The Journal of Lynton Charles, Fiduciary Secretary to the Treasury

Wednesday To the Lubianka boardroom for another meeting of the Election Co-ordination Group. Mr Brown in the chair and a new face round the table. A strangely familiar new face.

"Good morning," Mr Brown rumbles. His face is clouded and his brows ominously low. Starbuck phoned this morning to warn that the Guardian Diary was running a story about his having broken up with that elegant girlfriend of his, and that - what with the Baby Leo business - he might be in one of his Walter Scott moods. Even M is regarding the Chancellor with apprehension out of one lifted eye, while the other orb scans some of Gould's focus group research.

Mr Brown continues: "Apologies from Geoff Hoon, who has a war to organise, and from one of the Milibands - Ed, I think." "No, it's David. I'm here, actually," Ed pipes up from behind a flip-chart.

Mr Brown's face lights up for a moment in that fabulous smile he keeps for only the rarest occasions (a speech by El Caudillo on the income tax guarantee, for instance). "I'd like to welcome someone well known to you all," he says, "who I have asked to help us out. He's just ousted Mark Spotty from the National Executive Committee; he's Tim Baldwin, otherwise better-known as Osbert from television's Redgutter series!"

We're not sure whether to applaud, or just to nod our heads vigorously with pleasure. Trevor the bra-man wolf-whistles ironically. The business with Slippery has taught some of us to be very sceptical about comedians. They love you one moment, and then - as soon as the going gets tough - they make jokes about you and declare themselves disillusioned. Their departure is always more embarrassing than their support was useful. Still, Baldwin has been consistent, and I'd forgive anybody who put one over on Spotty just about anything.

"Tony Phallos of the London Assembly will be co-opted on to the committee at its next meeting," Mr Brown announces, "But for now I'll ask M to outline the thinking on election themes. The floor's yours."

M surveys the room with a twinkle. "Of course," he says, "it's too early to assess the impact of the, er, new arrival, on the voters." Mr Brown scowls. M goes on: "So I shan't speculate about Leo's value to our cause." "Good," Mr Brown mutters.

"But the moment is symbolic," says M. "Is it possible that we should alter tack from the work agenda that Mr Brown has so ably laid before the nation, and now begin to consider a new, dare I say, infant, strategy? [The scowl deepens.] A strategy for families is waiting to be born. And we are the only party that can, so to speak, deliver it. Many citizens feel that they have thrown out the baby of home life with the bathwater of idleness. They want a break. They want to be breast-fed and nurtured, rather than be told off. And in a moment I'll ask Phillip and Trevor to give us their thoughts, to send - if you like - the spermatozoa of creative ideas to fertilise the electoral eggs of the nation."

By now the tension in the room is palpable. "Thank you," says Mr Brown. "And before they do show us their ideas, which are likely to be a real millennium experience, can I just express my confidence that they will be able to transform an Ayling political strategy into one that makes the Grade. And that they will thereby ensure that the next election, far from being a Lottery, will become a Faith Zone, and election Thursday itself will become one great day for whatever comes after new Labour. Gentlemen, the floor is yours."

Osbert looks around him bewildered, as Trevor and Phillip stand up. Lolita meanwhile whispers in my ear: "He may not be getting married, Lynton, but no one messes with Mr Brown."