The Journal of Lynton Charles, Fiduciary Secretary to the Treasury

Tuesday Fort Knox early, and Bill Bush at No 10 has sent me five clear pages of briefing, headed: "Achievements of the First 1,000 Days". I sit and digest it, as I digest a yoghurty/muesli thing which replaces my pre-Christmas bacon-and-egg bagel. At Sir John Birt's party on Sunday, Nigella Lawson and Polly Toynbee both told me I'd put on weight, and it would be foolish to ignore their warnings. (To my chagrin, Cheryl agreed with them, saying that my stomach made me look like the neck of an ostrich that had swallowed a cushion.)

I am impressed with us. No, really. Stick it all down in one place and it ain't so bad. It may not be the Red Revolution, but I can go on the doorsteps of the Barratt's estates with this lot, and no worries.

At 9am the car arrives to take me to West London and my destination, the studios of The Nicky Campbell Show. Idly I wonder whether Nicky and Alastair are related. And what about Tony and Lionel Blair?

As usual, the ten-year-old researcher woman in flared trousers and fluffy shirt doesn't recognise me, and stares right through my diminishing paunch as I approach. It's just as well that a waiting researcher for a BBC phone-in is always so unmistakable. It's that unique facial expression combining eagerness and ignorance that does it.

I'm on with an anonymous Lib Dem spokesman called Jake Tibble, who sits for a constituency so far to the west that it's 90 per cent rocks and 10 per cent clotted cream. The Tory is that mad right-wing TA captain, Julian Swyne, now (Jesus wept!) shadow higher education minister. Swyne's prematurely grey hair is parted in the centre and swept back like Billy Bunter's and, as ever, he wears a tweed jacket with leather patches, and a cravat.

We do our party pieces, probed on the way by Campbell. It's the usual stuff. Swyne has got his crib-sheet too, intoning something about "Labour's lies" every five seconds, his eyes shooting all over the studio as he speaks. Tibble laments the lack of expenditure on every area under discussion, and explains how we could pay for it all out of Mr Brown's war-chest. But Nicky isn't really interested in either of them. He wants to get to the callers.

Things start to go haywire when the subject - introduced by a caller - turns to drugs. Apropos of nothing at all, Tibble interrupts a Swyne rant and says: "I took drugs you know." There is a stunned silence. Campbell turns to him, knowing he's got a story. "Oh yes, when I was at college I smoked cannabis. Several times. And I inhaled," he adds proudly. "But I ought to stress that I didn't like it and I would urge young people not to do it. Though I understand where they're coming from."

And I bloody well understand where Tibble is coming from. And I surely know where Campbell is going to. "Lynton Charles," he smiles, "what about you? Did you ever, er, indulge?"

There is nothing else for it. I head Mo-wards. "I was a student in the early seventies," I say, "and I seem to recall taking the occasional puff. But I didn't care for it." Meanwhile memories of whole wonderful days spent in a marijuana haze, inventing flavours for Opal Fruits ("Lemon! Lime! Strawberry! Bee!") flood back.

There is a caller on the line. He's John from Exeter and his is a voice I remember all too well. "I just want to remind Mr Charles that, when I knew him, his nickname was Sammy Score, and he used to keep half the campus in Red Leb, so it's . . . "

He's cut off. "I'm very sorry about that," says Nicky. "That was another visit from our hoax caller. He pretended to be the Welsh darts champion yesterday. Take no notice. Now Julian Swyne, what drugs are you on?"

This article first appeared in the 31 January 2000 issue of the New Statesman, Why arms sales are bad for Britain