Judge and Jury: Gay confession could get sticky as Portillo closes in on Parliament - Michael Portillo’s confessions may have helped to boost his profile in the short term, but the details of his past will still come back to haunt him, says Dr Jam

If Michael Portillo hoped to dump his gay baggage safely distant from the next election, he overlooked the insatiable hunger of today’s media.

If Michael Portillo hoped to dump his gay baggage safely distant

from the next election, he overlooked the insatiable hunger of today’s

media.



He has lit a fuse of his own making and hordes of chequebook journalists

will be combing the backwoods of his youth searching for buried

treasure.



Rule One of sound media strategy: tell the whole truth. Portillo,

however, short-changed our ever-intrusive press. Whom was he ’gay’ with?

Until when? Where are they today? What other skeletons are there in the

1970s cupboards of Peterhouse, where one don during Portillo’s time went

by the nickname ’Wendy’?



Rule Two: the media is unforgiving. It is a myth that Britain is more

tolerant. It has simply become more prurient, hooked on ever-increasing

lewdness, with the media doing the dirty work. Witness the diet of

salacious scuttlebutt about public figures in tabloids and heavies

alike. And cross-dressing in high places makes dream copy. Senior Tories

have praised Portillo’s belated confessions but the media - not they -

are the arbiters of public perception. Indeed, to the average newshound,

politicians as a class are all-time ’bad guys’: dishonest, unloved and

mistrusted.



Portillo may regain his seat in Parliament. After all, the Tories of

Kensington and Chelsea were maverick enough to choose Alan Clark. But

they are not the UK electorate. And the media will magnify the many

voices of dissent. Gay activists - who respect openly gay ministers like

Chris Smith and Nick Brown - will be infuriated by Portillo’s dismissal

of his gay past as a shameful moral lapse. Countless closet homophobes

in the Conservative party will sneer at mention of his name.



Meanwhile, large numbers of ordinary Tory supporters are elderly; few

would be comfortable with a party leader with such a past. Others will

be moved to music hall banter at his expense - a damaging outcome for a

Downing Street hopeful.



So Portillo’s cunning plan to come clean in a bid to start his route to

Number 10 will probably come unstuck. Media conspiracy theories will

multiply; column inches will groan with speculation and innuendo. It is

too much of a good story to leave alone. But then, maybe the whole truth

would have hurt him even more.



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