Michael Portillo Biography

Michael Portillo is a British journalist, broadcaster, former MP, and former cabinet minister for the ‘Conservative Party.’ With a career that spans politics and media, he has become a well-known figure in the UK. From his early days as a child actor to his successful political career, Portillo has now made a name for himself as a host and writer for various BBC documentaries, most notably the popular series ‘Great Railway Journeys.’

Quick Facts

  • Name: Michael Denzil Xavier Portillo
  • Age: 70 years
  • Gender: Male
  • Occupation: Journalist, Political Leader
  • Spouse: Carolyn Eadie (m. 1982)
  • Father: Luis Gabriel Portillo
  • Mother: Cora Waldegrave Blyth de Portillo
  • Height: 5’11” (180 cm)
  • Education: Peterhouse

Childhood & Early Life

Michael Portillo was born on May 26, 1953, in Bushey, Hertfordshire, to Luis Gabriel Portillo and Cora Waldergrave. His father was a Spanish republican but was exiled from his own country. His mother was Scottish. After landing in Britain, his father continued with politics. Although he was a conservative himself, he associated himself with the British left-wing parties in the 1930s. In 1972, he became the head of the London diplomatic office of the government in exile.

His family was extremely rich, as Michael’s grandfather owned a prosperous business and a linen mill. Growing up in the household with three older brothers, Michael earned a Spanish citizenship at the age of 4, along with a Spanish name. While all his older brothers were interested in sports, Michael was not. Owing to his intellectual parents, Michael studied hard and also read books on general knowledge, which broadened his view of the world. He attended ‘Stanburn Primary School’ in Greater London and then attended ‘Harrow County School for Boys.’ He earned good grades in class, and that enabled him to earn a scholarship to the ‘Peterhouse College’ of the ‘University of Cambridge.’ As a teenager, he had a variety of interests that included politics, books, and cinema.

Political Career

By the time he was 8 years of age, Michael had already made his mark. He appeared in a commercial for a cordial drink named ‘Ribena.’ He started his political career after he graduated in history with a first-class degree at the age of 22. Soon after his graduation, he started working at the ‘Ocean Transport and Trading Ltd.’ After a while, he joined the ‘Conservative Research Department’ in 1976. In 1979, the ‘Conservative Party’ came into power and Michael got a job as an advisor for the department of energy.

He fought his first elections from Birmingham Perry Barr in 1983 but lost. In the mid-1980s, he fought an election for a place in the ‘House of Commons’ and ended up winning a seat for himself. Thus, he earned his first ministerial post in 1987. In 1992, he was made the chief secretary to the treasury, and a couple of years later, he was promoted to the post of the secretary of state for employment. He then became the secretary of state for defense. However, his political career was marred with criticism on many fronts. He was known to live an exuberant life and was known in the media as “Portaloo.” He once rented ‘Alexandra Palace’ to celebrate his decade-long career in politics. This gave rise to further allegations. In the 1997 general election, he lost the Enfield Southgate seat to a ‘Labour Party’ candidate. This came as a shock to many political pundits. He kept losing in the following years and became a liability for the ‘Conservative Party.’ The 2005 general election marked the final nail in the coffin of Michael’s political career. Following this, he retired from politics permanently.

Career in Mass Media

In the late 1990s, Michael Portillo made his TV debut with the show ‘Portillo’s Progress.’ The show offered a glimpse of the frequently changing political scenarios in Britain. He soon became addicted to lights and cameras. Following this, he focused on his stint with TV and radio. He made appearances in many political documentaries such as ‘Great Britons’ in 2002. The ‘BBC’ show was about the greatest British personalities of all time. Michael chose to present Queen Elizabeth I.

In 2002, he began hosting the ‘BBC Four’ show ‘Dinner with Portillo.’ It was a show that featured political discussions, with Michael engaging in detailed conversations about contemporary politics with seven guests, over a four-course meal. Some of the guests on his show were Baroness Williams, Bianca Jagger, and Grayson Perry. In 2008, he was involved in the production of a documentary film named ‘How to Kill a Human Being,’ in which he talked about the best way to execute capital punishment. The sole purpose of the documentary was to establish the best method for carrying out the death sentence, after asking the general public about the same.

In 2009, he worked for a series of documentaries named ‘Great British Railway Journeys.’ The series showed him talking about how the British railway had affected the geographical, social, and economic plane of the country. The documentary ran for nine seasons. Following its success, Michael appeared in another series, ‘Great Continental Railway Journeys,’ where he explored continental Europe through the prism of the railways. He then appeared in ‘Great American Railroad Journeys’ and ‘Great Indian Railway Journeys.’ He later mentioned that the Indian part of the documentary was a profound experience and that he was mesmerized by the sheer diversity of the Indian population.

In 2015, he was dragged into controversy when he appeared in the ‘BBC Two’ documentary series ‘Portillo’s State Secrets.’ The series showed him scrutinize a number of classified documents from the ‘British National Archives.’ He has also hosted documentaries such as ‘Portillo’s Hidden History of Britain’ and ‘The Enemy Files.’ Michael is also a writer and has contributed to ‘The Sunday Times.’ He has written a column for them for a long time. He also happens to be a regular radio personality.

Personal Life

Michael Portillo married Carolyn Claire Eadie in February 1982.

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