Lord Ashcroft is celebrating his 70th birthday at the Grosvenor House Hotel and Mr S is honoured to be one of the guests. William Hague, Theresa May, Boris Johnson, Iain Duncan Smith, Penny Mordant and even Tom Watson are amongst the guests at perhaps the most lavish birthday party anyone will host in London this year. His 50th and 60th had people talking about them years afterwards, so no one expects his 70th to disappoint.
There are actors hired to be paper boys, brandishing fake newspapers with headlines about the noble lord suing anyone who suggests he has turned 70. Ashcroft doesn’t seem to mind self-mockery either. Blofeld, the cat-stroking Bond villain that he is often compared to, has been invited. Or, at least, a lookalike is in the corner of the room, with two Bond girl epigones: guests queue to have their photo taken with this lot. There’s a long queue of people who have probably never queued for anything in their lives. We haven’t sat down yet, but stay tuned for the latest as it arrives.
9pm So, we’re now seated – Hague and Boris are on the top table, and the ballroom is filled with Westminster glitterati (and Nigel Farage). And more Bond! Or, at least, girl classical band to open the show. Followed by our host, Rory Bremner. He says he can’t stay for long as he has another gig: a surprise party. “It’s Jeremy Corbyn’s leaving party – it’s a surprise to him”. He then starts off with some well-honed impressions of the Mayor (“Now, look here: I want you to vote for Brexit. It’s a cause I’ve believed in for – what day is it now? Saturday? Almost two weeks.”) And some not-entirely-sympathetic impression of David Cameron. He reads out apologies from Cameron, saying he wasn’t invited, but couldn’t come anyway due to a reunion of the Piers Gaveston society. Perhaps pig jokes will be a theme of the evening.
9.20pm Ah, the starter has arrived: you guessed it — pork! The Welsh soprano Katherine Jenkins is here, straight from Twickenham – and sings two songs in French. ‘That’s just for you, Nigel,’ says Bremner to Farage. Jenkins blows the noble lord a birthday kiss, Marilyn-style. The night is young.
9.45pm Ooh, Mr S has just spied Theresa May on the same table as David Davis. Hats off to whoever did the seating plan. Boris is looking so comfortable that he is uncomfortable: seated between two exceptionally gorgeous women. It’s starting to become a topic of conversation: who are Boris’s girls? And will he be able to control himself?
9.52pm Each table is given an iPad to answer questions to enter a caption competition. One picture is of George Osborne showing a sheet of paper to Boris, who is signing it. The winning caption: “David Cameron’s leaving card? Where do I sign?” And the winner of the caption competition? One B. Johnson. A bottle of champagne is sent to his table. Miss World will be delighted.
10.00pm And next Britain’s Got Talent magician Jamie Raven is on stage, and pulls a trick on the noble Lord – something about lots of paper into wads of cash. He wins a fiver. ‘His last job was treasurer of the South Thanet Tory branch,’ says Bremner.
10.07pm All is revealed: one of the women next to Boris is Mireia Lalaguna, the reigning Miss World. And Boris looks truly discombobulated. Again, hats off to the seating plan organiser.
10.12pm Then Les Beaux Frères, a curious act of two dancers naked except for white towels. Bremner jokes that the next act will be two other guests repeating the trick: Eric Pickles and Jacob Rees Mogg. At least, Mr S hopes it’s a joke.
10.27pm: Rory Bremner introduces William Hague by doing a (very good) Hague impression. “William Hague made Michael a peer” he says. “David Cameron wanted to make him disappear.” Hague is on great form, welcoming “my lords, ladies and gentlemen, MPs who wish they were in the cabinet and members of the cabinet who would rather the rest of the Cabinet didn’t know that they were here”. Don’t worry, Theresa May, your secret is safe with us. And after Hague we hear from Lord Ashcroft who says how his 70th almost didn’t happen, after his health scare last autumn when he was in intensive care for two weeks. The party has come at just the right time to revive his spirits, he says: those in the room are his closest friends. “Except, of course, for the journalists present.”
11.02 Enter Denise Van Outen! She declares that she and Lord Ashcroft have known each other for years “but he uses private jets and I use easyjet”. She sang Big Spender – rather appropriate for this party. Mr S suspects her fee for this evening is more than enough to cover an upgrade to BA.
11.55pm: Bremner is back, to introduce the final act. There has been much excitement about this: we were warned earlier not to head home before 1am because we’d kick ourselves if we found out who the last act was. And given that everyone – even the discombobulated Boris – is still here, his invitations seems to have worked. Mr S puts his money on Rhianna.
11.58pm. It’s Michael Bublé! He tells us that he has flown all the way from Canada leaving his wife and newborn son. (“And for that, I can’t thank you enough” he tells the crowd, “I used to think Air Canada sucked, but this flight was the best of my life”). He says he was nervous because “the only lord I’ve seen before was Darth Vader, and he was an assholse… so it’s nice to meet a nice lord”. He invites the audience to come and dance at the front of the stage. Queue a rush of ladies, and sea of iPhones by delighted guests. Bubble obligingly poses for selfies as he sings, and at one stage even reaches into the crowd to take one of the iPhones brandished by a guest – it looked very much like Lord Finkelstein – to take a selfie video of himself.
1am. Bublé leads the crowd with Happy Birthday, then “Goodnight, I’m heading back to Canada.” That’s it! Bremner says he’ll see us – or, at least, some of us – at Lord Ashcroft’s 80th.
1.13am Oh, and it seems Miss Van Outen did not exactly rush home..
— Denise Van Outen (@denise_vanouten) March 13, 2016