Hugo Rifkind Hugo Rifkind

Surely no one goes to a party conference to meet politicians?

One should be wary, as a general rule, of making general rules based on personal experience. This is a general rule I’ve made, admittedly, on the basis of personal experience, which I’m aware is problematic, but there you go. I always think of the time, at school, when a bunch of my fellow 14-year-olds had declared an armistice, and were having a late-night conversation about matters of personal experimentation of which a 14-year-old is normally loath to speak. The guilty and personal was revealed as healthy and universal, and comradely good feeling rose. In time, one boy made a terrible mistake. ‘Guys?’ he said. ‘You know when you do that thing with your thumb?’ And of course nobody did. Because nobody else did that thing with their thumb. I mean, Christ, who does? The freak.

This is my caveat. But still. Guys? You know when you go to party conferences, and you aren’t remotely interested in meeting politicians? I don’t think this is a thumb situation. I think it’s pretty universal. I mean, you know, maybe not; maybe most attendees stand there with a notebook, ticking off the MP for Grockleshire West like a particularly perverse breed of trainspotter. I might just not know. It’s different being a hack, I appreciate that. The big guns of your industry are all milling around, and if you’ve any professional ambition at all it’s surely going to be more attractive speaking to them than to, say, Eric Pickles.

But I don’t think that’s all it is. I really don’t. As a gossip diarist, I moved in various worlds. My status radar, I think, was quite finely attuned. At a film industry party, for instance, as a hack you’re at the bottom. At a business event, you’re so far down you might as well be a waiter.

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