In a new series, we take London’s most compelling figures to lunch with one of our writers. They choose the restaurant; we foot the bill. Laurence Fox, of the Fox acting dynasty, found fame on the ITV series Lewis, though an appearance on Question Time has propelled him to greater infamy still. The actors’ union Equity criticised Fox and were then forced to retract their statement. Cue mass resignations. With his Netflix series White Lines cancelled after just one series, what does the future hold for the Brexiteer Old Harrovian?
Where to take Laurence Fox for some lunch was something I had thought upon for some time. I reckoned that it might be interesting, as he lives locally, to dine at Fladda Fish and Chips on Camberwell Church Street: unimpeachable British fried food in SE5 (and, of course, that the bill would meet with approval over at accounts). It would be a chance, I hoped, to see the actor-turned-musician-turned-activist dine among the young, politically active generation he decries to his 230,000 Twitter followers. This proposal of mine was given short shrift via email:
no lets go to scotts you're paying aren't you?
So, mask in pocket, I walked over to Mount Street from Green Park, arriving to see the last embers of summer playing out over the terrace of Scotts. The boulevardiers of Mayfair sat outside, chugging cigarettes, as dishes of sole meunière were whisked to their tables by the quiet, uniformed staff. I was shown to a booth inside and made a note of the clientele, purposefully attired for performative fine dining. My guest arrived ten minutes later, not quite tardy, but not on time, tall and aquiline with sunglasses holding back fine blonde hair.
I had consulted the menu online the night before. I conceived of an idea of how to have this meal while also keeping my job, but this plan was enflamed by disaster five minutes later: 30 grams of Beluga caviar, accompanied by creme fraiche and blinis made their discreet entrance at our table, paired with a chilled bottle of 2012 Pol Roger. I had muttered something, maybe about Reisling, probably about Jura, but now: here we were, and I gamely made my best of what was probably the last meal of my career as a journalist.
‘Laurence,’ I began unsurely, ‘where do you stand on defunding the BBC?’
‘Do you follow me on Twitter?’
I demurred that I did not, but that I believed the magazine did indeed follow him on Twitter.
‘Well you now where I stand: whole thing has got to go. Just crap. Privatise it all and then see where your Yentobs end up.’
I was intrigued by Laurence’s business model on Patreon, the app where creatives receive financial support from their fans. Under the acronym ‘LozzaFox’, fans can pay £6 a month (Fox Cub), £24 a month (Sly Like a Fox) or £120 a month (Top Fox) to help Laurence ‘create music and write to challenge the narrative’. But what was this narrative?
‘Well,’ Laurence munched thoughtfully on a blini, ‘The whole thing is all this woke shit going on: you just have to make these people realise, look, you're in the minority, it is only because of these totalitarian wokesters who want to control the way I think. There’s only one person who controls the way I think: me.’
‘Who are these totalitarian wokesters, Laurence?’
‘You know the knit-your-own-yoghurt brigade. Hate Jeremy Clarkson. Want to ban everything. Oxbridge-educated and let you know about it. Used to like Polly Toynbee before she was mean about magic Grandpa. They retweet Owen Jones. Don’t understand the appeal of Trump. No time for the working man.’
It was, on reflection, a convincing speech, one that was interrupted by the main courses: Bannockburn rib eye steak served rare with a side of creamed spinach for my guest; tiger prawn masala for myself.
I took another sip of my first glass of champagne. I wanted to know more about how we could make more time for the working man. I wondered if this was a matter of education?
‘Oh, don’t get me started!’ Laurence looked pained. ‘Don’t get me started. That what it's all about, man’. He lifted his hands up, splaying his fingers, before looking down at his steak, and then up again at me, ‘they’re just trying to stand up, and hey,’ (he paused), ‘I’m making a stand.’
I too, had to make stand, as I calculated in my mind that the bill for lunch was reaching close to the £500 mark: a figure that would no doubt be deemed ‘suspicious activity’ by the watchful burghers of Santander. I shuffled a retreat to the restrooms, where I frantically thumbed my iPhone to ensure that I had the funds in place.
On my return to the booth, I pressed Laurence further on his political awakening.
‘Yeah, I was in Sussex and I would talk down to the pub and meet real people, and I would go the pub and have pints with real people. You know, London is very far away to these people’, he looked at me intensely, before dousing the last slice of his steak in the spinach.
Our main courses cleared, I asked if there was anything else my guest cared for, surreptitiously sliding the dessert wine menu off the table. I was eager to press Laurence on his belief that Donald Trump would win the upcoming presidential election.
‘Look at the fundamentals, people are tired. They want something sensible. And being sensible: that’s radical. Just common plain sense. That’s what people have forgotten.’
I was tempted to press Laurence on the recent events in Kenosha over coffee, but I felt he had made his point and made it to the best of his ability. I paid the bill and we went outside together, where he lit up a liquorice-rolled cigarette and bade me good day with a thumbs up. Then he was gone, legs pistoning up and down through Mayfair.
The Fence did not have lunch with Laurence Fox. To our knowledge, no members of our staff have ever visited Scotts. This is a work of fiction.