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The Independent Culture
IT WAS a people's budget, so Pandora asked some people what they wanted from it. Mrs G Brown of Cambridge: "I hope they don't stop the married couples' allowance." Brown's Night-club: "We want 24-hour drinking and the legalisation of cannabis." The Brownies: "To encourage schools to hire rent free premises, enable local authorities to put more resources into the guide movement, and full VAT recovery for charities."

BACK IN the crazy world of Gordon Brown, his glamorous beloved, New Labour power-broker Sarah Macaulay, was having "a normal day at the office", according to an aide, "but the TV will probably be on." Outside the charmed circle, former Brown mouthpiece Charlie Whelan was doubtless preparing for his new Radio 5 Live show Sunday Service next month. One idea getting its tyres kicked is a strand called Who Wants To Be an MP?, in which prospective parliamentary candidates are quizzed about their putative constituencies. Does this mean Whelan will be asking hopefuls for Hartlepool whereabouts in London they'll live when they win?

PANDORA'S TOP ten suggestions for Budget 2000:

1. Gordon Brown to open Budget address with voter-friendly statement such as "The following is complete fiction - I have been handsome and popular my whole life." While everyone's puzzling this, slip in 200 per cent corporation tax hike.

2. Relocate Lawrence Five suspects to Falkland Islands in bid boost trade with Argentina.

3. Distract pesky Tories from impertinent social security scrutiny by staging "spontaneous" photo-op with Tara Palmer-Tomkinson.

4. Improve presentation by putting Flat Eric on web-cam to announce New Labour's "more challenging" policies.

5. Fiona Hamilton: everyone's saying she's "the new Charlie Whelan".

6. Miras to be replaced by Mirage, an exciting New Labour Euro-initiative whereby long-term unemployed, juvenile bail bandits and transient asylum seekers are transported indefinitely to Yugoslavia to build a large wall around Kosovo.

7. Tax Furbies.

8. Generous breaks for those prepared to house Kate Moss, Naomi Campbell and other superannuated supermodels.

9. Appoint Chris Tarrant Minister for Wealth Redistribution; off-message MPs to be subjected to rigorous on-camera probe about their knowledge of New Labour economic policy; those who cannot answer all questions suffer instant "wealth adjustment".

10. Convert Millennium Dome into giant casino-cum-laundromat in recognition of Britain's real global economic role.

WHODATHUNKIT? ELIZABETH Hurley (pictured) enjoys needlepoint.

JUST AS couture houses are trying to rein in supermodels - witness Donatella Versace's recent spats with Naomi Campbell and Kate Moss - so film studios are similarly seeking to control stars' spiralling salaries. Latest victim is ageing love god Warren Beatty. Hollywood honchos are tearing their Armani and putting tooth marks in Philippe Starck desks over Town and Country, the new Beatty vehicle which co-stars the wonderful Gary Shandling. The pounds 40m budget swells daily, with no end in sight insiders say. Part of the problem faced by producer Simon Fields is that three months into shooting Beatty demanded a change of attitude for his character. The only man for the attitude adjustment was Beatty's buddy script doctor Buck Henry, rumoured to be on $1m golden hello plus $100,000 a week while cameras roll. Nice work if you can get it.

OI, ARCHER, where do you think you're going? London's second-loudest mayoral aspirant seemed to be cruising and schmoozing one particular table at Le Caprice in London's Piccadilly last night. Then Joanna Lumley casually drifted past it to stretch her legs as the itinerant Tory MP David Faber cast meaningful glances at the party of five. Among the four women and one lucky guy sat this week's cynosure Monica L. She wore trademark black trousers and a demure long-sleeved orange top. A Pandora spy asked the cloakroom if Arkansas's answer to Marilyn Monroe had checked a fur coat. "No," the sighed the hat check girl, "It's a wrap."

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