The Journal of Lynton Charles, Fiduciary Secretary to the Treasury

Sunday Panic and fear, fear and panic. That terrible moment when you pick up the phone and it's a reporter from the Daily Mail on the other end, and this time it's you he's after, and there ain't no way that you're going to emerge from this (whatever it is) unscathed.

So my heart is in my stomach from the second that Cheryl calls me while I'm having a pee, and tells me that a Henry O'Halloran is on the blower, and that he wants to talk to me about my "royal outburst". The physical response is immediate, a shrivelling and a drying-up happening almost simultaneously. My "royal outburst"? What "royal outburst"? If there's one thing I've learnt in the past three years, it's that ministers don't have "royal outbursts". You're not permitted any outbursts at all, actually, but royal outbursts least of all. And for the very good reason that they always end up with a call from someone smarmy and deadly called Henry O'Halloran from the Daily Mail, and are then followed by a week's worth of storming and denial, at the end of which you are invariably declared by a BBC political correspondent to be damaged goods. Then, God help you, Diane Abbott defends you in that Madame-Mao-when-she-was-a-sweet-little-girl voice of hers, and it really is nearly all over.

O'Halloran is smooth and insistent. He just happened to be riffling through the pages of last month's Accountancy News, he tells me, and was delighted to read an interview with me covering a wide range of fiduciary and other matters. It was a fascinating interview, and he was transfixed by my views on withholding tax and EU legislation. But not quite as transfixed as he was by the less formal part of the discussion in which - in answer to a question from the junior reporter - I gave the opinion that it was a pity that Prince William had been sent to a school as exclusive as Eton, and wondered whether his social milieu wasn't a little limited.

Is this really my view, or have I been misreported? I recall that the young lady from AN used a tape recorder, and therefore realise that denial is impossible. So yes, I tell O'Halloran, them's me views and what of it? Had I cleared them with No 10? No. Had I informed the Palace in advance, as a matter of courtesy? (Shakily now) No. Did I regret it? No. What did I think about launching an attack on a shy, ordinary 18-year-old boy who is in no position to fight back? Isn't that, I ask O'Halloran defiantly, more of a question for your editor than for me? "Thank you," he says, happily. "I have enough." And rings off.

I call M and tell him what has happened. He tells me that he'll square it with No 10, but that I should lie low for a week or more - this just isn't the sort of story we need right now.

I am cross. "Who runs this fucking country anyway," I expostulate, "us or the Daily Mail?" "Don't push me on that one," says M.

Monday Daily Mail front page: "YOU'RE A WASTER," BLAIR MAN TELLS WILLS.

Tuesday Lynda Leg-Puller's column in the Daily Mail: "Do new Labour trendies like Mr Charles feel no shame that, in their obsessional campaign to destroy traditional Britain, the collateral damage is caused to a young, vulnerable and good-looking young man, whose only sin is a desire to serve his country? For shame!"

Wednesday Evening Standard front page: BLAIR BLASTS PRINCE CRITIC.

Thursday 7.30am. Today programme, Gutto Harri, BBC political correspondent in conversation with Sue MacGregor: "Though many Labour MPs privately agree with Mr Charles, there is little doubt that he is now seen in government circles as being damaged goods."

This article first appeared in the 03 July 2000 issue of the New Statesman, And is there honey by the Tees?