Monday, 29 January 2007


I did my first auction of 2007 yesterday. I conduct the monthly auction at South East Auctions in Paddock Wood in Kent – a very good auction. It was great to be auctioneering again after the Christmas break. We had about 120 buyers there with 740 lots. The pace was hectic with several people bidding on nearly every lot. I aim to do 120 lots per hour – two per minute. It was six hours non-stop selling at a high level of alertness but I finished within three minutes of schedule!
Not many people can achieve that rate of selling for such a sustained length of time, and without a toilet break, but of course, I have conducted over 2,000 auctions. Being a politician also helps, with the ability to keep the crowd happy.

Sometime, I must blog about the history of auctions. I occasionally lecture on the subject, usually entitled ‘2,500 years of auctions – from Ancient Babylon to Internet Auctions’
Auctions were very big in Roman times. They had bankruptcy auctions, Government surplus auctions and even a buyers premium and export licences. The earliest known auctionrooms has been found in Pompeii. At one stage the whole Roman Empire was put up for auction!

I do frequent charity auctions. My most recent one was at the Christmas Without Cruelty Fayre. The prize piece there was a pipe from Tony Benn, mounted on a plaque with a photo of TB smoking the pipe. My friend Shahrar Ali, Policy Coordinator of the London Green Party, bought it. The previous year the prize lot was Miss England’s bikini.

Charity auctions are now huge business in the USA. Recently, I read that the 2006 turnover was estimated to be $37,000,000. I love doing these auctions. They are not as fast as commercial auctions and you can have a great deal of fun. My biggest auction was for ‘Action for Kidz’ It was in a colossal tent in Battersea Park. The tent was so big that we had to have spotters at the back of the hall with light wands! The first lot was a holiday in Hawaii and it sold for £10,000. My warm-up act, that night, was Ben Elton. I bumped into him later and he said to me ‘If everyone in the Green Party could talk as good as you, I would have to consider joining’

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