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27th April 2007 - Charlie Morris and Andrew Whitworth

A conversation with Michael Portillo

On Wednesday 25 April, Exeter College was fortunate enough to have the former cabinet minister and current journalist Michael Portillo to speak to members of the college. Although a Cambridge student, he was more than willing to address an eager and sizable Oxford crowd. His speech ranged from his earliest experiences working with Thatcher to his current occupation observing the dominant meerkats in a scorching Kalahari Desert – as he quipped, two experiences not entirely unrelated.

Littered with witty anecdotes, his speech was nonetheless satisfying from an academic perspective, with its insightful analysis of contemporary politics and cautious predictions for the future of the current labour government and its opposition. Far from being a biased account, it offered a measured evaluation of the modernizing Tory party and suggested possible routes for David Cameron’s newly invigorated party – something we have come to expect from Portillo’s columns in the newspapers. His personal experiences working intimately both as a cabinet minister and as a shadow with his labour peers, give a salutary warning to those contemplating British politics in the post-Blair era: his relationship with Gordon Brown seemed less than amicable.

Michael Portillo spoke impressively off the cuff; his relaxed and charismatic approach went down well with the assembled audience. We were very lucky to be able to hear such a distinguished speaker and hope that he may be persuaded to return in the future.

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