Saturday, May 03, 2008

Were You Still Up For Portillo? I Was...



On local election night I laid into Michael Portillo, live on BBC1. Some bright spark has uploaded the video on YouTube. Let me explain why I did it.

Michael Portillo is a man of many talents. He writes well and is a brilliant presenter of TV documentaries. But he has been away from frontline politics for so long that he is out of touch with the modern Conservative Party. He lost his Sunday Times column recently and I am told that a large part of the reason was that it was felt he had little new to say and his Tory contacts were yesterday's men.

Portillo specialises in attacking the very party that gave him a national platform. He behaves now in the the same way he behaved as a member of William Hague's Shadow Cabinet - betraying those whose trust he ought to enjoy. It was very revealing to find out recently that William Hague hadn't spoken to Portillo since 2001 until February this year.

Michael Portillo's trouble is that he clearly believes that it should be him, not David Cameron who is about to lead the Tories back to Number 10. Having over the last seven years constantly predicted that the Tory Party is finished, he loses no opportunity to pour petrol onto any falmes which happen to be licking around the feet of the Party.*

I'm not asking for craven loyalty to the Party which made him - we're all entitled to express constuctive criticism from time to time - but his constant snipings on THIS WEEK lack any sort of perspective.

Michael Portillo's behaviour at the BBC Election Night event at City Hall told me everything I needed to know. He slagged off Boris and then proceeded to say that 44% was a pretty poor result for the Conservatives. He spent the rest of the evening on his own, reading a book called LOST BOYS. He made no effort to talk to anyone there apart from Polly Toynbee and Fraser Nelson who happened to sit down beside him on the same sofa. He ignored all the young people there and from what I could gather the BBC people didn't think much of his behaviour either.

His attitude on Thursday night went a long way to explain why he failed to win the party leadership in 2001. If you treat people with disdain, don't be surprised if they then react badly to it.

* reworded following your comments in the comment thread!

47 comments:

Anonymous said...

You need to be careful. The Tories did well but I bet the results of the Crewe and Henley by elections will bring the Tories crashing back to earth.

Anonymous said...

I don't think you mean "oil on troubled waters", ie calm things down! but we all know what you do mean, absolutely right

javelin said...

Michael hasn't left politics - he still represents himself.

mirthios said...

Were you up in time for West Ham? You got the turnout spot on - 5 goals. Distribution a little wayward!

Anonymous said...

Well said, he lost it many years ago, when he lost his seat in Southgate. He ignored his constituents and paid the price.

He has been lucky, not many ex Ministers made it to TV etc.

Something my grandmother used to say comes to mind. Dont bite the hands that feeds you.

dearieme said...

"he loses no opportunity to pour oil onto any troubled water": muddled metaphor there, Iain. Perhaps you mean that he loses no opportunity to pour petrol onto flames?

Cath said...

I hope the good people of the Henley Association were watching, Iain.

Curmy said...

Iain, I always thought he was arrogant.
I can't bear that programme he's on with Diane Abbott, they look so smug !

John Pickworth said...

I watched Portillo's comments but didn't see Iain's response on Election night.

Frankly I didn't recognise the man. While everyone else was clearly enjoying the evening - except of course the Labour supporters - Portillo seemed positively miffed at the results. He's now lost any respect I held for the man.

Steve_Roberts said...

"he loses no opportunity to pour oil onto any troubled water"

Err, I think you meant the opposite - "pour petrol into any flames", maybe

HTH

roman said...

You were very restrained!

Portillo could have laid aside his political life gracefully, and taken up a career in the arts - I recall a broadcast of his about Wagner which was very good.

Instead he has allowed himself to be infected with bitterness about his exclusion from that wonderful club, the House of Commons, a bitterness that infects all too many losers.

He could even, dare I say it, dedicate the rest of his working life to some worthy charitable cause, where he would see and help the many who are truly suffering life's injustices. It might restore his sense of balance.

Thank goodness he never became our Party's Leader, he has proved he doesn't have the character.

Will said...

I don't understand the 'oil on troubled waters' reference. The oil is to calm the troubled water, not inflame it. I'll go and read it again and see if it makes more sense the second time....

Peter Harrison said...

Iain - minor point but can I suggest that you've got your figures of speech wrong. Pouring oil onto troubled water usually means attempting to calm a problematic situation. I suspect you mean that Portillo does the opposite.

Peter Harrison said...

P.S. Excellent clip. Well said.

Anonymous said...

DOH. Have you ever watched him on the sofa with the arch hypocrite diane over the last x years?

I can not believe this is some kind of shock to you.

Anonymous said...

Well said Iain.

He is begining to act like the "Great Sulk" Heath.

Incidently I hope Dave and Boris give their thanks to the Evening Standards excellent investigative journalist Andrew Gilligan who played no small part in ridding London of Livingston.

That the BBC has yet to produce any worthwhile investigations since Gilligan left says much about their dilatory journo`s.

JH

Steve Horgan said...

