The Journal of Lynton Charles, Fiduciary Secretary to the Treasury

Monday Back at the Money Farm. I think we had a successful conference. No one was killed. Well, no one except the Steward, that is. It's one thing to express magnificent northern disdain for presentation; it's quite another to drive eight feet to a conference hall in which you're about to deliver a speech telling the country to use its cars less. Over a latte I am discussing this with Lolita, when her pager sounds. She looks at it and grins from ear to ear. Then she shows it to me: "Tell Gordon as Dobbo is willin' "

I am puzzled. "It's old Dirty Beard," she tells me. "Mr Brown has been urging him to take on Ken for London. None of The Master's people were quite making it. Glenda may turn you on [I nod, recalling that husky, sulky voice] but she wasn't doing it for metropolitan Labour. Tony Phallos has been game for an outsider - and he can still be Dirty Beard's number two - but he wasn't going to stop Ken, either. Nick Raynsford, big glasses, nice smile, zero rating on the orgasmatron. So the Chancellor has been leaning. Dobbo will get billions out of the war chest - the one that doesn't exist - if he wins. He'll be able to make Jacques Chirac look like Silas Marner. Tube lines will sprout from Canterbury to Reading, all that. So now he's agreed."

The pager bleeps again. Lolita blushes. "It's Frank's way of signing off," she tells me. I look once again: "There was a young woman from Ealing," it reads, "who had a peculiar feeling. She lay . . . "

I've seen enough.

Tuesday In the morning, during a bilateral discussion with Trade and the OFT on competition policy, Stevie Byers is talking about some abstruse aspect of regulation, when I fall to thinking about the forthcoming reshuffle. We've spent two years in iron corsets, financially, and now the money is getting into the system. It's a good time to be in cabinet, frankly. The Master is going to need a new defence secretary and a new health secretary, and he's got to move Mo 'cos she's had enough of the Prods and they've had enough of her. That'll mean movement elsewhere. He won't bring M back this side of the general election, so he'll be a bit short of Blairites. There's only really Tessa Thingy at health and, of the pre-1997 intake, moi.

In the evening I make the mistake of confiding in Cheryl. "Lynton," she observes, "you are my husband, the father of my children, and I have far too much union work to do to be arsed with leaving you and getting a divorce. All of which makes me just about your number one fan. And I'll be frank. You don't have it. When you stand up to speak, the room does not fall silent, you cannot hear pins drop, young women do not swoon. You are supremely adequate, and that's it. It's amazing that you've got this far."

"Oh," I tell her, "that's all you know. Your idea of leadership is Arthur Scargill at Orgreave; all gob and shoulders. Do you really think that I have less sex appeal than Stephen Byers, less warmth than Alan Milburn, less oratorical capacity than Tessa Thingy? Now, if you'll excuse me, I have a red box to do. In my study."

Fed up, I am slightly cheered by the appearance of the Iron Lady at the Tory conference, uttering mad fascist nonsense about Europe, while the Egg is forced to listen, smiling and nodding like one of those toy dogs. I have a great deal to offer the party and the country - and if the Conservatives carry on this way for much longer, I will have a good decade in which to offer it. And, come to think of it, I wonder what the future holds for the Steward? It's a pity Hong Kong no longer needs a governor general.

This article first appeared in the 11 October 1999 issue of the New Statesman, A world without children