Charlie Whelan says . . .

Don't believe it - "Portillo not standing for leader"

Most politicians who appear on Breakfast with Frost have a story to tell that will be dutifully reported in the Monday papers. And on 13 October it was Michael Portillo, who told David Frost, with a straight face, that he would not run in a leadership election.

I was in Bournemouth that week, and it was obvious to me that although the Tory faithful are loyal to their current leader, they would prefer someone else to do the job. When Theresa May walked through the bar of the Highcliff Hotel, you could see some of the representatives thinking how much better she would be than the hapless IDS. This opinion was confirmed after one of the worst speeches ever delivered by a leader. It was worse even than Charlie Kennedy's speech last year.

The fact remains that Portillo would be ten times better than IDS, and he knows it. He also knows that the reason he isn't leader is because he isn't trusted. And in order to rectify this, he not only has to be 100 per cent loyal, he has to be seen to be loyal. That's why he told Frost that he would never again stand as leader.

When the Tories lose the next election, they will have to elect a leader with some presence. Though David Davis may be the favourite at the moment, there is no way they can elect another leader without charisma. The Tories don't want a quiet man, they want someone who can take on Blair and win, not croak, his way through Prime Minister's Questions.

Portillo certainly has no intention of taking on IDS until after the next election, and he knows that by then what he said on TV on Sunday won't matter a jot. My money is already on him to be the next leader, and I put it on after his statement at the weekend - I got better odds.

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