Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

The Journal OF Lynton Charles

Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

The Journal OF Lynton Charles

Article excerpt

Thursday It's early, and the man on the phone is in a state.

"He's losing it, Mr Lynton Charles sir, losing it!" Starbuck's voice quivers. "Were you at PMQs yesterday? Did you see?" I wasn't, I tell him, I didn't, because I have fiduciary things to do. Was it really so bad?

"Bad? Bad? Not one, not two, but three slips of the tongue! I was in the public gallery and the Tories were loving it, while our lot were distraught. He looks exhausted, exhausted. White face, lines on his forehead, weedy voice. And where is the leadership? We're getting crucified on the euro, everyone's talking about spin, and all our people with majorities of less than 10,000 are beginning to think about retraining. How did it happen, Mr Lynton Charles sir? A majority of 179 and it's all going tits up. What more can possibly go wrong?"

I try to soothe him. "Simon, Simon. It's a bad patch. Every government has one. Maggie did. We're still ahead in the polls, unemployment's down, inflation's low. The money will come though in the next year. Don't panic, Simon, don't panic."

I put the phone down, turn around and nearly jump out of my skin. M -- who I took to be overseeing Orange-hosing in Ulster, is sitting in the corner of my office. His shoulders are shaking and, for a terrible moment, I think he's crying. I go closer, and see that -- in fact -- he's laughing.

"Starbuck?" he asks. I nod. "Panicking?" I nod again. "Well, I just wish I could be there when he hears the latest," says M, and the shoulder shake begins again. I am alarmed. "What is it?" I ask.

"Darling," says M. "Do you remember that splendid speech given by The Master to the assembled liberal Catholic theologians last week? In which he sagely suggested manhandling drunken young yobbos down to the cashpoint and relieving them of a hundred quid on the spot? …

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