Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

The Journal OF Lynton Charles

Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

The Journal OF Lynton Charles

Article excerpt


Friday "Of course," says Starbuck, "it's all down to Alastair. I mean, we've had a majority of 179,20 per cent ahead in the polls, and where has it all gone wrong? Why hasn't the message been getting across? Look, I love him. Love him. He was brilliant before the last election. But government is a different matter."

He pauses and stirs his latte with a EurOK souvenir ballpoint. "The thing is Mr Lynton Charles, sir -- and a lot of people at the Lubianka are saying this -- the buck has to stop at the top, and Alastair is the top. I was having lunch with Diggory Pitts of the Express the other day (incidentally I was the 'source close to ministers' in his crisis piece on Wednesday), and I told him that many of us think that Ali's had his day, you know, because he's become the story."

He gives me a sidelong glance. "What do you think?"

"Two things," I tell him. "One, The Master is the guy at the top. And two, did it not strike you as being ironic for you to be giving Diggory Pitts a story about Campbell being the story? I'm sorry Simon, I sometimes think that all of you jolly young blokes who came along in the late Nineties and never had to spend your time wrestling with council budgets or crossing SWP picket lines, have -- together -- become our Frankenstein's monster. Now if you'11 excuse me, I have some ministering to do." Monday Why can I never remember the Postmaster-General's name? Is it Simms? Pimms? Timms? Everyone knew who Swiss Family Robinson was (although millionaire businessmen do stick out a bit in the Labour Party, even now), but the present chap, despite being a close colleague of mine, is hard to bring into focus. He is, it's true, easily the tallest politician I've ever met. In fact, his voice comes from so far away that I have difficulty hearing him in conversation.

Anyway, whatever he's called, he's only just left my office, when the panelling slips sideways and M emerges, blinking, into the sultry heat of a Fort Knox, unair-conditioned afternoon. …

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