The Journal of Lynton Charles, Deputy Minister without Portfolio

Sunday When I emerge from the arms of Morpheus it is to the sound of loud banging from below. Cheryl is, I know from ancient experience, angry. Sure enough, when I have wrapped a dressing-gown around me and gone downstairs, I find the twins, neglected, in front of some incredibly violent cartoon and my wife engaged in a furious row with the kitchen cupboards. Their doors are thrown open and their contents now lie in heaps on the work surfaces and kitchen table. Ominously the Sunday newspaper lies on the floor, a lurid article about genetically modified food prominently displayed.

"Cheryl," I ask in as mild a tone of voice as I can manage, "what the fuck are you up to?" She turns, and her eyes are sixties-demo wild. "Oh, good afternoon! Well, I don't know your views on the subject, Lynton, but I for one do not want my children turned into half-fish, half-rhubarb, because your business-loving colleagues have allowed American multinationals to contaminate our food with genes and viruses and all kinds of scientific gunk! So as a responsible parent I am sorting through our stocks, paying special attention to the stuff produced by your mate Lord Sainsbury - and chucking out anything that contains this shit. And," she adds with a mad stare, "given the laxness of your labelling regime, anything with suspect hi-tech packaging that might have had scientists anywhere near it. Remember BSE?" She turns away and throws a tin of baked beans on the floor.

I contemplate a discussion about the available scientific evidence, the safeguards currently in place, the dispute over the one bit of research (out of thousands undertaken) that has suggested any possible damage, the conceivable benefits to humankind of anti-carcinogenic vegetables, the dangers of falling behind the rest of the world in biotechnology. The words and ideas are in my head, but that obstinate, angry back brooks no possible argument. It foretells endless headlines about Frankenstein food, "leaked" and "suppressed" reports, barmy stories about mutant frogs and triffids. We are in big trouble now.

Monday Dr Jack in surprisingly good spirits. "Come in, Lectin, come in!" he says. I step over a case of Macallan and sit down. "The fight-back begins here! The science is on our side, the future is on our side! All we have to do is get the argument across. It's about confidence. So The Master will let it be known today that he wouldn't give a toss if he ate nothing but GM food, and we must all follow suit. If you're asked, the line is that you and yours are happy, anxious even, to wolf the stuff down, once - of course - it has been subjected to the incredibly stringent testing regime that we have in place. OK?"

I nod weakly, not daring to tell Dr Jack about Cheryl. But I do know that if I make any such public pronunciation it will cost me my balls. The only answer is to lie low until the fuss dies down.

Tuesday The Brits. All afternoon Starbuck tests my knowledge of the latest stars (the Spice Girls, of course, are out. Steps are in. Robbie Williams is totally in). Since The Steward got all that water poured over him by the man with blue hair last year, I am doubly determined to sit in a corner, unobtrusively, and not be noticed by the press.

My table is in the middle, at the front, with Robbie Williams separated from me by a young woman of exceptional beauty, most of which is poorly contained by the scraps of polythene and metal in which she is dressed. She smokes like a chimney, pops interesting-looking pills, pours back the vodka and eats nothing but chocolates. Then she asks me what I do, and when I tell her, gives me a reproachful look. "B'why," she says, "are you trying to poison us?"

This article first appeared in the 19 February 1999 issue of the New Statesman, We are richer than you think