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Cheers all round

Who's Best to Host the Party?

On the last day before the first round of the Tory leadership election, the five candidates have been wooing wavering MPs with a round of glittering cocktail parties.

At swish soirees within the square mile of Westminster, potential supporters were offered fine wines and canapes. All, that is, except potential backers turning up for Kenneth Clarke's "do" which, characteristically, sounded more like an evening at the pub.

The former chancellor hosted his party at the Institution of Civil Engineers, opposite the Palace of Westminster, where beer and cheap wine were on offer with cheese-and-onion crisps.

Guto Hari's Party Report

Hague: bubbly and canapes

In contrast, the 36-year-old "moderniser" William Hague opted for the Carlton Club in St James's, a bastion of High Toryism.

Guests, including Lord Parkinson and former Tory spin doctor Charles Lewington, were served nouveelle cuisine and "South Yorkshire's best champagne".

Michael Howard's event will took place at the same time in former Treasury Minister Jonathan Aitken's opulent house in Lord North Street.

Thirsts were quenched by Laurent-Perrier champagne provided by party host, multi-millionaire industrialist Lord Hanson - famed for his lavish entertaining.

The 150 invited guests, including financier Sir Evelyn Rothschild and advertising guru Lord Saatchi, nibbled on posh canapes.
Redwood: scones and Pimm's

St Stephen's Club in Queen Anne's Gate was the setting for Eurosceptic Peter Lilley's party, where gin and tonics, upmarket sandwiches and "delights" on sticks were up for grabs from 5pm.

Millionaire novelist Lord Archer, former Education Secretary Gillian Shephard were in attendance along with David "Two Brains" Willetts, the Tories' election mastermind.

Right-winger John Redwood was playing the role of the English gentleman by opting for traditional summer fare for backers at his gathering in Commons Dining Room A.

Scones and strawberries were washed down with Pimm's and tea by a "wide range" of MPs, including former Agriculture Minister Angela Browning, according to Mr Redwood's backers.

But the battle for the most lavish party, stylish host or the most swanky surroundings was probably, in the end, in vain. Some Westminster watchers feared that by 8pm, many Tory MPs were unable to remember who hosted which party.

Diana, Princess of Wales, 1961-1997

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