Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

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

Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

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

Article excerpt

Monday At Biggles's gaff, it's just me for breakfast with the party chairman, who I find in high spirits, trumpeting around his office and waving his ears. Boss Hilary is indisposed (who in government is not?). We have sausage sandwiches and hot sweet tea, unlike that tepid stuff we had at the whips' office a fortnight ago (Biggles joshes). Isn't he a clever old chairman?

Naturally, almost all our conversation turns to the strange story of Bye Byers, No Moore and the peculiar Mr Sexstain. And is this ever weird, as the twins might say. As far as we can ascertain, the facts are like this:

1. No Moore doesn't suggest burying bad news on the same day as Princess Margaret -- for the reason that when she may or may not have recommended that the news come out, she couldn't have known which day the funeral was.

2. All the same, when two days later the funeral date is known, Sexstain (a former BBC reporter who thought life would be more exciting in the civil service) sends an e-mail to Bye Byers, copied to No Moore, referring to the 11 September memo, and using the word "buried".

3. Somehow, this remarkably politically worded e-mail is leaked, in garbled form, to several newspapers. Not -- one imagines -- by No Moore or her boss.

4. Ali's boys first deny the e-mail (as Sexstain has told them he didn't send one addressed to No Moore), and then are forced to withdraw their denial, on finding out that he did send one addressed to Bye Byers.

5. The Mirror calls them liars and they are very cross.

6. Bye Byers and the permanent secretary, Sir Ronald Donald, agree that a clear-out will have to be made. Byers goes off to fire No Moore, and Sir Ronald gets to deal with Sexstain.

7. Bye Byers tells a Dimbleby that the firing of Sexstain was a personnel matter, and not much really to do with him. …

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