5 February 2016

Get Michael Portillo‎ to lead the Leave campaign


‎At the risk of offending serving leading Tory parliamentarians who are hoping to front the Leave campaign, I have had an idea. While there will be plenty of room for the Outers to make use of the talents of serving MPs during the campaign itself, there is no doubt that Leave do not have someone lined up to lead in the big TV debates that are planned. These in the final weeks will be huge affairs, with big audiences. Don’t believe the cynics who say there will be no interest. With ten days to go, if the polls are remotely close, it will be bedlam. Who, in such circumstances, will go head to head with the Prime Minister on TV making the case for Leave?

How about Michael Portillo? The former cabinet minister has reinvented himself as a popular TV presenter, pundit and maker of the best programmes about trains. He’s also for Brexit, he has made clear, although he is no Little Englander, with his Spanish heritage and wide experience of train travel on the continental mainland.

He would be perfect, if he agreed to do it. Some of those down in the weeds in Vote Leave, facing incoming fire from the rival Faragist outfit Leave EU, will dismiss it. But stand back from the Monty Python Popular Front of Judea stuff for a second and think about it clearly and it makes sense. Forget Eurosceptic feuds between people the public has mostly never heard of. Instead, picture the scene in May and June, and think of the floating voter and who might stand a chance of reaching them.

Imagine Michael Portillo, in a jacket from his large collection of interesting jackets, touring the country (by train) talking to Britons and making the case for Out ‎with the media in tow. And then imagine the set piece TV debates. Remain v Leave. Cameron v Portillo. What a prospect.

Iain Martin is Editor of CapX.