More than 300 luminaries, including major stars of stage, screen, sport and politics dined at Chequers, the Prime Minister's official residence in Buckinghamshire, in the four years after Mr Blair swept to power in 1997, according to an extraordinary list released by Downing Street last night. A letter accompanying the list said: "The Prime Minister meets a wide range of people and organisations from all walks of life."
In fact, the account of Mr Blair's official dinner engagements at Chequers from 1997 to 2001 reads like a Who's Who of the British media, cultural and sporting establishment.
Downing Street's disclosure last year of the Blairs' dinner guests between 2001 and 2003 caused a wave of media interest. But that list is dwarfed by the latest, nine-page account.
The list, released to the Liberal Democrat MP Norman Lamb under the Freedom of Information Act, includes musicians Sting, Elton John, Bono, David Bowie, Bob Geldof and Mick Hucknall.
From the world of film and theatre, the list included Joan Collins, Dame Judi Dench, Helen Mirren, Lord Attenborough and Jeremy Irons.
Media stars also pepper the list. Cilla Black, John Birt, the former director general of the BBC, the talk show host Clive Anderson, Rosie Boycott, former editor of the Daily Express and The Independent, and the television cook Delia Smith all feature on Mr Blair's guest list.
Other notables include the entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson, Melvyn Bragg, the newscaster Anna Ford, Today programme presenter James Naughtie, the comedian Dawn French and the actor Stephen Fry. Former Liverpool star Kevin Keegan also made an appearance, as did the Poet Laureate Andrew Motion and Phil Redmond, the creator of Brookside.
The theatre director Trevor Nunn, the conductor Sir Simon Rattle and the architect Lord Rogers, also feature.
Media figures include Greg Dyke, who succeeded Lord Birt at the BBC, and two of the figures closest to Rupert Murdoch, the News International executive Les Hinton, and the economist Dr Irwin Stelzer.
Senior figures in Mr Blair's inner circle also feature in the list, including his pollster Phillip Gould, Professor Michael Barber, head of the Prime Minister's strategy unit, Lord Levy, Sally Morgan, Alastair Campbell and Peter Mandelson.
A letter to Mr Lamb from No 10, said it was "not appropriate" to release a breakdown of when they were invited "because this could demonstrate a regular pattern of appointments by the Prime Minister and would therefore give rise to security risks".
Mr Lamb welcomed publication of the list. He said: "This will be of great interest, but it is just all part of my campaign to secure greater openness in government. I want to establish a register of who meets ministers, which they have in the United States. People should have the right to know who our elected representatives are meeting."
BLAIR'S CELEBRITY DINERS
David Bowie and Iman, below
Richard Curtis and Emma Freud
Matthew Freud and Elisabeth Murdoch
Sir Bob Geldof and Jeanne Marine
Lenny Henry and Dawn French
Jeremy Irons and Sinead Cusack
Elton John and David Furnish
Sir Cameron Mackintosh
Sir John Mortimer
Trevor Nunn and Imogen Stubbs
Sir Simon Rattle
Salman Rushdie and Padma Lakshmi, right
Sir Jimmy Saville
Delia Smith and Michael Wynn Jones
Sting and Trudie Styler
Emma Thompson and Greg Wise
Timothy West and Prunella Scales
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