Portillo – A (Temporary) Victory for Homophobia

The Moral Equivalent of Electing a Racist

OutRage! is condemning Michael Portillo’s victory in the Kensington & Chelsea by-election as a “victory for homophobia”.

“We are saddened that the voters have elected a candidate who supports discrimination against homosexuals”, said Peter Tatchell of OutRage!. “It is the moral equivalent of electing a racist.”

“Portillo’s success is proof that homophobia is still acceptable in British politics. If he had advocated similar discrimination against black people, his election would have been greeted with huge public protests and near-universal condemnation. The media and public indifference to Portillo’s support for antigay discrimination shows a toleration of homophobia that would not be accorded to racism.

“We are, however, gratified that Portillo received nearly 9,000 votes fewer that his predecessor Alan Clark in 1997. That is a big humiliation for such a major political celebrity.

“The OutRage! campaign against Portillo helped put gay equality on the by-election agenda and helped expose his opposition to homosexual human rights. Everyone now knows that he endorses Section 28 and the ban on gays in the military. Our success in getting that message over to the public probably contributed to the big drop in the Tory vote.

“Without the OutRage! campaign, many people would have been fooled into believing Portillo’s claimed conversion to caring Conservatism. That now stands revealed as a total fraud. His much-hyped compassionate Toryism does not include lesbians and gay men.

“Throughout the by-election, Portillo tried to evade gay human rights issues. To avoid questioning by OutRage! over his homophobic policies, he scuttled in and out of events by the back door, not having the guts to face his critics.

“Portillo was constantly surrounded by a ring of police and Tory party minders to prevent OutRage! asking him awkward questions. Whenever we got close to him, we were variously shoved, punched, grabbed around the throat, held in arm-locks, muzzled across the mouth, and knocked to the ground – all because we wanted to ask Portillo how he justified voting against lesbian and gay rights.

“The police acted as Portillo’s agents. They allowed Tory officials to assault us with impunity. What happened to freedom of speech and the right to put questions to the candidates? Since when has assaulting critics been a legitimate by-election tactic? How come Portillo and the Tory party got away with using such violent methods without any significant media or public condemnation?

“Michael Portillo will soon find his stance on gay issues being put to the test, with two bills on homosexuality due for parliamentary debate in the next few weeks.

“Even at this late stage, we hope that Mr Portillo will have a change of heart and support gay equality in the forthcoming votes to equalise the age of consent and repeal Section 28.

“His recent announcement that he is ‘uncertain’ how he will vote on the age of consent represents a shift away from his previous total rejection of equality. This movement is, at least in part, due to OutRage!’s relentless pressure on Portillo throughout the by-election campaign”, said Peter Tatchell.

Portillo Security lapse lets in OutRage!

Tory candidate, grilled by Tatchell, abandons tube station canvassing

An extraordinary security gaffe by Tory party officials allowed their Kensington and Chelsea by-election candidate, Michael Portillo, to be grilled this morning for more than five minutes over his opposition to gay equality by queer rights campaigner, Peter Tatchell of OutRage!.

Throughout the by-election campaign, Mr. Portillo has been ring-fenced with security and minders to prevent Mr. Tatchell asking him questions about his support for legal discrimination against homosexuals.

Left alone to canvass voters outside High Street Kensington tube station this morning (Thursday, 25th November, at 7:45 a.m.), Mr. Portillo floundered hopelessly as he was questioned by Mr. Tatchell over his backing for the discriminatory age of consent, Section 28, and the ban on gays in the military.

“When he saw me, the blood drained from his face”, said Tatchell. “He looked bewildered, angry and lost. His eyes were casting around desperately in search of his minders, but they were nowhere to be seen.

“I walked over and offered to shake his hand”, said Tatchell. “He refused”.

Holding a placard with the words “Portillo enforced ban on gay soldiers”, Tatchell then quizzed Portillo: “If elected an MP, will you vote for an equal age of consent? Will you support the repeal of Section 28”.

