Inside the disks
Scallywag issue 32b, February 1997
(It is suggested that any interested party go back into the Scallywag files on Portillo which will save referring to much background information which it is pointless to repeat. In particular the various holidays he has made to the Gazelle D'or in Taroudant, Morocco)
There were twelve main themes which emerged of general interest to me, and it is only fair to say that some of them show Michael Portillo to be rather different to his public persona. He is polite, gentlemanly, enthusiastic, a very good and conscientious constituency MP; he is loyal to friends and family, always speaks well of his wife, and exhibits a genuine sense of humour. Actually, none of this has been in dispute by us and was not particularly surprising.
His naked ambition is quite manifest and his cleverness as a political manipulator is emphasised clearly. There is a sort of overwhelming feeling of false modesty throughout all his correspondence. You can also tell, as he rises consistently in the power game throughout 1989-1996, that he thoroughly enjoys all the trappings of power and that he is a great lover of luxury. Again, in a well-bred Public School-Peterhouse man, there are no real surprises here. However, to those who can remember when Michael decided he would find out how the unemployed really lived by going on the dole for a week and renting a slum, the entire venture is quite laughable when you see the actual opulence of his lifestyle.
The nitty-gritty of all our investigations and subsequent allegations concerning Portillo has been on whether he is or is not a hypocrite in his overtly right-wing flag-waving, robust Queen and country 'patriotism' and his very public strand, throughout his entire controversial career, on family values. This conversation is an old one, and has dogged the Conservatives ever since it was so unwisely invented to try and court the blue rinse brigade back into Tory folds. Ever since the spin doctors created it, the Tories have been dogged by scandals of all kinds, especially concerning the libido. Michael's stand on this subject was quite emphatic. His public utterances on the subject, especially as Unemployment Secretary, were highly moralistic bordering on puritanism. At the time, as is still presently the case, Peter Lilley was Secretary of State for Social Welfare, an equally sensitive area when it comes to family values, of which Lilley was an equal enthusiast. We had published a story that on the night of the last General Election Messrs Portillo and Lilley had been disturbed on the top floor of the DTI building engaged in a sexual act, by a security guard attracted by the commotion. The guard had reported this to his superiors who had noted what he had said and then promptly sent him on a new assignment deep in obscurity. He had been introduced to us by a well known lobby correspondent who had been unable to publish the story in his own newspaper. The guard was very scared and rather more pissed off and made a statement to us to this effect. Rumours flourished that the Lilleys and Portillos had enjoyed rather risqué gatherings at the former's farm house in Normandy. Neither couple, of course, had had any children and probably little idea of just how a family really survived in modern Britain, especially if they were on the dole. Our central interest was not about the possible shenanigans between couples in private, but purely on their joint and voluble stand on family values.
Portillo's right-wing flag-waving is not in doubt, but is a definite oddity on the grounds that he is so very, very proud of being half Spanish. Maybe it is just a Spanish trait and, after all, he does have an English mother and was brought up entirely in the middle-to-upper classes of the lower British aristocracy. But he does appear to have a need to publicly be a lot more British than the British. As to family values. We have always alleged that he is a closet gay who has had several clandestine affairs with men of his own age and considerably younger, and that this singularly constituted hypocrisy at a time when he was Secretary of State for Employment - very much in the social sector. There is certainly nothing in the file which proves this, but there is a great deal of circumstantial information which does nothing to change our original views. Frankly, these views have not been challenged, but enhanced by these files.
Portillo had been going to the Gazelle D'or in Taroudant every Easter since 1989, without fail. All his air reservations and everything else about each holiday is clearly filed. It has been studiously suggested, both publicly and privately by both Mr and Mrs Portillo that these holidays were always with other couples. There is no question that Carolyn Portillo had accompanied her husband. But married couples are not normally in the habit of sleeping in single units, whether they be suites or the exclusive bungalows in the opulent gardens of the Gazelle. Yet bookings clearly show that on several occasions only one double was booked alongside up to four or six singles.
The Gazelle D'or is one of Morocco's most notorious gay habitats and it always has been. In effect it is little more than a gay brothel in which everything from very young village boys to handsome Berber youths are supplied openly on the bill. An even more odd sojourn was one taken by Portillo and friends to Barbados in July 1992. In August, while Portillo was Chief Secretary to the Treasury, he sent out a bill for "holiday Accounts" from the Chief Accountant to the Chief Secretary for a villa which appears to have cost each of them £1,000 rental for the week. On top of that were various amounts for groceries and meals in which some £4,000 was divided. The people in the party were: Michael Portillo, Michael Brown MP, Simon Marquis, Charles Welby and John Whittingdale. In October Michael and Carolyn threw a party at their house in Ashley Gardens for Michael Brown in which photographs of the holiday were requested to be brought. An additional guest at this black-tie shindig was Derek Laud.
Simon Marquis, Derek Laud and Michael Brown were all unaccompanied, but Whittingdale and Welby brought their wives.
Michael Brown is one of the very few Conservative MPs who volunteered to 'out' himself as a gay. Derek Laud, now standing for Parliament (against Bernie Grant in North London) ran a Pimlico PR agency called Ludgate Communications for a number of years which supplied young boys for selected Parliamentarians from children's homes now being investigated in North Wales. He sometimes did this in cahoots with Ian Greer Associates which has since been scandalised because of the Neil Hamilton Affair and payment for questions on behalf of Al-Fayed.
