His battle cry fell on deaf ears. This was New Labour, New Statesmen and women, not an underdog between them. Even his heartfelt defence of Virginia Tobacco failed to raise their anarchic spirits; they were too busy networking in the courtyard over the Ultra Lows and the Chilean Red.
Finally he gave up and no one seemed to notice. Was this the same man they had all embraced into the fold only 12 months previously, the same man who had provided them with sharp, cutting caricatures of the beleaguered Tories to keep them going through the crucial months leading up to 1 May? Yes, but that was a long time ago. Now they had a social exclusion policy and they were practising it on Ralph.
The talk was mainly of the few people not there, owner Geoffrey Robinson (publicity avoidance), the entire Cabinet (having their goolies seen to) and a cluster of lost souls who foolishly believed that it was still important to be seen at the alternative Demos event (Special Photographers gallery; beer ran out quickly). No one was sure who had been anointed cartoonist of the year. Darcus Howe held court in a flame-red Nehru jacket while Ian Hargreaves explained that this was really the "Paymaster General International Support Fund General Meeting". The women serving the wine wore pearls and the ex-Tory MP looked very at home.
The Northern writer and political activist Ron Rose, fresh from his recent Doncaster Council "Donnygate" coup, revealed to an enraptured circle the details of his latest investigation, The Pat Phoenix and Tony Booth love affair. Theirs was a fiery relationship, spanning as it did many decades and several column inches.
For Pat, the problem was often one of Tony's constant forgetfulness. "One time early on in the relationship, Tony went down to London for a few days filming and failed to make any contact with Pat," explained Ron. On his return he got a huge earful. "Don't they have telephones in London?" Pat had screamed. Tony's feeble defence was that he had forgotten her phone number. "You'll say that to the wrong woman one day," she barked back.
According to Ron, when details of an impending Granada TV programme reached the press, their plans were met with some extremely virulent attacks, most notably from the Daily Mail's Lynda Lee Potter. "As far as she was concerned, Pat's husband, Alan Browning, was an angel, yet we knew he used to beat her, while Tony Booth was low-life scum, although he couldn't have loved Pat any more. It didn't make any sense," Ron told us.
Over a period of time it dawned on Ron that the mother of Middle England really had it in for the Prime Minister's father-in-law. Eventually he decided to ask Tony why she seemed to be so against him.
"I said to him: `Tony, what have you done to Lynda Lee Potter? She seems to hate your guts.' He revealed the true nature of the problem," Ron continued. "It was all to do with a little mix-up 35 years ago ... and a forgotten telephone number."Reuse content