Mr. Portillo refused to answer, saying to Tatchell: “You are a horrible little man. Go away.”

Mr. Portillo walked back and forth around the tube station foyer in a frantic bid to shake off Tatchell. “He was in a very agitated state, clearly furious that his minders had failed to keep me at bay”, said Tatchell.

In response to further questions from Tatchell, Mr. Portillo said he had “no regrets” over voting against gay equality when he was an MP, and he defended the dismissal of lesbians and gays from the armed forces during the period when he was Defence Secretary.

Mr. Portillo bragged to Tatchell: “You are too late to affect the poll. You cannot harm me. Go away!”

In the end it was Mr. Portillo who went away, cutting short his scheduled 45-minute canvassing session at High Street Kensington tube station.

When his minders arrived on the scene, Mr. Portillo was hastily escorted down a street at the side of the station, with Mr. Tatchell in hot pursuit, still asking him questions about his anti-gay voting record when he was an MP.

Mr. Tatchell was pushed and shoved aside by Tory minders, including Mr. Michael Morely, who has on three previous occasions during the by-election campaign manhandled Tatchell when he attempted to put questions to Mr. Portillo.

Ushering Mr. Portillo into a waiting car, the planned escape was blocked and delayed when Mr. Tatchell ran in front of the vehicle. Twice Tory officials had to jump out of the car and drag Mr. Tatchell out of the way, before Mr. Portillo sped off.

Portillo Flees over Rooftops to avoid Questioning


Portillo scuttles out back exit of Fire Station, over rooftops and rear fire-escape

Conservative Party leader William Hague cancelled a scheduled photo-call with his Kensington by-election candidate Michael Portillo this afternoon (Monday, 22nd November), after he received a frantic phone message from party minders to alert him that gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell had again ambushed Mr. Portillo, this time outside Kensington Fire Station.

Mr. Hague’s car, which was only two blocks away from the Fire Station when he received the warning, did an abrupt U-turn and headed back to Conservative Central Office. Party officials then announced to the bemused and unconvinced press pack that Mr. Hague had an unexpected commitment, which forced him to cancel his appearance with Mr. Portillo.

Mr. Tatchell had sneaked through the press scrum, breaching the Tory party and police security cordon, to stand right next to Mr. Portillo and ask him: “If elected an MP, will you vote for an equal age of consent? Will you vote for the repeal of Section 28?”.

On turning to see Mr. Tatchell right beside him, Mr. Portillo looked visibly shocked and annoyed. “The blood drained from his face. He looked horrified and furious that he had been upstaged by my awkward, unscheduled questions”, said Tatchell. “Mr. Portillo refused to give an answer on how he would vote on issues of gay equality.”

Mr. Tatchell was then bundled away by Mr. Portillo’s minder Mr. Michael Morley, son of ex-Miss World boss Eric Morley. Some journalists, and a passing member of the public, complained that Mr. Tatchell was being assaulted and unlawfully detained. But the police stood by and did nothing, allowing Mr. Tatchell to be grabbed, shoved and restrained. At one point, Mr. Morely knocked Mr. Tatchell to the ground.

Mr. Tatchell later queried: “Does Mr. Portillo approve of these strong-arm methods? Did he and Conservative Central Office authorise for me to be grabbed, shoved, muzzled, knocked to the ground, and held against my will?”

As Mr. Morley tackled him, Mr. Tatchell called out to the police for help: “Will you police officers stop these people manhandling me?”. The police ignored his appeal for protection.

The incident was filmed by Channel Four News and broadcast on 26th November, corroborating Mr. Tatchell’s version of events.

Mr. Tatchell later expressed dissatisfaction at the police inaction. “They seemed disinterested in protecting me against Mr. Morely’s manhandling”.

Police at the scene later refused to investigate Mr. Tatchell’s complaints against Mr. Morely.

