David Cameron holds Downing Street Jubilee party


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The Independent Online

The Downing Street Jubilee party was a great Big Society occasion despite the festivities being held inside, Prime Minister David Cameron said today.

While millions of people braved the weather up and down the country to celebrate the Queen's 60 years on the throne, and thousands more lined the Thames to see the Royal flotilla, officials at Number 10 executed an about U-turn and held the Prime Minister's party inside.

Mr Cameron's Big Society project has been mocked by critics who say people do not know what it means. But today's party in Downing Street was the perfect example of the Big Society, he said.

The Prime Minister said: “We had a great street party, but inside Downing Street rather than outside.

“We had elderly people, we had Scouts, we had Girl Guides, Brownies, people who had been organising the Big Lunch. The oldest 96, the youngest was four or five, so it was a great Big Society occasion and a real pleasure to be able to host this.”

He added: "Above all, what we are celebrating today is 60 years she has given of service to our country, but also this extraordinary institution that stands above politics, that brings the country together, that is something that we are celebrating today that I think is such a valuable thing in our country and across other parts of the world."

He said he had seen the flotilla on television but was also really impressed by Jubilee celebrations across the UK.

Mr Cameron said: "I was in my constituency yesterday and this morning - every village, every hamlet, however small, they were having street parties, lunches - country dancing which I was having to do last night.

"Everyone is celebrating in their own way and it is bringing people together, bringing people out into our communities, helping us to get to know our neighbours better.

"So there is a real purpose to this whole weekend of celebration. We are celebrating something important but it is also enriching our country and our society at the same time.

"As a country, I think we understand we are having difficult economic times but I don't think people see any difficulty in celebrating something as great as Her Majesty's contribution over 60 years at a time of economic difficulty. Some had wondered whether it would be possible to do that. It is more than possible. It's something people are enjoying and finding great pleasure in doing."

Mr Cameron meets the Queen every week to discuss the topical issues. He said it was a "huge treat" to receive the benefit of her "unparalleled" knowledge of world events, which dates back to when Winston Churchill was prime minister.

"She is an amazing listener but she also asks some really pertinent questions," Mr Cameron said.

The original plan was for Mr Cameron to host the Downing Street party outside Number 10, with guests sitting at trestle tables tucking in to Jubilee fare.

A big screen was set up, showing the Royal flotilla, and bunting adorned the front of Number 10 and Number 11.

But with just hours to go until the start of the party, officials decided it was best to invite the 120 guests indoors to enjoy the specially decorated Jubilee cup cakes and sandwiches in the warmth of the Terracotta room.

Samantha Cameron was attending parties with the couple's children in the Prime Minister's Oxfordshire constituency of Witney, and was due to travel back down to London later.

Inside Downing Street, the Ebony Steel Band Trust played its favourite reggae and calypso tunes, while Mr Cameron talked to young scouts and volunteers with Contact the Elderly, a charity which helps OAPs get out and about.

The oldest guest was 96-year-old Sylvia Rothberg, from Maida Vale, west London. She said: "I remember watching the coronation on the television.

"It was a wonderful day and I think it is wonderful to have royalty in this country. That's what England is all about. And the Queen is still going at 86."

Mr Cameron told the young scouts that his own children had tried to camp in the Downing Street garden last night but the weather had been so bad they had come back indoors by 9pm.

Another guest was Communities Secretary Eric Pickles, who arrived at Number 10 wearing a safari suit.

He joked: "It's the perfect summer's day! We are not going to let a little bit of rain spoil a wonderful day like this."