Top 10 political meals
So much has happened since: it is hard to recall that Boris Johnson’s troubles began when he flew back from the Cop26 climate summit for dinner at the Garrick private members’ club on 2 November with Charles Moore, who persuaded him that Owen Paterson must be saved. Thanks to Thomas Penny for suggesting this list.
1. The Last Supper. Yes, thank you Cole Davis, Robert Shrimsley and Philip Goldenberg.
2. Henry I’s “surfeit of lampreys”, 1135. Too many eel-like fish led to his death and thus The Anarchy. Nominated by Arthur Spirling.
3. Richard III’s strawberries, 1483. The king left a council meeting all smiles, saying he would like some strawberries from Archbishop Morton’s garden, and returned a changed man, abruptly ordering the execution of Lord Hastings, his chancellor. Thanks to Douglas Millan.
4. Thomas Jefferson’s dinner party, 1790. Alexander Hamilton and James Madison were “in the room where it happens”: they agreed a site for the capital and the assumption of states’ debt. (Although, as with Granita, the decisions had more or less been already made.) Nominated by Michael Barber, Robert Shrimsley and Geoff Barraclough.
5. Poisoned tea and cakes, 1916. Concerned by the poor progress of the war and his influence over Tsarina Alexandra, Prince Felix Yusopov invited Rasputin over. The rest is history, and a high point of Seventies pop. Thanks to Stewart Slater.
6. Dinner at the Two Continents restaurant, Washington, 1974. Art Laffer, professor of economics at the University of Chicago, drew his curve on a paper napkin for Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney. Foundation of tax-cutting fantasy economics. Another from Stewart Slater.
7. The Granita dinner, 1994. Gordon Brown asked Ed Balls, who was there at the start but who made his excuses and left, what polenta was. He didn’t eat much of the fancy Islington food and dined again later with his team at Westminster, after formally agreeing to stand aside and back Tony Blair for the Labour leadership. Nominated by Philip Goldenberg, Conor Downey, Steven Fogel, Michael Barber, Matt Tee, Joe Ruffles and Mick O’Hare. The Scottish equivalent, the Salmond-Sturgeon steak dinner at Champany Inn, Linlithgow, during the 2004 SNP leadership election, was nominated by Peter Hourston.
8. State dinner to celebrate VE Day, London, 1995. Franjo Tudjman, president of Croatia, drew a map of an ethnically divided Bosnia on a menu for Paddy Ashdown, the Liberal Democrat leader, which was part of Ashdown’s evidence at Slobodan Milosevic’s trial in The Hague for war crimes. Thanks to Philip Goldenberg.
9. Lunch at Gillian Shephard’s house, 2002. Jeffrey Archer was returned to confinement for breaking the terms of day release from open prison. Obscure nomination from Steven Fogel.
10. The White House Correspondents’ Dinner, 2011. Barack Obama roasted Donald Trump, who later got his own back. Thanks to Barry Grogan.
Eleventh bonus nomination from David Boothroyd: Dinner at the Webbs (Sidney and Beatrice) on 11 December 1923, attended by all the leading Labour figures after the general election. Most were wary of taking office as a minority government, but Ramsay MacDonald convinced them.
Honourable mention for Polly Mackenzie and Tim Shipman for Theresa May’s cuisine of choice, chicken lasagne and potatoes, although that wasn’t a single event. And another for James Johns, who recalled John Major’s dislike of “the mimminy pimminy one-bite jobs that the RAF usually provide” when asked for sandwiches on the flight from Edinburgh to London in 1992.
And a final one for Paul T Horgan, who nominated the Peter Mandelson Memorial Dim Sum Dinner, since 2001.
Next week: Myths often used for the opposite of their original message, such as Canute, Cassandra and the Sirens.
Coming soon: MPs alleged to have been spies.
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