As a young man I was elected to lead the Liberal Democrat delegation to the British Youth Council. I led a small but excellent team of Lib Dem activists who had a significant impact on the nation’s leading youth organisation.
As part of the political engagement of BYC I was regularly invited to attend meetings, conferences and events across the UK and Europe.
One such meeting was the weekend European Youth Congress in Brussels in 1994, it was a meeting of young politicians from across the European Union and was a most enjoyable event for all concerned.
Youth politics was quite un-Tory at that point being the fag end of a Tory government and as such the delegation was almost entirely made up of Labour and Lib Dem activists.
Our delegation was all booked on flights from London to Brussels and we met at Heathrow for the plane. We checked in promptly and settled down for the short flight over to Belgium.
I and Dan Shepherd, a Labour member, were very disappointed to discover, on arrival, that our suitcases for the trip had not been stowed on the plane before leaving and had in fact been flown on a much more exotic flight to Kuala Lumpur.
A rather unhelpful member of British Airways staff, at Brussels airport, gave us both an overnight bag with all the essentials for a night without a suitcase. We were promised that our suitcases would be sent on as soon as they could be returned, but even at a best guess this would be a minimum of 24 hours.
Arriving at the accommodation we duly opened the rather pathetic contents and discovered a toothbrush and all the things that a hotel would quite happily have given or found for us.
At the bottom of the bag was a rather strange wrapped up piece of tissue paper. Upon closer inspection this appeared to be a shower cap made of paper, but with three holes, rather than one.
They were paper underpants.
Now I’m as happy as any man to sleep on floors or sofas and I have even been known to wear a shirt for more than a day when the need has arisen, but there can be nothing to compare to the personal discomfort of wearing paper underwear, in thirty degree heat, whilst meeting a European Commissioner and Ambassadors from the EU nations.
This is compounded by the fact that your own underwear is having a much nicer time of it in South East Asia.
As such I, and I am sure Dan, always pack underwear in hand luggage now, just in case BA threaten me with paper Y-fronts!
You can buy a toothbrush in a hotel but dignity is priceless!