Michael Portillo was born in North London in 1953. His father, Luis, had come to Britain as a refugee at the end of the Spanish Civil War, and his mother, Cora, was brought up in Fife. She met Luis while she was an undergraduate at Oxford.
Michael attended a grammar school, Harrow County, and went to Peterhouse, Cambridge, where he gained a first class degree in History.
He left Cambridge in 1975, and for a year worked for a shipping company. He moved to the Conservative Research Department in 1976, where he spent three years. At the General Election in 1979 he was responsible for briefing Margaret Thatcher before her press conferences. For the next two years he was special adviser to the Secretary of State for Energy.
He worked for Kerr McGee Oil (UK) Ltd from 1981 - 1983. He contested the Birmingham Perry Bar seat at the 1983 Election.
In 1982 Michael and Carolyn married. They had first met when they were at school.