Political parties are like tribes. They defend their own. And in times of stress they circle the wagons and whatever the facts are, whatever the pressures, whatever someone has done wrong, they find excuses and explanations. I was once a very tribal being. Much less so nowadays, unless we’re talking about West Ham of course.

Perhaps part of the reason I never made it into the House of Commons was because I wasn’t tribal enough. Or ruthless enough. I was always someone who could see the other side of the argument rather too easily. That’s often a negative in politics, but for a talk radio presenter it’s actually an asset. If you think about it, it ought to be an asset in politics too, seeing as it enables you better to marshal your arguments and refute those of your opponents.


Derek Draper


One of the most partisan members of the New Labour tribe was Derek Draper, whose funeral I attended on Friday morning in north London. Ed Vaizey and I were the only two right of centre people there, I think, as it really was a gathering of the New Labour clans. They were all there – Tony & Cherie Blair were too rows in front of me, sitting next to Keir Starmer. Ed Balls was directly in front of me and across the way were Peter Mandelson and Ben Wegg-Prosser. Next to me were Jacqui Smith and Ayesha Hazarika. Alastair Campbell was there along with various SPADS from the era. It was quite a service, which lasted two hours 20 minutes. This was largely due to the six or seven tributes paid to Derek by his wife Kate Garraway, his son Billy, his best man, best friend, Tony Blair and his two sisters. Each spoke well, movingly and funnily. Derek’s daughter Darcy had been due to do a tribute too, but instead, Kate read it out, but it contained the best line of anyone there. “I was going to speak, but I’m not following Tony Blair.” You can’t really blame her. Age may be catching up with His Toniness but he’s still a class act and you know he will deliver a good speech. All Kate’s GMB colleagues were there, and Piers Morgan came too. GMB really is a bit of a family, and that was partly why Jacqui Smith and I were very pleased to have been invited.

The service  was rounded off by a song by Sir Elton John, who has been a huge support to Kate and her family since Derek became ill. He sang a song I didn’t know but the church almost vibrated because he really belted it out.

As I have written before, Derek Draper and I had our differences, but he was one of those larger than life characters who made a real difference to many people’s lives, even if he did live on the edge and come a cropper from time to time. Whatever mistakes he may have made in his younger years, he did not deserve to suffer in the way has did since he was hospitalized by Covid in March 2020. No one should have to go through what he and his family have over the last four years.

Derek and I reconciled our differences back in 2019 after he apologized to me for his role in the ‘Smeargate’ affair back in 2009. I will always admire him for his obvious talent and loyalty to his political cause and the fact he could be very funny indeed. Kate, Billy and Darcy have a giant sized hole in their lives and they were all clearly devoted to each other. The family man was a side of Derek few of us got to see. But it’s obvious he was a fantastic husband to Kate and father to Billy and Darcy. That came across in spades during the whole funeral service. It was a privilege to witness.