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.

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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.”

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