There are some things worth getting out of bed for and some that are not. Supermodels may quantify the amount they charge to appear. We mortals make our own judgements. Mine may indeed be questionable; my refusal to show up is not something I’m proud of. But nor is it a matter of regret.
This attitude, which is more of an instinct than anything else, usually bemuses other people. None were more bemused by it than my colleagues when I was working at the Independent in 1997. Blair was obviously going to sweep to power. The Labour Party was full of Derek Draper types in cheap suits. Change was in the air.
I got a phone call from a woman called Sally: “Tony would really like you to come in for a chat. When are you free?”
A breakfast meeting was arranged – though again, these are not something I’ve ever understood, except as some sort of signifier of supreme self-importance. But hey, I should have a look at Tony Blair, shouldn’t I? I’d actually once shaken his hand at some do before, and had the strange sensation that if I poked my finger into him it would go straight through. He seemed to me a hologram of a man. I knew I wasn’t going to vote for him. You can call me many bad things but Blairite is not one.
Yet everyone said, “Suzanne, you must go. It’s Tony Blair.”
Somewhat inevitably, I overdid things the night before the breakfast meeting and when I woke up I thought three things: 1) I’m not getting up yet. 2) He’s only going to try to make me like him. 3) I might like him, and that would be a disaster.
So I phoned his aides and said a prawn cocktail had done for me (from their reaction, it was a fairly unconvincing excuse). I got up later and went to work. As I walked into the office Andrew Marr rushed up to me, looking a bit anxious.
“Weren’t you meant to see Blair this morning?”
“Um, yeah. I didn’t really feel like it.”
Andy looked, as he often did in those days, somewhat disheartened.
“Well, this is awkward, as Alastair Campbell is here.”
I glanced over and saw that Campbell was indeed addressing the troops in conference.
“Look,” I said, “I blew him out. I just did.”
Andy, to his credit, said he didn’t know whether that was extremely stupid or extremely cool. So I decided to front it out and informed him that it was indeed very cool, and he went back to the meeting.
All day long people kept coming up to my desk, saying: “Is it true? Did you refuse to go and see the next prime minister?” By now my shame and hangover had turned into a kind of hysteria. I knew I was being completely ridiculous – but was I wrong not to get out of bed for Blair? History surely says I wasn’t.
This article appears in the 02 Sep 2015 issue of the New Statesman, Pope of the masses