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Michael Portillo Speaker Profile
Journalist, Broadcaster and Former PoliticianTopics:
– Conflict Resolution
Michael Portillo was born in North London in 1953. His father, Luis, had come to Britain as a refugee at the end of the Spanish Civil War, and his mother, Cora, was brought up in Fife. She met Luis while she was an undergraduate at Oxford.
Michael attended a grammar school, Harrow County, and went to Peterhouse, Cambridge, where he gained a first class degree in History.
He left Cambridge in 1975, and for a year worked for a shipping company. He moved to the Conservative Research Department in 1976, where he spent three years. At the General Election in 1979 he was responsible for briefing Margaret Thatcher before her press conferences. For the next two years he was special adviser to the Secretary of State for Energy.
He worked for Kerr McGee Oil (UK) Ltd from 1981 - 1983. He 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 seat for thirteen years but was defeated in the 1997 Election.
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. He wrote about walking as a pilgrim on the Santiago Way, and working as a hospital porter. He had a weekly column in The Scotsman. He had a three part series for Channel 4 about politics Portillo’s Progress, and a programme in BBC2’s Great Railway Journeys series, which was partly a biography of his late father, and radio programmes on Wagner and the Spanish Civil War.Michael was re-elected to Parliament in a by-election in Kensington and Chelsea in November 1999 and was Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer February 2000 - September 2001. Following the Conservatives’ election defeat in 2001, Michael unsuccessfully contested the leadership of the party. In 2005 Michael left the House of Commons.
He has made a number of television programmes for BBC2 including Art that shook the world: Richard Wagner’s Ring, Portillo in Euroland, Elizabeth I in the series Great Britons, When Michael Portillo became a single mum, Portillo Goes Wild in Spain (a natural history programme) and The Science of Killing (for Horizon). For BBC4 he has made several series of Dinner with Portillo, a discussion programme, and in 2008 The Lady’s not for Spurning (about Margaret Thatcher’s legacy). In 2006 he joined The Moral Maze team on BBC Radio 4. In 2003 he began the weekly political discussion programme This Week on BBC1 with fellow presenters Andrew Neil and Diane Abbott MP. Beginning in 2004 Michael became a frequent columnist on The Sunday Times and was the theatre critic of The New Statesman between 2004 and 2006. He is to chair the judges’ panel for the Man Booker literature prize 2008.
Michael is a member of the International Commission on Missing Persons in the former Yugoslavia (which organises the identification of massacre victims) under the chairmanship of Jim Kimsey, 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 is the British chairman of the British-Spanish Tertulias, which organises annual meetings between the two countries.
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