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Pipe down, prime minister - me first

Our columnist finds himself putting David Cameron and a police commissioner in their places

Published 24 October 2010
News Review
901st article


Michael and David Cameron chat at the unveiling of the memorial to Gary Toms in Ashlin Road, Leyton, east London (Dwayne Senior)

The Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis, Sir Paul Stephenson, was speaking at my Police Memorial Trust ceremony to pay tribute to the slain officer PC Gary Toms in Newham, east London. He ended with, "I introduce to you the prime minister, David Cameron."

Mr Cameron was about to start speaking when I stuck my head near the microphone and announced to 400 police officers and 200 civilians, "Far be it from me to stop the prime minister before he's started, but Sir Paul should not have introduced the PM as I have things to say." David Cameron looked a bit confused, as well he might, and sat down.

I said, "Sir Paul, you were not meant to introduce the PM. Naughty Paul, naughty Paul." I carried on with various information I always give out at this point in our police ceremonies. Including reading a card sent with flowers from Ed Miliband.

Then I introduced the prime minister, who gave an exceptionally good speech. When we got to the reception afterwards, police came up to me saying, "Anyone who tells the commissioner off, we like."

In all fairness (why should I suddenly be fair?) Sir Paul is a particularly decent person and, as far as I know, a good commissioner. David Cameron impressed me greatly. I had just persuaded myself to vote Tory at the last election. When I turned up at the polling booth they said, "Your house is not on the electoral register."

"It's the biggest house in the area. I've lived there since 1946 - wha'd'ya mean 'not on the register'?" I protested.

Mr Cameron did a great job of working the reception room, talking to the police. I thought he had charisma and charm and seemed very together. If he stands firm he could be a very great prime minister.

I'll ensure I'm on the register so I can vote for him next time, if he doesn't blot his copybook.

At these ceremonies I place memorials to officers where they were killed. The catering at this one was superb. I chose Philip Crowther, who's cooked for me at home. He's a lovely person and always does well.

On this occasion his sausage rolls, made the previous night, were flaky and fresh. The best ever. His strudel of salmon with basil was most elegant, his caramelised red onion and herb tartlets, superb. I can, hand on heart (if I've got one - a heart, not a hand), totally recommend Crowthers Catering.

Also present was Boris Johnson. His first words to me were, "I read you're going to vote for Ken Livingstone. Ridiculous. You can't do that." I like Boris. He's so Borissy. Adds a marvellous touch of eccentricity to any event. I said, "Boris, if you change the traffic lights at the bottom of the Mall so I can get into Trafalgar Square without a half-hour delay, I'm yours."

Boris complained to David Cameron that property developers should pay a rent for taking over lanes of public roads. Apparently, it needs a law passed by parliament. Boris is right. The Candy brothers make a fortune building their ghastly monstrosity, One Hyde Park. We sit in traffic jams.



  • Last Monday, same day as my police ceremony, I hosted a very different event in the evening.

    A champagne reception at the Belvedere, Holland Park, where the Sunday Times Winner's Dinners awards were given out by Michael Caine, Andrew Lloyd Webber and the delightful Barbara Windsor.

    Leading folk in the hotel and restaurant game flew in from all over the world. Guests included Rebekah Brooks, chief executive of News International, Tim Rice, Richard Caring, Chris Rea, Terry O'Neill and other lovely people. There was a hiccup when Michael Caine announced the first award: lifetime achievement for Jeremy King and Chris Corbin. I'd left the awards at home. They're pretty scrappy anyway.

    This award ceremony was not only the most distinguished in the catering game; it was far and away the quickest. We galloped through 13 awards in 12 minutes. If that doesn't qualify for the Guinness World Records, what does? Pierre Koffmann got best UK chef, John Williams of the Ritz best hotel chef, Scott's best UK restaurant, Gildo Bocchini of the Gstaad Palace best restaurant manger, Hans Meier of the Setai, Miami, best hotel manager. To read the full list, plus my recent reviews and masses of indiscreet tales of me dining with famous people from Simon Cowell, through Sophia Loren to OJ Simpson, buy the book Unbelievable! My Life in Restaurants and Other Places from The Sunday Times Bookshop (0845 271 2135) at the knock-down price of £13.59, including postage. In shops: £16.99. Or on the internet. If you write in, I'll send a signed sticker inscribed to whoever you want with a hand-drawn cartoon on it. The Sunday Times Bookshop will also see you get the sticker on its books. PS: My signed photos are going like wildfire but remain in stock. The embossed invitations to my birthday party ran out. A replacement personally signed invite to my book launch party also ran out.

    So we're now sending a lovely photo of Geraldine and me in 1957, signed by me. It helps to give us your address. Many don't.



    Michael's missives

    I'm disappointed at Michael's lack of a sense of public duty. Rather than having that massive 75th birthday bash, he should have bought some badly needed aircraft for our second aircraft carrier.
    Tim Burton, Berkshire

    Don't know why David Cameron asked Sir Philip Green to investigate waste in government. He should just have asked you to come and get spending. Forty pounds a couple for invitations! You could stimulate the national economy in less than a week.
    Marcia Yeates, Hertfordshire

    Please send me an invitation to grace my mantelpiece. It won't look out of place next to my daughter's invite to a Ronald McDonald party.
    Cheryl Tomlinson-Jones, Lancashire

    If I write in for one of your "fantastic embossed party invitations", does that mean I actually have to go to the party?
    Mark Evans, Cap d'Antibes, France

    I'd love to have your party invitation. My mantelpiece is 59 inches long. Will it fit? Pauline Liardet, Wiltshire I counted 10 candles on your birthday cake. Presumably to denote your mental age!
    David Keeble, Staffordshire

    Send letters to Winner's Dinners, The Sunday Times, 1 Pennington Street, London E98 1ST, or email michael.winner@sunday-times.co.uk