Lynton Charles joins a fundraising committee

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

Thursday Boss Hilary and I are still getting representations from MPs who are cross about the Grope Affair. Ever since it was revealed that Aloysius Grope, proprietor of one of our least significant national newspapers and also publisher of - among other titles - Banging Sluts and Whipping Granny, had given half a million to party coffers, the balloon has gone up. Many of us were blooded in the Seventies, when the patriarch inside us was subject to assault by early feminism, and we've never quite been at ease with matters of the groin since. As for the female MPs, well all I can say is that I'm glad that Grope also publishes Wanking Gayboys, as otherwise the charge of sexism would sink us. I think some of our lot would rather get their money from a Saudi arms dealer, as the Tories traditionally have, than from someone selling sex. One may be immoral, but the other is worse - it's tacky.

Saturday I am bedding in my lobelias (I have taken up mild gardening since my sex life all but ceased) when Cheryl calls to say that Biggles Clarke is on the line.

"Er, Lynton," says the chalky voice, "are you well? Good. Look, I've been talking to The Master. We think we've got to do something about this funding business. We're being hammered. Quite unfairly. I've suggested that we set up a vetting committee. Look at donations, decide whether they're kosher or not. Hilary says she's too busy, so we want you to be on it."

I instantly see another Dome, another Wembley on the horizon. This is a job for losers, only just behind Transport Secretary in its deadliness. But you can never say "no". So I ask Biggles who else is going to be on the committee.

"Me. Dave Triesperson, Lord Arafat, you and, er, George Galloway."

"George Galloway?"

"Joke. Actually we need a woman. Do you know any?"

I nearly tell him that I wish I did. However, all the women I know would be turning down donations continuously on one pretext or another. And, if my guess is right, this committee has been set up for the purpose of agreeing to donations, but in a scrutineering, eyes-narrowed kind of a way. It's a shame that Rabbi Julia Neuberger is not in the party. She'd be ideal.

Tuesday The first session of the Labour Party Donations Scrutiny Committee meets at Old Queen House. Biggles is in the chair, flanked by Dave Triesperson and the swarthy figure of Lord Arafat of Woking (who also doubles up as The Master's personal envoy to the Middle East). Also round the small table are moi, a round, friendly chap called Barry Cox who is something big in television, and the extraordinary, elongated figure of Janet Street-Porter. I wonder for a moment whether she hasn't wandered in by mistake. But no, when the introductions are made, it becomes clear that her membership is deliberate. A coup, I'd say.

Biggles begins. He reminds us that the party has done absolutely nothing wrong - certainly not with Bernie, the Hindujas, Mr Mittal or Aloysius Grope. But the perception is that we have done bad things. Therefore we need a process that will reassure people and help to alter those perceptions. So, the committee will look at all proposed donations of more than five grand. They will investigate the background of the donor and ask hard questions about his or her motivation.

"Only then," concludes Biggles, "will we accept the money. Then we can say that we are satisfied that there are no favours expected, no strings attached, so we can take the dosh and stick it straight in the bank. Clear?"

We all nod.

This article first appeared in the 27 May 2002 issue of the New Statesman, The laptop fascists