Jacko's tour of Westminster is simply off the wall

By Paul Waugh Deputy Political Editor
Wednesday 04 December 2013 03:16
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He has always been a little Off the Wall, but Michael Jackson surpassed even his own bizarre reputation yesterday when he embarked on an impromptu sightseeing tour of the Palace of Westminster.

In one of the most surreal sights Parliament has witnessed in recent years, the pop superstar and his entourage staged a whirlwind visit to the House of Commons and the House of Lords.

As well as his own make-up artist, bodyguards and doctor, Jackson was accompanied by the spoon-bending mystic Uri Geller, the Labour peer Lord Janner of Braunstone, the American magician and escapologist David Blaine and the singer Patti Boulaye. Oh, and Prince Philip of Yugoslavia.

The Jackson roadshow saw the libraries and chambers of the two parliamentary houses before meeting Lord Irvine of Lairg, the Lord Chancellor, and attending a birthday party for Paul Boateng, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury.

Jackson was invited by Lord Janner, who arranged the guided tour as a favour to his friend Mr Geller. Jackson was best man at Mr Geller's wedding.

The multimillionaire singer arrived at Westminster in one of a fleet of blacked-out limousines. News of his presence soon drew crowds of Commons staff and tourists.

As soon as Jackson stepped from his car, a bodyguard appeared with an umbrella to protect the star from the sun. The singer declared the Lords chamber, resplendent in its Pugin-designed glory, to be his favourite part of the Palace. At one stage, he pointed at the Queen's gold throne and said: "I want that!" He was less impressed by the seats in the Commons. He briefly sat on one of the benches and asked: "Are they comfortable after hours and hours?"

Jackson said of Parliament: "It's incredible. I'm impressed by the architecture the most. And I have never seen such beautiful art." His hefty entourage included one assistant who brushed the singer's hair at regular intervals. Jackson dabbed at his own face with a make-up sponge.

The singer spent some 20 minutes with Lord Irvine, a politician who himself wears perhaps the most outlandish outfit in Parliament. The tour also took in the Prince's Chamber, the Robing Room and the Lords Library where Blaine asked for a book called The Discovery of Witchcraft only to be disappointed by the attendant.

In the Royal Gallery and Robing Room, Jackson was mobbed by tourists but took time to shake hands and sign autographs. Lord Janner said: "You do realise people are much more interested in you than the Prime Minister?"Schoolchildren shrieked in delight as the star performed the first step of his moonwalk.

The Tory MP Peter Bottomley explained the lobby system to Jackson before the group moved to the Commons terrace and sang "Happy Birthday" to a stunned Mr Boateng, with Jackson doing the harmony. Mr Boateng, who was celebrating with his wife and four children, said: "What a fantastic birthday surprise. I can't believe it."

Later, Jackson left for Paddington and a private train to visit Exeter City football club, of which he is to be made an honorary director. Asked if he liked football, Jackson looked puzzled. "Oh, you mean saaacker! I know nothing about it." It seemed rude to point out his country had just reached the last 16 of the World Cup.

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