Shakespeare’s Globe

I spied Prince Michael paying obeisance to Paris Hilton. Did he have any idea who she was? Probably

Ex-Chancellor Norman Lamont has always resembled a merry vampire; now he has emerged from the shadows these past weeks as one of the few beneficiaries of the credit crunch. I see him at every party – when, that is, he’s not gainsaying doom on the after-dark news shows.

In 1992 he was forced to withdraw the pound from the ERM, but that embarrassing episode now seems trifling compared to our current financial woes. Not that he was contrite at the time. Allegedly, he sang in the bath with happiness. "Je ne regrette rien," he later said.

Lord Lamont has much in common with our current Chancellor, Alistair Darling. Both have endured tumultuous times in the Exchequer's office and both were educated at Loretto, Scotland's oldest boarding school, at Musselburgh in East Lothian (current fees: £24,450 a year). "I admit it," Lamont tells me. "He doesn't." Certainly, Darling neglects to mention being an Old Lorettonian in his Who's Who entry. What has he got to be ashamed of? Did the age of irresponsibility begin in the dormitories of Loretto? Perhaps fellow Old Lorettonian Andrew Marr can enlighten us.

Their school motto is "Spartam nactus es, hanc exorna" ("You have inherited Sparta, go out and adorn it"). Young Spartans were expected to kill a helot, a member of the lower orders, as part of their passage to adulthood. At least in that respect Darling remains true to his Lorettonian roots. He is bailing out the bankers while us expendable lower orders are left to spend ourselves to death.

Most startling encounter of the night: Prince Michael of Kent paying obeisance to Paris Hilton. Did he have any idea who she was? Probably not, judging by a conversation he later had with my wife. Wife to Prince Michael: "Why aren't you wearing violet?" Prince Michael: "I knew your father, eh?" Wife: "I said why aren't you wearing violet." Prince Michael: "I didn't know your father?" "No." (He made a fast exit).

Bob Geldof seemed faintly embarrassed by all the conspicuous consumption. This might explain why he picked up a tray of cocktails and assumed the mien of a waiter, holding it above his head as he dispensed drinks to fellow guests. Was it really 23 years ago that he harangued us on television during Live Aid with the cry "give us your fucking money"? How piquant that Saint Bob, champion of the poor, should be there cheerily administering the last libations to a decadent society that has gorged itself on excess.

The 85-year old artist combines the commercial acumen of Sir Philip Green with the publicity nous of his PR nephew Matthew Freud. The next time you see him out and about it won't be a Freudian blip.

Facebook continues to astound. I was once invited to join a group called Caned, which was set up on the anniversary of the abolition of corporal punishment in schools. “Were you one of the last to get a wallop? Did you deliver a walloping?” I had no intention of wearing my stripes in public. But scrolling through the comments on the group’s wall I came across Times trencherman Giles Coren’s theories on corporal punishment. “To be honest I doubt anyone who was caned would be on Facebook,” he remarked. “People that old aren’t, are they?”

Well, Giles, I have news for you. I was caned and I am on Facebook. Alistair Darling, 54, has an entry on Facebook too. It doesn't say whether he suffered or administered corporal punishment at school, but it might explain why he continues to serve under the ex-Iron Chancellor.

Sebastian Shakespeare is editor of the Evening Standard's Londoner's Diary

This article first appeared in the 03 November 2008 issue of the New Statesman, Israel v Hamas