Posts Tagged ‘Michael Portillo’

Election 1997 20th anniversary: “Were you up for Portillo? Sort of.”

01/05/2017, 09:51:19 PM

In a series of pieces, Uncut writers look back at election day 1997. Tony Sophoclides was a political adviser to John Prescott and closely involved in the key seats campaign

The morning was knocking up in Enfield Southgate and the afternoon Brentford and Isleworth. For two years I’d been immersed in the key seats campaign and finally polling day was at hand.

Everything about Labour’s campaign in 1997 had been focused on 91 seats to secure a majority of 45. By May 1st our returns pointed to big wins in these seats and a new swathe of seats was targeted in the final week.

Looking back with hindsight, you wonder if we should have expanded the target list much earlier but at the time the fear of failure was stamped on our psyche. To even contemplate a comfortable victory was to tempt disaster.

Canvassing went well but still I was edgy. Some of team Prescott met at a pub in Westminster at about 2030 before heading over to Festival Hall for the party an hour later.

Only then did I relax.

Walking in, you knew it was a party. Word of the swings being reported on the ground had got through and there was a feeling of huge expectation.

Various celebs were dotted around the Festival Hall, including Richard Branson. Labour had tried so hard to get him to back us, only for him to tease but not commit. Yet here he was, at the party.

A group of us ended up chatting to him when he did a very odd thing, which is apparently one of his common tricks.

We all shook hands with him when after a few moments he asked one of our number, Sue Haylock (who worked for JP then and still does), the time. She looked at her wrist but the watch was gone.

Branson opened his hand and there it was. Even with all that was going on that evening, I clearly recall wondering how on earth he had time to learn and perfect that trick when he was meant to be running a mega-million pound set of businesses.

The evening rolled on as did the booze. Maybe a little too much.


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Election 1997: 20th anniversary: “Just let yourselves out quietly when you’re finished”, said Her Majesty’s High Commissioner to South Africa

01/05/2017, 06:48:48 PM

In a series of pieces, Uncut writers look back at election day 1997. Stephen Hardwick had been a shadow cabinet adviser to John Prescott and moved to South Africa to work for the ANC shortly before the election

“Where were you for Portillo?” Drinking white wine and whooping with delirium at the UK High Commissioner’s residence in Bishopscourt, Cape Town, with half of Nelson Mandela’s ANC Cabinet, and my comrade-in-arms, Mike Elrick.

There are worse places to watch the BBC election night coverage than amid the great and the good of South Africa’s first democratic government and as a guest of the fabulous (and late) Maeve Fort – who knew how to throw a party.

But why there?

I’d been working as an adviser to the ANC Chief Whip, Max Sisulu, for a year by then, and Mike, who had been a press officer for John Smith, had joined me six months in. After four years as John Prescott’s speechwriter and policy adviser, I’d quit because I had wanted to ‘do something’ to support the new ANC government in South Africa.

As far as I was concerned, by mid-1996 Labour was nailed-on for a big win, and I felt that I’d done my bit. So while my contemporaries among the Shadow Cabinet advisers – the Milibands, Ed Balls, Yvette Cooper, Pat McFadden and co – would be heading for government or Parliament, I was already there, working ultimately for Mandela.

So on election night, there was a huge projector screen and a BBC satellite feed set up in a grand and spacious dining hall. There was fizz, I recall, to get things started, and waiters circulated topping up bottomless glasses of chilled whites and fruity reds. There was also buffet and the most enormous wheel of cheddar.

It was the scale of the rout that was so shocking, and as seat after seat fell, we Brits kept looking at each other with growing disbelief and, in some cases, unalloyed joy.

Around 2am I called John Prescott to congratulate him. He was on his way from Hull to London and he told me that he’d been up to Sedgefield to see Tony Blair earlier that day and that he was going to be Deputy Prime Minister and Secretary of State for Environment, Transport and the Regions. I’m still proud that I was among the first he told.


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Kevin Meagher calms down after Conservative conference

08/10/2010, 11:58:41 AM

OK, my fists are now unfurled. I have emptied my soul of expletives and invective. Bad thoughts have passed. The rage has subsided. The television, though battered and bruised, will live on. I’m like this every October. For one week, my usually ultra-rational impulses give way to a visceral tribalism. Undiluted exposure to the Conservative party conference does that to me. It elicits a physical reaction as a mixture of loathing and, well, more loathing, rises in my throat.

It’s not one thing in particular. It’s the all-embracing awfulness of it. It’s the platitudinous “debates” – grainy facsimiles of actual democratic discussion. It’s the perfunctory applause and standing ovations (an unfortunate habit that Labour has adopted). It’s the lame jokes. The wretched, simplistic homilies with their sneery nouveau riche morality.

It goes without saying that the Conservative conference is a platform for banality. But it provides endless visual and aural stimulation to someone looking to have his basic political orientation rebooted once a year. That is important. Politics is not only knowing what you are for; it is knowing what you are against too. (more…)

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We don’t need to blow people up to win the argument on climate change, says ffinlo Costain

05/10/2010, 12:28:44 PM

This week the 10:10 campaign (getting people to cut their carbon emissions by ten per cent in 2010) presented a nasty little film, which they hoped would help wake people up to the perils of global climate change. It was an error of judgement, and the 10:10 director acted quickly when she saw the offence the film had caused, withdrew it and apologised.

Her fast response is laudable.  But climate campaigners must be more careful.

When I was a student in the early 1990s I was passionate about social justice, angrily in favour of peace, and Michael Portillo – at the time a hard-right Thatcherite instead of the late night teddy-bear Tory he’s become – was the Devil incarnate.

But then one night something happened. (more…)

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