Mr. Portillo was rushed into the Fire Station to avoid further questions from Mr. Tatchell.

Within minutes of the incident, three police cars and three police vans pulled up outside the Fire Station.

“What offence was I committing to warrant such a heavy police response?”, asked Mr. Tatchell.

“How does the Police Commissioner, Sir Paul Condon, justify the behaviour of his officers? Did his force act in a partisan way which made them, in effect, agents of the Conservative campaign?

“This is not impartial enforcement of the law”, said Mr. Tatchell. “Why are the police siding with the Conservatives by sending three vans and three cars to prevent me from asking Mr. Portillo a question?”

Despite the heavy police presence, Mr. Tatchell still managed to get to a partly opened Fire Station door. He shouted through, where firefighters were being addressed by Mr. Portillo inside: “Mr. Portillo, do you advocate discrimination in the fire service as well as supporting discrimination in the armed forces? Do you think that lesbian and gay officers in the fire service should be discriminated against?.”

Faced with Mr. Tatchell’s continued questioning and a huge press posse outside, Mr. Portillo was apparently too scared to leave via the front entrance of the Fire Station. His minders and the police spirited him out of a back entrance over roof tops and down fire escapes.

“It was a humiliating, degrading exit for the would-be leader of the Conservative Party”, said Mr. Tatchell. “Portillo is so afraid of me asking him questions that he relies on his heavies and the police to stop me getting near him, and then he scuttles ignominiously out the rear entrance.

“Whatever happened to free speech? People should be able to quiz candidates on their policies without being manhandled. Such thuggish behaviour is unacceptable in a democratic election”, said Mr. Tatchell.

Gay protests twice disrupt Portillo’s victory press conference


Tatchell gives TV interview, after result of ballot is announced , 2-November-1999. ©1999 John Hunt/OutRage! London

OutRage! has condemned the selection of homophobe and hypocrite Michael Portillo as Tory candidate for Kensington and Chelsea.

“Selecting a homophobe like Michael Portillo is the moral equivalent of choosing a racist”, said Peter Tatchell.

“The Conservatives would not consider picking someone who advocates discrimination against black people, yet they have consciously chosen a candidate who endorses discrimination against lesbians and gay men.

“It shows that the Tories remain the party of bigotry and intolerance.”

Two members of OutRage! twice breached security and slipped through a heavy police guard to disrupt Michael Portillo’s first press conference as candidate, at Kensington Town Hall on Tuesday, 2nd November.

Just moments after Portillo had been selected as Tory candidate for Kensington and Chelsea, Fernando Guasch of OutRage! sneaked into the press conference and shouted: “Hypocrite! Homophobe! Bigot! You support laws that you yourself break”.

Then another OutRage! member, Ben Evans, got within eight feet of Portillo and asked him: “Mr. Portillo, how do you reconcile your homosexuality with your homophobia?”.

Both men were violently ejected fron the press conference by police and security staff.

Afterwards, as Mr. Portillo tried to evade protests and the media by leaving the Town Hall via a back exit, his car was halted at the top of the ramp leading out of the underground car-park.

OutRage! activists brandishing placards emblazoned with the words “Portillo – Liar! Hypocrite! Criminal!” ran in front of his car, causing it to halt and prompting Mr. Portillo to duck his head in a bid to avoid being recognised.

“These protests are a foretaste of what Mr. Portillo can expect over the coming weeks. We will harry, embarrass, ridicule and shame him wherever he goes”, said Mr. Tatchell.

OutRage! has attacked Mr. Portillo over his decision to enter and exit Kensington Town Hall via the back entrance. “Unlike the other candidates he was too cowardly to face the media and a dozen gay-rights protesters”, said Mr. Tatchell.

The by-election, caused by the death of Alan Clark, will be held on the 25th November.

