I normally regard attending book awards as a bit of a chore. Sipping warm white wine with intense and and sometimes very dull authors is not my idea of a barrel load of laughs. So trekking over to the Political Book Awards filled my heart with dread. But as it was organised by my mate Iain Dale I loyally went to support the old boy. Thank heavens I did. It was one of the most glittering and enjoyable events that I have ever attended. And being a professional junketeer the bar is set very high.
Anyone of any interest in the world of politics and journalism was there. David Steel, Alastair Campbell, Tony Benn, Edwina Currie, the Hamiltons, Jack Straw, Ann Widecombe, stacks of former cabinet ministers, Dame Ann Lesley, Nick Robinson and anyone who is worth talking to from Her Majesty’s press.
After downing a few bottles of Ashcroftian bubbly we were ushered into the Imex auditorium. The lights went down the screen flickered into life as Royalty’s gentleman’s gentleman, Gyles Brandreth, glided on the stage to host the event. With the delivery of Sir Lawrence Olivier and the looks of Victor Meldrew he oozed professionalism. And came out with some great one liners, my favourite being, Tony Blair’s book, ‘A journey’, isn’t selling well in Germany, perhaps because the title translates as Ein Fart.
Thatcher impersonator, Steve Nallon, came up dressed as the old dear and did a great turn ending with a withering, ‘if I had had wanted John Major’s opinion I’d have given him one.’
Then the splendid Widdecombe appeared. Now I am very fond of Ann but sometimes you get the impression that her outfits were designed by David Blunkett based on an idea by Sir Patrick Moore. She sported a pair of tights that rather than flatter her pins made them look is if they were recovering from major surgery performed by Edward Scisserhands.
And while the stars came out did their turns and won their awards I was treated to the waspish, bitchy and very funny commentary whispered by my neighbour and very old friend Andrew Pierce. It also cheered me to see that two people that I am devoted to, Nick Cohen and Owen Jones won well deserved prizes.
But the pre and after show gossip was priceless. My old mate Ali Campell (despite what some say he is a very nice guy) reminisced how he once punched the Guardian’s Michael White (well who wouldn’t).
“That was bad”, he moaned.
“What hitting Whitey?”
“No. It was a bad punch”.
However a gothic froideur chilled the room when Edwina Currie and Christine Hamilton gazed daggers at each other. And Edwina, I don’t know what you are on but you looked stunning.
And as I staggered off to bed the legendary Ann Leslie informed me that we share the same hairdresser. What a funny old world.
So thanks Iain for a splendid evening. I can’t wait until next year.