Celebrities and Labour apparatchiks out for fundraising dinner

Patrick Stewart, Janet Street-Porter, Keir Starmer and others gathered in London – just don't call it Cool Britannia

It has been billed as the "hottest fundraising party of the summer" featuring DJ sets from stars such as Eliza Doolittle. But before the Camden Beach opening party at London's Roundhouse later this month, the same venue played host to a slightly less cool fundraiser, featuring such delights as the chance to win an opportunity to take on Ed Balls and colleagues at five-a-side football.

That's not to say that Labour's pre-election gala, hosted by Stephen Fry, did not have some celebrity glamour to boast of. Patrick Stewart, Voice winner Jermain Jackman and the author Kathy Lette with husband Geoffrey Robinson QC were all among the early arrivals.

The artist and longtime Labour donor Grayson Perry was also there, accompanied by his wife, as were Melvyn Bragg and Lord Mandelson accompanied by Janet Street-Porter and Tony Blair's spin doctor Alastair Campbell.

Labour leader Ed Miliband arrives with his wife, Justine Thornton.
Labour leader Ed Miliband arrives with his wife, Justine Thornton. Photograph: Graeme Robertson Photograph: Graeme Robertson

The Labour MP Peter Hain said members of the art world who might have deserted Labour in the past, after the Cool Britannia era, were coming home: "This is a really important part of our efforts to prepare for the next election.

"A lot of people from the arts world and from the world of entertainment, who may have been alienated over Iraq and other things and who may not have decided to vote are now coming back to us because they realise what is at stake."

Asked if artists were once again embracing Labour, Perry said: "I think they are coming back because there is no alternative. Artists are very practical people and people who want to get things done." Asked if he believed Ed Miliband was such a person, he said: "We will find out."

Alastair Campbell, former spin doctor of Tony Blair.
Alastair Campbell, former spin doctor of Tony Blair. Photograph: Graeme Robertson Photograph: Graeme Robertson

If there were any union leaders attending the event, they did not go in through the main entrance.

The author Jeanette Winterson who attended the event said she agreed that artists were coming back to Labour. She said: "People in the arts tend to be on the left. We tend to be social democratic. On Miliband, she said: "He's an honest guy. I like him. We live in a complex world and Ed recognises that."

The event, where Labour's front bench and party apparatchiks had dinner, was targeted by a protest outside by people who said the Labour-controlled Lambeth council was threatening them with eviction from their homes. The controversy involves properties which were squatted in during the 1970s but which were handed over to housing co-operatives in the early 1980s.

Julian Hall, who was protesting with others from Lambeth United Housing Co-Operative, said: "We want to leave no stone unturned in our campaign and tonight we wanted to make sure that Labour's frontbench and others got the message loud and clear."

At Labour Party gala dinner. Grayson Perry introducing Ed Milliband, with mischievous irreverence ...& neon stilettos pic.twitter.com/qoTEgE4TGJ

— Kathy Lette (@KathyLette) July 9, 2014

Other famous names who walked up the green, rather than red, carpet included Keir Starmer, the former director of public prosecutions, now touted as a future Labour MP; David Morrissey, currently starring in the Walking Dead; and Anji Hunter, the director of government relations under the Blair administration.

Loving Ed Milliband's tales of his wild youth in Camden - scoring his 1st Rubik cube & playing chess behind bikeshed pic.twitter.com/1pDpxFveKt

— Kathy Lette (@KathyLette) July 9, 2014

Although the press were not permitted to attend, many of those inside tweeted about the evening. Kathy Lette said that Grayson Perry had introduced the Labour leader onstage with "mischievous irreverence ...& neon stilettos".

They're bidding for th Grayson Perry work now. Reached £35k. Frozen in terror, can't reach my wine pic.twitter.com/QD9PKdjmwD

— Neil Crombie (@crombieneil) July 9, 2014

The author added that she was "loving Ed Milliband's tales of his wild youth in Camden - scoring his 1st Rubik cube & playing chess behind bikeshed".

The Bafta-winning director and producer Neil Crombie tweeted that a work by Grayson Perry, who had offered a ceramic emblazoned with the words "Vote Labour", had gone for £42,000. He added that the opportunity to play football with Ed Balls and others had gone for £13,000.

Jay Stoll, public affairs director at the Jewish Leadership Council, tweeted: "It's all gone bizarre as Stephen Fry launches into speech on Operation Yewtree. Talks about necessary belief in legal system. #LabourGala."


Ben Quinn

The GuardianTramp

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