Magazine article The Spectator

Diary

Magazine article The Spectator

Diary

Article excerpt

Another Ark fundraising dinner has come and gone and I can finally get back to running my business. More importantly I can focus on the programmes that the dinner paid for. The stress started in January as Ian Wace (my partner in Ark) and I planned a thousand details for Europe's largest charity event. It was worth it. Not only was this year's dinner at the Old Royal Naval College in Greenwich the most magnificent and magical to date but we managed to raise £25.8 million in one night. It is a fabulous sum considering that most of our donors come from the financial sector and have been witnessing torrid events in the past few months. In the end it is only marginally less than the £26.6 million we raised in 2007 when everything was riding so high. I am profoundly grateful to everyone who made it such a special evening.

Ark, the charity I am chairman of, has in the past six years changed the lives of more than 65,000 children, in eastern Europe, Southern Africa and here in Britain, where education is breaking down in our inner cities. There is still much to be done. Last year, when Bill Clinton spoke at our dinner, we formed an alliance with his Foundation and are now providing training for medical technicians in Mozambique. I travelled to see a number of Ark projects in Africa last summer and met Clinton at Nelson Mandela's 89th birthday party in Johannesburg. We then visited six countries in five days. Clinton's energy and his ability to absorb information are off the chart. It is all the more amazing considering he doesn't sleep much at all. It is an inspiration to see the work of the Clinton Foundation in the field.

I would like to say here and now that -- despite his allegation to the contrary -- I did not pat Tony Blair on the bottom.

It was on the lower part of his back. Tony gave the keynote speech at this year's dinner, I was merely the warm-up man. I finished my speech and made way for him but then I realised I had left all my notes on the lectern. I turned to retrieve them but realised the great man was already set up there with my notes under his. I could hardly dislodge him so I just gave him a pat for good luck. Just a little one, but it did seem to surprise him for a moment. I was surprised to learn that Tony had never been to the Old Royal Naval College before. He was completely taken aback. In my opinion, it is Wren's masterpiece and easily outstrips St Paul's.

Tony had come to dinner at my home in west London about six months earlier to learn about Ark. …

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