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« "Vivat Forest!" | Main | Tonight’s the night »

"Thank you for a splendid evening, Boisdale did us proud"

Forest's 40th anniversary dinner at Boisdale of Canary Wharf on Tuesday night went pretty well, I thought.

We had 180 guests including a number of MPs, MEPs and parliamentary researchers.

There were journalists from The Spectator, Daily Telegraph, Daily Mail, Mail on Sunday, London Evening Standard and Sunday Times.

Westminster think tanks were well represented and we even had someone from the cannabis industry.

The event began with cocktails on the smoking terrace. A live band played in the bar before guests were called to take their seats in the restaurant.

At that point I’d had nothing to drink other than a glass of water. This was because a number of minor but irritating issues kept me occupied behind the scenes. For example:

We struggled to erect the large pop-up display we had ordered for the stage.

There were no lectern mics, despite the fact that we'd ordered a purpose-built lectern.

The file for an audio track we wanted to play over the PA system at the end of the dinner had gone AWOL.

We also had several late cancellations which meant the seating plan had to be adjusted and place cards reset.

Thankfully most of the problems were resolved by the time we sat down for dinner but I wasn't as relaxed as I might have been.

Ninety minutes later, after a three-course dinner with wine, Boisdale MD Ranald MacDonald invited me on stage.

I thanked a number of people – including current and former colleagues – and Ranald read out messages from absent friends. One was from Joe Jackson who had written:

Forty years ago we couldn't imagine what monsters the nanny state and the public health racket would turn in to. We need Forest more than ever. In fact we need 50, a hundred, Forests. Keep it up and 'don't let the bastards grind you down'.

The other was from Alexander Waugh, grandson of Evelyn and son of Auberon Waugh who was a great supporter of Forest.

Alexander's message said:

Wishing your organisation all happiness and prosperity and ultimate success against the tyrannies of nanny stateism. With all warmest salutations for your fortieth anniversary! Vivat Forest!

I introduced Dr Madsen Pirie, co-founder and president of the Adam Smith Institute, who gave a short speech before proposing a toast "To freedom and to Forest!"

We then presented gifts to several people to thank them for their work over the years.

The first was Brian Monteith. Brian was a spokesman for Forest in Scotland who later became a member of the Scottish Parliament and is now an MEP for the Brexit party.

The second was TV chef and publican Antony Worrall Thompson. Invited to say a few words, Antony's message to public health zealots was priceless.

"Fuck 'em," he said.

Naturally it brought the house down.

The third and fourth recipients were Angela Harbutt, who ran the Hands Off Our Packs campaign, launched in 2012, and photographer Dan Donovan whose photo journal Forest Unfiltered was on every table.

Then it was time for our two guest speakers – Mark Littlewood, director-general of the Institute of Economic Affairs, and Claire Fox, founder and director of the Academy of Ideas and another newly elected MEP.

My mind was a bit elsewhere so I remember only a little of what they said but judging by the applause both speeches were very well received.

Finally we welcomed to the stage stand-up comedian Geoff Norcott.

Geoff was in the news recently after the BBC invited him to join their 'diversity and inclusion advisory group'.

A regular guest on The Mash Report, he has appeared on Live At The Apollo and Mock The Week. He's also been on Question Time, Daily Politics and The Now Show on Radio 4.

What can I say? Geoff's set went down really well and it was a great way to finish before guests left to catch a train or joined us in the bar or on the terrace for more drinks.

I left at 12.30am and I wasn't the last to go, which is a normally a good sign.

Thank you to everyone who subsequently sent us a message. These are some of the responses:

'What a splendid occasion. Bravo!'

'I had the best time ever. Thank you!'

'Congratulations on an impressive event. It was good fun.'

'Thank you so much for such a splendid evening. Boisdale did us proud with the dinner and the speeches and awards were a delight.'

'Thank you for a wonderful evening. A fitting celebration of Forest and everything it's done for freedom over the last 40 years.'

To view the full gallery of pictures from the dinner click here.

PS. After attending a ‘sumptuous gala dinner’ to mark Forest's 40th anniversary, Daily Mail columnist Tom Utley today wrote:

I have to say, however, that I particularly enjoy the company of smokers. There's an instant camaraderie among us, the fellow-feeling that springs from belonging to an increasingly oppressed minority, driven outside in all weathers by nanny-state legislators and disapproving hosts and hostesses to indulge our weakness on the naughty step.

On the whole, we also seemed to share a view of the world: an antipathy to being bossed around by we-know-best politicians, a love of individual freedom and a devil-may-care belief that the point of life is to live it, not merely to prolong it. To be fair, this attitude is shared by countless non-smokers — and particularly those who tolerate our disgusting habit — many of whom were present at the dinner.

It was striking that there were large numbers of Brexiteers among us — unusual in metropolitan gatherings of this kind. This confirmed my belief that we who want to break free from subjugation to Brussels tend to put a higher premium on personal liberty than those who are content to be ruled by think-alike bureaucrats whom they can't hire or fire.

Full article: 'My Marlboro addiction and why, unlike those silly luvvies, we should thank those who give us medicine and petrol'.

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