Found myself over the weekend at a party thrown by Virenrda Sharma to commemorate the passing of his first year anniversary as MP for Ealing Southall. On the top table were a number of big names: former long-serving Ealing councillor Hilary Benn, millionaire Labour donor Lord Paul and a Canadian MP who happened to be there all spoke. The proceedings were interrupted for the late arrival of Ken Livingstone, who was apparently arriving for his third dinner of the evening. What started off as a great speech reminiscing how he first knew Virendra almost 30 years ago in the aftermath of the Southall riots never quite recovered after the microphone packed up. When the sound was regained it turned into an attack on/analysis of the dubious status of the new post of Executive Deputy Mayor held apparently by a Tim Parker. It was too much detail for a restless and hungry crowd. Livingstone was hailed by all and sundry as a great Labour figure – his years outside the party conveniently skated over. He also said repeatedly that he intends to stand again – by which time he will be getting on a bit. Anyway it’s for London members to decide, assuming the stitch up of 2000 is not repeated.

Apart from Virendra, man of the match was surely neighbouring MP Steve Pound who was master of ceremonies for the raffle. Prizes may not have included tennis with Tony but there was dinner for two with Keith Vaz and even two return flights to Amritsar. When the statutory House of Commons whiskey came up Poundy quipped “given that Virendra’s a strict brahmin it’s non-alcoholic”. He nominated me to be Anthea to his Brucie for the event. When I drew out a ticket in the three digits he announced it as “exactly the same number of candidates in the Haltemprice and Howden by-election.

If, as Harold Wilson memorably said, a week is a long time in politics a year is an eternity. However things are looking up. Making his debut speaking at a Labour function was Ray Collins, brand new Labour Party general secretary. The Southall crowd also managed to largely drown him out after his opening bits but he looks to be a good thing as was the event all round. Although many a wag could remark that it’ll have been the last Labour victory party for some time, the first opinion poll taken in Glasgow East suggests a Labour hold putting the party 13% ahead of the SNP.

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