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

Tuesday Never mind the Irish Potato Famine, some day history will record the era of The Great Celtic Attrition. Honestly, they're not like politicians at all out there on the fringe, but more like football managers. In Wales, you have Clapham Ron auto-combusting, then Alun Michael forced out.

In Scotland, since 1999, the country's already been through Donald Dewar (peace be upon him) and Henry McLeish, and even Jack McCockup, the new candidate for the job, has first to call a press conference to tell the world (well, maybe not the world, exactly) that he once knobbed an aide for three weeks seven years ago.

I put it down to these places being small and everyone knowing everyone else. The woman he slept with was probably the sister of the editor of the Daily Tartan, or the daughter of the chief of the MacGregors or something, and they will never forgive him until the waters of Loch Lochy run red with the blood of the McCockups. A bit like Afghanistan, really, except without the beards.

This may also explain Mr Brown. You always get the feeling with him that you're either in his tribe, in which case - in return for paying him homage - he will give you love and succour, or you're in a rival camp, in which case your cattle and castle are fair game for him and his to pillage and burn. This makes the next phase of British politics - who will take over from The World Master when he succeeds Kofi Annan or retires to a mountainside in the Hindu Kush to dispense global love - a really tricky one. Do you want to risk offending the child of the manse and being declared an enemy of God by backing Blind Lemon Blunkett for the top spot?

I know what M would say, but then he has nothing to lose. If Mr Brown ever takes over, then M might as well set up the Hartlepool office of Saatchi & Saatchi the same day. But I have, as yet, remained reasonably neutral. I have not offended Alfie J Pratt or Clever Ed, whose sister Lolita remains one of my good friends. I am neither Pashtun nor Tajik, but soon (and sooner than anyone thinks) it will be camp-joining time. What shall I do?

Wednesday Watching Cheryl watching the news of the fall of Kabul on BBC News, just days before her monster Stop the War demo, is a picture to treasure. I am able to celebrate the entry of John Simpson, the Lion of the Panjshir, into the Afghan capital in an uncomplicated way. For weeks, I have (if the truth be told) been terrified that the bombing was getting absolutely nowhere, and that the Northern Alliance were just another bunch of murderous buffoons. Now the crowds are out cheering the defeat of the Taliban - and I can relax.

But Cheryl can't. What is she to make of those women casting off their burqas? Let alone those men shaving off their beards (there's nothing that Cheryl hates more than a beard, as I discovered 20 years ago in my Bennite days, when I grew one and found myself sleeping in the bath). Is she supposed to say: "Stop the war before they liberate Kandahar too"? Will she point at the girls now going to school and shout: "Not in my name"?

Still, I mustn't gloat. Not in front of Cheryl anyway. I haven't had sex since 11 September and I don't want to find myself, as Blind Lemon's candidate for Home Secretary or whatever, facing some future press conference to fess up about my night of passion with the Latvian au pair or the social affairs correspondent of the local rag.

So if I'm ever to get my leg over again I'll need to be nice. And actually, there is something disturbingly attractive about Cheryl in campaigning mode. Perhaps she'd like to put on a uniform? Or maybe not.

This article first appeared in And now the trouble really begins

2001-11-19