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Saturday
Jul152017

The night I gatecrashed The Spectator summer party 

The Spectator summer party was in the news yesterday (or the bits of it I read) because Emily Thornberry was allegedly "turned away" from Thursday night's bash.

Not true.

According to Thornberry's Twitter account it was the person who was accompanying her who didn't have an invitation and it was he, not her, who was refused entry and she naturally felt obliged to leave with him.

I mention this for no other reason than I once gatecrashed the same event and the fact that I was able to do so without being stopped suggests security has been beefed up somewhat.

It must be at least ten years ago because the party took place at The Spectator's old offices at 56 Doughty Street, WC1.

The "handsome" 19th century building in Bloomsbury had been the magazine's home for 30 years.

In my teens and early twenties it was an ambition of mine to work for the magazine so I was curious to see the building from the inside.

When my friend Claire Fox, who had been invited to the party, suggested I tag along I didn't think twice.

I don't normally go to parties uninvited so I felt a bit uncomfortable. When we arrived however the front door was wide open and there was nothing - and nobody - to stop us walking in.

Inside it was fairly chaotic. Hoards of people were pushing and scrummaging to grab themselves a drink. It was hot, there was barely room to breathe and in the confusion I quickly lost sight of Claire.

I recognised one or two members of the Cabinet and the Opposition front bench but there was only one person guests really wanted to see and that was the magazine's editor - Boris Johnson.

Half an hour after our arrival I remember him advancing down the stairs - fashionably late for his own party - and the flurry of excitement it generated.

The crush became so unbearable I struggled out into the garden in the hope of discovering fresh air and someone I might actually know.

Outside however conditions were much the same - hot and crowded. I clung to my single glass of champagne and looked around in search of a friendly face.

Finally I saw someone I recognised - a Conservative MP about whom I had written some rather disparaging comments when he was a student and I was editing a national student magazine.

He had no idea who I was but I greeted him as if he was my best friend.

The details are a bit fuzzy but I must have told him what my job was because we started talking about smoking.

He confessed that although he was a smoker he never lit up in his constituency in case someone saw him or a photograph appeared in the local newspaper.

And then something happened that must qualify for my list of top ten most uncomfortable moments.

We were standing, this MP and I, chatting amiably enough, when a journalist who used to write a monthly column for The Spectator appeared by our side.

The MP and the journalist knew each other. They'd been at Cambridge together and although they didn't appear to be friends they had shared acquaintances.

Even though I was standing right next to them and it was clear I'd been talking to the MP, I was completely ignored.

Half-hearted attempts to chip in to the conversation were blanked and the garden was so crowded it was difficult to move away.

So I stood there like a lemon, trapped.

I don't know how long this went on for - ten minutes, possibly more. But it felt like 60. Eventually I saw an opportunity to escape and melted into the crowd.

On the plus side I also spoke to the extremely engaging Ross Clark, a regular contributor to The Spectator whose books include 'How to Label a Goat: the silly rules and regulations that are strangling Britain'.

Like me Ross lives in Cambridgeshire and he very kindly invited me to play for his cricket team who he cheerfully admitted were "rubbish".

Much as I appreciated the gesture, I declined. Hell comes in many forms and playing cricket is one of them.

Purgatory however is gatecrashing The Spectator summer party and being made to feel invisible.

Time moves on but the scar remains ....

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Reader Comments (4)

"Hell comes in many forms and playing cricket is one of them"

Heathen!

Saturday, July 15, 2017 at 18:18 | Unregistered CommenterDick Puddlecote

Sympathy. But if any national media outlet will stand up for a lawful minority, I hope the Spectator will.

Saturday, July 15, 2017 at 22:39 | Unregistered CommenterNorman Brand

What a very rude man! You can always tell the true character of a person by their manners and if nothing else this sounds like your previously-disparaging comments about him were entirely justified! I don’t suppose you could possibly let slip his name? No, thought not. But maybe you could at least inform us if he’s still an MP ...?

Sunday, July 16, 2017 at 1:55 | Unregistered CommenterMisty

Yes, he is still an MP.

Sunday, July 16, 2017 at 9:49 | Unregistered CommenterSimon

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