Cameron’s ‘Cool Brittania II’ was more like the night Britain lost all its cultural relevance

You know your celebrity bash is in trouble when Vernon Kaye is too cool to attend


Another of those tears in the fabric of space-time that now and again illuminate the depressing peculiarity of life in Britain opened up the other night in central London, and through it slipped the last vestige of this country’s relevance in the world beyond.

I refer morosely to the reception at the Foreign Office for those David Cameron regards as our most glittering cultural gems. It may be styled: Cool Britannia II: This Time It’s Personally Embarrassing For Us All.

The 1997 prequel, as you must recall, was a humiliation solely for its host, Mr Tony Blair. Resplendent in his massive majority, the star-struck new PM mingled gleefully with such global successes as Vivienne Westwood, Ralph Fiennes, Damien Hirst and Helen Mirren.

In a bid to underscore his gibberish about recreating Britain – that dribbling occupant of the wash-clean plastic chair in the psycho-geriatric ward of international life – as “a young country”,  Mr T even cracked wise with Noel Gallagher about the anti-soporific effects of the  finest cocaine.

You would not have believed then that anything on Earth, or this solar system, or come to that the cosmos, could ever make you reflect fondly on that. So I suppose we must doff the cap to David Cameron for achieving the impossible on Monday night.

Although a glance at the date establishes that the bash was held on 30 June 2014, an examination of those who joined the PM for drinks and canapés (the most gilded of whom later dined with him at No 10; though whether for a formal sit-down affair or kitchen supper, Francis Maude has yet to announce) places it at some indeterminable point between the late 1970s and the mid-80s. The mystery of Downing Street’s reluctance to discuss the guest list before the event was resolved when it began.

While such invitees as Dame Maggie Smith, Nicole Kidman, Chiwetel Ejiofor and Benedict Cumberbatch found themselves otherwise engaged, another fêted dramatic artist did deign to pitch up.

Ronnie Corbett, the method actor whose lifelong preparation for the part of mummy’s boy librarian Timothy Lumsden in Sorry! included declining human growth hormone as a child, was at the party.

Don't get hitched just to buy a house
Heard the joke about Rolf Harris? It isn’t funny
How George Osborne could become a threat to Planet Earth

We all adore him, of course, but was it really Little Ron whom Mr Cameron had in mind when he told partygoers: “We’ve always had rich seams of thought, creativity and ingenuity to mine. So tonight, let’s resolve to keep on leading the world with our culture”?

If not Little Ron, perhaps he was thinking of those timeless cultural powerhouses, Cilla Black and Sir Bruce Forsyth, the latter inadvertently providing the most acute commentary on the soirée by turning up late.

Or did Mr Cameron have Tess Daly in mind? Although many decades younger than her old Strictly Come Dancing confrere, Miss Daly’s gushing presentational style belongs in the telly era of the original Generation Game. As does John Barrowman, Brucie’s successor as the Sammy Davis Jnr wannabe-du-jour, who also mingled in the F.O. courtyard with Michael McIntyre, Kirstie Allsopp and models of C3PO and R2D2 out of Star Wars.

As with all the most elegant, swelegant parties, the absentees are more intriguing than the attendants. Mr Blobby was unfortunately tied up with parish council business in Crinkly Bottom, and Rolf Harris  – who qualifies as British on account of being included in my friend Jon Gaunt’s splendid list of his Top Ten Greatest Living Brits – may also have had a credible excuse. The Krankies could hardly have gone, what with the party falling on a Wee Jimmy school night, and Cameron’s chum Gary Barlow is still in disgrace over his tax arrangements.

But on what conceivable grounds did Vernon Kaye – a Chequers guest with his missus Tess Daly in the high cultural era of Mr Blair – stay away? Could it be that the presenter of All Star Family Fortunes and public face of the Beefeater restaurant chain regarded himself – HIMSELF – as too cool for Cool II? If so, he had a point.

I yield to no one in my appreciation of party presences Oritsé Williams, the baggage in the boy band JLS, and Eliza Doolittle, who cunningly seeks some market distinction from Paloma Faith by not selling a lot of records.

But if this is David Cameron’s notion of celebrating  how “the UK has always punched well above our weight in culture and the  arts,” and with apologies to an earlier  Eliza Doolittle, all I want is a room somewhere, with one enormous chair  in which to rock back and forth sobbing  at the disgrace.

Britain has one enormous chair, but for how much longer? The next time our ambassador to the UN turns up for a meeting of the Security Council’s permanent members, he may expect to find only four chairs. “But where’s the UK seat?” he will perplexedly ask . “I’m so sorry,” Ban Ki-moon will explain, “but when we read about the guests at David Cameron’s party, we interpreted it as the final expression of British isolationism.

"Let’s be honest, all you had left of any global relevance was your culture. When we saw Tess Daly, we realised you don’t even have that any more, and took it as your formal resignation from the permanent seat. Sorry again, and it was nice knowing you, but we had the British chair symbolically burned.”

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Sauce Recruitment: Retail Planning Manager - Home Entertainment UK

salary equal to £40K pro-rata: Sauce Recruitment: Are you available to start a...

Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - London - up to £40,000

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Creative Front-End Developer - Claph...

Recruitment Genius: Product Quality Assurance Technologist - Hardline & Electric

£18000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The role in this successful eco...

Ashdown Group: QA Tester - London - £30,000

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: QA Tester - London - £30,000 QA Tes...

Day In a Page

Read Next

CPAC 2015: What I learnt from the US — and what the US could learn from Ukip

Nigel Farage

If I were Prime Minister: I would create a government that actually reflects its people

Kaliya Franklin
HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower