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The Independent Culture
A "CABINET" crisis has been caused by the break-up of Bob McCartney's UK Unionist Party. Cedric Wilson, former deputy leader of the UKUP, and now leading light of the new Northern Ireland Unionist Party, was recently horrified to discover that a filing cabinet containing items belonging to him, had been forcibly broken into and documents removed. The discovery, made when he returned to the UKUP office at the Northern Ireland Assembly building to pick up said items, was duly reported to the Royal Ulster Constabulary. The RUC told Pandora that Bob McCartney was unable to retrieve some of his own papers from the cabinet and that a member of his staff had authorised a locksmith to force it open. Cedric Wilson was terse about his side of the story because of the RUC investigation. However, an RUC spokesman told Pandora that criminal damage was being ruled out and wearily added: "If anyone can get any sense out of the politicians over here, they're a better man than I am."

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SIMON HUGHES, a front-runner in the race to succeed the retiring Lib Dem leader, Paddy Ashdown, has been the victim of one of the cheekiest Parliamentary attacks in years. When the subject of what would happen if the election of the London mayor ended in a tie cropped up in a Commons debate last Wednesday, Labour MP Tony McNulty suggested that he would rather draw lots than leave the decision to the elected members of the new London Assembly. McNulty was then asked: "Would he prefer the drawing of lots or the tossing of a coin? In other words is he a drawer of lots or a tosser?" He answered thus: "That remark was preferable to all the interventions that I have just received from the honourable Member for Southwark North and Bermondsey [Hughes], who... if I had to put money on it, does not draw lots."

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WILL GEORGE Benson become sick of hearing his tribute to Princess Diana and Dodi Fayed, as Elton John admits that he tired of hearing his tribute record to Diana, Goodbye English Rose? This week Benson's tribute CD and video, My Father, My Son I Will Keep You in My Heart, are out on general release. Mohammed al Fayed commissioned soul singer Benson to write the tribute after they met at Harrods in July of last year. Benson, who has lost three sons of his own, was quoted as saying that the result was a "soupy song". Is it a recipe the public will swallow second time around?

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WHATEVER HAPPENS to President Clinton, the Republicans have got what they wanted, according to one learned academic who has contacted Pandora. "Republicans have been saying that they want to trip Clinton up, by impeaching him. That is exactly what they have done. The word impeachment means "a tripping up, or putting a foot in the way," explains the professor, who cites the 19th century etymologist, Walter W Skeat, as his source. Our learned friend adds: "The word comes from the Latin impediment where one is impeded from action." Thus making the meaning of impeachment as pertinent for Hillary Clinton as it is for Republicans.

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WOULD HOLLYWOOD actress Michelle Pfeiffer (pictured) endorse the decision to ban gratuitous sex scenes on TV, as has been taken in Britain by the Broadcasting Standards Council? Pfeiffer certainly has some reservations about scenes of an erotic nature, telling TV Gen magazine this week that: "I've avoided nudity like the plague and the fact is I find nudity in films distracting." In her latest film, A Midsummer Night's Dream, Michelle has made self-censorship a big issue: "The truth is my whole performance boils down to keeping my butt covered in a flimsy fairy costume. I kept asking the cameraman: `Did you see my butt? Could you see my rear end?'"

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THE CHANCELLOR's new press aide, Fiona Hamilton, can thank the Treasury for helping keep her profile low. Last week's Treasury press release announcing her new job - she says she won't be Charlie Whelan "in a skirt" - only mentions her name in the fourth line of the second of the Notes for Editors. Pandora assumes this an example of "static", rather than "spin".

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