Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

The Journal OF Lynton Charles

Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

The Journal OF Lynton Charles

Article excerpt


Sunday It's late, and the phone rings in the study. M is on the line. His voice has that hollow "I'm in the shit again" timbre. "Lynton," he says, "I'm in the shit again." And the full story comes tumbling out. It seems that, three years back, and not long after the Mother of All Election Triumphs, he is invited to some ethnic religious do by the Barracuda brothers, Lebanese twin businessmen who have just agreed to put a million into the Dome. Which M is very grateful for, as should the entire nation be.

Anyway, barely have they slipped a garland round his neck and a firebrand into one hand and a honey-cake into the other -- M is a little vague on exactly which religion this is -- than Juan Barracuda says to his brother that he is still wondering whether to submit another citizenship application, given the curt and unfriendly way in which the last one was treated by the Home Office. M picks up this cue and tells them that there is never a good reason for discourtesy, be the supplicant ne'er so poor or -- as in the case of the Barracudas -- so wealthy.

This government, he assures them, is more sympathetic than the Tories are to the plight of those wishing to migrate. Why doesn't he ring the Home Office and just find out how the matter would stand were Juan Barracuda to try again? He will not -- they must understand -- intercede himself. That would be an abuse of power, though if one of them were to put down roots in the rapidly improving north-eastern ex-port that he represents, then he could argue the toss for them until the cows came home. In fact, between them, they could practically purchase said ex-port. The Barracuda Sportsdome might not come amiss.

So he goes back to work and gives one of the Witchfinder General's inquisitors a ring. The conversation, according to M, runs as follows:

"Good morning, Michael. …

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