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Wednesday, 20 June, 2001, 15:38 GMT 16:38 UK
Portillo: The right person for the Tories?

Michael Portillo has become the first person to enter the race for the leadership of the Conservative Party.

Announcing his candidacy he said the party needed to adopt a public tone that was more "moderate and understanding".

The Conservatives were thrown into disarray by the sudden resignation of William Hague following their disastrous defeat in last week's general election.

The election process for the Tory leadership will take most of the summer and several other party heavyweights, among them Kenneth Clarke and Ann Widdecombe, are considering their position.

Is Michael Portillo the best person for the job? Can he revive the fortunes of the beleaguered Conservative Party?


The Conservatives have not yet realised that it's pointless choosing people like Portillo, who appeal to Conservative MPs and activists - their votes aren't the important ones. They have to pick someone who appeals to non-Conservative voters, to try and bring them round. The Labour party found Tony Blair - the Conservatives may eventually discover Kenneth Clarke...
Peter Humphreys, UK

Unless the local level is completely overhauled, the next election will be even worse for the Conservatives

Ian Vickery, UK
Portillo does not stand a chance while the archaic local Conservative Associations still exist in their current format. Get rid of the existing agents and advertise for new ones. Select people who are professional go-getters who have the ability to inspire current Tory supporters and attract new people to the party. Unless the local level is completely overhauled and the incumbent 'old guard' dismissed, the next election will be even worse for the Conservatives.
Ian Vickery, UK

Bring back the Iron Lady! Margaret Thatcher was the best Prime Minister this country's ever had. In her absence, if Portillo is Tory leader next time round, then I'll probably vote blue - after all, he comes recommended by Maggie herself!
James, England

There is no way Portillo will win now that two charming and charismatic right-wingers are fighting him. Mr Davis and Mr Duncan Smith are not all dull and will definitely put a stop to apathy with their electrifying stage presences
Sigmund, Nottingham, UK

He will start the long process of pulling the Tories back to the centre

Nigel Grensitt, UK
Mr Portillo will be the Tory equivalent of Neil Kinnock, he will start the long process of pulling the Tories back to the centre, but will not make it into No 10. One big difference however is that Neil Kinnock knew who the problem members were in the Labour Party, Portillo does not.
Nigel Grensitt, UK

Let it be Portillo please, then we can have lots of lovely re-runs of that moment in 97 when his world collapsed. Time to get the beers in for Portillo 2 - Losing the election.
George Forsyth, Surrey, UK

The Tories must not be influenced, by the liberal media's anointing of Tory leaders. If the "press" influence the process, it's like the enemy appointing your Generals.
John (Harold Wilson refugee), USA

In two General Elections the Labour Party has won because thousands of traditional Tory voters were so fed up of being ignored by their party that they decide that they would give Labour a chance. Yet, the Conservative are still trying to tell the populace what they will do, rather than listening to what the populace wants and forming policies around these wishes. Until such time as the Conservative Party listens to the wishes and aspirations of the traditional Tory voters, the leadership of the Party will be somewhat irrelevant.
John Gant, UK

If the Tories continue to be as "Right Wing", obstinate, stupid and insular as they were formerly, then Michael Portillo is precisely the right man to ensure that their political aspirations will never see the light of day again. If, on the other hand, they wish to provide a reasonable and constructive Opposition for the good of the citizenry instead of themselves, then Kenneth Clarke is probably the best bet. Although I do not agree with the Tories on many points it is not a good idea to have effectively a one party state which is the case, at the moment, since the Tories lack brains and the Liberals lack muscle .
James Bruce Reid, Scotland

I feel that even that may not be enough to prevent their demise

Leon, U.K.
The fact that the Tories only had one net gain in terms of seats does not say much for the leadership of William Hague and to be quite honest, I really don't think Michael Portillo is the right man for the job either. The Tories need someone with greater integrity like Ken Clarke. However, I feel that even that may not be enough to prevent their demise.
Leon, U.K.