Portillo Protest at Tory Selection Meeting

Portillo confronted at Chelsea Old Town Hall

On arriving at the meeting of the Tory Kensington & Chelsea Selection Committee on the evening of Tuesday, 26th October, Michael Portillo was challenged by OutRage! protesters to defend his homophobic stance whilst a member of the previous Government.

Portillo, visibly unnerved by the verbal confrontation, hurried with head well down for a rear entrance of the Chelsea Old Town Hall where the preliminary selection meeting was being held. At no point did he respond to any of the stentorian questioning about his past record by Peter Tatchell.

Since publicity in “The Times” on 9th September about Portillo’s admission of gay sex in his youth, his hypocrisy, cowardice, and selective honesty were exposed by his former lover, Nigel Hart, (Monday, 13-September-1999). Doubts about Portillo’s integrity were also voiced by fellow former Tory minister Lord Tebbit, (an unexpected bedfellow in an OutRage! campaign).

Invitation to join protest at Kensington Town Hall on 2nd November

JOIN our protest against Michael Portillo’s homophobia and hypocrisy, on Tuesday, 2nd November, 6:30 p.m. – 10:00 p.m., at Kensington Town Hall, Hornton Street, W8, (opposite High Street Kensington tube).

Urge your organisation / friends / local gay group to join in. Bring your banner. Make some placards.

We will be picketing the Tory candidate Selection Meeting as party members arrive to cast their votes to choose the Conservative candidate to fight the forthcoming by-election.

OutRage! plans to erect a large billboard outside the Town Hall with the slogan “Portillo Screws Queers! Homophobe!”.

We will also display placards emblazoned with “Portillo: Homophobe! Hypocrite! Unfit As MP”, in bid to persuade local Tories that Portillo is unworthy to be their candidate.

Join our anti-Portillo protest for lesbian and gay rights. Let OutRage! know if you will be joining us: 020-

“Allowing the hypocritical homophobe Portillo a chance to be voted back into Parliament will do no one any favours”, said John Hunt of OutRage!.

“Although various influential Conservatives have derided his mock honesty, Portillo remains on the now reduced selection list: and, as a former Minister, is considered by many observers to be the most likely to succeed as Conservative candidate.

“We want Kensington and Chelsea Conservatives to reject the untrustworthy Portillo. He consistently voted in favour of discrimination against homosexuals, and –by virtue of last month’s European ruling on gays in the military– is now internationally recognised as having abused human rights during his period as Secretary of State for Defence.

“Portillo supports Section 28 and an unequal age of consent. He does not respect universal human rights: and is therefore unfit even to be a candidate to sit in a modern, democratic Parliament”, said Hunt.

OutRage! to intervene in Portillo selection

OutRage! is planning to intervene in the selection of the Conservative candidate for Kensington, and in the Kensington by-election, to highlight Michael Portillo’s “hypocrisy, homophobia and failure to tell the full truth about his homosexuality”.

The gay rights group is making elaborate plans to embarrass Michael Portillo and the leadership of the Conservative Party.

According to Peter Tatchell of OutRage!: “As his former lover Nigel Hart has revealed, Portillo’s account of his past gay relationships is not the whole story. He has presented a dishonest version of his homosexual experiences.

“Portillo asserts that his gayness was a passing dalliance, when he was a ‘young person’, during his student days at Cambridge. But according to Nigel Hart, he was having sex with Portillo until Portillo was 27, long after Portillo left university. — Portillo’s public version is evidently false.

“Nigel Hart’s account of his ‘eight-year affair’ with Portillo contradicts Portillo’s claim that he has never had a ‘full relationship’ with a man.

“Michael Portillo’s homosexuality should not be used to bar his selection as a Tory candidate for Kensington. It is his hypocrisy, homophobia and economy with the truth that renders him unfit and unworthy to hold public office. How can the people of Kensington trust a candidate who has given a misleading account of his life?

“The issues OutRage! will be highlighting in the Kensington selection and by-election are homophobia, hypocrisy, trust and integrity. On all four issues, Mr. Portillo is not a fit and proper candidate.

