I promised to report back on Monday's night party but the Telegraph has done it for me - see HERE. There's not a lot more to add, but here are some highlights:
We were joined by 400 guests, some of whom travelled from as far afield as Inverness, Edinburgh, Glasgow, the North East (of England), Cornwall and even Holland. Guests included 12 MPs (all Tories) and eight (or was it nine?) peers. I can't confirm they were all present and correct - you'll just have to take my word for it. There simply wasn't time, either to speak to everyone personally, or ask guests to sign a register.
The media turned out in force, camera crews jostling for position and for interviewees. There were TV crews from Germany, France, Greece and Japan, which created quite a buzz. Domestically, ITV sent a crew to record interviews for Tonight With Trevor McDonald. Radio 4's long-running consumer programme You and Yours did likewise. But the big excitement (for me) was the appearance of Stephanie Flanders, former advisor to the US Treasury and now the economics correspondent on Newsnight, recording interviews to be broadcast on (I think) Friday June 29th, BBC2.
Journalists included Sue Carroll (Daily Mirror), Rod Liddle (Sunday Times and Spectator), Peter McKay (Daily Mail), John Walsh (Independent) and Adam Edwards (Daily Telegraph). The hospitality industry was represented by Paul Waterston (Scottish Licensed Trade Association) and Nick Bish (Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers). Other guests included Sue Brealey (co-author, The Joy of Smoking), Phil May (The Pretty Things), and inventor Trevor Baylis (former Pipesmoker of the Year). Some people booked whole tables, among them cigar importers Hunters & Frankau and the Institute of Ideas.
Antony Worrall Thompson, Claire Fox and Andrew Neil all gave excellent speeches - well received by a lively and appreciative audience who roared their approval every time anyone criticised the government! I compered - sort of - and read out messages from some of those unable to attend, including Lord Tebbit, Joe Jackson, Oscar-winning playwright Ronald Harwood, artist Maggi Hambling ("From now on it's even more important to smoke"), and screenwriter Alan Plater.
The lyrics to Plater's song 'I'm Going Outside', featured on the Forest/Boisdale CD You Can't Do That!, were printed on the reverse of the menu. After the speeches, the song was performed live by the Boisdale Blue Rhythm Band. Hitherto the band had played, in the background, the perfect music to match the boisterous mood.
Last but not least, the 'formal' part of the evening finished with a stirring live performance of the Monty Python classic, 'Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life'. Until that point (11.00pm) hardly a single unit of alcohol had passed my lips. I shall draw a veil over later events.
Sue Carroll, a guest on Monday, has written an excellent piece in the Mirror HERE, quoting Andrew Neil and Claire Fox. As a result of that, Sue is appearing on BBC Radio 4's The Moral Maze tonight at 8.00pm. Also on the programme is regular panellist - Claire Fox!