Robert Shrimsley’s fantasy dinner party – Financial Times

The guests were the hardest part of this. In reality, I would invite my father, who died 35 years ago and who I still think of many times a week. But if he were there, I don’t think I’d bother with the others, so maybe I’ll save him for another fantasy meal.

I made two decisions. The first was that they should all be relatively modern. Cicero would be fascinating but the culture shock would be too great, and he never passed the port. Then I prioritised a fun evening over intellectual erudition and historic secrets.

I got the list down to six, but halving it was very hard. In the end, I indulged my love of politics, humour and moral courage. It also helped that one of my six, John Maynard Keynes, had already been grabbed by Martin Wolf, whose fantasy dinner party will appear next week.

To that end, I chose Lyndon B Johnson, whose political genius and monstrous behaviour in pursuit of mostly noble ends made him a must, though I worry he’d be a conversation hog and uncouth guest, who I suspect I will admire more for never meeting.

Next is Lenny Bruce, the brilliant and subversive comedian, and finally Josephine Baker, famed as an exotic dancer but also a heroine of the French resistance and campaigner for US civil rights. She could offer a wonderful tour of the world from Paris of the 1920s through Occupied France to 1950s New York and the civil rights struggle.

The chef is easy. Peter Gordon, whose Sugar Club in Notting Hill was a favourite restaurant. For starters, I’d let him surprise me, but it’s some form of a seared tuna dish for the main, and dessert would have to be a fruit crumble — not his speciality, but it’s my party. The drinks, I’m afraid, would be non-alcoholic cocktails, though I might allow myself a good whisky at the end.

As for the location, that’s easy. Victoria Falls.

Robert Shrimsley is the FT’s chief UK political commentator and UK editor at large

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