Frankly, I am sick to my very stomach.

If we are to suspend our entirely justifiable disbelief in anything that the Sunday Telegraph and Channel 4 can concoct between them, my beloved colleague Stephen Byers has - allegedly, m'learned friends - been taking bungs from El Tel for leaning on his mate Lord Mandacity to get the fatuous FSA to drop some food labelling proposals. Despicable. Allegedly.

Firstly let me state with the type of sincerity that only a government minister can muster that it is simply beyond the bounds of credibility that Tesco would ever stoop so low as to attempt to employ its army of former No. 10 lobbyists to exert undue influence of this type.

Secondly, how dare those grubby and malicious hacks suggest any representative past or present of Her Majesty's noble executive would sink so low as to accept £5k a day for lobbying (or running a minicab service, as it will henceforth be known).

My rates start at three times that, although this includes Green Shield Stamps, use of the ministerial khazi and first crack at the departmental teabag on any given Tuesday.

Well, you didn't think I could maintain the lifestyle of Ashley Cole on my miserable government salary, did you? My great fear is that if any of the totally deniable allegations made by the media should turn out to contain some grain of truth it could completely undercut the sleaze market and oblige me to downshift to shopping at the Co-op. Yeuch.

On which note, hats off to 'Skid' Marks and the noble mutualists for fabricating a modest 85% uptick in 2009 profits. I must say it warms the cockles of my heart to see the TV ads showing the Co-op and Somerfield teams engaged in such loving embraces.

In my experience, that will last about as long as it takes to work out who gets the regional manager's job in the merged organisation, at which point they'll start fighting like rats in a sack or 'sausages' as they're known in the c-store trade.

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