‘I haven’t had sex for ten years,’ cackled Tracey Emin

THURSDAY, MARCH 21

To Fortnum & Mason for a gloriously entertaining lunch hosted by the store’s ebullient CEO, Ewan Venters.

Every few weeks, Ewan invites two dozen people from all walks of public life to come and dine in the stunning boardroom where Churchill used to have his birthday parties.

‘I haven’t had sex for ten years,’ Tracey Emin told me immediately, with a conspiratorial cackle. ‘REALLY?’ I replied. ‘Really. Just a couple of snogs but that’s it.’ ‘Is this a permanent abstinence?’ I asked. ‘Depends who’s asking,’ she laughed. ‘If it’s you, then definitely.’

I was placed in the middle of the table, opposite Ewan, Nigella Lawson and George Osborne, with Tracey Emin, Barry Humphries, Elizabeth ‘DON’T CALL ME LIZ!’ Hurley to my right, and Jimmy Carr, Georgia ‘Toff’ Toffolo, artist Jay Jopling, Richard Bacon and Giles Coren to my left.

Tracey, like me, is a regular attendee, and usually says something absolutely shocking early on to set the tone for the lunch. Today, she excelled herself.

‘I haven’t had sex for ten years,’ she told me immediately, with a conspiratorial cackle.

‘REALLY?’ I replied.

‘Really. Just a couple of snogs but that’s it.’

‘Is this a permanent abstinence?’ I asked.

‘Depends who’s asking,’ she laughed. ‘If it’s you, then definitely.’

Then she said: ‘I saw a clairvoyant recently who told me I’m about to fall madly in love with someone I already know.’

‘WOW!’ I exclaimed. ‘So it could be someone in this room right now?’

‘I guess so, yes. But let me reiterate, it’s not you.’

Nigella’s had an incredibly tough life – with her mother, sister and first husband all dying cruelly young from cancer.

Unsurprisingly, it’s had a profound impact on her. ‘I wish I could feel more positive about life,’ she said, ‘but I’m always worrying, about everything. I’m a Jewish depressive! When something bad actually happens, I handle it very well. But before and after, I am riddled with anxiety about what might happen.’

‘Tell you what,’ I suggested. ‘If you teach me how to cook, I’ll teach you how to be more self-confident.’

‘No Piers,’ she said firmly. ‘I said positive, not bumptious.’

The theme for the meal was a celebration of beef, and we gorged on sublime Glenarm meat from Irish farming legend Peter Hannan.

‘Vegan resistance!’ cried Osborne, to a roar of approval.

‘If you had 90 minutes to live, what would you eat?’ I asked Nigella.

‘EVERYBODY asks me that,’ she sighed wearily, taking a verbal carving knife to my interviewer skills.

But then she gave a magnificent answer: ‘Avocado with something, anything, to start things off, then linguine with clams in white wine sauce with chilli and garlic… no tomato… then lemony roast chicken with loads of gorgeous vegetables like kale, peas, spinach… and chips, roast potatoes and mashed potatoes… I LOVE potatoes and there’s no need to worry about carbs if I’m about to die… then a nice steak with more chips and maybe a fennel-based salad… and finally, some blackberries with heavy cream… some cookies on the side… a giant wedge of stinking gorgonzola so ripe it walks off the table, and toffees, lots of toffees. Mmmmm.’

Nigella sat back and sighed again, only this time with borderline-orgasmic delight at the thought of her last meal.

Osborne, former Chancellor and now editor of London’s Evening Standard, looked borderline-orgasmic himself at the thought that Theresa May – who sacked him the moment she became Prime Minister – might soon be gone herself.

‘She’s been the worst Prime Minister in history,’ he declared.

‘And I don’t say that because I have an intense personal animosity towards her,’ he said. ‘Although to be clear, I absolutely DO have an intense personal animosity towards her.’

I asked Barry if he has to tone down his stage act because of the new PC-crazed world we inhabit. ‘NO!’ he roared. ‘Les Patterson is the last offensive man standing! I can get away with anything so long as it comes out of his mouth, or Edna’s.’

As we chatted, he cupped his ears and apologised.

‘Sorry, but I’ve got this damn new hearing aid and I’m still getting used to it. My wife keeps turning me off by remote control.’

Later, as Barry was deep in conversation with Nigella, I asked his wife, actress Lizzie Spender, if this was true.

‘Yes!’ she chuckled, pulling out her phone to show me the app that controls Barry’s aid.

‘Let’s have some fun,’ I said, taking the phone and turning Barry’s volume down to its lowest level.

We watched in mounting hilarity as he edged closer to Nigella, seemingly straining to hear anything she was saying.

‘BARRY!’ I exclaimed.

He turned, startled.

‘I TURNED YOU OFF!’

He looked bemused for a second but then saw Lizzie’s phone in my hand, and burst out laughing.

Liz Hurley and I haven’t seen eye-to-eye since 1995 when, as editor of the News of the World, I paid prostitute Divine Brown to tell her story of THAT encounter with ‘Saint’ Hugh Grant on Sunset Boulevard, an incident that caused Hurley to ditch him as her boyfriend. In splendidly British fashion, we sat three feet from each other for three hours without exchanging a single word.

When our eyes finally did meet, very briefly… well, if death stares could kill, I’d be writing this column posthumously.

I finally left at 4pm, boarding a lift with a group including Toff and Booker Prize-winning writer Howard Jacobson.

‘Let’s go live!’ she shouted excitedly as we descended, wildly waving her phone around and broadcasting us all to her two million Instagram followers.

‘What on earth is happening?’ asked Howard, looking simultaneously amused and horrified at this impromptu reality show.

‘Look at those chins!’ Toff chortled as she beamed close up on my head.

‘Put that phone 2ft higher!’ I ordered, which immediately revealed a new chisel-jawed Morgan.

As film director Michael Winner once told me: ‘Never let anyone photograph or video you from below head height – it adds 10 lb and two chins.’