Lynton Charles has trouble with the footplate union
The Journal of Lynton Charles, Chancellor of the Duchy of Durham
Friday A BBC person calls in the early hours. Would I take part in a discussion with Bert Beria, the new general secretary of the Footplate and Rail Catering Union? Why me, I ask. "Because", says Shakira, in a Scottish accent, "they're withdrawing their sponsorship from 20 Labour MPs who they consider to have let them down."
This is bad news, I tell her, but I don't quite see . . .
And then it suddenly hits me that I am one of those MPs. I think I inherited all that from my predecessor, who, although a professor of politics at Oxford, was also an honorary rail worker. Indeed, I now recall that somewhere, in a forgotten drawer, I have an FRCU tie and a little badge, both depicting a crossed whistle and a sandwich knife in gold on a red background.
"Of course," I tell her. And we set up to do a phone interview in an hour's time on the Radio 5 Breakfast show (we are allowed to do that one on our own say-so; the Today programme requires clearance). It'll be me versus Bob Beria.
So 7.45 arrives and I am patched into the programme, listening in to a conversation about how everything is fucked in yet another way that I hadn't thought of. Shakira checks that I am on the line and, within minutes, I hear myself and Beria being introduced from afar, me from London and him from his union conference somewhere in the north.
Beria's line is that he is mightily disillusioned with Labour because it hasn't nationalised the top 250 monopolies, like what it says in FRCU policy, or pulled out of Nato, and he'd rather spend the dosh wisely on people like that Hackney woman, Dana Monk, and one or two other completely isolated and influence-free far-leftists. When it's my turn, I riposte that if he was so bloody keen on Labour back in 1997, how come he was a member of the Workers' Socialist Party, campaigning under the slogan "Don't back Blair, Class Traitor"?
There's a problem, however, which I become aware of in the course of the 90-second shouting match allotted to us by the radio station. Beria's position is that he should give us money and we should do what he says. That's clearly impossible. My position is that we should take his money and tell him to go fuck himself. That's just mad. The words "state funding" hover on my lips, but - fortunately - the urge towards frankness disappears before I can make a fool of myself. The presenter, I know, would eat me alive.
Sunday Brunch with the Phalloses, and plenty of time to enjoy the predicament of Slippery, the naughty mayor. Tony Phallos is now convener of the Greater London Authority, and it is before his committee that Slippery is having to appear to explain the Goosey Goosey Gander scandal.
The story goes like this. Slippery is at a party being thrown for a radical property developer somewhere in Clerkenwell. Drink is taken and he gets into a barney at the top of the stairs with an old Trot who complains - Beria-like - that Slippery has become a class enemy because of his attacks on the May Day protesters and similar. Though what the old Trot is doing at the property developer's ball is anyone's guess. Anyway, so vehement does this Trot become that Slippery begins to sing nursery rhymes loudly to drown out the man's voice. He's done "Little Bo Peep" and "Ring-a-Ring o' Roses", and has just started on "Goosey Goosey Gander" when the Trot moves in - Trotlike - and begins that finger jab they do. At which Slippery, arriving at the appropriate words, takes the Trot by the left leg and throws him down the stairs.
Alas and alack, the leather-jacketed Trot only turns out to be the brother of the new editor of the London Evening News. Which is, of course, a terrible shame.