Partygate: Boris Johnson's Commons leaving-do is hopefully being planned in secret right now as his political career crumbles – Susan Morrison
Whether it was good riddance or sorry to see you go, the deal was always the same. A Leaving Committee spontaneously convened, and like the escape committees so beloved of WW2 prisoner-of-war camps, their work had to be carried out in secret. No idea why. Everyone knew Marjory or Mike was leaving.
The card was acquired, then spirited about from desk to desk to be signed. You could see it pass through the office. We looked like pirates passing on the black spot. It would land on desks to be greeted by wild-eyed panic as people looked up, then hunkered down to scribble a few carefully chosen words. Then, with the skill of a KGB field officer passing vital information to the CIA, it was passed along the chain.
The sensible ones checked who the card was for. I once had to race to RS MColls to get a replacement after one senior manager wished the happy leaver an easy birth and lovely baby. Our leaving lad was called Tom and he had joined the Army. This, to me, was a salutary lesson. Never let anyone on the Fifth Floor anywhere near cards, leaving gifts or anything, in fact.
Once the card was sorted, money was collected covertly in corners. It looked like we were running a protection racket. The cake, sarnies from Marks and Spencers, a bottle or two of something, and a gift, were then smuggled in under our coats. We’d turned into Party Spivs.
A member of management would be wheeled out to say A Few Words. This was usually vetted by the Leaving Committee, since there had been issues in the past. Getting the wrong person (see above), saying something inappropriate (please don’t mention what happened at the office Christmas Party last year), or droning on.
This being back in the 90s, all of this took place in the office. We had a pretty laid-back approach to workplace boozing back then, with attendant hazards. It was wise to knock before entering the photocopy room, and top tip, never vomit into an open-wire waste paper basket.
Now, I would have thought that working at Number 10 was anything but dull, especially during a major world event like a pandemic. So it was rather a surprise to discover that lo and behold, the leaving-do survived Covid restrictions, and not just farewell bashes. We’re looking at the potential revival of the Great British Office Party.
They had cards, cake and a pressie and at one event they used a suitcase to smuggle in booze. Clever. We never thought of that. Abba was heard playing far too loud. Cheering to note that someone chucked up in a cupboard. Some traditions never die. Breaking a child’s swing was a new one on me, but that’s only because we didn’t have access to one.
Oh, what a shame, they didn’t seem to run to balloons for the party. Never mind, they had that bumbly senior manager to come down and say a few words. Outside that party, remember, other people were forced into quite different farewells. Some of those were permanent.
Goodbye Boris. Good riddance.