You don't really need an intelligent or charismatic leader to lead an extreme right wing party into power. If you need proof of this just look at the Republicans here in the US.
M. M. Zaman, UK in US

The Tories need to look for a pretty face (Portillo hasn't got one) to run the party because it's obvious the electorate look no further. Proof - well just look at how well Labour are doing with Blair. If William Hague had been judged on ability rather than looks then who knows what would have happened.
K Kirton, England

If the Tory party is ever to see power again it will have to have a high profile leader. Michael Portillo is the only hope they have. If he occupies the centre ground, as most expect him to do, and surrounds himself with a shadow cabinet of similarly charismatic individuals, then we could well see a pretty swift change in the Tories' fortunes. I'd bet my bottom dollar that Portillo is the man Blair most fears - he's an absolutely natural speaker and will make Blair's dull, irritating 'four words and pause' method of delivery seem positively juvenile by comparison.
Clive, Australia (ex UK)

I will be voting for Iain Duncan Smith

T. Matuk, Germany
I will not be voting for Michael Portillo in the leadership election. I watched his performance as the Shadow Chancellor and he did not shine for me. I will therefore be voting for Iain Duncan Smith. I certainly hope Anne Widdecombe changes her mind and joins Iaín in his shadow cabinet together with Bernard Jenkins etc because she has an enormous amount of support from the constituencies and was extremely loyal to William Hague, unlike some!!
T. Matuk, Germany

I personally think that Ken Clarke would be people's choice, but he will be unpopular with the "men in grey" because of his European stance. Any candidate that has the Thatcher support, must understand, it is the "kiss of death". They may get the leadership, but they have little chance of the premiership, if they follow her principles.
Terry Flanagan, Doncaster, England

Portillo? No. Clarke? No. It will be Iain Duncan-Smith - like Blair relatively unknown at the time of appointment. He's a warm man with outstanding abilities and the skill to unite the party.
Andy, UK

No leader will bring the factions together again

John, Brussels
The Tories are still so hopelessly divided over Europe that no leader will bring the factions together again. I suggest the anti-Europeans join the UKIP, from where they will disappear into oblivion given the reality which is the map of Europe today, and the pro-Europeans should gather around Portillo, with Clarke as his deputy, in a newly formed National Party which will accept the reality of and need for the EU, the need for enlargement and the euro and Britain's central and vital role in this process.
John, Brussels

Those who accuse the Tory party of bandwagon jumping have got it very wrong. They are all exercise freaks indulging in a bout of collective knee jerking at every political fad that comes along.
I. Turzanski, Netherlands

Boris Johnson is clearly the best man to lead the Conservative Party.
Graham Guest, UK

The Tories will get behind Portillo if they're prepared to polish the surface rather than look for deeper improvements

Jonathan Kerr, UK
After going in for the Tory leadership, the first thing Portillo was seen saying on television was that the Tory party's stance against Europe would "look better" if they were seen to be an internationalist party. This comment is more about the appearance than about the actual nature of things, which I suspect what Portillo is about generally. The fact that Labour have a real relationship with Europe will be crucial to many who feel that whatever happens with Europe, we'll need to be able to communicate with it. The Tories will get behind Portillo if they're prepared to polish the surface rather than look for deeper improvements - but for many that will not be enough.
Jonathan Kerr, UK

The sensible thing for the Tories to do would be to find out who is Lady Thatcher's favoured candidate - then go for someone else!
John Welford, UK

Ken Clarke is the right man

Tom, USA
No. Ken Clarke is the right man, with the condition that he promises all Tory MPs a free vote on the euro, and the freedom to campaign on either side in a referendum. There are a lot of Labour MPs who don't like the euro, and a flexible stance by the Tories would highlight both Labour's divisions on the issue, and Tony Blair's extreme control-freakery.
Tom, USA

