Michael Portillo at the Corn Hall

The epitome of the consummate public speaker, Michael Portillo wandered on stage, with faux casualness, on the dot of his allotted time, and proceeded to regale a packed house with anecdotes from his time in politics and on trains.

After a couple of very funny stories, he shared a potted biography of how his family came to England following the Spanish Civil War, and how, counter-intuitively, this led to his right leaning views. There were insights – but not gossip – into his time with Margaret Thatcher, after which he explained, with gracious good humour, how much a team effort his TV shows are. Undeniably personable whatever your political inclinations, Portillo is blessed with good comic timing, a nice line in self-depreciation, and the gift of knowing his audience.

The unusually quick fire Q&A session that followed started with the obligatory Trump question, but then moved on to privatisation, Teresa May, Brexit and even the whole of Germany. Trains were discussed, but it was telling, and perhaps a sign of the times, that both audience and speaker seemed more engaged, and more his stridently concerned about, the troubling political issues of the day.