Speaking with the enemy, piano shenanigans and the last lobbyist standing in Brighton

As I prepare to leave Brighton, here goes a few rather hazy recollections from last night:

It’s midnight at The Grand Hotel. The bar is eight-deep and the public affairs community is out in force. Deep in the throng, I spy ubiquitous Bell Pottinger top lobbyist Peter Bingle chatting jovially to David Hencke, the former Guardian hack who not so long ago wrote that Bingle had landed the Tories in a cash-for-access row.

No hard feelings then, Peter?

Moments later Culture Secretary Ben Bradshaw is leading a merry sing-song around the piano. The man with an impressive talent for tinkling the ivory is none other than former ITV corporate affairs chief and one-time special adviser Jim Godfrey (now boss of PR firm GallieGodfrey). But the award for most enthusiastic participant goes to Lansons Communications boss Tony Langham for his belting contribution to classics including I’m A Believer, Hey Jude and Jerusalem.

Get that man to a kareoke party!

Time to check out the Hilton next door. It’s more restrained here. APPC chair is Robbie MacDuff chatting away by the bar. Sovereign Strategy consultant Jon Midgley, who happens to bear a remarkable resemblance to The Think Of It’s Olly Reeder, is reclined in a comfy-looking armchair, deep in conversation with two mystery characters. Hanover boss Charles Lewington makes a late appearance, but by 3am it’s thinning out here.

Back to the Grand. Previous stalwarts such as Bingle, Lionel Zetter, Rory O’Neil and John Lehal appear to have called it a night already. Labour Twitter tsar Kerry McCarthy is still in circulation, as is Caroline Flint. But where are all the lobbyists? As 4am approaches, the award for last lobbyist standing is looking like a two-way fight between Insight Public Affairs consultant Amanda Stuart and Hanover director James Gurling. Who will crack first?

As Stuart heads for the exit door, we have a winner! Gurling accepts the news of his imminent award with good grace, and even reveals his secret to avoiding a stonking hangover: a pint of flat coke.

Cheers James!


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