Conference: Portillo’s perspective

Former Conservative Minister the Rt Hon Michael Portillo gave delegates a fascinating insight into politics in the 1990s and early 2000s as well as his views on the economy.
“In the Telegraph today it says that mortgages are well up. But will it lead to a bubble, he asked.

“I think that house prices are far too high. Governments have been reluctant to work at bring house prices down.

“Unless we get house prices into a better relationship with people’s pay, home ownership is going to decline, which I think is bad news.”

Unemployment isn’t a symptom of a declining economy, said Portillo, rather, it’s a symptom of an adjustment period, where things have changed and people have not adapted to it.

Recession is the moment where changes that have been postponed have to take place. It’s like a forest fire – they naturally occur to get rid of the dead wood and refresh the forest.

The British economy is a vast economy, Portillo said, even if it’s not growing too well at the moment. “If we’ve returned to 2004 levels, it’s still a lot. We were happy with 2004 levels. We’re still a rich country.”

Portillo started out working with Thatcher when she won the 1979 general election. Having worked with other prime ministers, she was the only one who knew what she wanted to do with the job, he said.

“If she wasn’t a hundred percent certain with what she wanted, she still had an idea about it. She knew what she thought about everything. She had a very strong sense of purpose and what she stood for.”

About Fiona Russell-Horne

Group Managing Editor across the BMJ portfolio.

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