the Birmingham Perry Bar seat at the 1983 Election.
Michael returned to politics as a special adviser to the Chancellor of the Exchequer (Nigel Lawson) and in December 1984 won the by-election in Enfield Southgate, caused by the murder of Sir Anthony Berry MP in the Brighton bombing. Michael represented the constituency for thirteen years.
He joined the Government in 1986, and remained a member until 1997. He was a whip, Parliamentary Under Secretary for Social Security, Minister of State for Transport, Minister of State for Local Government and Inner Cities; and as a Cabinet Minister was Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Secretary of State for Employment, and Secretary of State for Defence. He was admitted to the Privy Council in 1992.
After his 1997 electoral defeat, Michael returned to Kerr McGee as an adviser. He also turned to journalism writing about walking as a pilgrim on the Santiago Way and working as a hospital porter. He had a weekly column in The Scotsman.
Michael was re-elected to Parliament in a by-election in Kensington and Chelsea in November 1999 and was Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer from 2000 to 2001. Following the Conservatives’ election defeat in 2001, Michael unsuccessfully contested the leadership of the party. In 2005 Michael left the House of Commons.
Michael has made a number of television programmes for BBC Two including Art That Shook The World: Richard Wagner’s Ring, Portillo in Euroland, Great Britons, When Michael Portillo Became a Single Mum and Portillo Goes Wild in Spain. For BBC Four he has made several series of Dinner with Portillo, a discussion programme. In 2004 he became a weekly columnist on The Sunday Times and was The New Statesman’s theatre critic between 2004 and 2006. In 2006 he joined The Moral Maze team on BBC Radio 4.
He is a member of the International Commission on Missing Persons in the former Yugoslavia (which organises the identification of massacre victims) and sat on of the Board of BAE Systems plc from 2002 to 2006. He joined the board of the Kerr McGee Corporation in 2006. He is President of DebRA, the national charity working on behalf of people with the genetic skin blistering condition, Epidermolysis Bullosa (EB). He was British chairman of the British-Spanish Tertulias (an annual high level conference) from 2004 to 2008.
In 2009 and 2010 he made 45 half hour programmes for Great British Railway Journeys. The second series was screened on BBC Two in 2011. He want on to create Railways of the Great War, Great Continental Railway Journeys, and Great American Railroad Journeys.
Michael Portillo, along with Dianne Abbott or Alan Johnson, is a regular on This Week, the long-running BBC current affairs and politics programme, hosted by Andrew Neil.
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