Portillo's fishy journeyings

MICHAEL Portillo's train journeys around Britain have been an eye-opening social history of the nation's development and another example of just what a legacy the Victorians left us.

Graham Dines

MICHAEL Portillo's train journeys around Britain have been an eye-opening social history of the nation's development and another example of just what a legacy the Victorians left us.

The two issues which I have never really considered before were diet and tourism. The railways allowed fresh fish to be transported throughout Britain, leading to the development of neighbourhood fish and chips take-aways which transformed the eating habits of the working class.

And secondly, once the network of main lines had been developed, up sprang branch lines to the coast which enabled factory workers as well as the gentry to have easy access to seaside resorts, thus enabling mass tourism to develop and gave rise to the like of Torquay, Bournemouth, Brighton, Southend, Great Yarmouth, Skegness, Scarborough and Blackpool.


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Portillo has slid easily into the role of a television presenter and looks far happier than he ever did as a top rank politician. He may not acknowledge it, but Tory MPs did him a huge favour in rejecting him when he tried to become party leader in 2001.

THIS Saturday, we'll know the name of the Tory candidate selected to succeed Richard Spring in West Suffolk and the following week, Suffolk Coastal Conservatives will meet to choose who will inherit John Gummer's majority.

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West Suffolk is adopting the new Tory model for choosing its candidate - the open primary, in which any voter on the electoral role in the constituency can register to attend and take part in the voting process.

It worked well in Central Suffolk & North Ipswich late last year, but Coastal is sticking with the normal format of only allowing Conservative Party members to attend and vote.

The outcome of the General Election may still be in doubt, but whoever the Tories in the safe seats of West and Coastal choose will have jobs for life.

THE opinion polls are all over the place at present. ICM suggests that Labour will suffer a swing of 8.5% against them in the battleground marginals while ComRes finds the Tory lead over Labour has slumped by four points, mainly due to Conservative confusion over, and public hostility to, the policy of tax breaks for married couples.

Andrew Hawkins, chief executive of ComRes, said: “It's very clear that Labour's approach on some of these key areas of family policy strike more populist chords with voters than the Conservative proposals.”

With so many more couples choosing not to marry but still have children, it's little wonder that David Cameron's full-blooded support for favouring marriage in the tax system is not the sure-fire winner he believed it would be. It may be aimed at encouraging couples not to co-habit but it does also penalise divorced parents, widows and widowers.

Cameron is on firmer ground with his “Broken Britain” message, which he reaffirmed last week in the immediate aftermath of the appalling court case in Yorkshire involving children torturing other kids. ComRes found that 59% of those interviewed backed the Cameron line and 39% disagreed.

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