Pandora

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TODAY PRESIDENT Clinton goes - via video link - to bare his soul about Zippergate to a Washington grand jury and Pandora feels a stabbing sympathy with his wife, Hilary Rodham Clinton (pictured). What can she be thinking? A look at her syndicated column yesterday, via the Internet, provides one clue. "Four years ago this week," it begins, "the first bill my husband signed after taking office went into effect - the Family and Medical Leave Act. Before then, too many Americans... had to choose between spending precious time with a loved one and losing their jobs." A most unpalatable choice indeed, and clearly one that concerns her and her husband at this very moment.

ANDREW MACKAY, the Tory MP for Bracknell and shadow spokesman on Northern Ireland, was out of the country at the height of the Northern Ireland peace talks. This did not go down well with his boss William Hague. This weekend found him on the remote Greek island of Symi when the terrible bomb went off in Omagh. It took him two days to reach Symi and Mackay is very concerned lest Parliament be suddenly recalled. He did manage to distribute a telephone number where he can be reached on Symi yesterday through Tory Central Office and made a radio statement via telephone. In the meantime, William Hague is somewhere deep in the US.

JOURNALISM'S "SILLY season" is one thing, but this was ludicrous. Pandora broke the story last Wednesday about author Jung Chang's defection from HarperCollins to Random House. Not exactly suddenly, on Saturday, the story reappeared as the front-page splash in the Daily Telegraph. The emphasis placed on this good but hardly earth-shattering story could not have anything to do with the enmity between Conrad Black's Telegraph and Rupert Murdoch, who owns HarperCollins, could it?

WITH THE holiday season in full swing, passenger congestion on the London Underground might be expected to ease. Unfortunately, the opposite is the case, as thousands of thoughtless luggage-wearing types throng the carriages. As a result, support for our Anti-Rucksack campaign is building to a feverish pitch, but the recent hot weather seems to have provoked a minor delirium in a few of our correspondents. "I think you should know that here in Hackney we have formed Habitat - Hackney Against Backpacks In The Tube And Train," writes one reader, who invites Pandora to become the group's Honorary Life President. "There could be a presentation event in a public place. Right now a phone box would do but membership has doubled in the first two hours, so by the time you get this we might need a taxi to hold everybody comfortably." Sir, while humour has a role to play in everyday life, there is nothing amusing about rucksack abuse. Pandora must decline.

ANOTHER READER has forwarded a mysterious bit of paper found lying on the pavement near Waterloo Station. The letterhead reads "Minister Without Portfolio". Below this, a tidy handwritten message reads: "My telephone is always engaged. Can I have two lines please? Shall I ask Rupert?" Below, in a lavish turquoise scrawl, the answer comes: "Yes, tell him I'm always complaining". Who is Rupert? And who is always complaining?

HAS NORMAN Baker, Liberal Democrat MP for Lewes, broken the ice yet again for his parliamentary colleagues? With the news that he has obtained sponsorship for his "annual report" to constituents from a local leisure attraction called Pleasure Park, How long will it be before other parliamentarians follow suit we look forward to Anne Widdecombe issuing a report underwritten by the London Dungeon? Or "Action Man" Paddy Ashdown producing one with the help of Toys R Us?

A RECENT interview with Archie Norman, Tory Party chief executive and chairman of Asda, reminded us of one of his innovations. Employees were given red baseball "thinking caps" for work-related contemplation. Does this explain why we haven't William Hague wearing his own cap yet this summer?

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