The Tories only have to keep their heads and wait. The fools who go on about them being too right-wing have completely lost touch with reality. The left lost all the debates long ago, but keeps trying to fool us that it is compassionate. It concentrates on losers and with political correctness tries to make anyone who wants to succeed in life look like a heartless villain. But it won't last, Britain is a naturally right-wing country. Labour will fall apart in the next 5 years when it realises that it can't please a lot of people without taxing them to the hilt and giving into political pressure from Brussels.
Peter, Australia

You must be joking.
Leigh Bowden, UK

Portillo should get elected

Peter Allingham, UK
Curiously, Anne Widdecombe has demonstrated very clearly why she should not lead the Tories and why Portillo should. She is more concerned with paying back those whom she perceives as enemies within the party than bringing the party together and moving on. Portillo should get elected - and Widdecombe should just move on!
Peter Allingham, UK

Tony Blair may also have reinvented himself before coming to power, but he was not a high profile figure in the years before he became the leader of the Labour party as Portillo was pre-1997. So it wasn't quite as obvious. And Blair has changed the direction of his party to get Labour elected. Portillo has only changed himself and would have no chance of influencing the rest of the Tories to think along the same lines on any single issue let alone a complete manifesto.
George, UK

Given the widespread joy in 1997 when Mr. Portillo lost his seat, I hardly think he is likely to win support and respect from the electorate in the next election.
Sarah, UK, resident in France

Mr. Portillo has probably the best chance to become leader of his party

Arnoud V, Netherlands
Mr. Portillo has probably the best chance to become leader of his party. Portillo Mark II, as he's being nicknamed these days, is a moderate guy with more authority within his party than the unfortunate Mr. Hague, and he will certainly give the Tories some seats back in Parliament. However, the Tories' biggest problems are a matter of policy rather than personality. The euro won't disappear, and the bereaved public services will not recover from their present state without large investments. Hard choices will have to be made.
Arnoud V, Netherlands

There are arguments against Portillo and most of the other "front-runners". Portillo is seen as insincere following his apparent conversion from the right wing of the party to the left. Clarke cannot unite the party because of his pro-euro stance and Ann Widdecombe only has narrow appeal. My view is that a more junior candidate should step forward. My nomination is Dr Liam Fox who as a former GP knows a thing or two about what is wrong with the health service, among other things.
Paul Evans, England

The only "right" person for the Tories is Margaret Thatcher but they blew it when they discarded her.
Mark Green, UK

For me, the only person who can be a true leader of the Tories is Ken Clarke

Joe Ewing, England
Yes, Portillo is well presented, well spoken and relatively presentable compared to Hague. But at least Hague stood up for what he truly believed in and put that to the electorate. Obviously, it was not what the electorate wanted to hear. As a Tory, I would prefer that anyone who is elected leader stands by the principles that he/she believes in. Say what you like about Blair, but when he speaks of his policies he is passionate and committed to what he is trying to achieve. Portillo is passionate for whatever is flavour of the month at the moment. For me, the only person who can be a true leader of the Tories is Ken Clarke.
Joe Ewing, England

What is the point of electing Michael Portillo as leader of the Conservative party if the sole purpose is to bring the party to the centre. We already have a centre party in the UK. It is called New Labour. The Lib Dems occupy the centre left that was vacated by old Labour. The Tories should choose a leader that represents the views of their party and not the present view of the country held by voters. Only then can we all have a fair choice of who we want to govern us. The Tories are right wing and always have been. A leopard cannot change its spots whoever they elect as leader.
Richard Brown, UK

I'm not a Tory, but I have respect for Portillo at a personal level

John, UK
I'm not a Tory, but I have respect for Portillo at a personal level, and I can see that his views are clearly the result of rigorous analysis. This sets him apart from many in his party who form their opinions by looking at which bandwagon they can jump onto next. I fear that some elements of the party establishment, such as Tebbit et al, will propagate a whispering campaign against him because of some of his past admissions. Equally much of the press will be against him because he wants an adult debate on real issues to do with Europe, rather than playing their jingoistic tune. Ultimately, the question about whether he is the right party leader depends upon whether the Tories want to start appealing to a broader range of ordinary voters, or whether they want to listen to their own activists, who would no doubt prefer a more right wing contender.
John, UK

