Saturday, March 08, 2003

You Heard it here first

I've had it hinted from two different sources in twenty four hours that Portillo may be about to defect to Labour.

The reason will be Blair's support for the Americans in this war, although the trigger may be something else. It seems rank ingratitude towards IDS who has backed Blair slavishly on the war, and eschewed - on principled if wrong headed grounds - the obvious political advantage from opposing the war. Although I don't want to see IDS go, it will serve him right for putting America's interests before Britain's. Perhaps it will bring the Tory party to its senses, supporting the war will harm it and Blair will still use their support to undermine them - opposition will be in the country's interests as well as their short term political interests.

What worries me is what will happen to Michael Gove. When I first became aware of him he was a hard right journalist who toyed with withdrawal from Europe and cracking down on the IRA. He latched on to Michael Portillo, who was similarly right wing - he even wrote a skilful hagiography on "Portillo: the future of the right" or something like that (watch the way he got around Portillo's as yet even less disclosed gay past). He followed Portillo into the caring sharing wilderness with other "comrades" such as Mark McGregor, Robbie Gibb and the bright spark Douglas Smith. One wonders where they will all end up if this improbable rumour is true.

Will they go to Labour and try to convert them to the right or will they stay with the party that they grew up with and unshackled from Portillo's career go back to the right wing home where they are so much more comfortable. This is more pertinent with Michael Gove as he is such a talented writer, and it would blossom if the right wing conservatism of his youth were to come back in full throat. Perhaps we'd see a reappraisal of foreign policy in a more Powellite tint?

Portillo back in the picture and Gove frimly back on the right, that would be two advantages from a Portillo shift.

Remember if it happens, you read it here first. If it doesn't simply forget about it, they were only rumours anyway.


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