Christmas gifts

The festive delights of the CLP fundraiser

Christmas means one thing in politics: dinners. Lots and lots of dinners. The jewel in the crown of this season is the constituency fundraiser. It’s traditional at Christmas that gifts come in threes, so here are the three treats you should look out for at yours …

Gold: The speaker

The only thing older than the CLP secretary at a good fundraiser will be the jokes and anecdotes of the keynote speaker. Expect plenty of stories that have a payoff like: ‘So he said, “Minister, let’s have a charm offensive.” I said, “OK, I’ll be charming and you be offensive”.’ Cue guffaws and wild applause. Like an X Factor judge, speakers will remind us what ‘tonight’ is all about. No doubt we’ll be told that ‘tonight is all about ending the cost of living crisis’. Is it? I thought tonight was about drinking Herculean amounts of lager and watching other people bid for tat.

Every visiting speaker duly obliges in heaping glutinous praise on the local member of parliament. Judging by the comments of their peers, every single MP in Britain must work exceptionally hard, be highly influential and be universally popular. Does a visiting speaker ever tell the truth about their host? ‘Well, what can I say about Nick? Not a great deal as I haven’t seen him for three years, the lazy git. I think the last time I saw him he was goosing an intern in the Marriott. Weren’t you, Nick? You lad!’

Frankincense: Auction man

‘Now this is a special piece. A bottle of House of Commons whisky signed by all the unsuccessful 2007 deputy leadership candidates. I’ll start the bidding at five pounds. What was that, sir? Lower? But that’s less than the bottle cost.’ God bless whoever has to auction the stuff at fundraisers. I did it one year and it’s not easy. You’re part genial host, part market trader. ‘Oh wow, this is … wow. If I wasn’t running the auction I’d be bidding on this. A box of 100 fag lighters, which usually retail for 70p each. I’ll do you the lot for 20 nicker, how’s that sound, girl? It’s a steal at twice the price, darling. Tell you what, cos I like you and the sun’s out, I’ll throw you in a ten deck of Bensons. Done.’

You never see anything really impressive being auctioned at a Christmas dinner. When have you ever seen someone on the Antiques Roadshow with an item worth thousands being questioned on where they got it and answering ‘Bosworth CLP fundraiser’?  The only fun comes in seeing which politicians are seen as the most valuable. Will the Ed Miliband-signed speech raise more money than the Ed Balls one? You’d hope so in his own constituency.

Myrrh: The raffle

If you don’t want to bid on something, at least put a few quid in the raffle. I’ve been lucky a couple of times. Once I won a signed copy of Tony Blair’s first speech as prime minister (which I framed and gave to my mum for Christmas). Another time I won a bottle of GMB whisky (which I gave to myself for breakfast). Brace yourself as you ogle the prizes on offer because, if you’ve given your MP a gift in the last year, there’s a good chance that a very similar-looking gift is now being offered as a collective raffle prize along with a box of Maltesers and an extension lead. You can’t be precious, though, as it’s all in a good cause. Who’s going to pay for all those leaflets that no one reads?

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Matt Forde is a stand-up comedian and talkSPORT presenter. He used to work for the Labour party www.mattforde.com

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Photo: vastateparksstaff

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