Issue 215 of SOCIALIST REVIEW Published January 1998 Copyright Socialist Review

Stack on the back

Pat Stack

What an honour it was, being invited to Number 10 Downing Street for the New Year's Eve bash. I wasn't quite sure why I had been, but hey, if the most popular prime minister of this or any other century was inviting me, who was I to say no?

I approached the door of Number 10 with mixed feelings. I had picketed this door, handed in petitions at this door, even chuckled when a couple of IRA mortars nearly blew it off its hinges. Now I was walking through it.

We were ushered in with a champagne cocktail called, 'Single Mother's Ruin'.

Tony and Cherie greeted us. They seemed so much nicer than you imagined. Tony really is an honest unassuming blokish sort of guy, a man's man, but also in a non-oppressive sort of way a ladies' man.

Cherie is even more beautiful in person than she is on the television. I especially noticed her eyes. They sparkle, but behind the sparkle is a touch of sadness that seems to say, I don't like jailing poll tax non-payers, or harassing victims of sexual assault - it's just my job.

Once past the Blairs one began to meet so many famous people. I resisted taking Alan Sugar to task over the way he'd ruined Tottenham Hotspur. However, I couldn't resist turning down a cigarette from Bernie Ecclestone, explaining loudly that I'd given up smoking.

The 'Single Mother's Ruin' was beginning to go to my head by this stage, so that when Max Mosley asked me where I was living these days I told him Cable Street and fell about laughing as he stomped off in a rage.

At last I spotted some people I knew, a few old acquaintances from student days, all of them now Labour MPs, all of them former presidents of the National Union of Students. I greeted them warmly and congratulated them on their great career advancement. They took this well until, in all innocence, I remarked on what shining examples they were of a fully free higher education system.

I then inadvertently upset Harriet Harman. She was explaining how one of the joys of having a child at a Catholic school was that he learnt the true meaning of Christmas. Ah yes, I said, the story of a single mother who never does a day's work in her life, but still brings up a Messiah.

At this point Tony asked if there was anyone I'd like to meet. I said I wouldn't mind a word with Richard Branson, but apparently he'd failed to arrive. Discovering his train was four hours late, he decided instead to come by balloon but had been blown somewhat off course.

I then asked if I could have a word with John Monks and Bill Morris (I'd now had four drinks, and felt bold enough to raise the plight of the Liverpool dockers). This produced the loudest laugh of the night. 'Oh Pat,' howled Tony, barely able to stand from laughter 'You are a wag. We don't invite them to these dos. They'd just feel uncomfortably working class.'

As I wandered out to the loo, I bumped into Jack Straw and Robin Cook. Jack was on his mobile phone to the local nick saying he'd seen a 15 year old on the street after midnight. It turned out to be one of the younger Blairite MPs going outside for a breath of fresh air.

Robin, rather the worse for wear, was singing, 'Where have all the ethics gone, short time passing,' and, 'I am the egghead, Blair is the walrus.'

So the three of us had a somewhat incoherent chat, made all the more so by Jack's tendency to keep using the mobile. 'Hello, is that the Drugs Tsar, Straw here. One of those pop star fellows, Willie Gallagher or something, he's got the sniffles. Suggest you come down and take some nasal hair for analysis.'

Jack finally had to be restrained when the Gypsy Kings turned up to entertain us and he started asking to see their work permits and demanding to know whether they were economic migrants.

By now Robin was getting very pally and whispered in a voice rather louder than he intended that talking to Gordon Brown was more boring than watching wallpaper.

Unfortunately Lord Irvine thought it was a comment on his hugely expensive wallpapering hobby and promptly took a swing at him. For a couple of minutes all hell broke out.

At this stage a rather sinister looking figure asked to be introduced to me, and Tony explained that I was the managing director of Britain's biggest armaments company. I quickly explained that I was no such thing, just a humble back page columnist and advocate of world revolution.

At this point the whole place went silent, and then Peter Mandelson started the chant, 'Oik, Oik, Oik.' They marched towards me, opened the front door of Downing Street and threw me out, just as Big Ben began chiming midnight.

But I voted for you, I wailed pathetically, before becoming very angry. I'll be back, I shouted. You'll get yours.

'Ha,' they laughed, 'you and whose army? Why, even Gerry will see to it that there's no more mortars.'

True, I replied, but there are Liverpool dockers, single mothers, students, pensioners, the disabled, miners, hunt saboteurs, NHS workers and users, and you've only been in office eight months!

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