Rowan Pelling: A spectator's view of Tory totty in full party swing

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The Independent Online

It was a Labour MP who first apprised me of the political maxim "Vote Socialist, shag Tory". So I was not surprised to learn of the alleged tendresse that exists between Kimberly Fortier, irrepressible publisher of the right-wing Spectator, and our rather more granite-faced Home Secretary.

It was a Labour MP who first apprised me of the political maxim "Vote Socialist, shag Tory". So I was not surprised to learn of the alleged tendresse that exists between Kimberly Fortier, irrepressible publisher of the right-wing Spectator, and our rather more granite-faced Home Secretary.

What's a man to do when he wants to escape the angry clamour of the hatchet-haired Blair babes as they campaign for more ladies' lavs in the corridors of power? Who can blame a chap if he seeks solace on the cashmere-covered pillows of the Tory heartland, where girls are born and bred at the Labrador's teat? And there's no happier hunting ground for Tory totty than the annual summer parties of the Spectator magazine.

I should have heeded the signs at last year's bash when I came across Fortier chatting animatedly to Blunkett in a small antechamber. But I was nervous about the fact that the Erotic Review had once published an article describing how Blunkett had purchased midnight blue undies from my deputy editor, Annie Blinkhorn, in the days when she ran a branch of La Senza near Victoria station. The piece dwelt cheekily on the fact that he had stroked every garment to test the quality of the fabric.

Blunkett duly collared me and said he'd done no such thing ("Brownie's honour," says Blinkie, and I know who I believe), but the ticking off was delivered in such a half-hearted, cheery manner that it seemed the iron man had turned to butter. I now know that true blue love had melted his heart.

Spectator parties have long been typified by the free flow of champagne, pheromones and the embarrassingly suggestive proximity to your fellow being that resembles rush hour on a packed Tube train. (The open gallery spaces and cheap wine of Statesman parties are just not as conducive to the same display of low morals and carnal appetites.)

Guests are funnelled through the magazine's cramped premises in Bloomsbury thigh-to-thigh with Michael Howard or Norman Tebbit; and on one truly alarming occasion I found myself teetering on the brink of a deep blue, pitiless void as I squeezed past Thatcher's cantilevered bosom. The shock of such surreal experiences drives guests to drink and to ever wilder flirtation until they're found under a journalist in the bushes at the end of the garden.

Never has there been such a party for being introduced to "my researcher", "my assistant" or, on one memorable occasion, "my lovely young mistress". Nor do any functions match it for the frequent post-party invitations to Le Caprice or The Ivy, or to sample the charms of a discreet hotel.

Compare and contrast with the New Labour bash where a girlfriend was asked by a prominent politico, "Are you a man?" Followed by, "Fancy a curry? But remember you're paying." And a male friend recalls the days, not long gone, when Labour Party girlfriends wouldn't let him have penetrative sex on the grounds that it was "oppressive and patronising" (though with chat-up lines as just mentioned, it probably was). The uncomplicated promiscuity of the Tory pack at full bray can seem like bliss after such joyless negotiations.

The candid lechery of the right can also prove politically expedient. The predominantly Conservative land-owning classes, and those who aspire to their ranks, have long been comfortable with the brand of sexual hypocrisy that goes, "Do as I say, not as I do" - a mantra that can then effortlessly be extended to every area of policy. Labour MPs are hidebound by prolonged bouts of soul-searching, and are further impeded by the puritanical zeal of their leader.

Meanwhile, for many a Tory, "family values" means treating your spouse as considerately as your lover. Traditional right-wing nurture means unnatural closeting in boarding schools, pony clubs and young farmers' associations, which in turn fosters leanings towards recondite practices. For this reason Tory sex scandals have long been more outré than Labour ones.

From Profumo to Piers Merchant to Mellor, the youth and beauty of the girls involved have always demonstrated kinks worthy of de Sade's chronicling.

In truth, most of us could happily end our days without ever brushing skin with a political libido. But if you had to. At gunpoint. Then let's be honest: wouldn't you rather embrace Boris than Tony, Sandra than Cherie?

And if it's a knees-up you're after, my own personal maxim is "Vote whatever, party Tory".

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