Both Richard Branson and Peter Jay have mastered the art of fooling most of the people most of the time

Saturday: I and my son are sitting on a Virgin Train in the middle of a field. It hasn't moved for two and a half hours. It is my son's ninth birthday. As a treat, I had decided to take him to Alton Towers amusement park. The outward journey on Friday afternoon was relatively painless, with the train a mere 45 minutes late. But coming back home this evening, the minutes of my son's birthday tick away, and we arrive at Bletchley station at 1.30 in the morning, to be ferried back to London on a tatty minibus. We finally arrive home at 3am. Yet, somehow, Richard Branson of Virgin remains a popular hero. Of him, it can be said that he has refined the art of fooling most of the people most of the time.


Monday: Stoke Newington parents are "sitting in" at two nurseries that the council has decided to close temporarily. The closure has been forced on Hackney council by its current state of financial meltdown. But, like the parents, I am suspicious as to whether the closure is temporary or permanent. For some time, I have been fighting a running battle with my very new Labour Hackney councillors over their plans to close nurseries in Stoke Newington. So I visit both nursery sit-ins to show my support. In the afternoon, I am off to the House of Commons to elect a new Speaker. It is half-term and, like the children of many working mothers, my unfortunate son has to follow me to work. With misplaced optimism, I tell him the election will be over in a couple of hours. Eight hours later, we are still there. It is worse than sitting on a Virgin train in the middle of a field. Going home in a taxi later, my son asks why it took so long. Then he adds helpfully: "Maybe you should all write a name on a piece of paper and not do any talking." Goodness! They should co-opt this boy on to the House of Commons Procedure Committee.


Tuesday: Jeremy Corbyn, my fellow north London MP, is at home with his brood of boys on half-term duty. He kindly offers to look after James for the day. I dash down to the Commons to a private meeting of the Foreign Affairs Committee, in order to argue that at our session with the Foreign Secretary, Robin Cook, scheduled for the following day, we should question him on what is happening in Israel. Astonishingly, Cook has tried to persuade our chairman that we should not do so. Or if we do, it should be in private. I win the day. In the afternoon, I return to Hackney. The Queen is visiting Homerton Hospital. I would not claim to be the most royalist MP, but the visit is special to my constituents, so I am on parade.


Wednesday: I meet pensioners at Hackney Town Hall. I am attacked over the government's failure to increase pensions. Later, I go to the Foreign Affairs Committee hearing at Westminster to hear Cook on Israel. For the past ten days, a debate has been raging in the press about the Runnymede Trust report on The Future of Multi-Ethnic Britain. The media response to this well-meaning report has been both malign and racist - but I am surprised to see the New Statesman running a particularly poisonous profile of Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, one of the progenitors of the report. Yasmin, it claims, is stupid and appears in the media far too much. Actually, she is brave, intelligent and always worth reading. The week following the publication of the profile I attend the New Statesman lunch - Michael Foot is the star - but the male juvenile lead has to be Zach Goldsmith. Piercing blue eyes, very pleasing views on multinational corporations and the boundless confidence of someone whose father was a multimillionaire. The Statesman's new political editor is Jackie Ashley. Years ago, we worked together at TV-am. Our boss was Peter Jay. After TV-am had gone through one of its many changes of management, a board member was wandering through the newsroom and started chatting to me (a humble journalist) as I typed. "Funny thing about Peter Jay," he mused. "We [he meant the board] understood that he knew nothing about business. But we thought he knew all about journalism." I looked up from my typing: "Funny you should say that, we [I meant the journalists] understood he knew fuck all about journalism. But we thought he knew all about business." We stared at each other. Of Peter Jay, it can be said, rather like Richard Branson, that he has mastered the art of fooling most of the peple most of the time.


In the early evening, I go to the ICA to hear the American academic bell hooks and Stuart Hall discuss the nature of being an intellectual. And then I go to my Labour Party general management committee. It is full of councillors boiling with indignation because I dare to side with the parents who are sitting-in to save the nurseries.


Friday: I spend the morning working from home on a conference I have organised for the weekend, entitled "Hackney Schools and the Black Child". It is aimed at black and ethnic minority parents to encourage them to look at why their children are failing in school and what they can do about it. It is the third in a series.

In the evening, I go to see my friend Joy in The Importance of Being Ernest at the Lewisham Theatre. James is staying with his doting godmother, the impeccably new Labour Baroness Howells of St Davids. It's much, much more fun than sitting on a Virgin train.

The writer is Labour MP for Hackney North and Stoke Newington