“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.

“Although taking a hard-line stand on law and order, Portillo broke the law by having gay sex with Nigel Hart at the age of 19, at a time when the homosexual age of consent was 21. Michael showed no respect for the law in his youth, but he now supports an age of consent law that criminalises 16 and 17 year old gay men. This is further evidence of his hypocrisy and double-standards.

“Since coming out, he has not recanted his past support for discrimination against homosexuals. This shows that his claimed conversion to sexual tolerance and to the caring, liberal wing of conservatism is a fraud.

“Portillo not only voted for Section 28. He also voted against three amendments to protect and support vulnerable young lesbians and gays, effectively endorsing the isolation and victimisation of homosexual teenagers.

“On 15th December 1987, Portillo voted against amendments that would have allowed local authorities to:

  • discourage anti-gay discrimination and protect the civil rights of homosexuals;
  • provide counselling, advice and support to vulnerable, isolated lesbian and gay pupils;
  • permit schools to teach awareness of different sexual orientations.

“Portillo’s vote against these three amendments shows him to be an unreconstructed hardline homophobe. Since Section 28, he has never expressed an ounce of regret for the way he voted.”

Portillo accused of hypocrisy and homophobia

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

OutRage! plans protest at Kensington & Chelsea Candidate Selection Meeting
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.

Election Protest in Michael Portillo’s Constituency

“Portillo screws queer soldiers” banner in Parliament Square
Image Copyright: Steve Mayes, 1997

There were lively exchanges between gay rights protesters, shoppers, and police when campaigners against the ban on homosexuals in the Armed Forces took their protest to the constituency of the Secretary of State for Defence, Michael Portillo, today in Southgate High Street.

There were only a handful of negative reactions from local people. Most said they supported the right of gays to serve in the military. Some showed surprise on being told that Portillo was the person responsible for enforcing the ban.

Nicholas Luard, the Referendum Party candidate for Enfield-Southgate and an ex-SAS officer was canvassing at the same time as OutRage!. He expressed his opposition to the ban, and condemned Portillo for dismissing gay soldiers.

Leafletting and speaking to local constituents, a dozen members of OutRage! succeeded in persuading many of them to vote against Michael Portillo, because of his rôle in enforcing the exclusion of lesbians and gay men from the military.

“In his capacity as Defence Secretary, Michael Portillo is responsible for witch-hunting homosexuals out of the armed forces, dismissing gay soldiers with exemplary service records”, said Peter Tatchell of OutRage!.

Campaigners erected a giant billboard in the High Street reading “Portillo Screws Queer Soldiers”, in protest at the way Michael Portillo’s ban on homosexuals is screwing up the lives of lesbian and gay service personnel. They also displayed placards saying “Scrap Portillo’s Ban on Gay Soldiers”.

“John Major has stated that being homosexual is no bar to serving as a Government Minister. Tony Banks, MP, pointed out last year that it’s inconsistent that a Secretary of State for Defence could be gay, but gay people are forbidden to serve in the armed forces”, said Peter Tatchell.

“Portillo not only enforces the military ban on homosexuals, he also voted against an equal age of consent”, added Marina Cronin.

A young gay man, 17-year-old Chris Morris, spoke to shoppers, explaining how Portillo’s endorsement of a discriminatory age of consent means that under-age homosexuals like himself can be arrested for consenting homosexual relationships.

“Michael Portillo is every gay man’s favourite homophobe. He is no friend to the gay community. We’re targetting him because he supports antigay discrimination”, said Ms. Cronin.

“Since Michael Portillo refuses to support homosexual human rights, we don’t think he’s fit to be an MP. We hope the people of Enfield-Southgate will vote him out of office on May 1st”, she concluded.

Less than two weeks after this protest, the electorate of Enfield-Southgate did vote Michael Portillo out of office, giving the out gay candidate, Stephen Twigg, a resounding majority. — Proof that direct action works!