Portillo's comments are incredible, in the literal meaning of the word. Every time the Conservative Party has achieved over the last two years the reaction of many political commentators has been simply to set another, higher, bar to victory at a general election. However, to react like that to recent results is absurd, and most of the media have recognised that, with even left-wing journalists recognising that at last the Conservatives are positioned for government. Michael Portillo is an exception, which might be forgiven if he brought some unique analysis as to why Cameron under-achieved on May 1st, but which in the absence of such insight just sounds odd. Of course a scenario could be constructed where the Conservatives performed even better, but the reality was even worse for Labour then their most pessimistic predictions, which were naturally constructed to make the expected results look better. The fact is that Cameron's Conservatives have utterly confounded their critics and that Portillo joins Heffer in the group of people who yet cannot admit that they called it wrong.

Anonymous said...

Iain,

I thought you were very good on Sky News last evening and also agree that this man with a large chip on his small shoulders needs more put downs.

He will soon be touting for ajob with Broon!

Anonymous said...

Clearly Portillo is bitter, but he makes his living at the BBC these days, so he says what they want to hear. I don't think it's anymore complicated than that.

Gary said...

"Having over the last seven years constantly predicted that the Tory Party is finished, he loses no opportunity to pour oil onto any troubled water which happens to flow through the Party."

I'm pretty sure that phrase means to calm problems, or to pacify a turbulent situation, not exacerbate a problem, as seems to be suggested by your usage here ...

Ordovicius said...

Funny how none oof the "big" bloggers in England have little to say concerning the fact that the British Nutter Party has an MLA now...

Anonymous said...

What Portillo can't come to terms with is that he bottled out of standing for the leadership and Cameron didn't.

His constant bitchiness against his won party ever since shows that the Tories are well shot of gim.

John Trenchard said...

bad move attacking portillo iain - seems like more "tory infighting" that the likes of the bbc would only too eagerly jump on.

why haven't you attacked the disgraceful coverage of Boris by BBC News24 this afternoon - practically labelling the man a "buffoon" before he has done anything?

Tom FD said...

Is that it? I had built up in my mind a full-on, agressive physical confrontation! What a letdown!

Tom FD said...

Incidentally Portillo's joint attack on Boris and Cameron was odd. He said Boris was someone Cameron had sacked from the front bench. That never happened!

hmmm.. don't know about that said...

Not wishing to be offensive, but I feel obliged to say that I have always found Michael Portillo's articles to be very readable and his Moral Maze contributions interesting.

On the other hand, topical as your blog is, I must confess that I have never managed to sustain interest in your DT articles. They seem anoraki'ish, if you know what I mean.

Anyway, not wishing to spoil a great day, I wish you well. Keep up the good work.

Dave B said...

As I recall Mr Portillo's idea of 'modernising' the Conservative Party, was to adopt political correctness. That's surrender, not modernisation.

Neil said...

To respond to the first comment - the votes will be weighed in Henley, as ever, but the Crewe and Nantwich result will be different as the Lib Dems will use their usual by-election smear tactics.

Sure, their candidate "walking out" will cause the Yellow Perils hassle, but they'll still use their usual tactics to destroy the Conservative vote as much as ever.

When it comes to the General Election, of course, things are different as they are still, despite what they claim, a fringe party with a membership size that reflects their status, so they cannot spread themselves around the country as much.

So whatever happens at the by-election isn't really all that important - the seat will swing blue at the General Election even if it doesn't before.

Neil Evans said...

Portillo was out of order at City Hall, it was the most blatant of agenda pushing, and frankly in light of the overall result both nation-wide and locally here in London he looked a bit of a tit. Especially claiming not to be a politician but a broadcaster, you simply can't escape your past that quickly!

It's clearly a huge gain, and as a political pundit he ought to be careful that the clear bias against Cameron's team doesn't lead him into the media wilderness of being a one-track record... because (with the exception of the most left leaning outlets) he'll find his view, and therefore his broadcasting career totally obsolete in coming years.

Neil said...

Just a thought on John Trenchard's comment above regarding the BBC coverage of Boris...

The difference between the BBC News 24 interview with Boris and Sky News's one after he was was elected showed a lot.

The BBC are, shall we say, not full of natural Conservative supporters and their pink-tinged vision must make them want to do whatever they can to stop a Tory General Election victory.

Sky, meanwhile, are answerable to one person and he rules with a fist of steel. Murdoch is clearly maneuvering himself to back the Conservatives at the next election, as evidenced by the Sky coverage and the Sun's backing of Boris.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...
"That the BBC has yet to produce any worthwhile investigations since Gilligan left says much about their dilatory journo`s."

Nonsense.

Travis Bickle said...

Iain

I have to say you're having to share a TV platform with some right dubious characters recently. That Yasmin Alibi Brown is a right immature leftie nutter is she not? Where do they drag them up from? (Boris is not one of us indeed)

All of which makes it easy for you to look calm, assured and (may I say) rather sensible and reasonable.

killemallletgodsortemout said...

How sad to be so bitter.

Good to see that he is doing so well as a political pundit.

The knob.

Iain Dale said...

