I don’t know what came over me. Of all the events to take a BMX-loving, YouTube-obsessed fifteen-year-old to, why did I choose a talk by Peter Mandelson to celebrate the publication of The Third Man? The LSE was packed for the occasion, which saw Times editor James Harding quiz the ex-business secretary on everything from the Blair years to the fevered days following the May 2010 election. At a guess, around half of the audience had bought Lord Mandelson’s book too – there were an awful lot of them carrying distinctive red and black Foyles bags
But if the rest of the audience was gripped, my son wasn’t one of them. The only time he sat up and listened intently was during the question and answer session, when someone in the audience asked whether the politician had ever played “shoot, shag and marry?” “Who would you do what to out of David Cameron, Nick Clegg and George Osborne?” To his credit, Mandelson didn’t duck the question (I’m sure an awful lot of others would). “What should I say?” he asked, clearly stunned. “Help! Which one would I shag? Well, if I shagged anyone else I would be shot by my partner and the same goes for marrying. As for the shooting, I’m too benign a creature…”
One of Mandelson’s most fascinating revelations was his longing to have his “Foy back.” You what? I reckon most of the audience, like me, didn’t have a clue what he was on about at first. But then it became clear that he meant the two-up, two-down weekend cottage in the village of Foy, Herefordshire he owned till 1992. “It was everything to me as a place,” he said rather sweetly. Interestingly, he’s clearly so fond of it that the title he took when he was elevated to the House of Lords was Baron Mandelson of Foy in the county of Herefordshire and Hartlepool in the county of Durham.
My son, still stony-faced, paid no attention to this disclosure. “Has he nearly finished?” he asked in a loud stage whisper. Note to self: Next time I take him to London, book a movie. Or better still, a session at a BMX park.