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

Thursday "Can't we just get ribbebem?" asks Boss Hilary, and takes a shot of Scotch. It is late here in the Commons, and Blind Lemon's all-terrain anti-terrorist vehicle is having to be hand-pushed through the parliamentary mud. Boss Hilary's ire is directed at Mad Marsden, who is taking the party briefings and then - we suspect - turning them straight over to the Lib Dems. Plus, he has never let up on the story of her threatening him within an inch of his strangely unattractive life, and she is beginning to take it personally.

I drain my glass. "It isn't that simple," I tell her. "The Lib Dems aren't sure they want him. One day they may be in power, and the last thing they need is some chippy bloke who was bullied at school, whose worm has finally turned and is determined now to get back at all the authority figures he can."

She nods sadly. I continue. "I mean, I have asked them to take him. I told Lembit Opik that it would be a personal favour to me. I said that we had far too many MPs as it was, that it makes control practically impossible and that we have to live each day with the statistical likelihood that they are going to die or defect or go bonkers or rebel. I just about promised Lembit the pick of any parliamentary exchange trips on offer this year, including St Lucia."

Boss Hilary looks startled. St Lucia is our trump card, now that no one believes that there are government jobs on offer. But she sees the sense of it. "And . . . ?" she asks.

I sigh. "He wasn't buying it. Said that if they had to have Marsden, then they'd wait till a few months before the next general election when they could get maximum publicity and when he wouldn't have time to fall out with them and defect to the Socialist Alliance or the Tories before the polls open."

Boss Hilary, who isn't such a bad old thing, offers me another glass. I sink it in one.

Later, 4 am? Can't quite make out the hands on the clock. That last drink was a mistake. Not that I'm pissed. Gooreavens, no. But the Glenmorangie, on top of the lateness of the hour and the godawfulness of it all, has done something. And I think I may have blown it. What happened? Well . . .

The final division is at three, and we've all had enough. I head up to the bar to say "thanks" to the troops, some of whom go into the lobbies for us day in, day out, no matter what their own views are or how late the hour. Salt of the earth.

Anyway, there's that loose bit of carpet just by the door, that just sort of rucks up, you know?

So I'm heading for the bar, and I can see some of the lads who've done the party proud standing round with pints in their hands, and I hail them, the way you do. And then two things seem to happen. The first is that Mad Marsden is coming out of the bar, and his face - full of angry pleasure - shows that he has just enjoyed a word or two with some of the lads and he is off to write it up for the Shrewsbury Advertiser.

The second is that I catch my foot on the carpet.

If it hadn't been for the whisky, I think I'd have managed to stay upright. But I find myself falling, and - as I descend - I put my arms out to break the fall. They find lodging on the person of Mad Marsden himself. Across his throat, to be exact. He reels backward, carrying my weight, and comes to rest against the wall.

"Thank you," I tell him sincerely, glad not to have broken my neck, "for the support." And I extricate myself.

"This," hisses Mad Marsden, "will be front-page news tomorrow. Just you wait and see!"

Ominously, the whole room is cheering.

This article first appeared in The ignorance of the Islamophobes

2001-12-17