Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Excuse me, are any of you famous or important?

I know this will make me sound like a "rural hick" but I was genuinely exited and honoured to receive an invitation from Iain Dale to attend the Political Book Awards.

Good to see Peter Botting and Milly Skriczka.

The event was held at the Imax Cinema on the South Bank - and it was just how I expected it to be. A small red carpet, a bank of photographers and lots of people talking loudly whilst constantly looking over the shoulder of the person they were talking to, just in case someone more important was standing behind. 

I must say Iain Dale and the event sponsors, Paddy Power,, Lord Ashcroft, News UK, Total Politics and InterContinental were exceedingly generous. The Champagne and canap├ęs were plentiful as was the post-award wine and food. 

The attendees basically divided into three distinct groups:

Group A: The Alpha Set
- (or those you see in the newspapers every day). 
This group constituted about 5% of those there. They were the big beasts and knew it. Never short of a circle of admirers, basking in their own glory - and deservedly so.

Group B:  The Once-Famous
- (or those you see in the Sunday tabloids and say "oh yes, I remember them...)
About 20% of the crowd. This group had also perfected their place; they stood slightly away from the Alpha Crowd like remora fish around the shark, picking up crumbs of comfort from those not sufficiently sharp-elbow to reach front of the crowd.

Group C: The "Wannabees"
- (or those who write blogs and just dream of being in Group B). 
And yes, that includes me!  We constituted 75% of the crowd - slightly too proud to prostitute ourselves but longing to take a selfie with Christine Hamilton just to prove we were there!

For me, the best bit was the award ceremony, hosted amusingly and camply by Gyles Brandreth. I actually enjoyed seeing and hearing some of Britain's most outstanding political writers, and I suspect I was in a minority in that I had actually read, or chosen not to read, most of the short-listed books. For many, I suspect Brandreth's comment, " this is the boring hour between the free Champagne and the free food"  was more statement of fact that a comic aside. 

Iain Dale (left) and Gyles Brandreth present the awards 

After the awards a lady with a Gatling gun voice bounded up and entered into her well rehearsed monologue about who she was, what she did and how she would change the world if only she had the chance to do so. I nodded sympathetically before she wheeled off, having spotted someone more important whose ear drums needed assaulting more than mine. Interestingly, I had heard it all before. The same lady had asked to buy me coffee at Party Conference in Manchester and had spent 30 minutes telling me the exact same story just 5 months ago. Then I was an agent in a seat with an 18,000 majority looking for a candidate; now I was nobody. Why should she remember me - there was someone much more important over my right shoulder. 

At 10pm I sloped off, leaving the chatter and excitement behind. As I left, walking out alongside two strangers, a female photographer said (with refreshing honesty) "excuse me, I don't usually do Westminster. Are any of you famous or important?"  I looked at the two blokes alongside me. "No, sorry. If we were we wouldn't be leaving at 10 o'clock."  The two men looked slightly offended; perhaps I should have remembered who they used to be!

Even Peter Botting looked attractive when viewed through these rose-tinted spectacles

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