Home Secretary Priti Patel risked reopening wounds about her sacking from government in 2017 with a thinly veiled dig at Theresa May during last night’s packed Spectator Parliamentarian of the Year Awards. “I was in the ‘bad books’ of an ex-prime minister for allegedly having secret meetings with people that I knew,” Patel told the audience of politicos in the Rosewood Hotel.
Patel was International Development secretary in 2017 when she was forced to resign after she failed to disclose meetings with senior Israeli government figures. “People that I knew, people that are our allies by the way,” she explained, teasing “and you haven’t heard the rest of it, you really haven’t. Also, if I may say so, there were some in government that thought these people were not on the side of our government,” she said, before adding “but that’s enough about the ERG.”
The European Research Group are staunch Brexiteers and caused huge trouble for Theresa May’s government during her premiership. Patel, who won the Comeback of the Year award, was among a host of cross-party winners at the Spectator’s annual bash, moved to January following last year’s snap election. Guests enjoyed Pol Roger champagne and a three-course dinner while host Penny Mordaunt laid on the jokes on stage.
While most politicos cut their humour with a sharp edge, Northern Ireland Secretary Julian Smith, who picked up the gong for Minister of the Year, was more deadpan. He had to be after Spectator editor Fraser Nelson introduced him, saying last year he was “one of the biggest losers Parliament has ever seen”. Smith, who was chief whip at the time, took to the stage and agreed: “I was responsible for the first, third and fifth worst defeats in British parliamentary history. I have nearly gone completely bald and my wife has nearly left me as a result.” On the plus side, he’s now helped break a three-year deadlock in Stormont. You lose some, you win some.
Shut 'em up with a WhatsApp tax
“It should cost £100 to start a WhatsApp group”, comedian Ivo Graham says. “Our brains are being destroyed by the constant ability to have banter burbling away in our pockets,” he tells the Ways to Change the World podcast. I am not saying it’s not fantastic to have that option, but we need some barrier.” If the fines don’t work, incentives could do the trick, Graham says. “Maybe there should be a counter-balancing thing where you receive a financial bonus for sending a letter.”
Minnie Driver fondly remembers Terry Jones, the Monty Python star who died on Tuesday. “I was lost, on my way to an audition in 1992. I stopped a man for directions. He started to explain, but then said it would be easier to show me. He walked me there, told some stories, then came in to charm the casting director because I was late.”
Billy Bragg recalls how a 1978 Victoria Park march changed his politics. Bragg was surprised when men started kissing. He told a 5x15 event: “I was 19, I’d never met an out gay man and couldn’t understand what was happening. What was happening was, we’d marched in front of this banner that said ‘Gays against the Nazis’.”
Raye of sunshine in chilly King's cross
’Twas a bright night in King’s Cross last night as Vanity Fair held a party to celebrate the EE Rising Star Award, where comedian Aisling Bea rubbed shoulders with presenter Maya Jama and singer Raye. Bea recently sent her well-wishes to fellow Irishman Laura Whitmore, who took over presenting duties on ITV’s Love Island: “Our WhatsApp group is ready and poised for huge important political discussions about thongs, texts & whitened teeth.” Actor Margaret Clunie made the party, as did radio presenter Clara Amfo and documentarian Reggie Yates.
Down in Carnaby Street, an event for ocean sustainability campaign Project Zero attracted singer Boy George. Model Zoe Zimmer, daughter of Planet Earth composer Hans, turned up later. “Blue Planet saved everything. I genuinely think Sir David Attenborough is the world’s greatest human being,” she told The Londoner. “I’m not giving up flying though. You’ve got to get around, at the end of the day.”
Robert Jenrick is launching a public inquiry into the proposed redevelopment of the Whitechapel Bell Foundry. The foundry, which cast America’s Liberty Bell and Big Ben, was set to be turned into a 108-room hotel by US developers, Raycliff. Now, after a reprieve was granted last month, a full public inquiry has been announced by Housing Secretary Jenrick. Will the bell toll again?
Damian Collins MP plays an unexpected role in a parliamentary film. He recalls a “very bizarre day” in Parliament when alongside Brexit votes some Love Islanders appeared before his DCMS select committee. “The committee was the place to go if you wanted some relief,” Collins tells The Londoner. Now it’s immortalised in the film, which marks the end of the 2019 Parliament: “The entire work of the select committees was summarised as a clip of me asking a question to this guy from Love Island.”
A self-deprecation lesson for US readers
Hugh Laurie knows a thing or two about self-deprecation. “I think there is a particular English strategy of self-defence, which is to attack yourself before anybody else can,” the House star says. “And it’s a bit peculiar and I know it’s very baffling to a lot of Americans because Americans just don’t think that way. In England, you grow up with that assumption that ‘I’d better get myself first and save everyone else the trouble of doing it’.”
QUOTE OF THE DAY
"I used to just brush, no flossing. UIntil my dentist badded me up."
Grime artist JME talks teeth.