Thursday, 23 January 2014
Not quite as Gran(d) and far way from Paradise
Just along Wilton Street in an area that desperately wants to be Pimlico but simply isn't, is one of the great "political salons" of the Thatcher era. It's a restaurant called Gran Paradiso. Back then it was a regular haunt of the Libertarian/Anti-Maastrict right; the very mention of whose names conjured-up images of "white coats flapping" to a beleaguered PM. Over the years I have mastered control of my coat tails.
I returned today for the first time in 20 years. Isn't it funny how things can change whilst still being exactly the same; the same furniture, layout, music - the owner still "loitering" at the bar extending bonhomie to his regular customers. I swear even the menu hasn't changed. But the caravan had moved on. Where once the "arrivistes and garagistes" jostled for tables to stir the pot and spread gossip and intrigue, the only noise today was the clacking of walking sticks and the click of arthritic hips.
The last time I lunched there was with Theresa Gorman. She was sounding me out about going to work for the Anti Federalist League, though no offer was ever made and had it been I would have said no. A few years later the nation could see them in their glorious technicolour, doughnutting John Redwood when he launched his leadership challenge.
Today I lunched with our outstanding PPC Tom Tugendhat and council leader Nicolas Heslop. I am pleased to say that there was no talk of rebellions, Europe, Maastricht or the Whipless Eight. We were discussing such exciting topics as the space ratio in the next In Touch newsletter (who said politics is now about management not ideology).
With a hint of nostalgia I pointed to the table where I had lunched with Theresa Gorman. The same table was occupied by an eccentric duffer in a crumpled linen suit who, in between mouthfuls of calamari fritti, was shouting abuse down his mobile phone about Asda delivery lorries blocking access to Uxbridge High Street.
It all seemed a little bit more exciting back then!