Tony's friends are invited to a special party: RSVP only if you're trendy

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The Independent Online
Margaret Thatcher had Dame Vera Lynn to Downing Street. John Major had the England cricket team. Tony Blair has invited Noel Gallagher and Jennifer Ehle.

The Oasis pop star and the actress from the BBC's adaptation of Pride and Prejudice are on the guest list for a Downing Street party next week that reads like the British Oscars.

One insider said: "It's a younger, more modern list of guests, and it's forward-looking. It is all about British success."

Ross Kemp, who plays the skinhead in BBC1's EastEnders, will be rubbing shoulders with Ralph Fiennes, the star of the film The English Patient, and Delia Smith, the best-selling cook. Comedians Lenny Henry and Eddie Izard may swop gags.

It could be just the night for Mr Blair, the singer in a student band, to out get his guitar and dust off the old loon pants. Among the guests will be Alan McGee, head of Creation Records, which produced the Oasis hits. The animator Nick Parke, creator of Wallace and Grommit, will be there with Bodyshop owner, Anita Roddick, and David Putnam, the Labour- supporting film director who is tipped for a peerage.

There will be some cross-over with the receptions that Mr Major held at Downing Street. The businessmen on the list include Sir Richard Greenbury, who chaired the committee on fat-cat salaries for Mr Major, and Michael Caine, who had invites to No 10 in the past.

The tradition of the celebrity Downing Street parties goes back at least to Harold Wilson, who hobnobbed with the likes of the Beatles. Lady Thatcher also held celebrity bashes with television stars, such as Paul Eddington, who played the Prime Minister in her favourite television show, Yes, Minister, which was said to reflect her views on the Civil Service.

Mr Major may have had a grey image, but he also had his moments. His guest list included Elton John but he was happiest when surrounded by sporting heroes such as Sir Bobby Charlton and Sir Colin Cowdrey.

Mr Blair, who last night hosted a reception at No 10 for fashion stars including Bruce Oldfield, Jasper Conran and Alexander McQueen, is sending out invitations for a Downing Street summer party for sports stars. Invitees include the triumphant Lions rugby test team after their South Africa victory, the crew of disabled sailors from Time and Tide, who completed the round the world yacht race last week, the tennis player Tim Henman, and the England cricketers - possibly depending on how well they do in the Ashes, which continues tomorrow.

Mr Major, not to be outdone, is hosting his own party tonight at a London hotel for his former Cabinet colleagues, including the seven who lost their seats. It will be the first time they have been round the table together since the Labour landslide. Mr Major may use Baroness Thatcher's phrase to her Cabinet after being stabbed in the back: "It's a funny old world."

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