Au revoir, dear readers, I am exiled to Main Street

To a surprisingly good restaurant, admittedly a good hour's drive from Birmingham, for the first "Etonians in Power" dinner. Both the meal and the company were considerable and great care had been taken with the small details: the food was prepped by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, the menu edited by Nicholas Coleridge and the after-dinner parody performed by Craig Brown.

Everywhere one turned, an OE would be saying or doing something quite exceptional and a forgivable sense of smugness permeated the members-only room. Hurd, Letwin and particularly Waldegrave have seldom been on better form.

The undoubted star, however, and properly, was David. He gave a speech that was, in some regards, even better than the one I wrote for him to deliver to conference. It was a wide-ranging affair, starting with a brief history of Eton, continuing with a hefty chunk of what Eton did for him and culminating in a short résumé of what Eton might have done for each and every one of the assembled guests.

He concluded: "School helped Gids develop a brass neck, thick hide, terrific bottom and strong knees. Without his unceasingly dedicating this rare combination of attributes to the good of the party, I think it is almost certain we would still be in opposition. Etonians be upstanding." And they stood. And applauded. And swayed as they sang "Jerusalem". And, as I sat, perhaps a tear . . .

Afterwards, I tracked David down to expand upon some of the finer points but, as is so often the case these days, he was in grandiose rather than analytical mood. "Gidster, what a brain, what a man, what a Tory," the Prime Minister said, verbatim, as he flung his arm around me. "What are we going to do without you?"

“Don't worry, PM, I have no intention of going anywhere.''

“So noble, so loyal, so . . . staunch," said the Prime Minister, verbatim, before leaning over to whisper: "Just between the two of us, your work here may be done."

“Our work is just beginning, PM . . ." "Indeed, but your share of the burden will be taking place in America." "America?"

“The thing is, Gidder, we've been offered an exchange by Sarah Palin. The Tea Party sends us one of its zealots and we send one of our top men."

"Sounds like a duff deal." "But the only one on the table. Look, GD, I wouldn't be sending my best man, in every sense of the word, if it wasn't important."

And, with an actorly squeeze of my shoulder, he was off. And - after a quick chat with Boris - so was I.

This article first appeared in the 11 October 2010 issue of the New Statesman, Melvyn Bragg guest edit