Michael Portillo was born in North London in 1953. His father, Luis, had come to Britain as a refugee at the end of the Spanish Civil War, and his mother, Cora, was brought up in Fife. She met Luis while she was an undergraduate at Oxford.
Michael attended a grammar school, Harrow County, and went to Peterhouse, Cambridge, where he gained a first class degree in History.
He left Cambridge in 1975, and for a year worked for a shipping company. He moved to the Conservative Research Department in 1976, where he spent three years. At the General Election in 1979 he was responsible for briefing Margaret Thatcher before her press conferences. For the next two years he was special adviser to the Secretary of State for Energy.
He worked for Kerr McGee Oil (UK) Ltd from 1981 - 1983. He contested the Birmingham Perry Bar seat at the 1983 Election.
In 1982 Michael and Carolyn married. They had first met when they were at school.Carolyn had become a chartered accountant and for the last fifteen years has been a ‘headhunter’ with Spencer Stuart Associates.
Michael returned to politics as a special adviser to the Chancellor of the Exchequer (Nigel Lawson) and in December 1984 won the by-election in Enfield Southgate, caused by the murder of Sir Anthony Berry MP in the Brighton bombing. Michael represented the seat for thirteen years but was defeated in the 1997 Election.
He joined the Government in 1986, and remained a member until 1997. He was a whip, Parliamentary Under Secretary for Social Security, Minister of State for Transport, Minister of State for Local Government and Inner Cities; and as a Cabinet Minister was Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Secretary of State for Employment, and Secretary of State for Defence. He was admitted to the Privy Council in 1992.
After his 1997 electoral defeat, Michael returned to Kerr McGee as an adviser. He also turned to journalism. He wrote about walking as a pilgrim on the Santiago Way, and working as a hospital porter. He had a weekly column in The Scotsman. He had a three part series for Channel 4 about politics Portillo’s Progress, and a programme in BBC2’s Great Railway Journeys series, which was partly a biography of his late father, and radio programmes on Wagner and the Spanish Civil War.