Now what? - Lauren Booth is proud to be English
Not Paul, but Ozwald Boateng has made me want to fly the cross of St George
It's feeling like summer, at last. And once summer hits, concentrating on anything besides where to wax or what to cover and what to reveal suddenly becomes impossible. I'm dreaming of holidays I won't be taking and bikinis I can no longer fit into. I'm no longer in the mood for policy seminars or political book launches. That sort of thing is strictly for the winter months: you know, September to April.
In this frame of mind, there was no way I wanted an invitation to some sort of "do" to be held (I was told) by the unlikely pairing of Paul Boateng and Ken Livingstone. A colleague insisted, in a garbled answerphone message, that it would "be great, Boateng and Livingstone, just your sort of thing". It's true, I've always liked Ken. And when he's out and about, enjoying a couple of glasses of wine, watching him work a room is similar to seeing Tom Cruise flirt with his movie fans. It's a slightly superficial love fest, but everyone comes away happy. So against my better judgement, I secured myself a couple of "on the door" passes. Throwing on an old utility jacket over some older trousers, I headed with heavy heart to Savile Row.
The entire street had been cordoned off. There were police and "heavy" security guards at either end. It took just a single glance into the marquee to realise my mistake. The crowd inside was far too young and optimistic to belong to the usual cheese-and-chinwag set.
I was at the fash-bash of the year; Ozwald Boateng's launch party for his new Savile Row store. Dance music pumped through the warm air on a cloud of champagne bubbles, and Ken was duly resplendent in a bespoke suit in a rather regal shade of purple. It was the sort of bash that palace officials would die for: the hippest, most happening Young Turks in the UK, all in one place at one time, a living celebration of multiculturalism in the middle of Savile Row.
Press photographers ran about, as they do, trying to set up photos. "The big one" they all wanted was a picture of Mayor Ken with Will Young, the TV-made celebrity/singer. By chance, I found myself squished face to ear with Young. When faced by celebrity, I always revert to childish over-respect, perhaps to hide my real distaste for this part of the fame industry. With politicians and lords, I go out of my way to be informal and use first names inappropriately to break down the "them" and "us" barricades. I remember meeting Rod Stewart and gasping: "Er, Mr Stewart, is it true you were a gravedigger in Highgate?" To which he replied: "Yes, but don't ever call me Mr Stewart again."
In this crush of Cannes-tanned limbs, I breathily said: "Errm, Mr Young, the mayor, Ken Livingstone, would like to have a photo taken with you." The boy gave me the once-over, decided I was neither famous nor a tabloid hackette, and held his mobile aloft. "Excuse me, you're interrupting my conversation with my sister," he hissed, pushing through the Boateng suits and Ralph Lauren jeans.
Ozwald Boateng was charming to everyone he met. Looking every inch the classic designer in a trim pale suit and glowing skin, he made a very short speech. His pride in all he has achieved in "ten long years" is mixed with his genuine surprise that here he is, a young black man, opening his own store on a street that was once the bastion of white aristocratic tailoring.
There was no bunting flying that I noticed. Boateng wasn't latching on to the shirt-tails of someone else's celebrations or talents. What could have been just another party for the rich and fatuous fashion clique felt like a celebration of all that our country can still achieve. Afterwards, I was so proud to be English that I went home and agreed to my husband's request to hang the cross of St George from our living-room window.
Why not? The flag's for everyone, not just the monarchy.