The Journal of Lynton Charles, Fiduciary Secretary to the Treasury

Friday It was bound to happen. I'm just bagging up some stuff with Dolores (who knows when I will next set foot in Fort Knox, or as what?), when No 10 comes on the line. I'm still recovering in their eyes from the Oxford Circus debacle (which somehow has been kept out of the papers), and now I'm hit by the Cheryl business.

"Lynton?" says the voice. "Yes?" I say tentatively. Dammit, though, am I a man or a mouse? If Cheryl wants to stand for parliament, why the hell shouldn't she? Does The Master stand over Cherie saying: "Darling, I'd rather you didn't take that case, it may be embarrassing"? I bet she'd give him a sharp poke in the nadgers with one of her cheekbones for his insolence.

Then, what if they offer me the Cook option? Divorce her or else? It's not as though I even have anyone to run off with. I doubt whether Sally-Anne Bertoni will have me at this kind of notice. One kiss in an Indian restaurant does not add up to a romance. Worse, she might even agree to get together!

But No 10 simply wants to know whether it is true, as the Socialist Alliance press release is saying, that my missus is their candidate for my seat? Yes, I tell them, it is. "That's all we wanted to know," says the voice, and rings off.

After an hour of trying, I get M in his northern fastness. He is very sympathetic. "I always knew that darling Cheryl had - shall we say - tendencies. Militant ones, by the sound of things. Poor, dear, Lynton. All those lectures about the working class and the vanguard of the proletariat. Or perhaps they don't do that any more. It does make one so nostalgic for red flags, 'Avante popolo' and historical inevitability. But the reality is Theresa Nellist, Red Action and people whose main goal in life is to close down the railways and the schools."

He pauses. "But you know, Lynton, this is an opportunity, too. Learning from the Slippery business, it never works to be all heavy-handed. People crave authenticity. Fake that, as the saying goes, and you're made. So make a virtue of it, darling! Tell the world what a vindication of the democratic process her decision is. Tell them that you're proud of her, even if you disagree. Don't worry, I'll square it with the Lubianka and No 10."

Sunday Sure enough, there we are. "Wife gives Blair man the Trots," says the Mail on Sunday. "I'm proud of her, says opposed husband" in the Observer. And while Cheryl's quotes - all about us giving into big business and being tools and dupes and things - are not nice, my magnanimity in the face of this onslaught looks wonderfully tolerant. I am just basking in all this when Neil informs me (Cheryl is out at a meeting) that he and Roy have decided how the campaign is to be fought. "Your posters on the ground floor and Mum's in the bedroom windows," they tell me. Bollocks. Four bloody weeks of whose turn it is to do the shopping or clean out the hamster while the other is out canvassing. And I've got to be nice about it. Grrrrrrr.

Wednesday Lorelei, the Latvian au pair, is left in charge as both of us plan to go to London for our manifesto launches. Mine is at the Lubianka, and - to my horror - I discover that Cheryl's is outside. "We have a big lorry with 'People before profits' on one side of it," she announces, like Violet Elizabeth Bott. Goody. And in front of the entire journalistic political corps, too.

"Have you, darling?" I smile, horribly. "That's nice. And is 'One solution, revolution' on the other? Or 'Armed road the only road'? Or how about 'Nationalise the top 200 monopolies'?"

"Don't be silly, Lynton," she says. "The working class are ready for our message, and you could be in for a shock."

Oh, bless her!

This article first appeared in the 21 May 2001 issue of the New Statesman, A spin too far