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

Monday Brunch with Biggles. This is a new fortnightly invention, by which Boss Hilary and I liaise with the party proper, in the substantial form of the chairman, Charlie Clarke.

I anticipate a conversation in which we tell him about how dreadful our MPs are, and he tells us that the party in the country is even worse. Then he tries to trump us with the trade unions, at which point we remind him about Gudrun Dimwitty. Then we all fall silent, and contemplate our scrambled eggs with chives in a state of gloomy reverie.

It's our turn first. Two weeks from now it will be at party HQ, but this week we are in Boss Hilary's study, with her conference table laid with bad porcelain dug out from under some stairs, and a tepid breakfast borrowed from the Italian cafe on Great Smith Street, and brought over by the proprietor's ancient uncle, who has travelled the cold quarter-mile in just under 25 minutes.

Biggles is more or less on time. And, if weren't for his alarming habit of bouncing, he would be perfectly elephantine. Like a pachyderm, he is baggy. He has large ears. He trumpets a lot. He regards the world from a pair of surprised eyes that are ten sizes too small for him. He is bristly in surprising places. He washes himself all over by taking water into his trunk, and then splashing himself with it. At any rate, he drinks tea that way.

But, unlike an elephant, he bounces. He bounces through the door, bounces his jacket on to a hook, bounces his papers off the table, bounces my hand with his, bounces Boss Hilary's cheeks with his sandpaper lips, bounces into a chair, bounces up again, removes my briefcase from the chair and bounces down once more. His face is red, but it is I who am tired.

As Boss Hilary removes the metal covers from the congealing eggs, Biggles turns his head to me, narrows his eyes theatrically and trumpets: "7 February 1976!" I must look puzzled, because I am indeed puzzled. Is this a political quiz? What happened on 7 February 1976? Something international - a war perhaps? Something political?

"Harold Wilson announced his resignation?" I ask. Must have been around then.

"No," says Biggles, bouncing egg on to his plate. "Where were you on 7 February 1976?"

I know where I was roughly, I tell him. I was a junior lecturer at Keele University. And I was a contributing editor to Red Action, and a soon-to-be-departed cadre in the International Marxist Group. But 7 February? Biggles is pleased that I do not have total recall. He picks up some toast with his trunk and flips it into his mouth.

"I looked it up in my diary," he says, "the diary I kept throughout my term of office as president of the National Union of Students." Ah.

"And," he continues, tilting his head to one side, so that an ear swings, "on that day I travelled by the 10.12am train from Euston to Stoke-on-Trent. I arrived at Keele University at lunchtime. There was a sit-in going on in solidarity with trainee teachers. It was in the library . . ."

And now I am there. There are 22 of us left in the library, on this second day of occupation, a general meeting having voted - 55 to 43 with ten abstentions - to have a sit-in. And this is the day when Charles Clarke is due to address the student body. But when he comes to the steps of the library, one of the occupiers bars his way.

"Don't let him in!" shouts this militant. "He has come to sell us out, just as Stalinism and social democracy have always sold out the working class! Go home, Biggles! No deal with Healey! Rank and file, unite and fight!" A vote is taken, and it is decided by 12 to ten that Clarke should be excluded. And he is.

"More tea?" I ask hospitably.