Pandora

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The Independent Culture
PADDY ASHDOWN'S chances of taking the post of EU Foreign Policy "tsar" are firming up, following rumours that he will give up his Yeovil seat in the summer. There is a growing list of names interested in succeeding Paddy in Yeovil. His former aide Alan Leaman is tipped to run for selection, with other names being bandied around including Jane Bonham-Carter, a former party communications chief and friend of Derek Draper; Mike Hoban, who came within 2,000 votes of unseating Tom King in Bridgewater at the last general election; and Ruth Coleman, a North Wiltshire Councillor who is seen as a counterweight to Lib-Labbery. The list of those interested in Paddy's Yeovil bastion seem likely to stretch as long as the list for the Lib Dem leadership. Soon there may not be anyone left in the party who has not tried to fill Paddy's shoes in some way.

JEFFREY ARCHER appears to have surpassed himself in the populism stakes. Lord Archer has "imitated" a Private Member's Bill from the Conservative MP Christopher Fraser which curbs the problem of utility companies digging up roads. The main thrust of the Bill appeared in Wednesday's Evening Standard as Archer's "brainchild". The RAC, which was backing the Bill, takes a different view. The head of campaigns, Edmund King, told Pandora: "Lord Archer seems to have `reinvented' our plans. Imitation is still the most sincere form of flattery, but when you're in a hole, don't dig." An Archer spokesman responded: "The difference is, our idea has teeth and will work."

PRINCE ANDREW (pictured) has been interested in photography ever since he was dating Koo Stark. He has spoken about his interest in looking at life through a lens on several occasions and says he likes "to take common sights from a different viewpoint, or with something funny on top of them". But there is a little-known fact about his photography. The Duke is a director of a company called Killy Associates, whose principal activity is to collect royalties and other payments "in respect of the publication of photographs taken by the Duke of York". All profits from this venture go to charity. However, the company reports for 1997 and 1998 show that His Royal Highness sold the princely total of precisely - nil photographs. Pandora tried to contact the company to see which photographs were on sale and whether she could do the Prince a favour by actually buying any, but the company has no telephone number listed. Could this be why the photos aren't selling?

PANDORA'S AWARD for parliamentary put-down of the week goes to the former attorney general, Sir Nicholas Lyell. In a debate on the House of Lords, Lyell took an intervention from Peter Mandelson, to which Lyell replied: "Occasionally, I have wondered whether I might come across an old lady with a spinning-wheel in some high room in this House, and now I have come across her."

THE MESSAGES floating around the Conde Nast message system often offer wonderful goodies for sale, many of which would appeal only to the Alice- band brigade at Vogue house. Earlier this week the system buzzed with news from Moscow. "Gucci suit for sale, pounds 250, double-breasted, bargain price, perfect except for a small bullet hole due to Russian Mafia." The suit went in, er, a shot, but other gems still on offer include peacocks - apply to House and Garden - and the entire edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica offered for pounds 1,000, "sale due to marriage," runs the ad. "Wife knows everything."

THE FOREIGN Office has been under fire in recent weeks from the travel industry for the quality of its official travel advice. Yesterday it published the latest warning for winter holiday-makers in France, a mere week after the tragedies that killed a score of skiers. It also includes a curious allusion to would-be Inspector Clouseau-style impersonators: "Visitors to ski resorts should be aware that the Alps are experiencing the worst conditions for many years and this situation is likely to continue for several more weeks. Although the authorities have taken precautions to prevent accents." Excusez-moi?

Pandora can be contacted by e-mail at: pandora@ independent.co.uk

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