Welcome to the new Independent website. We hope you enjoy it and we value your feedback. Please contact us here.


Comment: Pandora

Is the notoriously laid-back approach of Charles Kennedy already getting too much for his colleagues? At a meeting last week of Charlie's grandly named "shadow cabinet", the new Lib Dem leader was to discuss key concerns with colleagues. The meeting, held on Thursday morning, was causing him problems because it was cutting into his weekend plans; it had to be moved. Robert Maclennan then exercised that desiccated wit of his, in cautioning the leader not to move the meeting to Wednesday - "that way, Charles, you would be ruining two weekends".

VOTER APATHY was not the only thing to mar Michael Portillo's return to Parliament. Portillo's minder during the Kensington & Chelsea by-election, Michael Morley (son of the ex-Miss World boss Eric) is facing police investigation into his conduct at a meeting during the campaign. The gay rights activist Peter Tatchell, who hounded Portillo during the run-up to the by-election, claims to have been manhandled by Morley in an episode caught on film by Channel 4 News. Tatchell saw Kensington police last Friday for more than three hours, to give a seven-page statement. The long arm of the law is understood to be keen to pursue the matter.

Mais non! Associated Newspapers has surpassed itself with un grand faux pas over the weekend. The Daily Mail has re-started its Just Say Non campaign against buying French goods, in defiance of France's continued ban on British beef. Saturday's grand effort was a piece headlined, "How you can make champagne go flat". But the bubbly battle cry was somewhat undermined by a promotion in The Mail on Sunday offering - surely not? - "A free bottle of champagne for every reader."

FEW PEOPLE will have read Jeff Randall's description of how he saved the world, or at least acted as an intermediary between two billionaires in solving the Ashcroft-Times libel dispute, since it was printed in his own Sunday Business. It was stirring stuff, an international tale of suspense and intrigue. Pandora particularly enjoyed the part when Randall told Murdoch to accept Ashcroft's draft of the settlement statement. Poor old Rupe saw little option but to comply meekly. "Fine," he told his saviour. You can't help but wonder whether Jeff made any demands of his own - reading his account, you suspect a mere editorship would not enough for such a fine diplomat. The UN, at the very least, beckons.

England are the football world champions; the trophy was lifted in London last week. But the venue wasn't Wembley, or even Highbury - it was Clerkenwell's splendid Cafe Kick, where the great and the (very) good of the bar football world were gathered to slug it out to become world baby-foot beaters. In a competition organised by the bar, pros and amateurs were randomly paired under equally random national team headings. But England couldn't do it with home-grown talent alone; Alan Cribbs, the top scorer, was in fact American.

MILLENNIUM EVE may prove to be the mother of all soul-searching evenings. Some celebrities, such as Kelsey Grammer of the US sitcom Frasier, have already got that part out of the way. Spending time alone on one New Year's Eve early in his acting career, Grammer (who plays a radio psychologist in the show), experienced something of a revelation. "I suddenly had this intuition that I had to stop being a loser," recalls Kelsey, prescribing the most obvious advice for the blues since "cheer up, it may never happen".

John Cleese is carving out a niche for himself in US television by developing a series for the ABC channel. The Monty Python legend will write and produce a pilot programme for the station, though there are no plans for him to star in it. The show is set in a law firm in which some partners have made deals with the devil. Might they have strange ways of walking, too?