Portillo is liked by the media - but few others. Give me Ken Clark (without euro-fanaticism) and David Davis to establish the Conservatives as a credible opposition first.
Phil Ryder, England

Conniving, hypocritical, opportunistic, and driven by blind ambition at the expense of anything else.....of course he's the perfect person for the job. And as for reviving the fortunes of the Conservative party(ies). If they really believe that their electoral wipe-out was caused by the leader's lack of hair and Yorkshire accent, and that therefore electing a "handsome" leader will reverse this, then God help them - because the electorate certainly won't!
Paul Steven, Scotland, UK

Trying to run the Conservatives is like trying to herd cats

David Patrick, Reading, UK
He is probably the best available option to the party, but that isn't saying much. The bigger problem will be in getting them to follow him. As the last two Tory leaders have found out, trying to run the Conservatives is like trying to herd cats.
David Patrick, Reading, UK

Portillo? I don't think so. He carries with him too much political baggage from the past. Fresh faces are needed in politics. A sort of 'anti-politician' type of politician is now required to break down the crumbling and utterly out of touch party circus and political elite now in charge of this great country.
Dave, UK

I believe that Michael offers the Tories their best opportunity of having a leader with genuine prime ministerial qualities since Margaret Thatcher
Nicky Gardner, Redditch, England

More to the point, are the Tories the right party for Mr. Portillo? The next four years will either see more disastrous in-fighting over Europe or an exodus of pro-Europeans, leaving him with a party who don't share his "friendly debate" view. If he wants to be Prime Minister, he's backed the wrong bunch to get him there.
Julian Hayward, UK

The Tory Party should look seriously at one of the new faces within their ranks

David M, UK
The Tory Party should look seriously at one of the new faces within their ranks. David Davies has done what he has promised to do at local level, does not rely on spin doctors to achieve it, and would make a great leader. Choosing any one of the other leading candidates would signal at least 5 more wilderness years. We cannot wait that long...
David M, UK

I think maybe he could be good for the country, if not for the Tories' chances at the next election. At this point we desperately need an opposition different from Blair. Someone to defy the Murdoch press and argue a liberal, even a libertarian agenda. In that sense being despised by the tabloids is a point in his favour.
Malcolm McMahon, York, UK

I'd like to see a Portillo/Clarke "dream ticket"

Michael Thomas, UK
I think he'd be a good leader - he used his time outside of politics after the '97 election defeat to get out and see how ordinary people live. He worked as a hospital porter for a time. I think that has helped him to empathise with the public more. He has principles and he is a good communicator so that's two qualities more than the current PM. Ideally, I'd like to see a Portillo/Clarke 'dream ticket' but I can't see how he can change his views on the euro.
Michael Thomas, UK

Regardless of the personalities, it seems to me axiomatic that any leader of a demonstrably unpopular party has to have a wider appeal to us, the voters, than to the Parliamentary party.
Fran Beaton, UK

Forget Portillo, Widdecombe and the rest. The ONLY possible leader is Ken Clarke. If he had been leader instead of Hague then we might not have had to endure another Labour government intent on stealth taxes and destroying small business. As for the euro - it's going to happen, we're only delaying the inevitable!
I'd like to vote Tory but ..., England

If they elect him as their leader, it will really show how out of touch they are

Andy, Nottingham, UK
I really hope Portillo gets the leadership. There is no way the Tories would be voted in with him as leader. If they elect him as their leader it will really show how out of touch they are. I think the question is - Do we really need a Tory party anymore? Or can we move on and away from tax cutting, boom and bust, greed at any cost and xenophobic politics!
Andy, Nottingham, UK

Portillo should take at least one leaf out of the Labour party's book - he should adopt the policy of a referendum on the euro. This would finesse the problem (just as Labour has done), by making it a matter of conscience for individual Conservative MP's. In practice, this would not greatly change the party's perceived stance on the euro, but it could enable Ken Clarke to team up with Portillo as a potential Chancellor of the Exchequer - a post for which he would be well respected in the country.
Peter Schwarz, UK

