9 JUNE 2001, Page 53

Name droppers

Toby Young

My fellow Spectator columnist Stephen Glover once wrote a piece in the Evening Standard in which he accused me of being a shameless self-publicist. Naturally, the words 'pot' and 'kettle' sprung to mind, but I dare say he had a point. After all, why else would I have written half-a-dozen pieces in which I've put on a suit and cruised the streets of Shepherd's Bush pretending to be

William Hague? In order to avoid feeling too embarrassed about stunts like this, I find it helps to hang out with people who are even more incorrigible than me. Whenever they do something truly outrageous I can congratulate myself that, however desperate I am, I wouldn't stoop to those depths. That's why I like being friends with Derek Draper.

Last week Derek did something truly jaw-dropping. He sent a round-robin email to all his friends alerting them to the fact that he was going to be on Have I Got News For You. He even informed us what time it would be repeated in case we weren't able to catch it the first time round. I duly tuned in last Friday and there he was, still trading on his association with Peter Mande!son. You'd think the fact that Mandy is now a busted flush would prompt Derek to stop taking pot-shots at him, but no. It was a masterclass in self-promotion.

However, the fact that Derek sent out this email wasn't, by itself, what took my breath away. In addition, he included all the names of the other recipients in the 'cc' field so we could see just what a glittering cast of characters his friends are. One name in particular jumped out at me: that of Kate Moss, the diminutive supermodel. If that isn't an act of shameless self-advertisement, I don't know what is.

Derek's message was an example of a modern trend that I've begun to notice more and more: email name-dropping. This involves sending out a round-robin email and including the name of at least one famous person in the 'cc' field, thereby alerting all the other recipients that you and this celebrity are close personal friends. Of course, email name-dropping is a breach of netiquette, the social code that stipulates how you're supposed to behave on the Internet. Apparently, the correct form when it comes to sending out roundrobin emails is to include all the names in the 'bee field so no one can see who else has received it. However, if I knew Kate Moss I'd be sorely tempted to include her name in the 'cc' field too.

I'm not complaining about this new practice. On the contrary, whenever I spot the name of some celebrity in the 'cc' field I dutifully stick it in my Palm Pilot. I recently received a round-robin email from a female television presenter — I'm not going to say who lest I be accused of common-or-garden namedropping — which included what purported to be the email addresses of the Prime Minister and his wife. Naturally, my first thought was to construct a fictitious email exchange between Tony and Cherie in which they trade complaints about 'the dreadful oik' who's just been employed as a cleaner at Chequers. My plan was to stick this up on the Speccie website (spectator.co.uk). claiming I'd been sent it by a mole inside No. 10. However, a friend who works at Central Office told me it would cause much more damage if I could arrange for it to be exposed as a hoax and then 'traced' to the Lib Dems. In the end, I decided that such an elaborate ruse was beyond me.

Of course, the problem with email namedropping is that you can never be sure the address of the celebrity in question isn't totally fictitious. I know that Derek Draper is a very dashing and charismatic young man, but is he really a friend of Kate Moss? It seems rather unlikely, somehow. In order to clear this up I sent the following message to the address that purported to be hers:

Dear Ms Moss, I'm writing a piece for the The Spectator about email name-dropping and I recently received an email from Derek Draper which included the above email address in the 'cc' field. Is it really yours? Or is he making it up?

Thirty seconds later I got this reply from someone called Sue Copeman:

Hello Toby, I am really sorry but it's a nickname people use for me!!! Sorry to disappoint you.

Ah well, Degsy. Nice try.