The meeting was held in a smoke-filled, windowless room, perhaps a basement; it was crowded with delegates and I, for the very first time, was one, albeit younger than all the others. They were men in their thirties and forties, dressed in tweed jackets and grey strides, wearing braces and brown shoes; and women, some young and elegant, others older and stouter, in beige cardigans and with their hair done up in buns. Did I say it was the Labour Party? Four of the senior delegates stood, lounged or leaned against a wall, one with one foot on a chair, while another younger delegate quizzed them on policy matters. Their replies were cynical, amused, derisive, dismissive. They gave the impression that they could not have cared less but were going through the motions anyway, because that’s what you did in a meeting like this. I was off the left, somehow lower down than anyone else in the room. My status perhaps; I was certainly the most junior delegate there. There was a tall young blond woman wearing a long tight-fitting pale green dress, off to the other side; she had what might be called a joking relationship with some of the older male delegates. This was expressed physically – jostles, shoulder collisions, brief wrestles, one of them even put her momentarily into a headlock. She was a girl but she was one of the boys. She seemed to be enjoying herself but I wondered. Now the four delegates under inquisition had entirely lost interest in the Q & A. They began harassing some of the other young women in the room, in a manner that soon became disturbing. There was one woman whose white satin blouse had been loosened, undone, so that you could see her cleavage and her bra. Another, even more dishevelled, had her breasts fully exposed. They were large, with big black aureoles and prominent nipples. Both these dishabille women were shunted to the front, where the four delegates had been, as if being put on display. Neither of them looked comfortable but there was a sense that this was something they had to do. Some of the older women were looking down, looking away, embarrassed, but unwilling to intervene. I saw the pale form of a fully naked woman off to the right and wondered if it was the one who had worn the green dress but couldn’t say for sure. Things were getting raucous, out of control. I felt anxious but also angry. In the loudest voice I could summon, I said: What is going on here!? Everything stopped. Everyone looked at me. All except for the two half naked women, who began to re-arrange their clothes. Faces, big, coarse, meaty faces thrust themselves towards me. Men and women both. They were like a crowd in a Bosch painting. Or, more precisely, grotesques out of a George Grosz drawing. They filled my vision. Very threatening. What did you say? a voice said. A man but I didn’t know who. Who are you anyway? I knew they meant to do me violence but I couldn’t stop myself. My voice was high and uncertain but I said it anyway: I thought this was meant to be about policy? Isn’t it meant to be about policy? And then, as fists began to clench and jackboots to rise, I woke myself up. I have rarely felt such pure, such unalloyed fear.