I don't know if Portillo is the right man to lead the Conservative Party

Mike, England
I don't know if Portillo is the right man to lead the Conservative Party. However, I do know that the voting public should base their decisions on policies. Most reports seem to suggest someone can be unelectable if they have no hair, a Yorkshire accent etc. Until the voters look past the superficial and actually study the policies and previous history, we are in for a sorry time.
Mike, England

I'm not a Tory supporter, but even I can see that whoever they choose from this shortlist (Portillo, Widdecombe, Clarke etc), will be a disaster for them. They need to spend the next few years as Labour did in their wilderness years - bringing on and nurturing young vibrant individuals who are in touch with the 21st century, who can see what their people need and get behind policies that matter to them. They missed the chance to do this while Hague was treading water for 4 years; they mustn't do it again. If they persist with the last century Thatcher ideals they seem so bent on clinging to, they will soon be gone for good.
Mark Dickinson, Nottingham, England

Mr Portillo should give way to Miss Widdecombe or Mr Duncan Smith. This would be the last nail in the coffin of this organisation that is increasingly becoming a geriatric club of racist little Englanders.
Debbie, UK

I have met Michael Portillo twice and found him to be an affable and intelligent man with a good sense of humour. Regardless of who leads the Tories, I will never vote Conservative. However, I would prefer Portillo at the dispatch box than some of the unbearable authoritarian right-wingers in the shadow cabinet.
Daniel Brett, UK

I have always been on the right of the Conservative party, but if we have any chance of ever winning back power, we need to appeal to the public. I can't believe I'm saying this, but we need Ken Clarke.
Andy Davies, London, UK

If Prime Minister Blair can re-invent himself then so can Portillo

Darren Webb, USA
If Prime Minister Blair can re-invent himself then so can Portillo. In 1983 for example Blair was pro-CND, anti-Europe, anti-Big Business, pro-union power. Now as a soft right wing leader none of those above apply anymore. Politicians like everybody else are allowed to learn from their mistakes. Portillo should be given a chance.
Darren Webb, USA

Portillo and Widdecombe played key roles in this election, which proved to be an absolute fiasco. Therefore, I believe they have a nerve to even consider standing for the leadership of the Conservative Party. Only Kenneth Clarke is a viable option for leader at this time, with Ian Duncan-Smith as his deputy. I believe this team could unite the party and provide at least some opposition against the Labour Government.
Les Wardle, UK

Portillo is the ideal leader for the Conservative Party. A leader no one would elect for an unelectable party. There simply isn't any belief in the capability of the party to govern or create policies that anyone wants. The Conservative party needs an electable face, and the only one I can think of is Chris Patten a man the Parliamentary Party wouldn't back. Oh well I guess we're going have to get used to a one party state.
Darren, UK

Potillo, Clarke, Widdecome,Lilley, they have all had their day and blew it and the electorate do not forget their past history. Fresh faces with fresh ideas are the only things that will change the Tory party in the eyes of the electorate. Frances Maude and Ian Duncan Smith seem to fit the bill.
John K., U.K.

It doesn't really matter who becomes leader, so long as they change the party name, by putting "New" in front of it, change the logo and produce pledge cards. The UK electorate will fall for it and the party will come to power!
Doug, The Netherlands

Those who criticise Portillo's apparent "conversion" evidently know very little about his diverse background as a son of an anti-Fascist Spanish socialist and a teenage Labour party supporter. This is not the first time that he has had a "conversion", and to me his conversion is no more "unprincipled" than the conversion of new Labour to core Thatcherite economic and trade union policies. It is a matter of moving with the times.

