This evening I was the guest of honour on a table hosted by a taxi manufacturing company, LTI, at the RADAR People of the Year Awards at the old Billingsgate fish market. (Smell is gone!). RADAR is a charity working for diabled people; in their own words their job is “to promote change by empowering disabled people to achieve their rights and expectations; and by influencing the way that disabled people are viewed as members of society.”
Black tie is always a bit of a struggle when you are at Parliament in meetings or debates and then rushing off. I have developed a really clever outfit. No long dresses for me – but I have a black suit slightly dressier than my normal business uniform, which I wear with a white T-shirt all day – then into the Ladies to change the T-shirt for a gorgeous chiffony evening top which looks really dressy under the suit jacket – and out.
For the Chancellor’s pre-budget statement I am still sporting the white t-shirt. He gave a particularly grumpy performance I thought. Outside of the content – I wonder if Gordon is really going to make it to Prime Minister – or if he does, it won’t be for long and he won’t be popular. Middle-England will desert Labour in droves once he inherits – if he does. Osborne gives a limp response for the Tories and our Shadow Chancellor, Vince Cable, does a really good job. Even Gordon acknowledges publicly the respect he has for Vince.
So between the pre-budget and my next meeting, because of the timing I have to change into my evening gear before my last meeting of the day so arrive seriously over-dressed for a meeting with the Commission for Racial Equality. Trevor Phillips has come to talk through issues with some of us at the House.
At 6pm I run to get a taxi to the ‘do’. The evening is lovely – and my hosts at the table very charming. Unfortunately I get a pager message that there are two votes, possibly three expected at 10pm and so arrange for a cab at 9.30pm to take me back to the Commons. It is a shame as I have to leave after the first two of eight awards. Earlier on there is a deaf comedian who is funny – but actually swears a lot. Now I am no prude (I don’t think) – but I wasn’t too keen on the obscenity side. I myself have been known to let rip on the odd occasion but this was the wrong occasion – wrong place. He was still very good – despite battling with a series of microphones that didn’t work. As he said – ‘how long were you f****ing going to let me go on without telling me’?
These awards are well deserved. The battle in this country for rights for the disabled have been long and hard fought for – and still there is a long way to go. But tonight – from the size and import of the evening itself – you can feel that at long last change is happening.
At 9.30pm precisely Cinderella flees and jumps into her carriage – and sods law – as I arrive at Parliament about 10 minutes before the expected vote – another pager message arrives saying that there are now no votes expected tonight after all! Exasperated, I go into the chamber to listen to the end of the debate very, very cross.