Pandora

pandora@independent.co.uk
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The Independent Culture
Are there holes in the Millennium Dome roof? Yes, according to a group of Dome staff overheard this week. On a number of occasions Pandora has heard about "gaps in the tent", but they have always been denied by the New Millennium Experience Company, which looks after the Dome. However, a group of four Dome staff travelling home on Wednesday from the Greenwich site were adamant about the building's holey status, and were happy to share it with commuters. The accusation came with a long list of ills with which the group regaled passengers, such as "the dance routines are rubbish", "the workers hate the managers", and "nothing is going to be ready." Thanks for the warning, chaps. If anyone bothers to turn up to the Dome show they will know to keep their umbrellas handy, and a good book.

ROBERT MUGABE'S accusation that Tony Blair runs a "gangster regime" has elicited a belated response from Downing Street. The Zimbabwean leader made his comments after gay activists harangued him during a visit to London two weeks ago. The Government apologised for the incident but, realising that mud sticks, has gone one step further. To clarify the situation Alastair Campbell released a statement yesterday, stating: "Tony Blair is not a gay gangster."

It's fifteen-love in a fixture between John McEnroe and the press. Out walking with his children in New York this week, the veteran American tennis star found himself surrounded by the NY paparazzi. McEnroe couldn't believe his bad luck and told the snappers that they would burn in hell. "We'll see you there," one of them volleyed back.

IT WAS truly a family affair on Monday night at the Gielgud Theatre, where Noel Coward's A Song at Twilight has brought together on stage for the first time Vanessa Redgrave, her brother Corin, and his wife Kika Markham. Watching from a box stage right were none other than the Redgraves' 89-year-old mother, Rachel Kempson, and their younger sister, Lynn. No official word as to how these distinguished audience members felt about a play by the man who famously had an affair with the late Sir Michael Redgrave, but eyewitnesses report that Lynn was the first to stand at the curtain call and shout "bravo."

The former Tory education secretary Gillian Shepherd has been reminiscing about power in a series of lectures at London's Queen Mary and Westfield College. To parallel the recent battle between the Commons and the Lords over welfare reform, Shepherd recalled a debate that raged in Whitehall when she was a DSS minister during Margaret Thatcher's regime. The DSS, under Tony Newton, was attempting to push through a proposal on war widows' pensions, but was blocked by No 10 and the Ministry of Defence. Shepherd told her audience on Wednesday: "It took an intervention by Dame Vera Lynn and the proximity of Armistice Day to force them to give way. After the day was won, Tony Newton remarked: "If we'd waited any longer, the Queen Mother would have got involved!"

"IF THOSE leading the education debate, including MPs, were seen to be participating in lifelong learning, it would provide an excellent stimulus to widening participation." That is the recommendation from the Commons Education and Employment Committee this week. But are the committee members themselves leading the charge? Hardly. "Being an MP," said the chairman, Derek Foster "is almost a lifelong learning experience in itself." Fellow Labour MP Charlotte Atkins could only volunteer that "my 13-year-old is teaching me about computers", while the Don Valley member, Caroline Flint, complained that there were no courses available between 10.30pm and 1am, when MPs were awake. Take D minuses, all of you.

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