Portillo accused of hypocrisy and homophobia

“Portillo screws queer soldiers” banner in Parliament Square
Image Copyright: Steve Mayes, 1996

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OutRage! has accused the former Conservative MP and ex-Defence Secretary, Michael Portillo, of “hypocrisy and homophobia”. The gay rights group was responding to Mr. Portillo’s self-outing in an interview in “The Times” newspaper on the 9th September.

Portillo is widely tipped as a potential future Conservative party leader and Prime Minister. He is the most senior Tory MP to admit to having gay sex: although he claims he has not had sexual relations with men since he entered public life a generation ago.

Following Mr. Portillo’s revelation of his past gay relationships, Peter Tatchell of OutRage! said:

“Michael Portillo is a hypocrite and homophobe. Despite his own gay relationships, he has consistently opposed gay human rights and has never shown any sympathy or support for the gay community.

“Portillo is no friend of queer people. He voted for Section 28, against an equal age of consent and, as Defence Secretary, he enforced the ban on lesbians and gays in the armed forces.

Just before the 1997 General Election, OutRage! erected a giant billboard in Portillo’s constituency emblazoned with the words ‘Portillo Screws Queer Soldiers’, while leafleting local voters about his antigay record in Parliament, and displaying posters with the slogans: ‘Portillo’s buggered the army’, ‘Portillo sucks’, and ‘Portillo: No friend of Dorothy’.

The preceeding summer of 1996, on the occasion of the annual Pride March, OutRage! erected the same billboard at the end of Whitehall, near the House of Commons, in protest at his policy, as Defence Secretary, of witch-hunting of lesbian and gay military personnel.

On the night parliament voted against an equal age of consent in 1994, when news of the defeat on equality came through, 5,000 lesbians and gays massed outside the House of Commons spontaneously broke into a chant of ‘Portillo is a faggot’, furious that he voted against equalisation at 16.

“OutRage! had Portillo on its outing hit-list because of his homphobia and hypocrisy. Under Britain’s draconian libel laws, we could not name him because there was no one prepared to go public with what they knew about his secret gay life. Now he has outed himself.

“What a pity Michael is still refusing to say anything positive about gay life and relationships. His continued unwillingness to express any empathy for the lesbian and gay community shows that he remains a cold-hearted, compassionless homophobe.

“If he really cares, why doesn’t he speak out against antigay discrimination?

“Portillo has not changed. His dismissal of his past homosexual affairs as youthful experiences implies that he views gay relationships as an immature indiscretion”, said Tatchell.

“He has evaded the truth for a quarter of a century. How do we know he is now telling the truth when he claims that he has not had gay sex since he entered public life?

“It is very unusual for someone who has had an eight-year gay affair, as Portillo had with Nigel Hart, to suddenly cease being homosexual. Even if they subsequently marry, these men tend to have occasional, discreet gay relations throughout the rest of their lives. I would be extremely surprised if Mr. Portillo has, as he claims, never had sex with a man in the last 25 years”, said Tatchell.