Portillo therefore represents an opportunity for Conservatism to move away from its own slightly sad (and relatively recently adopted) form of Conservative Utopianism which wishes that single parents and homosexuals didn't exist and that all the immigrants would go home. Hopefully, as the son of a refugee and as a very intelligent politician Portillo is the man to restore the Tory Party to the centre-right and to give it a new philosophy and some fresh ideas. Those who wish to see Labour in power for another 20 years forget what happened to the ! Tories after 18 years. Single party politics is not good for party or nation. I hope he becomes leader and I will judge who to vote for in 4-5 years time on his policies and by the results the Labour party has achieved.
Neil, Rome

What matters is whether voters see him as a credible alternative

Malcolm Haig, UK
What the Conservative party has to remember is that Labour went through four leaders (excluding John Smith) before they found somebody who was electable. The Conservatives are now up to number 3. It does not matter if Michael Portillo can command the overwhelming support of the Conservative party. What matters is whether voters see him as a credible alternative, and at this moment the answer is no.
Malcolm Haig, UK

I think the relevant question for the Conservatives is will the people want this leader to be the next PM? I think that Michael Portillo is "damaged goods" as far as the electorate is concerned and could not envisage him as a future leader. I really think they need someone completely new, with no skeletons in the closet.
Rob, U.K.

I believe that Michael Portillo, is probably the last best hope for the Conservative party. He 'seems' to combine a sincerity and understanding that other potential Tory candidates sorely lack. However, the true test of his more social liberal views will come when he has to implement these beliefs into party policy.
Richard, UK

To me he summed up every reason why I would not vote Tory

Ken Beach, Germany
Unless Michael Portillo really has changed from being the 'darling of the right' I think he will guarantee the Tories stay in opposition for a very long time. To me he summed up every reason why I would not vote Tory. He may have done a stint as a hospital porter, but unless his and the party's attitude swings away from social elitism and worship of the market, I do not think he can turn things around. I still do not think the party has learned why it was so unpopular when voted out of office.
Ken Beach, Germany

If the Tories really wish to ever gain power again, they must listen to the electorate and stop fighting amongst themselves. It is felt that Kenneth Clarke is the most popular Tory amongst the voters, but will the party realise that it is what the voters think that matters, not the cosy little club in Westminster?
Colin Mackay, UK

I think he is probably the best option they have. Besides, anything is better than Widdecombe.
Philip, UK

He is no more a leader than William Hague was

Jim Blake, UK
For someone who has voted Tory since 1973, and this year finally did not, all I can say about Mr Portillo is that I don't know or care if he is right or wrong in terms of what he represents. What I do know, however, is that he is no more a leader than William Hague was or Ken Clark may be. That's the trouble with the Tories right now, no leaders. Say what you will about Blair, and I personally don't like his policies, he is at least prepared to drive his people on.
Jim Blake, UK

Politics is a dirty game in this country and Portillo has too many skeletons in his closet. He may be the best of a bad bunch but I think he would present too much of a target for the other parties to shoot at. I agree with other comments that the Tories need someone with the charisma of Ken Clarke but without his pro-Euro views, but they tried the "fresh face" approach with Hague and it proved disastrous.
Paul R, UK

The right-wing of the Conservative Party, who have already started tut-tutting about Portillo's past and his pleas to be more moderate and understanding, should realise that their man had his chance in this election and was roundly rejected by the electorate. Good luck to Michael Portillo and his attempts to make the Tories electable again. This country needs a strong Opposition - a realistic alternative government - and he is the man who can deliver this.
Phil Carney, London, UK

It does not matter who leads that disjointed group known as the "Tory party" because they are so divided and confused about what is happening in society that I would like to put a bet on Labour winning the next General Election by a 150 seat plus majority!
Geoff Hanlan, Wales

Yes he would ensure that we don't get a Tory Prime Minister for a long long time! So I support him in his leadership bid!
Paul M, England

He is not a caring Tory. Unless he's had a truly Damascene conversion he simply won't believe what he's saying. Tony Blair has combined his own basic principles with an ability to get elected and put his principles into practice. He might have changed his views on some particular issues, but his principles have remained. That's the difference. Portillo has made such an about turn - apparently - that I can't see how he can believe his own new stance and he will not persuade voters. And, no, we don't have short memories. We all remember exactly where we were when he lost his seat in 97, and we all loved it. Go for it, Don Miguel. Another landslide for Tony Blair in 5 years time.
Randy, UK

