Smith's final dinner proved biggest draw for business

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ONE OF the final ironies of John Smith's political career was that the fund-raising dinner he hosted on the eve of his death was the best-supported by the business community he had courted for so long.

Out of 420 guests, nearly 200 were from the business and City communities - five times as many as before.

There were two representatives from British Gas, sharing a table with Gordon Brown, the shadow Chancellor. Also on the table were representatives from Philip Morris, the US cigarette-to-food conglomerate, which is advised by Baronness Thatcher. Hanson, normally known for its strong support for the Conservative Party, had a representative - though the company's name, it appears, was not on the guest list.

British Aerospace, Rolls-Royce and many other large industrial companies were also represented. Kingfisher, the retail group that owns Woolworth, B&Q and Superdrug, took an advertisement in the programme for the event, which was held to raise funds for the European elections.

Another programme advertiser, Philip Morris, owner of the Marlboro cigarette brand, proclaimed it was 'proud to be associated with the Labour Party's Euro Gala dinner'.

There were representatives from the City, but in spite of John Smith's reputation as a fine politician City figures still appear reluctant to own up to their relationship with the Labour Party.

Jon Newton, an assistant director of ANZ Bank, said he was there, but in a personal, rather than professional capacity. Simon Lewis, director of corporate affairs at NatWest Bank, pleaded the same reason. Mr Lewis is married to the niece of Tom Pendry, the shadow Minister for Sport.

One City figure willing to be identified was Charles Cavanagh, head of UK institutional investment at Kleinwort Benson, the City merchant bank. 'There were people there who just would not have been five years ago. Lots of John Smith's following derived from the fact that he was enormously successful when he toured around the City. He listened to what people were saying and he worked on policies in the light of what he was told.'

However, the reluctance of many City people to own up to their presence at last week's dinner suggests that John Smith's successor will have much work to do.

As someone present at the dinner said: 'I can't possibly tell you who else was there. In the City it would be like being 'outed'.'