The Journal of Lynton Charles, Fiduciary Secretary to the Treasury

Sunday An afternoon train to Brighton, Lolita's pert features framed by the light coming through the grubby Connex train window, as the early autumnal countryside slips past. We are the advance guard of the Treasury's embassy to the TUC; Red Dawn will be here to wow them later in the week, when they're tired and emotional and their defences are down. We check into the Grand (can it really be only 15 years since the IRA nearly killed an entire cabinet and a prime minister here?) and go our separate ways.

My first port of call is tea with Starbuck and the pro-euro unionists at the Metropole. The Gensecs are too busy to come (keeping their powder dry for The Master's appearance on Tuesday) and have sent in their stead their own Starbucks, assistant general secretaries and heads of research. All very new, all congratulating themselves that they never went into lobbying.

As I leave I nearly collide with a man, whose features and demeanour are totally, absurdly familiar: as though I'd been married to him for ten years and then divorced. Scargill! Grey, his cheeks flecked with veins, but the same heavy-lidded eyes, petulant mouth, pointed nose and strange hair. And his strike was the same year as the Brighton bomb. It feels like a historical event now, a sepia-toned newsreel in the middle of which your dad tells you, proudly, that he remembers when the Bismarck was sunk. Scargill seems as real as Stalin, or Leslie Hore Belisha, or the Duke of Windsor. And yet I was there! I spoke at miners' solidarity rallies in Southampton and Portsmouth (albeit under a hail of invective from Worker's Struggle and Socialist War).

Then to dinner with two BBC correspondents at a swish new Asian fusion joint in the Lanes, near the seafront. They are a bit grumpy because they've been trying to get a meal with Mr Brown for six months, only to wind up with me. They know that only the really big players shoot their mouths off at this kind of event, because they hold the keys to the strategy; they understand what's in and what's out. People like me, Patsy Hewitt, Mikey Wills, Charley Clarke, Johnny Denham, etc, have to be much more careful, or we suddenly find ourselves the source of a story endorsing a major policy switch on the euro or contemplating a new environment tax. So I say nothing, enjoy my green leaf curry served on a crisp Yorkshire pudding and leave them to go home together, no doubt complaining about pager-animated MPs and Blairite Stalinism. Serves 'em right - it's high time they found their own bloody stories.

Monday I chair a Demos/Plexus joint fringe meeting in the Queen's, on the subject of "The Labour Movement and the Knowledge Economy". The main speaker is that slightly odd gingery bloke, Charlie Leadbeater, who is now touted everywhere as being The Master's favourite current guru (he inherited him from M, I believe, when M walked the plank). I ask him before the session begins whether The Master has actually read the book, whose cover is adorned with his enthusiastic endorsement. "Every word," says Leadbeater, emphatically.

It's fun. One of the most enjoyable aspects of being new Labour is thinking the unthinkable in front of comrades who find any kind of thinking painful. It usually follows the same pattern. They purse their lips at the bit when you say the world has changed. They can hardly argue with that, but they fear what's coming. Then you tell them that old ways must alter to take account of whatever the change was. Now they furrow their brows because "old ways" means them. Finally you hit them with all the ways in which they must change, and they see all their favourite nostrums, their comfortable practices under assault. Oh, the squirming! How I wish Cheryl was here.

This article first appeared in the 20 September 1999 issue of the New Statesman, Men vanish from the universities