News of Boris Johnson’s imminent visit to West Kent reminded me of the first time the Mayor and I met.
It was the 2011 Party Conference in Manchester. Discussions about the boundary review were in full flow and there was concern that a number of people in Kent held “unhelpful” positions which may have resulted in conflicting submissions to the Boundary Commission.
It was suggested that I got together with Steve Bell (then South-East Regional Chairman) and the two CCHQ apparatchiks responsible, but, as ever, finding a time when all four were free during Conference week was proving difficult.
Monday night, however, we all found ourselves at the Regional Reception at the Midland Hotel. Trying to have a confidential chat in a room of 2,000 people was proving difficult, due to constant well-intentioned interruptions. I opened a near-by door to see if it led to somewhere quieter; it did. It was an unlit utility room stacked high with banqueting chairs, mop-buckets and all the detritus that hotel management want to keep hidden from their guests. Quietly we slipped inside and continued our discussions in the pitch-black – with the chinking of glasses, and the guffawing of inebriated representatives just a few feet away.
Suddenly we heard the great man being introduced – so we concluded our discussions and attempted to slip back into the room, hopefully unnoticed. What we didn’t anticipate was that the microphone at which Boris was speaking had been placed 3-foot from the door from which we were emerging. Our hopes of a clandestine withdrawal were completely scuppered as we saw the entire room staring in amusement at four red-faced men shuffling out of the darkness and blinking in the light.
A bad situation, however, was going to get worse.
For Boris spotted the open goal, and couldn’t resist scoring. “Come on, chaps! Come out of the closet, and get a drink!”.
And that, dear readers, is the story of the only night that Steve Bell and Andrew Kennedy were found in the closet!