British Conservative politician, journalist and broadcaster, employment secretary 1994–95, and defence secretary 1995–97. Representative of the right wing of the party in John Major's government, his progress up the ministerial ladder was swift. He lost his House of Commons seat of Enfield Southgate in the 1997 general election. This prevented him from contesting for the party's leadership, which was won by William Hague. Portillo moved to the centre-right and returned to parliament in November 1999, winning the by-election for Kensington and Chelsea. In February 2000, Hague appointed him shadow chancellor and after the Conservatives lost the 2001 general election and Hague resigned, Portillo contested for the leadership but lost to Iain Duncan Smith. He retired from parliament at the 2005 general election to concentrate on a career in the media as a television presenter and journalist.
He entered the Commons in 1984 in the London Southgate by-election. His appointment as employment secretary in 1994 made him directly responsible for UK policy on the controversial European Union Social Chapter, the bête noire of right-wing Tories. Until 1997 he was viewed by those on the right of the party as a potential leader. He is an avowed Thatcherite, convinced of the supremacy of the market and suspicious of the encroaching powers of the European Union.
Born in Bushey, Hertfordshire, the son of an exiled Spanish republican, he studied history at Cambridge University. After a short spell in industry, Portillo joined the research department at Conservative Central Office, where his role as adviser to several government ministers gave him an appetite for active politics.
First elected to parliament in 1984, he served in a series of cabinet posts under John Major from 1992, notably as secretary...