And so to the British Retail Consortium's annual dinner. Surely this is the only event in the world where the speeches last longer than the meal itself ­ despite being served more courses than your average bacchalian orgies. Chairman Sir David Seiff set the tone for the evening with a dreary address that left me wondering whether I would expire before he had finished. The only bit of real news he had to impart was that home secretary Jack Straw, the guest of honour, had a sore throat. "He probably should not be here," said Sir Strewth. By the time Straw sat down a lifetime later, most of us agreed he should have stayed in bed. "It's through partnerships that we get action not waffle," said Straw. Quite right, cried the hungry diners who'd have given anything for a piece of waffle. Still, you can't beat the annual BRC shindig when it comes to star spotting. Top marks go to M&S super smoothy, Boris Yeltsin lookalike Luc Vandevelde, for wearing the best tux and tie combo of the night (available in every branch soon). I was also intrigued to see CWS head Graham Melmoth involved in a long chat with his former opposite number at the CRS and now a consultant, Andy Meehan. One can only guess at what their conversation was about... "Go on Graham, give us some work. You owe me." There were few tears for Allan Leighton, even though news had just broken that the former Asda bigwig had lost hundreds of thousands of pounds since buying shares. One source reliably informed me that he couldn't be doing that badly as he had invested in a massive chateau in France, which he plans to reopen as an international convention centre. {{COUNTERPOINT }}