Earlier this week the leader writers at the Daily Mail were urging the Tories to speak up for the Union. I hope they weren’t expected anything from Michael Portillo. The man who once was a reliable Eurosceptic and Atlanticist – and who consistently advocated smaller government and a hawkish line on national defence – has undergone yet another u-turn. He’s now abandoned his defence of Unionism.
Today’s Daily Mail reports that Mr Portillo no longer believes that the Union is sacrosanct and that English independence will make it easier to get a Conservative government. His latest dizzying change of mind was revealed on Thursday night’s This Week (BBC1).
Questioning Michael Portillo, the programme’s host, Andrew Neil, asked: "For party advantage, you are prepared to break up our country?" The former Defence Secretary replied:
"No, not just for party advantage. The Scots would be probably a great deal better off if they weren’t subsidised by England. From the point of political advantage, the Conservatives have a better chance of being in government if Scotland is not part of the affair. You are continuing to assume the Union is sacrosanct. That is not an assumption I make any more."
The Mail’s reporter writes that the views of Mr Portillo "still carry significant weight within the Tory party." I hope not.