Lord Bell opened the summer party season last night, with martinis on the back lawn of Lancaster House. It was a reception for the marriage of money and power.
Norman Lamont and Peter Lilley were happy to chin-wag with old friends and campaigners. But the government’s big hitters are obviously wary of rubbing shoulders with lobbyists at present; Michael Fallon was the most senior minister I saw.
I did, however, notice James Wharton, Tory-boy of the moment. Wharton topped the Private Members’ Bill ballot last week, and he may yet turn the Tory EU referendum promise into law. The man’s going places, apparently. I asked him if he was enjoying his new-found fame and the interest of our national media. ‘No, not really,’ he sniffed, grumpily. But there’s nothing a good martini cannot fix.
Controversial figures spiced up Lord Bell’s clientele: departed Barclays chairman, Marcus Agius and Richard Desmond were among the revellers. The crowd was business-heavy, and refreshingly apolitical. Sky’s business hack Mark Kleinman was in his element, flitting between power suits to whisper sweet nothings.
The night was still young, so Mr Steerpike nipped across St James’ for the opening night of Mr Fogg’s. This is the latest venture of Charlie Gilkes’ Inception Group. In case you didn’t know, we have Gilkes to thank for London’s quirkier party spots.
As you might have guessed, Mr Fogg’s is decorated in the style of Phileas J Fogg (think hot air balloons, horns and animal skins). It is staffed (like most bars) by actors. I inquired as to how it was all put together. ‘I’ve spent a lot of the last three months on eBay,’ Gilkes confessed. You don’t get honesty like that at neighbouring Annabel’s.
For those of you who care about such things, Pippa Middleton was getting foggy at Mr Fogg’s. One wonders what Passepartout would have made of it.