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Apologies to Dan for nicking this concept, but life in the gilded cage has thrown up a couple of wonderful old boys. I was fortunate enough last night to be invited to a dinner in honour of John Brademas, congressman for twenty-two years, President of New York University for ten, and now a philanthropist through his charitable foundation. John was majority whip during the Carter Presidency and often had breakfast at the White House: he is planning to write a book on the leadership issues of the era and one of his many foundations is the John Brademas Center for the Study of Congress which hopes to shine the cold light of research on a little understood part of the US system of government.

John was Oxford in the 1950s as a Rhodes Scholar and his PhD thesis centred on the Spanish Anarchist movement. As a huge fan of Orwell, and in particular Homage to Catalonia, I was interested to find out how he conducted his research given that Franco was at the zenith of his power at the time: leftists in Spain were being supressed and any serious insight into the history of the civil war was viewed with good deal of suspicion. The answer, I was told, was to utilise two sources: a large archive in Amsterdam furnished him with a lot of useful information but he said he was also indebted to the head-waiter of a smart Spanish restaurant in London who had been a communist leader in Spain during the war! As the author or sponsor of many important pieces of legislation in the fields of education, the arts and culture, John was a true progressive in Congress, is a patron and advocate of the arts outside, and a tireless fund-raiser for NYU.

The other good old boy was Tony Quinton, a philosopher, Tory peer and former All-Souls Prize Fellow. I was sat next to Tony during dinner and he was a fantastic conversationalist on as wide an array of subjects as could be imagined: I distinctly remember skirting over topics as diverse as MySpace, Gin, and Irish Erotic Literature. Somebody asked him if he still writes to which he replied ‘only cheques these days.’ Top man.