The guest list at Chequers when Britannia was still cool

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The Independent Online
IT IS a list of stars which charts the heady days of New Labour when Britannia was cool and some of the world's most famous people flocked to Tony Blair's door.

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

Clive Anderson

Lord Attenborough

Dickie Bird

Cilla Black

Bono

David Bowie and Iman, below

Rosie Boycott

Lord Bragg

Richard Branson

Deborah Bull

Joan Collins

Richard Curtis and Emma Freud

Greg Dyke

Robert Earl

Anna Ford

Matthew Freud and Elisabeth Murdoch

Stephen Fry

Sir Bob Geldof and Jeanne Marine

Robert Harris

Mick Hucknall

Lenny Henry and Dawn French

Jeremy Irons and Sinead Cusack

Elton John and David Furnish

Kevin Keegan

Sir Cameron Mackintosh

Andrew Marr

Simon Mayo

Alan McGee

Helen Mirren

Sir John Mortimer

Andrew Motion

James Naughtie

Trevor Nunn and Imogen Stubbs

Lord Puttnam

Sir Simon Rattle

Anita Roddick

Lord Rogers

Salman Rushdie and Padma Lakshmi, right

Sir Jimmy Saville

Delia Smith and Michael Wynn Jones

Jackie Stewart

Sting and Trudie Styler

Alan Sugar

Emma Thompson and Greg Wise

Timothy West and Prunella Scales

Michael Winner

Kirsty Young

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