WHERE’S THE BEEF?
Wednesday, 23 December 1998. The political world was absorbed in the intrigue of Labour MP Geoffrey Robinson’s undisclosed home loan to Peter Mandelson. The scandal was threatening to bring down Geoffrey, Peter and, in the process, Gordon Brown’s media adviser and my good friend, Charlie Whelan, who had been accused of leaking the details.
I was simultaneously absorbed in my and Yvette’s usual last-minute dash to the airport to fly out for a Christmas break in Italy, where my dad had moved for work. Our luggage was packed full of assorted presents and foodstuffs, including a carefully chosen, very expensive joint of British beef, my mum’s favourite.
Yvette’s father was behind the wheel as we pulled into Heathrow when my pager bleeped with a text: ‘CALL ME URGENTLY GORDON.’
I called him, while tripping through the usual travel checklist in my mind: passport, wallet, presents, and realised with a sudden jolt that we had left the prime joint back in the fridge at Yvette’s parents’ Hampshire home.
Gordon’s voice blared out from my phone: ‘Have you seen the news? Mandelson’s resigned!’ I barely heard him. I just looked across at Yvette with horror, and said: ‘Where’s the beef?!’ As Yvette began a frantic and fruitless search of the back seat, Gordon yelled down the phone, incredulous: ‘What do you mean, “Where’s the beef?” That is the beef! Mandelson’s resigned!’
I looked helplessly at Yvette. ‘What are we going to do?’ An increasingly exasperated Gordon shouted: ‘There’s nothing to be done! He’s gone!’ Calculating the timings in my head, I asked Yvette: ‘Is it too late to turn back?’ Gordon’s voice boomed out from the speaker on my phone: ‘THERE’S NO TURNING BACK NOW!
You can read more extracts from my new book, Speaking Out (published September 6th) and my interview with Ann Treneman, in today’s Times magazine.