Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

The Journal of Lynton Charles

Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

The Journal of Lynton Charles

Article excerpt

Chancellor of the Duchy of Durham

Wednesday

It is with great pleasure that, on this fifth anniversary of our coming to power, I take a taxi and go to join my friends at the Koh-i-Noor Tandoori in Hendon, where we will celebrate five glorious years.

Not that the papers do. They are full of pages of vacuous celebs expressing their profound disappointment that the government has failed to do X or Y. Or -- if they're too vacuous even to think of what X or Y are -- expressing exaggerated horror that the cabinet is made up of politicians who put a gloss on things, and not of nuns and minor saints.

But we know. Devolution after 300 years, the end of hereditary peerages after 1,000 years, peace in Northern Ireland after 30 years, a re-elected full-time Labour government for the first time ever, two wars won, unemployment down, wages up, crime -- um -- never mind, mortgages down, lots of children taken out of poverty (even if we can't work out exactly how many or what exactly we mean by poverty). It is a good record.

Around a couple of tables put together in the private gloom of Mr Shah's restaurant, we congregate -- the proud veterans of this titanic struggle. The true believers. The ones who have never wavered. M is here in a black suit and black shirt, white tie, dark glasses and fedora. Don't ask me why. Starbuck sits beside him, nodding whenever he is spoken to. Across the table, the benign smile and Sue Pollard glasses of Lord Birt gleam at me, as does the clitoris-shaped nose stud of Loveday Flessh, of Blarney, Booz and Flessh. Unshocked by this, the Hon Bernice Shackleton from Buckingham Palace is making conversation with Bye-Byers. Geoff Hoon is talking to Rex the lobbyist. It is a select and happy gathering of New Labour's finest. And no Indian businessmen.

Can it be five years since that dawn beside the river? …

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