The Journal of Lynton Charles, Fiduciary Secretary to the Treasury

Saturday Slippery has slipped Dobbo a good 'un, as they might say in one of those police soaps. I am doing my paternal duty by taking the twins down to the indoor play emporium (all fenced-off plastic tubes, bouncy balls and broken legs), where the backbone of new Labour support gathers in the cafeteria and watches its offspring while munching Danish and reading the Daily Mail.

Except that I have the Times, and on page one is a story which, more or less, says that Dirty Beard has gone gaga, and is now being comforted by relatives in some corner of Yorkshire; said relatives having carefully hidden the knives and confiscated the poor man's shoelaces. Ministers, says the story, are concerned that the mayoral candidate is "depressed", that it's all got to him 'cos he never wanted to stand anyway, and that he was found wandering the streets at midnight, naked but for a nurse's apron, sobbing, "Give me back my NHS".

Oh yeah? There are no direct quotes from ministers, named or unnamed, but there is one from Slippery, saying how worried he's been by Dobbo's colour recently, and that his friend and rival just hasn't been looking himself, and that he should think about taking it easy, if he knows what's good for him. It's outrageous and it's brilliant, forcing - at best - a headline like "DIRTY BEARD - I'M NOT BONKERS".

And I get to thinking that the thing about Slippery is that he's actually better at it than us. I mean, over there on the Thames we have half a tower full of Benjamins and Natashas, eyes glazing over winking screens as they try to think up ludicrous little identical letters to send from MPs to their party members saying "I personally adore Dobbo and want to have his children" - an act for which they probably lose their candidate hundreds of votes. Meanwhile old Slippery - ever the victim, never the aggressor - pulls one of the oldest political tricks in the handbook of Deep South politics and gets his opponent branded a loony.

When M calls in the evening, I put this to him to see if he agrees. "Do I, darling, and how," he replies. "Who do you think invented this whole thing? I took all the credit for the 1987 campaign, but I learnt a lot of it from Slippery and how he took on Mrs T. I often told The Master that it would be far better to cajole him into the tent, so that he could direct his flow outside. Alas, that particular streak of piss is always better illuminated by the moonlight than by the torch. Slippery wouldn't have it, my dear, and now we mustn't have him. By the way, have I told you the one about Paisley asking to come to the Ministry of Sound one night? Says he's heard all about my energetic dancing and wants to see for himself if it's as sinful as he's been told. Ciao."

Monday Dobbo's been everywhere saying that he's not mad or weeping into his beard and that campaigning for mayor is the most fun he's had in years. And the focus is back on The Steward, who flew out to some hot place or other to examine the role of the rickshaw in urban traffic planning and promptly fell photogenically asleep in front of the cameras.

Mr Brown effects an entry while the dozing Prezza picture is on my desk, and a rare smile lights that striking face.

"So, it's still Johnny, is it?" he asks. "We all get a turn in the shit. Cookie, me, the Witchfinder General, Prezza, M. Everybody's been there. Except," he muses, "except for . . ."

"Slippery!" I finish for him.

"That," says Mr Brown, his face utterly still, "is the first time I've heard the Prime Minister called that. Now, about the eurobond . . ."