This has been my first week back at work since my last bout of clinical depression last autumn. This time, unlike the last time three years ago, I've been having therapy rather than just taking medication, and it's taken a while to feel well enough to get going again. I'm anxious not to return to the unbalanced, stressed-out, essentially empty existence that I had before - culminating in the Lobbygate fiasco.

To that end I am pledged to work only part-time on the advertising agency that I helped launch recently. My partners are nothing like political apparatchiks. We've called the business "Farm" and, despite the Sunday Times labelling me an "advertising boss", I have a confession - I am nervous about making it work and am relying on my partners showing me the ropes. They're trying to reassure me by telling me that I'd worked on the "highest profile brand re-positioning of the decade". I stared at them in incomprehension. "New Labour," they grinned in explanation.


Mind you the old Draper comes in handy now and again. When we were setting up the Farm office we were led a merry dance by British Telecom. Engineers came on the wrong day, and there was no co-ordination between the different departments that handled faxes, switchboards and ISDN lines. Finally, after being let down time after time, I put on my new Labour wanker hat and rang up the chairman's office, claiming I'd recently had dinner with him (it was sort of true - at the CBI annual dinner last year, though admittedly there were another 500 people there). Eventually a very nice lady, Jo Mason, called me back and arranged prompt service (on a Saturday, no less) as part of the "chairman's special complaints unit" or some such wonder. Now the charming Sandy Walkington, head of BT corporate affairs, has promised to investigate the privatisation wonder's pisspoor service. If you have a problem, I suggest calling Jo Mason on 0171-356 5000. I'm sure Iain Vallance would agree that all his customers deserve the "special" treatment.


One great benefit of any forced expulsion from the Westminster village is that I have started to think about - and discuss - politics properly again. That's what led me to write in these pages that Ken Livingstone should be allowed to stand for mayor. He still tells the story of when he came to speak to Manchester University Labour Club and missed his train, resulting in a trip to my student flat for a cup of tea - where, in pride of place on my wall, was a big poster of Roy Hattersley.

I guess that after all that new Labour spin-doctoring I'm coming home to social democracy. Be honest, readers: how many of you wish the party would do the same?


As part of my change of lifestyle I've taken up cycling. I am slowly getting to know the cycleways of London, inadequate though they are. If there were any sniff of socialist sense left in our capital we would see massive investment in cycling; environmentally friendly, healthy and, for most cross-city routes, quicker than a car. We should lobby the mayoral candidates until they come up with the goods.

In the meantime I have a question. Amid the confusing blue square, red circle and blue circle signs that adorn the cycleways, I have come across a lone sign consisting of a black cycle on a white background surrounded by a red triangle. Does anyone know what it signifies? Its situation offers no clues.


I'm also working on a sex and spinning novel. I was delighted and flattered that Julie Burchill has already christened it "a cross between Jeffrey Archer and Bret Easton Ellis". I can just see that splashed across the cover, causing the book to fly off the shelves. Sadly, though, a mutual friend has unkindly clarified matters - that's her description of me, not my oeuvre.


I'm not the only one writing a book. The New Statesman's proprietor, Geoffrey Robinson, is writing (in longhand, apparently; can't he borrow Cristina Odone's word processor?) a memoir of government that has Tony Blair seriously worried. The PM has sent his "special assistant', as Anji Hunter is styled, to minimise the damage.

I was once rung up by Robinson, who enquired whether I had any ideas for promoting the NS to students. I said yes, and he suggested we meet that afternoon. I was busy. But his tone brooked no hesitation. "Good," he replied. "The car will pick you up at 2pm."

Only when I was in the car did I realise that the chauffeur was taking me to the MP's Lutyens mansion in Surrey. When I arrived I was given a pen and a piece of paper and told to write down the ideas we'd discussed.

I imagine that his book will be more about how that drive struck Whitehall obstacles than about rehashing the Mandelson story. Nonetheless I suspect that Hunter will have met her match - a case of unstoppable force meeting immovable object.


The great incentive to make a success of the book and Farm is that TV and radio presenters will have to stop calling me ex-this, once-that.

My feeling of has-been-ness reached its zenith on Radio 5 Live the other night when Brian Hayes, with a mixture of exasperation and post-midnight frivolity, introduced me as "Derek Draper, former just about everything". Not bad for someone who only reached the age of 32 on Sunday 15 August.