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WORDS SELDOM fail Sir Peter Ustinov. However, when Pandora spoke with him at the launch party for spoof film Stiff Upper Lips on Tuesday night, the subject of contemporary British politics arose. Ustinov's usual rapier wit turned into something more akin to a verbal cosh. After expressing dismay at Tony Blair's "grandstanding" during the recent Iraq crisis, the film star said that the Prime Minister had "never left public school, like all those Foreign Office people." As for the Conservative Party, they look "like prefects at my school, all born to rule". And what did Sir Peter think of William Hague, the Boy Wonder? "Nothing, nothing at all."


DORSET COUNTY Council is furious about a recent item in dumber-than- dumb men's magazine Maxim that claims one of their facilities, Avonheath Country Park, is a prime site for wife-swapping "swingers who fancy a picnic and a shag". The councillors told the Western Gazette that they find "this situation extremely distressing, particularly because Avonheath is a facility for the family, especially children". Unfortunately, neither councils nor public parks can sue for libel, so the truth of Maxim's claims will have to be established out of court. So don't forget to pack your corkscrew.


Girl power almost became something a lot spicier when the Spice Girls invited Israeli singer Dana International (below), winner of the Eurovision song contest, to replace the departing Geri Halliwell. The offer was brokered through Sony, who have a contract with Dana and a deal to market the Spice Girls records on the Virgin label, according to Tuesday's edition of Jerusalem's Ma'arriv newspaper. Pandora is very disappointed by reports that transsexual bombshell Dana turned down the offer. Her manager, Ofer Nissim, said: "We think she has great career possibilities in Europe and don't see any reason to embark on such a change by joining a group, even one as successful as the Spice Girls." Would Dana's answer have been different if All Saints had called?

HE'S BEEN described as the Richard Branson of Romania, although Adrian Sarbu has yet to acquire the planes, the trains or the bridal boutiques. But, in just seven years, his Media Pro empire has acquired TV and radio stations; book and magazine publishing companies; fashion, music, travel and marketing businesses and one of the largest film studios in Eastern Europe. The bearded, genial Sarbu is a former film director and has made an astonishing documentary about the final days of the late dictator Ceauscescu, which he hopes to sell to a British TV network in time for next year's 10th anniversary of the Romanian revolution. His first move? An application for membership of the Groucho Club.

FOLLOWING IN his father Adnan Kashoggi's free-wheeling footsteps, son Hussein, 30, is planning an extravagant charity Millennium New Year's Eve party on the Pacific island of Tonga, located on the international date line. "It is the spot on earth where the day first begins," says Hussein Kashoggi, a cousin of the late Dodi Fayed. His party will be the first of "a wave of celebrations that will continue on around the world for 24 hours."

Hussein, who is managing director of the Kashoggi international arms business, hopes to attract many celebrities and wealthy party animals to his bash. The actual venue will be aboard a fleet of private yachts; tickets may cost as much as $200,000. It's a shame that his father's financial difficulties forced him to sell off the family yacht, Nabila, to Donald Trump for pounds 19m. One of the largest floating palaces on the planet, Pandora reckons it would have made a reasonable party boat.

ALAN MILBURN, Minister of State for Health, worked all last weekend to prepare for today's meeting with the British Medical Association to set new doctors' pay levels. When he asked one of his civil servants to join him in the office on Saturday and Sunday, however, the poor man looked panic-stricken. "Only if you phone up my wife and say that I'm on government business and not with some other woman," he said. With some trepidation, the Minister took this unusual but necessary pastoral chore in his stride.