Pandora

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The Independent Culture
Move over, John "Two Jags" Prescott. A Labour Council in Wales is resisting calls to sell off a number plate used on the mayor's official Jaguar. Merthyr Tydfil County Borough Council says that the plate HB1 has adorned ceremonial cars for 40 years and that they are not getting rid of it now - although the plate could raise the best part of pounds 200,000. The Plaid Cymru opposition on the council is urging the ruling Labour group to change its mind on the matter. And no wonder, as the council is reported to be facing cuts of as many as 100 jobs.

IS ANDREW Lloyd Webber looking for a new Messiah? His Really Useful Group is reviving the 1971 musical Jesus Christ Superstar on Broadway, but a try-out before the run starts next spring has been cancelled. "They couldn't find a Jesus," explained one Broadway insider. However, Lloyd Webber's people are adamant that Christ is in the building. A spokesman told New York magazine that, for the moment, "We're keeping mum on our Jesus."

There's a real beef between BBC and BSkyB - beef sandwiches, to be exact. Staff at BBC Television Centre using The Filling Station snack bar have made a terrible discovery. Its sandwich supplier also supplies the satellite station and ratings rival BSkyB. But far worse is the news that the sandwiches cost less for Sky staff. The evidence is a beef salad sandwich, labelled "TV Centre" and priced at pounds 1.72; an identical sandwich destined for Sky was priced at only pounds 1.25. Beeb workers were so outraged by this meaty crime that they have photocopied the labels of both products and posted them on noticeboards, with the tag line, "BBC Catering Contractors - great value for money." Something for the new director general, Greg Dyke, to get his teeth into.

A LIST of 50 Liberal Democrats to be considered by the leader Charles Kennedy as interim peers has been agreed. Among those who did not make it were the recently departed chief executive Elizabeth Pamplin and party spin doctor David Walter. As for the winners, top of the poll was the hereditary Lord Redesdale, though he could still be one of the 92 saved in this week's House of Lords ballot. Another victor was the publishing and property tycoon Ramesh Dewan. As a friend of Paddy Ashdown, Mr Dewan obviously knew what buttons to press.

Though his television chat show hasn't exactly wowed the British public in the same way as his US confessional programme, Jerry Springer's time in the UK hasn't been entirely wasted. During his stay in London, Springer has been going through the archives of Winston Churchill in preparation for a documentary on the wartime leader. Springer's commitment to the project is solid. According to sources close to the TV star, "Jerry says that he smokes cigars as a tribute to Churchill". Rather.

SHE MAY have missed out on being Poet Laureate, but the luminary Carol Ann Duffy has still managed to rub shoulders with royalty. The author of The World's Wife recently told friends of her close encounter: "The Queen's car overtook my cab, and for about 400 yards we were side by side! Now, I'm not normally into that kind of thing; I've met her before and I didn't enjoy it a bit," the excited wordsmith confessed, "but I sat there like an idiot, waving at her out of the window." However, Her Majesty was not similarly amused. "And was Andrew in the car with her?" asked one friend. "Yeah," replied Carol Ann, with an impish grin. "That'll be why she was pulling such a face."

President Bill Clinton nearly caused a diplomatic incident at the Middle East peace talks in Oslo. He was supposed to arrive at the palace of Norway's King Harald V at 10am on Monday for the talks' formal opening ceremony. But he turned up a quarter of an hour late. "Nobody's ever late for the king," one Norwegian diplomat muttered, during the 21-gun salute.

pandora@independent.co.uk

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