Dauntsey’s has recently welcomed journalist, TV presenter and former cabinet minister, Michael Portillo, as part of the school’s Mercers’ Lecture series. Michael presented his lecture to an audience of 900 pupils, staff and members of the local community, talking about his life in politics and, more recently, in the media.
Born to a Spanish civil war refugee and a Scottish mother, Michael gained fame at an early age as the face of Ribena. After studying history at Cambridge, he entered politics in 1984, serving in Margaret Thatcher’s government.
Michael held a variety of ministerial positions and was seen by many as the natural successor to Thatcher until a shock result in the 1997 election saw him voted out of office in what is now known as the ‘Portillo Moment’. Michael gave many entertaining insights to his time in cabinet and enlightening behind-the-scenes tales of the Iron Lady herself.
Since leaving politics, Michael has reinvented himself as a media presence both in political discussion programmes and documentaries. The audience was fascinated as he related stories of how chance encounters, along with his passion for steam trains, fuelled his second career in television.
Before the public lecture, Michael spoke to a small group of sixth formers about his working life and answered their questions with great enthusiasm.
Sixth former Megan, who attended both the lecture and the informal group discussion, commented: “From his flamboyant dress sense to his bewitching descriptions, Michael held the audience spellbound both at our sixth form discussion and during the evening lecture as he gave us a colourful and very entertaining review of his life.
“We would like to thank Michael for one of the most charismatic and amusing lectures we have had the pleasure of listening to.”