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 Barr seat at the 1983 Election
In 1982 Michael and Carolyn married. They had first met when they were at school. Carolyn had become a chartered accountant and for the last fifteen years has been a 'headhunter' with Spencer Stuart Associates.
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 on 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 contested the leadership of the party. He was unsuccessful, and decided to return to the backbenches and stood down from the seat at the 2005 election.
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, and Portillo Goes Wild in Spain (a natural history programme). For BBC4 he has made several series of Dinner with Portillo, a discussion programme. 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 weekly columnist on The Sunday Times and was the theatre critic of The New Statesman between 2004 and 2006.
In 2008 he was appointed chair of the MAN Booker prize.
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.
In 2009 and 2010 he has made 45 half hour programmes for “Great British Railway Journeys”. The second series is expected to be screened on BBC2 early in 2011.
Michael is a very popular after dinner speaker and/or conference host/keynote speaker.
Feedback & Testimonials
"We thoroughly enjoyed having Michael Portillo as the MC and speaker at the British Expertise International Awards" November 2011
"Michael Portillo was an excellent keynote speaker – he is very funny and was able to tell jokes with a style that many a professional comedian would be proud of. He was also very empathetic with our audience and had listened to the brief. He gave a very wide ranging and fascinating speech and the audience loved him."
Michael addressed the Interchange & Consort Hotels annual conference in Marbella,
"…everyone is raving about his role at our conference. He has been described as gracious, responsive and asking the most impressive questions of the day - needless to say we are absolutely thrilled and very grateful." National Year of Reading - September 2008 - Michael chaired their conference in London
"Michael Portillo went down very well…he made some jokes, and gave interesting anecdotes as well as sticking very closely to the brief that we gave to him, so a definite success."
Avail Consulting -
"…very well received and a delight to deal with" Informa - Michael has hosted a number of their awards ceremonies
"…why can't everyone be so accommodating and pleasant!"
RICS - Michael spoke and hosted an awards ceremony in the North East