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Sunday, November 27, 2022

Office parties are hell for all of us — surely a PM can get out of them?

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s there a more lukewarm ticket than an invite to an office party? In the hierarchy of things that we could do with losing post-lockdown, work dos are surely high on the list. Don’t we all dream of an end to Pringles and tepid Sauvignon blanc on the third floor, closing your eyes as the nauseous soundtrack of Spotify’s “cheesy bangers” plays tinnily from the head of HR’s Bluetooth speaker? 

Wouldn’t we all like to live in a world where you never again have to schlep to a three-star central London hotel on a Monday night — the only night your company could afford the “Belle Époque” function room (the irony, at least, is free) — where you get stuck talking to the chief executive’s furious teenage daughter, the only person having a worse time than everyone else?

I mention this because Boris Johnson — yep, still Prime Minister — allegedly plans to argue that he attended a series of lockdown-breaking parties (yes, those ones) as part of his regular working day. Like, they were parties, but they were parties in a more important way: they were work obligations. So he sees parties the same way that you or I might regard a tricky meeting, say — except, of course, Boris doesn’t think of himself as you or I, which I think might be the whole problem. 

Anyway, on a scale of one to facetious, this reminds me of the sort of ill-fated ruse I used to try on my parents as a teenager (“No, everyone around me was smoking, Mum! I asked them to stop but no one listened.”). Spoiler alert: they didn’t buy it. 

Because surely (surely!) if you have to — compulsorily — attend a work party, then being Prime Minister really can’t be all it’s cracked up to be. While I don’t think the office of PM should afford you a get-out-of-jail-free-card for everything, I reckon with parties, you’d probably be allowed to pull rank and skip the work do. Mainly because you definitely had bigger fish to fry (see: pandemic). Not to mention that at the time such parties were, technically, very verboten.

Boz, you’re missing a trick. After all, even underlings know the first thing you do when emailed an invite to “sausage-rolls-and-karaoke” (location: “the kitchen!!!!”) is to set a reminder to invent an “emergency” (childcare/family) three hours before “party time” starts. If you don’t have children, bad luck — although if memory serves, I think Boris has several. But I find “embarrassing and very personal medical procedure” also does the trick. 

For surely, even at Number 10, having to wear lipstick to stand by your desk listening to your line manager make a sanitised speech about a departing colleague (“spirited” = “megalomaniac”) is a miserable occasion? Ditto, helping a drunk, stricken intern who’s upended their prosecco into the photocopier. To be honest, if Boris has been attending these events out of a sense of duty, then perhaps he actually has one, which would be a real turn-up for the books.

In other news…

Inventing Anna is great, but it’s time we dropped the female journalist clichéInventing Anna, a new Netflix show (seriously) dramatising the saga of the Manhattan scammer-socialite Anna Delvey is soapy and ridiculous and plenty of fun. Although I’m slightly over its female journalist character Vivian Kent already. 

She’s played by (the wonderful) Anna Chlumsky, and no faulting her erudite performance but as a female journalist, I do wonder if every single one of us has to be portrayed on screen as a sort of shabby, earnest type, given lines so clichéd you wince (“I give good story”) and whose modus operandi when working on any feature is to create one of those mad, labyrinthine wall charts with pictures of people of interest connected by pieces of twine? Inevitably, Kent also has a husband who doesn’t quite understand why The Story matters so much. Been there, seen that…

Do you dread office parties? Let us know in the comments below.

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