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  1. Politics
9 October 2000

Tony’s clones were discussing Prezza’s mental health and Mo’s farting

By Lauren Booth

Last Saturday night, I’d been invited by the incredibly trendy Charlotte Raven to her relaxed cocktail-cum-birthday party. It was at her home in NW3 – and I was the only one wearing a cocktail dress. Everyone else was in fabulously cut jeans and easy-to-iron shirts.

I didn’t want to think about politics. I’d been up since 4am for my radio show, had reviewed the papers and heard 18 different views on what impact the latest poll results would have on Downing Street. I simply wanted to meet a roomful of drunken adults all pretending to be drunken teenagers. Things started well enough at the party, with Caspar, the ex-singer with “a really crappy band”, chatting to Damian, an ad man, about indie music over the potted palm. Beautiful and quirky women gossiped about dating, New York style, and two men were daring each other to do a complete striptease on the sofa. Perfect.

Then, the six words I hate most came drifting in from the kitchen. “The thing about William Hague is . . . “

The source’s name was Ed or Matt or Jonathan, and he was introduced as someone who “knows Gordon”. The moment he spotted me, he approached, a fanatical gleam in his eyes. My heart sank: when you’re distantly related to Tony Blair by marriage and mis- marriage, there’s never a night off. The Blair clones just have to have a go.

Groping miserably for a handful of crisps to sustain me, I felt like a naughty schoolgirl as he began bombarding me with Millbank-style questions. “First of all, what’s wrong with NHS Direct, Lauren? Hmm? What’s your problem?” This charming banter was followed by: “Why can’t your sort just appreciate what we’re doing for this country?” Feet away, ex-supporters of Militant were gleefully pogoing to Fat Boy Slim while I was trapped, struggling to outline reasons why “direct action should still exist in a 21st-century, middle-of-the-road democracy”.

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This shouldn’t happen outside office hours. Bus drivers don’t drive their mates around Greece during their holidays, and builders don’t chat about Mrs Smith’s guttering over a couple of pints. Unfortunately, genetics and journalism condemn me to wearing an invisible sign that says: “Please let’s talk about Downing Street.”

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But they won: in the end, Gordon’s “mate” provoked me into railing against McDonald’s and globalisation. I spent half an hour blaming a cheap furniture store in Tottenham for contributing to world poverty.

Around midnight, the hostess finally rescued me. “Right,” she began mischievously, “who knows about Meg and Goldie’s baby, hmm?” There was a long pause. Then, the words worked like a charm and the gang o’ Labour lads wilted. These clean-cut boys had spent the evening drooling over stories about Mo’s farting, Prezza’s mental health and Hague’s nuptials. Yet they looked positively disgusted when faced by gossip from outside Westminster.

I have another way of avoiding the dull, drunken dinner rant. I visit my friend Simone’s, where you sit on the floor of her council flat eating a vegetarian casserole off plastic plates and enjoy next door’s reggae music through the burnt-out walls. Take last week, when a DJ with a mouth full of casserole turned to me and asked: “Who exactly is this Alastair Campbell I keep reading about?” All eyes turned to me, as I struggled to produce a glib answer. Then Simone said: “He was the lead singer of UB40, a bit of a lad. Did all right with the ladies though.” What bliss.

Now, that’s a party.