The Journal of Lynton Charles, Chancellor of the Duchy of Durham

Thursday And now, as Boss Hilary would put it, THE SHIT has hit the fffshhh. We had a cunning plan. What, we asked ourselves, should we do with all those old, unwanted ministers who have begun to clog up the place? Find them interesting and socially useful work on select committees, said No 10. And if at the same time (it is hinted) you could give the coup de grace to one or two folk who have outstayed their welcome, so much the better.

Which we take to mean old Gudrun Dimwitty on the ways and means committee and the Bishop of Swansea on aid and trade. Both have got up the noses of the powers that be, to no discernible benefit for the country or the party. Gudrun has made her committee a power base for a kind of souped-up Hattersleyism, and the Bish is probably just beyond his sell-by date. Both are promises that have run out, and there are new promises to keep.

But here's the thing. We're already seen as control freaks seeking to dampen down any dissent within the party (which is, after all, our job), and it's going to look bad when the list is read out and neither Gudrun nor his Reverence is on it. So we have to a) go big on its being time for youth and all that, and b) slip it out to coincide with the Tories murdering each other. As the boy at No 10 says: "No one's interested. Who cares? Wield the knife and do the deed."

Well, we've wielded and the sky has descended upon our heads. It turns out that the fate of British democracy hangs from the far-from-slender thread that is Gudrun Dimwitty. All day long, journos and MPs have been calling, leaving ever more irate and angry messages. One by one, those children who we are supposed to keep in line have been joyfully scampering around the playground, ripping their knickers off, swinging on the branches of forbidden trees and in general enjoying themselves. And it is going to be the devil's own job rounding them all up again and putting them back in their pens.

At teatime, Cookie calls to tell Boss Hilary that he is "putting distance" between himself and us, so as to keep the confidence of the House. Bastard. Though the thought does pass through my brain that it would be no bad thing for posterity to know that Boss Hilary was in charge of tactics, and not me. I am, in general, rather in favour of devolution, and letting go, and all that kind of thing. Have I got Simon Runt's phone number? I have.

Monday Gudrun and the Bible-basher are back on the list, courtesy of a hundred or so rebellious colleagues, who must hope that it is never their job to reconcile the irreconcilable. And I am left contemplating a dangerous moment in my career. After watching that strange tabloid woman who ran the Egg's campaign dish the dirt on Francis Maude on Sunday (Francis Maude, for chrissakes!), I am nervous about ringing Runt directly. I wonder whether Lolita will do the job for me.

Tuesday Mind you, maybe it doesn't matter what we do. I have just watched, from the comfort of the committee corridor, as the Conservative Party commits ritual suicide.

It's Clarkey versus Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart. Let slip the dogs of war! Let there be no hiding place, nowhere to shelter! Let blue-rinse slaughter commence from the Lizard to the Wash. Tally-ho!

Thank God - instead of mad staring-eyed factions, the worst we have to put up with is the leadership skills of Droopy Edmonds and his band of boilermakers, the ideological clarity of Lord Roy and the charm of Gudrun Dimwitty. They always said that Mrs T was lucky in her opponents.

Perhaps we will be, too.

This article first appeared in the 23 July 2001 issue of the New Statesman, In the line of fire