ONCE again, über-blogger Iain Dale has nominated me with a challenge to recount events in my past where I had to pinch myself and ask: “Is this really happening?” Iain, of course, is just a big show-off and wants to brag about all the famous people he’s met. I would never do that, of course (ahem…).
1991: I joined the Labour Party entirely because of Neil Kinnock. I really idolised him. Occasionally I bump into him in the MPs’ tearoom and I want to tell him this, but I always resist, because (a) he would think it a bit naff, and (b) he has no idea who I am. Nevertheless, as a completely starstruck young press officer with the Labour Party in Scotland, I had to help organise a visit to Edinburgh by Neil as leader of the party and, I fervently hoped, our next prime minister. Can’t remember why, exactly, but I found myself having a game of pool with Neil and his son, Stephen in their hotel. Chuffed!
2002: New MPs and their spouses were invited to meet HM at Buck House. Carolyn, a sometimes republican, decided she wanted to come because she was curious to see inside the palace. “But I’m not curtseying,” she said. “Well, you can’t come then,” said I, suddenly the arch-monarchist. “You can’t accept someone’s hospitality and then refuse to obey protocol.”
“Well, I’ll nod a bit. Maybe,” she conceded. The evening arrived and even those who were pretending to be cool about the situation were failing miserably. Suddenly Carolyn and I were in a line of people waiting to meet the Queen and Prince Philip. Before realising it, there they were, right in front of us. I duly bowed, murmured something suitably obsequious and walked off. I glanced behind me to see how Carolyn was doing, worried she might stage a show of defiance. I needn’t have been concerned. I have never, in my entire life, seen anyone offer such a low and deferential curtsey. She told me later that it was almost entirely instinctive; she just couldn’t help herself when she came face to face with the monarch. It’s a pity – or perhaps a blessing – that the whole thing was being filmed, because, on leaving the Royal Presence and realising what she had just done, she swore (and it was a very bad swear word) to herself, straight into the lens of the camera.
2003: Labour conference was abuzz because Bill Clinton was around. As a junior back bencher I had virtually no chance of meeting him. But while standing in a corridor of the conference hotel waiting to get into a room where I was due to have dinner one evening, there was a flurry of activity and Bill and his entourage came walking towards me. I wasn’t going to let the opportunity pass, so I stuck out my hand and said: “An honour to meet you, Mr President.” He took it and smiled and said thank you. Great. But I hadn’t noticed that right behind him was the actor, and Bill’s BFF, Kevin Spacey. So I shook his hand as well. This was turning into a great night. And then, behind Spacey was none other than Tony Blair, who smiled at me as if he might have vaguely recognised me. “Piss off, Tony, I’m speaking to Kevin,” I quipped (I didn’t really).
Okay, so I’m passing this challenge on to the following five bloggers:
Coming soon, my very own meme: how do you pronounce ‘meme’?