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Crashing Shell's Party
Just an FYI from today's Guardian.
What a Shell party this is - Green activist Gibby Zobel
crashes a slick do
The ringmaster is in red robes. `My Lords, Ladies and Gentlemen, the
Ambassador of Chile.' I look at Jane, she looks at me. We are standing
the ambassador on the 23rd floor of a plush building, waiting to be
into the room.
I stifle a giggle. I am an activist from the free protest newsletter
and a friend and I are gatecrashing a humdinger of a Christmas office
that of one of the world's biggest multinationals, Shell. The ringmaster
clears his throat: `Jane and George Makepeace.' Here we go. `Lovely to
you,' says a Santa-like figure, hand outstretched.
Mr Mark Moody-Stuart has extraordinary white bushy eyebrows and white
He is group managing director of Royal Dutch Shell. The top man. Judy,
wife, says, `And what do you do?' I explain that I am, ahem, a
into global free-trade agreements, specialising in the Multilateral
on Investment. She cocks her head: `Are you for or against?' Me: `For,
naturally.' Her: `So is the company, but shhhhhh,' she winks. `Anyway,
and enjoy yourselves!' We are in. Champagne? Lovely. Ninety per cent of
servants are young and black, 90% of the guests are old and white. Two
men approach, a Russian and an Argentine. Says the Russian, after small
`Apart from being MI5, what do you do?' Rumbled already, or a common
joke? He regales us with the tale of the Queen coming into this room
month to celebrate Shell's 100th birthday. We wing it.
Jane's getting on famously with the famous, and I hang back with a
catching a fag in the corner. `Surprising lack of politicians,' he notes
I feel faintly ridiculous in my borrowed tuxedo, but it helps to blend
I'm trying to dig up reactions to the Kyoto Climate Change Summit which
in the early hours. Most reply that they are happy, but I'm struck by
ignorance. Most did not know it had even finished.
Now the party is really kicking. Trays of king prawns and caviar are
around. You can smell the oil riches. In the lucky pinball that is a
high-powered cocktail party, we spin into Mr Eric W. Nickson, head of
international media relations. Tough year, Eric? `Yah, it's been tough.'
background is chemicals in Kenya (he pronounces it in the old colonial
Eric's been to Nigeria five times in two years. His Nigeria is one of
Shell's involvement that of the friendly Big Brother: `There's a saying
the Nigerian government is like God: God is everywhere but you don't see
But we see Shell because our operations are on about half of the Niger
producing 80,000 barrels a day. We've become a company supplying
infrastructure.' We get him on to Ken Saro-Wiwa (`It was shocking. I
believe it'). Then talk turns to genetically modified eucalyptus. Murder
payments to the military are hardly cocktail conversation.
I go to the toilet to change over the tape in my recorder, and on return
past a familiar figure. Bloody hell, it's Michael Howard. There's a
when Shell's chairman and the former home secretary shake hands directly
front of me. Do I knock their heads together? The champagne is flowing,
the do is nearly over. We stride confidently over to Mr Moody-Stuart to
our goodbyes. `Oh, I'm terribly sorry,' says Jane, spilling bubbly
accidentally down the chairman's leg. `No, no, it's nothing', says the
dance out the revolving door of the Shell Tower.