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The prospects for light-hearted political point-scoring were high at this week’s TechUK annual dinner in London, with Conservative digital economy minister Ed Vaizey and former Labour spin doctor Alastair Campbell booked as guest speakers for the black-tie bash.
First up was Vaizey, who suggested that Campbell was only there to plug his new book, called Winners. “Remember that as a supporter of Labour and Burnley football club, it’s clearly a topic Alastair knows a lot about,” he said.
Campbell then recounted his experience in government of the security services’ paranoia about mobile phones, telling the assembled IT industry leaders how he had to give his phone to his security detail every time he went to another country on government business.
The Labour man then turned to Vaizey and said: “So Ed, given you’re sitting next to an executive from the Ministry of Defence, I wonder what they think about the fact you’ve left your phone charging behind the stage!”
Campbell then pulled a phone from his pocket and said: “And here it is!”
Thoroughly enjoyed panic on @edvaizey face last night when he realized his mobile phone had gone. Schoolboy error to charge out of sight
— Alastair Campbell (@campbellclaret) July 17, 2015
He then proceeded to inform the audience that Ed had received five texts, all saying, “Where are you?”
“Don’t worry Ed. I’ll reply for you,” said Campbell, as he started typing: “Dear Dave, f**k off…”
Campbell also went on to tell a story about the first text he ever received from Tony Blair. The former prime minister was famously shy of technology, and Campbell said Blair never owned a mobile phone until he left government.
“I can remember the very first text he sent me,” said Campbell.
“All it said was: ‘This’. A few minutes later I got another text from him, which said, ‘is amazing’.”
Then another text arrived, according to Campbell, that said: “You can actually send words.” Before one final SMS saying: “On a phone”.
This, from the prime minister that commissioned the notoriously disastrous £12bn NHS National Programme for IT…
Vaizey ended his evening on the receiving end of one last jokey dig from Jacqueline de Rojas, the new president of TechUK and recently lauded as the most influential woman in UK IT by Computer Weekly.
The minister congratulated de Rojas on her Computer Weekly accolade, and proceeded to praise her welcome speech, thanking “Jackie” on 15 occasions.
De Rojas responded on Twitter thanking Vaizey, with the hashtag #noonecallsmejackie. Ed, you’ve been told.
— Jacqueline de Rojas (@JdR_Tech) July 16, 2015