Ludgate Communications was at the very hub of our investigation into the 'boys for questions' allegations. At his Pimlico flat, and selected addresses in Dolphin Square nearby, Laud threw paedophile parties, and we have one sworn affidavit from a former boy (presently giving evidence in Wales) who claims he was seriously molested (among many others) by Lord McAlpine who was at the time the Tory party's clandestine fund raiser. It was alleged by this boy and others that Messrs Portillo and Lilley were also guests of Derek Laud. We are assured that this particular volcano is about to erupt, both in North Wales and elsewhere. Michael Portillo has always publicly disassociated himself from Derek Laud, yet here we find him not only acquainted but seemingly in the inner sanctum of private friends.
I confess Simon Marquis is a completely unknown quantity. Absolutely no one has heard of him. But he is extremely well represented throughout the files. While he was accompanied to one of Portillo's favourite pastimes - punting on the Cam every August in Cambridge - he is on his own at almost every other function. He organises the annual punting; he is on the invitation list of most of Portillo's many private and social parties; he has been to the Gazelle D'or, and now he turns up with two known gays in Barbados. And, of course, Michael Portillo.
Even a recent whitewash biography of Portillo acknowledged that the young men of Peterhouse were dominated by a very gay element, fostered by the dons, including Maurice Cowling.
It is obvious from the files that Marquis was a close friend of Portillo's at Peterhouse and the two of them have kept up an affection for their old college ever since. His lasted listed address was 30 Morella Road, London SW12.
In a year not designated, Portillo's faithful secretary, Clemency Ames, booked Marquis and Portillo into the Stock Hill House Hotel, at Wyke, Dorset, described as a small country house hotel with seven rooms and a restaurant costing £65 per person per night for dinner, bed and breakfast. It is not specified how many others may be in the party. At the end of the memo by Ames there is a short note saying Marquis needs a referee for a trust company and will send the papers to the "H of C". After living in Weymouth nearby for many years I can attest that Stock Hill is the very height of discretion. It was, for example, one of the love nests favoured by Prince Andrew when he was courting Koo Stark.
What is clear is that Marquis, Brown, Laud and Portillo, with ot without his wife, have formed a long-standing inner sanctum of close friendship which permeates most of Portillo's social life, including his many generous dinner parties and their holidays together.
It will inevitably be put down to old mates, loyalty among friends, and the fact that all of them probably really enjoy each other's company quite innocently.
But in my book it adds up to a rather funny one.
Another area where I felt I had every right to take an interest on behalf of the public was in the correspondence to the Register of Members' Interests. In 1992 he wrote to advise the gift of a Persian rug from a constituent, and in 1994 he registered a return air ticket to Amsterdam. According to his own files other letters went in registering a "nil" interest.
But there are a couple of birder cases which many other MPs decided should be admitted for themselves. For example, most MPs have been to conferences to the Adenauer Centre in Northern Italy where they are all very well looked after. Portillo was a guest at least once, but did not declare it.
In July 1990 he was a guest of Texaco at the Centre Court Men's Final at Wimbledon.
In February 1996 he wrote a 'thank you' letter for a private Lear Jet (to Newcastle) owned by Chris Foyle, which had been 'fixed' by Barry Simmons who happened to be a Luton Airport lobbyist and PR. Luton has a very serious desire to be London's third airport. This was duly noted in the letter.
In fact airlines and ports seem to be a weak point with the Defence Secretary. Portillo was very happy to accept a free car park pass for London Airport and then a complimentary British Airways Executive Card - which gives him many perks - at a time when BA was having a barney with Virgin and when he was reminded by London Airport PR Chris Davies that Heathrow was desperate for a fifth terminal.
Portillo likes his cars, his antiques and his art collection and he was most certainly not averse when he was offered a "substantial discount" from BMG for a black, leather interior, air conditioned Ford Mondeo 'Ghia'.
There have been several very expensive and classy parties thrown for Michael by friends and constituents, which have never been declared.
Any study of the Register itself shows that most MPs feel it expedient to list everything ever accepted, down to the last pen-nib.
There were other items of relative interest. For example, Portillo writes to the Foreign Secretary, then Douglas Hurd, expressing his support for Israel and suggesting that the PLO should be given no quarter by the British Government. Knowing full well this was a controversial matter this is the only letter in the files marked "Confidential". He clearly passes on the views of the delegation which had lunched him - led by Cyril Stein, Chairman of Ladbrooks - condemning the British Government for meeting with the PLO. He believes that the British Government's "even handedness" is regarded as "unnecessary and offensive". This letter was also sent to the Prime Minister.
At the time Portillo was Chief Secretary to the Treasury, but has he continued this view as Defence Secretary? Knowing his loyalty to the causes he adopts and the fact that Mr Stein, an ardent Zionist, is a regular guest at the Portillo parties - official and social - it seems likely. As Defence Secretary this is a very partisan view, especially concerning arms deals which the Ministry of Defence may be orchestrating on both sides.
It is also controversial in the sense that a significant number of his own constituents in Enfield South are Muslims and indeed he is deeply involved in the Cyprus Question, for the same reasons.
He also shows some sympathy for the Anglo-Israel Association which invited him to be a guest speaker to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the Balfour Declaration. To anyone who knows anything of Middle Eastern politics, this Declaration is the cornerstone of Arab suspicion and dissent about Britain. It was, after all, the very birth of a British-inspired Israel. He only declined the invitation because he had already been booked as a guest speaker at the Conservative Association Patrons' Club.
As an aside, his extensive invitation lists are a picture of adroitness for a rising star. All his dinner parties are well constructed when it comes to mixing people of importance and influence on his future career. The list of guests invited to his 40th birthday party (at the Alexandra Palace) would have been worth thousands at the the time of the event. Everyone wanted to know who went - and more important, who did not.
There are many other small insights into this controversial politician which would be of very great interest to a biographer for they show a deep insight into his day to day life and are by no means all risible. His love of cartoons and punting, for example, show his human side. But we rest our case.