Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

The Journal OF Lynton Charles

Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

The Journal OF Lynton Charles

Article excerpt


Saturday The new year kicks off much as the old one ended -- in an Indian restaurant. This time I'm back in the familiar surroundings of the Koh-i-Noor in Hendon, waiting for M to arrive. We have, as he told me over the phone, much plotting to do. If the election campaign is just 11 weeks away, then the new government is only four months off. Four months to stake a claim to be in the first Labour government to be re-elected with a decent majority since 1966. Four months to dip one's face in the limelight and keep it there. So this time, the chapattis are on me.

I have taken our usual table near the back - a table that has the advantage of being ill-lit, and the disadvantage of being rather too close to the men's loos. And it is here, in the half-light, that M finds me, poppadom poised over the mango chutney, waiting and pondering.

"Lynton, my lovely boy!" he exclaims, and slides effortlessly on to the far end of the banquette. "How sweet of you to offer me a gourmet meal as the price of doing that which I most enjoy: shaping the future. Now, how can I shape yours? Is your bhuna gluten-free and organic?" A waiter has appeared through the murk.

M continues. "Naturally, The Master and I have conversed on the subject of personnel, albeit obliquely. It is a matter of balance. Giving youth its head, giving Mr Brown his due, giving the heartlands no cause for revolt, giving talent a chance, giving Middle England nice, articulate, well-educated people to look at, giving the whole a nice, gender-balanced, minority-friendly look. And, I think, giving me at least one friend who can come round to my house and play.

"Now..." He picks up a poppadom, breaks it while keeping his eyes on mine, dips a piece in the hot brinjal pickle, takes a bite, pauses as he realises that this is the hottest thing he has ever tasted and that his eyes are watering and giving him away, and coughs, ". …

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