Travis, you have rumbled my strategy, which is quite simple. If I ever appear with a Leftist who is prone to ranting, all I do is sit there and say nothing and look like the voice of sweet reason. Works every time.

Anonymous said...

The Beeb has worked had to bandage the gaping wound in Labour's side by a series of very slanted interviews and skewed statistics.

Portillo is paid by them but is so out of touch with real affairs that his bitter opinions are worthless.

Victor

Bill Quango MP said...

Andy in Newcastle said...
why do the Lib Dems get equal election coverage to the other main parties.

Thinking about your comment on the Lib Dems getting 10% of the vote.

However Paddick got 236,685 votes or 9.63%.
The Greens got 77,374 votes 3.15% and BNP got 69,710 for 2.84%

Seeing as Brian had debates with the main candidates, TV airtime and the backing and funds and campaigning skills of his party, you could reasonably surmise that the Lib Dems actually did very poorly. That or the Greens and BNP did very well.

I think the former.

Anonymous said...

I woke up in the small hours of 2nd May to see Portillo and Toynbee being interviewd live on the BBC election prog. He did not (obviously she did not) have a good word to say about the Conservative party. So went to bed in disgust, must have been around 2.30 pm

Neil B said...

The real crime with pinkos like Yasmin is that they are the ones who actually want to keep those at the bottom of the ladder at the bottom of the ladder.

Heck, they don't even believe in the ladder-based system - they believe everyone at the bottom should wait their turn in a queue.

Winston Churchill's words in the 1951 General Election campaign ring true now if the word "Socialist" is replace with "liberal":

"The difference between our outlook and the Socialist outlook on life is the difference between the ladder and the queue. We are for the ladder. Let all try their best to climb. They are for the queue. Let each wait in his place till his turn comes."

And with the queue system, those at the bottom are never encouraged to climb by those who are higher up - and would feel threatened if those "below" them could actually get to their level.

So, in reality, those who accuse the Conservatives of widening the gap between the "haves" and the "have nots" are destroying society by their queue system which allows only for the "haves" and the "have nevers".

Anonymous said...

I don't think he's bitter, he's been quite positive on David Cameron, he's defended Cameron when people were questioning if he's a real conservative, and he even said a few times that he thinks David Cameron will eventually be prime minister. I think he's still a conservative, but you can't appear to be a Tory when you're working for the BBC.

Apparently, Simon Heffer doesn't think 44% is good enough too. And I'm not sure is he's a Tory.

TrevorH said...

Not sure I can completely agree, not that I saw him on election night.

But when Cameraon first became leader I remember him saying on Weekly Politics (? - anyway the Andrew Neil prog) that he thought Cameron was 'the real deal'.

Its going to be interesting to see what Abbot says now on that prog, though unlike Portillo she edges towards partisanship when they are really there to be more 'semi-detached' or objective.

Nick R Thomas said...

Re his reading:

It was Dorothy Parker who said she was giving up book reviewing as it cut into her reading time.

Portillo is Chair of this year's Man Booker judges. Perhaps he couldn't let a little thing like a London Mayoral Election cut into his...

Anonymous said...

Well said - Ian - must say he has behaved in a very weird way for a long time, pouring scorn on the Tories at just about every opportunity - know after your piece I begin to understand - hes just rather bitter that he was not the chosen one - from his reaction and comments he could well have been a NuLab spokesman - took me a while to realise so from know on I'll choose to ignore him and his comments.

Nick R Thomas said...

Further to my last comment, Portillo writes a blog as Chair of the Man Booker Judges.

http://www.themanbookerprize.com/news/blog-chair-08/17

You might like this quote:

'I would not say that I am a particularly good reader - neither especially well read, nor fast at reading. So I had to think carefully about taking this duty on. I could do so this year only by arranging well in advance to leave most of my days (but not evenings) free to read.'

He obviously forgot to add 'unless I am on a live BBC Election programme'.

Sue Luxton said...

I heard he was asleep in the corner for most of the evening . . .

Howard said...

Well said. I had the same thoughts in a comment on your blog on election night. My guess is the BBC will dump him from This Week at the end of this political season. The Beeb will not want to upset the Tory high commend if it looks like Cameron is a winner.

tapestry said...

I organised the Deselect Michael Portillo campaign in Kensington & Chelsea in February 2003, designed to stop his public attacks on Party leader IDS.

I was struck by how many of the ordinary constituents of M Portillo had little good to say about him.

'he won't speak to us' etc.

but he had total loyalty from the 'snobs', who ran around to protect him.

His attacks on IDS went quiet overnight. It was the last time that Portillo was publicly attempting to grab the Party leadership. Our aim was to assist IDS, which we did, but in the process the campaign ended Portillo's aspiration to lead.

He's been a pain in the rump ever since, and deserved your criticism.

Martin said...

Potillo is a 'Beeboid' now. He's had the tiny brain he was born with removed and replaced by a litlte micro chip full of BBC crap that is spouted out daily. The BBC remind me of the movie the "Stepford Wives" except the BBC women are far uglier.