The cost-of-living crisis might be gripping the country but there was no sign of that at the Tories' summer party last night. Held in the sumptuous setting of Kensington's Victoria & Albert Museum, the party put aside its various troubles for one night at least – not least claims about a potential conflict of interest for party co-chair and V&A trustee Ben Elliot.
Well-heeled attendees such as property tycoon Nick Candy and his wife singer Holly Vallance were forced to run the gauntlet after dozens of workers from the Public and Commercial Services Union and John McDonnell turned up to picket the event. Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries was booed upon her arrival while former investment banker Lubov Chernukhin clearly hasn't let past controversies trouble her as the largest female political donor in history marched in flashing smiles.
Inside the soirée, there was no sign of any belt-tightening as more than 200 guests tucked into fine cuts of beef, salmon tartare and passionfruit meringues with lashings of red. Premium tables for ten went for £20,000 each; standard ones for £12,500, with guests sharing pictures of the glamorous bash on Instagram. Priti Patel, Liz Truss and Sajid Javid were among those who attended the evening. But the star of the night was undoubtedly Boris Johnson who, hours after his hospitalisation with a minor sinus problem, showed up for a short spell, snapping pictures and swapping jokes with attendees.
And it's a good thing that the Tory leader is back on form, judging from much of the excited talk about one of the auction items with which he is involved: a meal with David Cameron and Theresa May, dubbed 'the dinner of the century'. That went for a cool £120,000: an impressive sum, though still someway off the £300,000 which donors paid to have the first dinner with Johnson after he became PM in July 2019.
A CCHQ spokesman told Mr S: 'Fundraising is a legitimate part of the democratic process. The alternative is more taxpayer-funding of political campaigning, which would mean less money for frontline services like schools, police and hospitals – or else, being in the pocket of union barons, like the Labour Party.'
Other items included a trip to South Africa, shooting in Market Harborough and a visit to Chelsea versus Arsenal. Talk about being a glutton for punishment. Still, it's the prospect of dining with Johnson and the two predecessors he helped defenestrate which really makes for sobering thought. Let's just hope he's still PM by the time it actually gets held...