What ever happened to the "clear blue water" that Portillo spoke of just a few years ago? I suggest that the secret of success is to keep doing the right thing long enough! Portillo doesn't seem to know what he stands for now.
Robert Todd, England

He will probably have a greater chance of winning if he stood for the Spanish general election instead - bring back Maggie.
John Darcy, London, UK

Portillo's "conversion" to caring for society is as believable as Tony Blair coming out for the Socialist Alliance. This was the man who gave us the poll tax, xenophobic rants to the Tory conference and whose demise in 1997 was symbolic of the out of touch Tory party. He cannot be believed and would, therefore, be a disaster as leader.
Mark, UK

Portillo would ensure the Tory party stay out of government for the foreseeable future

Andrew Dobson, UK
I fully support Mr Portillo's candidacy - it will ensure the Tory party stay out of government for the foreseeable future. Only the Conservatives would allow one of the most hated men in British politics to lead their party. Portillo's defeat at the 1997 election has often been quoted as one of the most memorable election moments in history. It's a joke to think he'd ever be elected Prime Minister.
Andrew Dobson, UK

I think this was Portillo's plan from the start. Hague was merely the fall guy in an election they knew they wouldn't win.
Oliver Richardson, UK

It would be a good way of ensuring that neither me nor anyone I know will vote Tory next time round. He should go for it.

Portillo will not appeal to those voters that the Tories need to pull back from Labour

Ed, Reading UK
Portillo will not appeal to those voters that the Tories need to pull back from Labour. What is needed is a fresh face if the Conservatives are to make any headway against Blair. Someone with the charisma of Clark without his views on the Euro!
Ed, Reading UK

Portillo? Maybe. It all depends on whether he wants to be the Conservative Blair - drawing the party towards the centre, rubbishing old Tory nonsense as rabid euro scepticism, latent racism and hypocritical stands on social issues. On the other hand, if Portillo maintains Hague's rulebook, he'll just be a new, empty, pretty face.
Peter Brook, Bermuda

Best of a bad bunch!
Chris Power, Manchester, UK

Michael Portillo could be the right person to lead the Tories but in order to succeed, he needs to bring together the party and unite under specific policies. Conservatives will win more seats in parliament if they appear united. However if the party chooses Ann Widdecombe as leader, then the Conservatives must be prepared to be in opposition for many more years to come.
John K, England

I've met Portillo twice and found him to be an affable and intelligent man

Daniel Brett, UK
I've met Portillo twice and found him to be an affable and intelligent man with a sense of humour. However, whoever leads the Tories, I doubt I will ever vote for them, even though Portillo is far more bearable than Widdecombe.
Daniel Brett, UK

Michael Portillo is probably the most recognisable face in the party, other than Kenneth Clarke. If the Government is going to spend a fortune convincing us that the euro is a good thing, then someone of Portillo's standing is required to balance the argument and convince us of the reasons to say 'No' to the euro.
Rory McKnight, UK

A smooth talking, charismatic match for Mr Blair! If Michael Portillo wins, the Tories stand a chance at the next election - assuming the Health Service, Education, the Railways and Euro have not been fixed by the New Conservatives, I'm sorry, Labour. Mr Blair is a hard worker, but I wish Mr Portillo well, because we certainly need a more balanced Parliament next time around.
Phil W, UK

Widdecombe, Clarke or Portillo? None of the above!
Peter Nixon, England - USA

Portillo has always been a contender for Tory party leader and would have been when John Major stood down in 1997 except that he lost his seat. This has probably been a blessing in disguise for him as he was able to re-invent himself. Before 1997 no one would have used the words moderate and understanding to describe him and as the electorate have a very short memory span, he may well pull it off and appeal to them.
Gill, UK

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