BORIS Johnson must find the “mojo” that delivered him his victories last year, says Times Radio host Michael Portillo.
The ex-Cabinet Minister tells the PM to re-discover the “ruthless” streak that led him to his election win in December.
Presenter Portillo, who starts his new show on Friday night, said: “I think now we need to see last year’s Boris reincarnated. BoJo needs to get his mojo back.”
He says taking the Tory crown, expelling 21 MPs who rebelled over a no-deal Brexit and forcing an election was “brilliant, absolutely ruthless politics, Churchillian in his achievements”.
But he says the PM must quickly get back to his old self following his bout of Covid-19 as he has been much more “hesitant”.
He said: “I don’t know if that is because he has been ill and this is a terrible illness and from what he said himself, he looked death in the face. That has a big effect on people.”
Portillo, 67, left front-line politics in 2005 standing down in the safe seat of Kensington and Chelsea.
But he was famously defeated as he tried to defend his seat Enfield Southgate during Tony Blair’s landslide in 1997.
During his ministerial career he served under the premiership of John Major reaching the positions of Defence Secretary and Employment Secretary.
His post-politics career has included his incredibly successful railway journeys show travelling to countries such as Australia, Canada and across Asia.
Watching the unfolding coronavirus pandemic unfold, he admits it has whetted his appetite for a return to the frontline.
‘MOST DIFFICULT THING SINCE WW2’
Despite not missing the stress of day-to-day politics, he says: “I think I would relish it. It is much more difficult than anything I ever had to deal with.
“It’s certainly the most difficult thing that any government has dealt with since the Second World War, I think.
“My approach would be not to be told again and again about things that can’t be done. I would demand to know how things can be done that needed to be done.
“On schools, we can’t make education in this country voluntary so don’t tell me that I can only have 20 per cent of kids in school.
“I need to know the way in which I can have 100 per cent in schools. If we have to build things, if we have to recruit people, we will do that. I would be much more target orientated.”
Portillo is part of a WhatsApp group with prodcers at Times Radio where he sends ideas over for features or guest interviews every day.
He adds: “For sixteen years I was on This Week on BBC1 pretty much every week and I had a platform.
“That came to an end last July and I was interested in having a new platform.
“Times Radio seems to be offering another way of broadcasting particularly with subjects like politics.
“It’s really interested in conversation – getting away from the nakedly adversarial interview particularly with politicians that produces a lot of heat but not much information or enlightenment for the public.”
“We’ve got scope in terms of time which means a half hour interview is absolutely possible.
“In such an interview I would want to be getting into, not just ‘why a politician for example has done a bad thing’ which is normally a starting point.
“But who they are, how they approach the job, what is their moral and ethical outlook, what did they consider as options, what informed the position that they took?
“In other words, to get a rounded impression of what it is is going on in politics.”
He adds: “We hope to discover much more by this method – not much less. I remember being interviewed for an extended period by Brian Walden and David Frost.
“Brian Walden was a fellow who kept you on edge but nonetheless interviewed you for 45 minutes.
“David Frost tried to relax you. The latter approach was at least as dangerous from the point of view of the interviewee.
“Because when you broke and went to the news, David would say ‘super Michael, super. You’re doing super’.
“You would be so relaxed that the next moment you said something you absolutely wished you hadn’t.
“These interviews are not intended to be soft but they’re certainly meant to produce information that’s of real value.”
‘TRYING TO DO THEIR BEST’
He recognises that the public is “sophisticated” with millions having sat through the daily press briefing at Downing Street taking in every word and slide.
He said: “I don’t think the public believes politicians are villains or saints.
“Actually, there are a few villains and a few saints. The distribution is pretty much the same as amongst the public.
“On the whole, you have a number of fairly ordinary people in the middle who are trying to do their best.”
Portillo could even be reunited with his side-kick Diane Abbott from the late night This Week show.
He said: “It would be my great pleasure to be alongside her again.
“She’s a fundamentally interesting interview who has probably not been given a chance to express herself at any length.
“You just have to give her credit for her achievements. You just have to look at the score sheet.
“She was the first woman black MP, the longest serving black MP, she has been an MP continuously for 33 years and that is quite an achievement.
“She made her name as a controversialist and a comedienne. She could be relied upon to say something pretty outrageous and pretty funny.
“That left in her a yearning to be taken seriously. In the end she became a serious figure in British politics.”
But his famous colourful clothes are unlikely to be making their way into the Times Radio studio – despite shows being filmed.
He said: “I don’t think I can import my coloured clothes into the studio. I’m going to be ultra-comfortable on the assumption that most people can hear me not see me.”
- Listen live to Times Radio via DAB radio, your smart speaker, online at Times.Radio and via the free Times Radio app from 6am tomorrow. Michael Portillo’s show is live every Friday from 7pm to 10pm.
GOT a story? RING HOAR on 0207 782 4104 or WHATSAPP on 07423720250 or EMAIL [email protected]