I’d selected Hoggart as an event based purely on his Guardian column. He often makes me laugh and nod at his astute observations, but occasionally annoys me with some of the opinions he holds. So I wanted to hear him speak to see if I was maybe picking him up wrong on things—I wanted to see if I liked him or not.
He’s older than I realised, certainly he’s older than the photoshoppers at the Guardian have made him look in his column avatar, but he does have a killer sense of humour. It’s in the good old-fashioned British/Radio 4 vein, in fact, he reminded me of a more political Terry Wogan in some of his tales.
And that’s pretty much what he came to do. He’s written a book that contains anecdotes and stories about his time as a journalist, and he spent the whole hour hand picking stories about politicians we would rarely get to hear about. He’s met every Prime Minister since Harold MacMillan, so he had plenty to tell us from his book, A Long Lunch.
For example, before David Cameron became Prime Minister, Guardian cartoonist Steve Bell always drew him with a condom over his head. When asked by the then candidate to take over from Gordon Brown, Bell said it was because of “your smooth skin, your texture—it just didn’t work with cling film somehow.”
The Guardian told Bell to stop drawing the condom, but many months later when the two met again after the re-appearance of the condom on the now PM’s head, Cameron was more forced with his demand as to why it had returned. “Because there were so many complaints from readers that it had been removed,” said Bell. Cameron turned away muttering: “You can push the condom too far, you know.”
If you’re into the idiosyncratic humour of Westminster, this book by Hoggart will very much be for you.