The Journal of Lynton Charles, Chancellor of the Duchy of Durham
Wednesday It is with great pleasure that, on this fifth anniversary of our coming to power, I take a taxi and go to join my friends at the Koh-i-Noor Tandoori in Hendon, where we will celebrate five glorious years.
Not that the papers do. They are full of pages of vacuous celebs expressing their profound disappointment that the government has failed to do X or Y. Or - if they're too vacuous even to think of what X or Y are - expressing exaggerated horror that the cabinet is made up of politicians who put a gloss on things, and not of nuns and minor saints.
But we know. Devolution after 300 years, the end of hereditary peerages after 1,000 years, peace in Northern Ireland after 30 years, a re-elected full-time Labour government for the first time ever, two wars won, unemployment down, wages up, crime - um - never mind, mortgages down, lots of children taken out of poverty (even if we can't work out exactly how many or what exactly we mean by poverty). It is a good record.
Around a couple of tables put together in the private gloom of Mr Shah's restaurant, we congregate - the proud veterans of this titanic struggle. The true believers. The ones who have never wavered. M is here in a black suit and black shirt, white tie, dark glasses and fedora. Don't ask me why. Starbuck sits beside him, nodding whenever he is spoken to. Across the table, the benign smile and Sue Pollard glasses of Lord Birt gleam at me, as does the clitoris-shaped nose stud of Loveday Flessh, of Blarney, Booz and Flessh. Unshocked by this, the Hon Bernice Shackleton from Buckingham Palace is making conversation with Bye-Byers. Geoff Hoon is talking to Rex the lobbyist. It is a select and happy gathering of New Labour's finest. And no Indian businessmen.
Can it be five years since that dawn beside the river? But five years is a short time in government. We toast our triumphs and our heroes in bad champagne. We lament the passing of those of our number who have strayed, and drink to Mo and to diverse junior ministers who left office and lost their wits. We drink to The Master, to the Witchfinder General, to merry Derry Irvine, to Lord Haskins, to Her Majesty the Queen, to Tony Giddens and Polly Toynbee. We admit our lapses and recall our scrapes: Ecclestone, the fuel crisis, foot-and-mouth, Railtrack.
We call the vengeance of the Lord down upon the heads of Mr Brown's treacherous acolytes Alfie J Pratt, Tony Tankard (now both safely ensconced in the pages of The Reformer) and Swiss Bank Account Robinson. We curse Peter Kilfoyle, groan at Gudrun Dimwitty, pretend to gag at the mention of Lord Hattersley.
Then somebody suggests party games. Lord Birt is only intermittently with us now. Someone forgot to warn him about the properties of the prawn biriani, and it is lucky for him that we are so close to the loos. But the rest of us play "eye-catching initiatives", which is like Call My Bluff. One team mixes a real No 10 idea with a whole lot of absurd invented ones, and the other team has to guess which is the true brainwave.
In round one, Geoff Hoon (who has been away) does not spot that docking the child benefits to parents of tearaways was a real policy notion, and describes it as too preposterous to be true. M, however, wins the game easily when he persuades Bye-Byers that The Master has indeed decided on a policy of refusing healthcare to recidivist paedophiles. "Bloody good idea, if you ask me," says Bye-Byers.
Then, with two of us holding Lord Birt upright, we stand and sing. "While cowards flinch and traitors sneer, we'll keep the red flag flying near!" There are tears in our eyes.