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The British Council isn't just about promoting Britain abroad, it also doubles as a stomping ground for future New Labour ministers. The post of vice-chair on the council's board has so far been held by George Robertson, Patricia Hewitt and Keith Vaz, all of whom went on to be ministers after their stint. Peter Mandelson also held the post for a period between Cabinet jobs. So all bodes well then for Oona King, Labour MP for Bethnal Green and Bow who recently succeeded Mandy as vice-chair, her fate decided by the likes of board members Sir Christopher Bland, Ffion Jenkins and Lib Dem Foreign Affairs spokesman Menzies Campbell. Some have said Oona is too busy to be a minister, but when her three-year stint at the British Council ends she may find the time is right for greater things.

A CROSS-party group of MPs, including heavyweights Dennis Skinner and Nicholas Soames, look set to win a battle with the parliamentary authorities. A total of 51 MPs have signed a motion to protest at the planned reduction in doorkeepers, who oil Westminster's wheels by delivering messages and directing visitors. Despite the use of pagers and voice-mail, the MPs do not believe the need for doorkeepers has diminished, and "invite the Serjeant at Arms to reconsider his decision". A call to the office of the Serjeant at Arms found there to be a definite softening in the voice of parliamentary authority: "We believed the decision to cut staff numbers reflected what members wanted, but we don't want to cramp their style."

Notorious cost-cutter Lord Hollick, United News & Media's chief executive, should get along just fine with Carlton's chairman Michael Green when their merger goes ahead. Pandora hears that staff attending a Carlton away-day in Somerset last month were asked to travel second class by train, or pool a company car. However, managing director of Carlton productions, Lord Waheed Alli, was presumably exempt from the diktat - as he arrived by helicopter.

FAKE BLOOD suppliers will be stocking up for Quentin Tarantino's next film, rumoured to be a Second World War epic. Billed as the director's answer to The Dirty Dozen, Quentin is supposed to have already written more than half of the script, and a release is likely in 2001. As yet there has been no word on casting, but Pandora relishes the prospect of Harvey Keitel and Samuel L Jackson getting heavy with their artillery.

Legendary comic Jackie Mason usually shows no mercy to late-comers at his New York shows. But the acerbic Jewish wit waited patiently for nearly 10 minutes this week while former Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his six security guards collectively answered a call of nature. Presumably Mason didn't want Bibi to miss any of his classic gags, such as "Benjamin Netanyahu would really love to give the West Bank back to the Palestinians but he can't, it's in his wife's name."

MICHAEL PORTILLO inherited the late Alan Clark's office in 1 Parliament Street this week. The Eurosceptic finds himself on the third floor of the building in a corridor packed full of the most notorious pro-Europeans in the Tory party. His office is sandwiched between Ken Clarke and Ian Taylor, with David Curry a few doors down. Cosy.

Pandora notes with interest the details of PC World's new MOT scheme. Computers can be road-tested in their stores, with checks carried out for viruses, the millennium bug and disk fragmentation. Commenting on the new service, PC World's marketing director Martin Dagliesh said: "People need help with intricacies and this is better than waiting for something to break down." He added that privacy would be respected. "We will make sure the customer realises files will be seen before we start the check." What a glittering guarantee.

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