Pandora

MOHAMED AL Fayed has been courting Geoffrey Robertson QC, the distinguished Australian constitutional law expert, author and New Labour insider. Pandora has learned that Al Fayed recently asked Robertson to be chairman of his People's Trust foundation, which the Egyptian wants to transform into a Demos-like think-tank on constitutional issues. If the arch-republican Robertson, who is married to the outspoken comic novelist Kathy Lette, decides to accept the position, no doubt he will be well entertained by the generous Egyptian. Let's hope he does. The prospect of Al Fayed and feminist Lette at the same dinner table offers wonderful comic possibilities.

NOBODY BEATS America's political hucksters when it comes to speedy exploitation of their rivals' weaknesses. The first post-Monica television commercial has just been aired in North Carolina by a Republican trying to unseat a Clintonian Democrat in next November's Congressional elections. "Scandal after scandal, day after day," says a narrator, over a photo of Clinton and Lewinsky. "And who stands with Bill Clinton even now?" Flash to a picture of the Democrat applauding a Clinton speech in the Congress. No doubt William "Boy Wonder" Hague, currently on holiday in the States, is taking notes.

FIDEL CASTRO (pictured) has withdrawn as a shareholder from the former Tory MP Phillip Oppenheim's three-month-old restaurant near the Old Vic. "He decided it was not consistent with his communist principles," Oppenheim tells Pandora. Called the Cubana, the restaurant is decorated with a retro- glorification of Havana's long-lost Mafia glamour and failed socialist revolution. "Post-Communist grunge," says Oppenheim, who was a Treasury Minister in John Major's government. As for the cuisine, "it moves away from the post-ironic, neo-minimalist Conran style", and includes a selection of excellent tropical cocktails. The prices are very much today's London.

VALIANT SALLY Noel, the campaigning ex-Lloyds name, has revived the spirit of Emmeline Pankhurst this week, by chaining herself to railings outside the House of Commons. Protesting on behalf of all unfortunates still pursued by Lloyds of London, Noel intends to keep up her protest for as long as necessary. "I should be there right now," she told Pandora yesterday. "But lots of people have been phoning me." Her protest usually lasts from 10am until 3pm on weekdays, and could become an even bigger attraction than Big Ben. Happily, when Sally is not protesting on site, the Commons' police have made generous provision for her chains and signs.

ALL THIS past week, with massive press and television coverage, that "Acid Test" icon and One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest author, Ken Kesey, has been touring Britain. In part, his visit has been sponsored by the King Mob Gallery near London's Smithfield Market, which Kesey opened with an exhibition of his "jail" works last week. How depressing, then, to read King Mob's very own "mission statement". This strikes Pandora as the work of a yuppie who has been drinking too much trendy Mexican lager, not enough electric kool-aid. King Mob claims to "utilise the well established rock/music business tactics of rebel marketing (energy/dissent/ humour) as yet unapplied to this market-place". Time to get back on your bus, Ken.

MAILINGS PROMOTING upmarket dating services keep arriving on Pandora's desk, most recently one called "Young Execs at Only Lunch". For pounds 500, career-obsessed "twentysomethings" can meet eight prospective partners for evening drinks or weekend lunches. Isn't there a gap in the professionals' dating market? Pandora suggests a dating service for bosses and secretaries - in this case, somebody else's boss or secretary, not your own. First dates would take place in the dating service's own replica offices. An option would be to receive frequent intrusive phone calls from an actress playing the "boss's wife". And, if the first encounter goes well, the "secretary" can book the "boss's" choice of restaurant for the second date.

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