I was cycling along near my house the other day when I was passed by a red Jaguar car, which was itself closely followed by a Vauxhall Omega bristling with more aerials than is strictly necessary to pick up Melody radio.
Sensing something significant about these two cars, I rode alongside, as they had been slowed by the traffic, to see that the first car contained David Blunkett, the new Home Secretary. Since we had been on the Parkinson TV show together last year, I considered waving hello, but then, of course, I realised he wouldn't be able to see me. I did think about waving to his guide dog, which was on the back seat with him. (At the end of Parkinson, when all the guests shake hands, I was the only one who shook hands with his dog as well.) But making gestures at the Home Secretary's car stuck in traffic and stuffed full of armed detectives probably isn't a good idea, so I pedaled on.
Actually, Parkinson was not the first time I had met David Blunkett. In the early 1980s, when he was the leader of Sheffield City Council, I did a benefit for some godforsaken leftwing cause at the Crucible Theatre in that city, which he attended. I remember that at one point the organisers panicked because of some drunks in the audience and called the police to have them ejected, which, in the self-mythologising way of the left, was retold to me later as "that gig you did that was broken up by fascists".
Anyway, following the performance, those who had taken part were introduced at a little backstage party to the local dignitaries. Unaware of his disability, my wife said afterwards of the man who would become our Home Secretary, "I didn't like that David Blunkettt much – there's something shifty about his eyes!"
And she still doesn't like him much, though I am reserving my judgement, waiting to see whether he turns out to be better than vivisectionist-loving Jack Straw. One sensible move Blunkett has made already is to get rid of the silly "drugs tsar" Keith Hellawell. Perhaps this is the start to the admission that the prohibition policy on drugs can never work.
I actually also met the drugs tsar Keith Hellawell when I was doing the Breakfast with Frost programme one Sunday morning, and I have to say that I feel a little sorry for him now, as he so clearly absolutely loved the status and power of his job. If ever a man was doing well from the drugs trade it was Keith. What will he do now? I suppose he'll just have to live vicariously through his daughter Geri.
You know it still amazes me, even after all these years, that I should be hob-nobbing with such power figures as these. I never imagined when I was a kid that it would be possible for me to meet so mighty a government personage as the Home Secretary. At least, as the grandson of Russian Revolutionaries, without an old-fashioned bomb in my hand, being clubbed to the ground by Cossack bodyguards.
Yet I find that simply encountering these people on TV shows and at benefits isn't enough for me. One of my burning and as yet unfilled ambitions is to be really good mates with somebody who is really, really powerful and successful. I don't mind whether they are famous or not. They could be a sports star such as Roy Keane or Serena Williams, a showbusiness figure such as Nicole Kidman or Bruce Springsteen. Or they could be some kind of éminence grise, a figure who moves behind the scenes, who works in the shadows manipulating the way the world runs. Perhaps the cruel and unforgiving Mickey Moore, head of the small subsistence farmer-crushing World Trade Organisation, or the cold, calculating Sepp Blatter, the president of Fifa, world football's governing body.
I want to be best mates with somebody who they stop the traffic for, who flies in a private jet and who carries an air of glamour, mystery and excitement with them. I think it must be absolutely brilliant being mates with someone like that, much better than the person themselves, with all their secret hopes, fears and worries. If you are best mates with a powerful person, I reckon you get all the good stuff without having to put up with the bad stuff, like the assassination attempts and the corporate back-stabbing. But, of course, it will never happen because of a failing in me – I am not interesting enough. What, after all, could I bring to the party?
I suppose this is where my ambition falls down. What I am interested in, what I like to do and talk about, isn't what mighty, influential figures like to do and talk about. Would, for example, Andrew Wylie, the most powerful literary agent in the world, really be interested in knowing where you could get a phenomenal, all-you-can-eat Chinese buffet for £7.95 Monday-through-Thursday? (The Oriental Plaza, Edgware Road, Colindale). I don't suppose so. He wouldn't even know where Colindale is. He's probably only passed through it on his way to other places where the powerful and influential go – like Hatch End or Pinner.Reuse content