The Journal of Lynton Charles, Fiduciary Secretary to the Treasury

Sunday "I see," says Cheryl acidly, putting down her Observer, "that your friend Lolita is now not just a rising star, but is also Superwoman." Since we came to government, Cheryl, who like a good leftist once used to believe that nothing in newspapers was true, now believes that everything in newspapers is true. But I really don't know what she means with regard to this Lolita thing. And I tell her so.

"It makes you sick," she replies. "Britain's youngest minister, married to the country's most thrusting theatre director, select committee, constituency MP and mother."

"Mother?" I am utterly flummoxed. Since when was Lolita a mum? Is it possible that sometime in the hiatus when I was with Dr Jack (may he rest in peace) Lolita conceived, went to term, delivered and became a parent, all without my getting to hear a thing about it? And not a peep out of her about dashing home to warm the bottles or the nanny being sick or the au pair having crashed the car (something Lorelei, our Latvian girl, has done 11 times in three years)?

"Oh yes," I add airily, because admission that I have never heard of Lolita's progeny leads to vast trouble however one tries to explain it. "Yes, she's very organised. But doting. I can't explain, Cheryl, but it's just a capacity for keeping the plates of life spinning."

Tuesday To the House, expecting a great set-to between the Master and the Egg over Europe. But all my fellow ministers can talk about is the Witchfinder General and the Strange Case of the 5,000 Policemen. It's not his fault if none of the journos there were bright enough to check the record and see that 5,000 extra didn't mean 5,000 more. What's he supposed to do? Go round saying, "Hold on guys, this news may not be as good as you think?" Although, in retrospect, that might not have been such a bad thing to do.

In the lobby, I come across two Scottish cabinet ministers having a knee-trembler with Mitchell Bulky, the veteran ITN political editor.

They are conversing in that odd macho pol-speak that ministers use for making journos think that they are incredibly savvy.

"So," says Top Jock I, "I said, 'Tony, for fuck's sake. If we're gonna be eatin' shite with the big dogs, then the least we can do is bag their fucking leavings for them.' And he says, 'I see what you mean, Jimmy.' "

"Aye," adds Top Jock II. "Because, Mitchell, and this is the point, either the fuckers 'fess up, or the committee's gonna slap their arses in front of the whole country, and nae bugger's gonna come out of it smelling of roses."

Mitchell agrees, but I bet he's as mystified as I am. I have not the faintest idea what they're talking about, but I would never risk the mockery of admitting it. Honestly, it's like something out of The Godfather. You know, Al Pacino with Luca Brazzi.

Wednesday M phones. "Lynton, lovely, do you want to know where I am?" he sings. I do.

"I am sitting at the most gorgeous walnut escritoire, a log fire in the massive fireplace, and the autumnal reds and golds gilding the park of this, my very own castle. Life is sweet, and I deserve it for having been such a patient boy."

I ask him how the natives have been. "Oh delightful, quite delightful. Do you know that old Ian Paisley came in to see me and said that he thought we'd get along fine? He told me, in strictest confidence, that his favourite musician had always been Liberace and that he had long admired John Inman."

"Really?" I ask, incredulously.

"Oh yes," says M. "This place is full of surprises."

This article first appeared in The New Statesman Essay - Why the old left is wrong on equality

1999-10-25