Paul Anderson, Tribune column, 4 August 2006
As some of you might be aware, it’s Tribune’s 70th birthday this coming January — and boy, are we planning a party! I have been given a sneak preview of the celebration plans and can now exclusively reveal what is going to happen (with a bit of luck).
1. Anniversary special issue of Tribune
There will be a special issue of Tribune to mark the anniversary. As in 1987, 1992, 1997 and 2002, nothing will be done to plan the editorial side until two weeks before publication, when a desperate call will be made to the former member of staff who compiled the previous anniversary issue. He or she will be too busy to help. The special issue will therefore contain the same material from the archives that appeared in all previous anniversary issues. No one will notice.
2. Birthday rally in Conway Hall, Red Lion Square, London WC1
No left-wing anniversary would be complete without a rally in Conway Hall. The Tribune 70th birthday celebrations will be kicked off with an event that will rekindle comrades’ memories of the good old days.
Neither the heating nor the lighting will be working properly, so comrades will have the opportunity to savour all this historic venue’s traditional mid-January ambience. The legendary early-1950s public address system will also be in use, so the whole audience will appreciate the back-chat of those on the platform although no one sitting in the gallery will hear a word from any speaker.
The rally will be advertised to start at 7.45pm with eight speakers, but will not get under way until at least 8.15pm as the editor, in the chair, waits for stragglers from the pub. It will in fact comprise 15 speakers, 10 of them representatives of trade unions who have notified the editor the day before that there will be no more funding unless their man is on the platform.
The event will begin with an oration from a foxy international comrade whose command of English is uncertain and who reveals herself, after 30 minutes of fiery anti-imperialist rhetoric, to be an unrepentant admirer of J. V. Stalin. Everyone on the platform will retain rictus grins as the editor makes repeated unsuccessful attempts to bring her diatribe to a close before introducing a member of the Cabinet.
The member of the Cabinet will begin his speech by making it clear he believes he is wearing a famous ceremonial garment, the Mantle of Nye. He will go on to detail the success of the government in reducing paperclip wastage in Whitehall. Thirty minutes into his speech there will be an opportunity for audience participation as Mr Walter Wolfgang and assorted Trotskyist hecklers make an intervention, shouting: “This is rubbish!”, “What about Iraq?” and “You are not wearing the Mantle of Nye and I claim my five pounds!” A Tribune staff member will then pass a note to the editor telling him to get on with it because at this rate the meeting will end after the pubs shut. The editor will ignore it and call Mr Tony Benn to speak.
At 9.25pm, after Mr Benn sits down to warm applause from Mr Wolfgang and the Trotskyist hecklers, the general secretary of the largest trade union that subsidises Tribune will deliver a speech. By 10.55pm, after several other general secretaries and MPs have droned on at length, there will be fewer than two-dozen people in the audience, all either Tribune staff or relatives of the platform speakers. There will then be a collection, which will raise £12.47 and a £5 Argos voucher. There will follow a desperate search for a bar that is still serving and takes Argos vouchers.
3. Celebrity fundraising party, Queer Cavalier restaurant, London WC1
In addition to the traditional rally, Tribune will be holding a celebrity fundraising dinner orgainsed by Zhdanov Jenkins Associates at the exclusive Queer Cavalier restaurant in London’s Soho. Tables will cost a bargain £25,000 for rich bastards from the City who want to get in with Gordon (£2.50 unwaged and Tribune staff and contributors).
The highlight of the event will be a speech by the Chancellor of the Exchequer in which he will hint that he is wearing the Mantle of Nye underneath his suit. He will then make a coded reference — the import of which is made clear only to the political editor of the Daily Mail — to the effect that the owners of Britain’s newspapers can rest assured that the unions can expect no favours.
After the speech, everyone will get hopelessly drunk. At least one pissed hack will say: “I don’t know how to be an opposition journalist. I’m fucked!” — in homage to the great Mr Peter Oborne’s performance at Tribune’s 60th bash in 1997.
4. Article in Guardian Media
The editor will write an upbeat peice about Tribune for the Guardian’s Media supplement. The result will be a four-fold increase in circulation of the Guardian and a 20-fold increase in the circulation of Tribune. Really.