Pandora

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The Independent Culture
AS THE 25 September deadline approaches for this year's Labour Party elections to the National Executive Committee, party members are being given an extra incentive to vote. It's the NEC Prize Draw, co-sponsored by Virgin Atlantic. First prize? A pair of tickets to Washington DC where, according to the glossy NEC Voting Guide, you can "mix and mingle with the swarm of Congressmen and lobbyists in the Capitol" as well as "take a guided tour of the White House". Hopefully before the impeachment.

MEANWHILE, THE thin line of propriety between New Labour and the Government is growing ever thinner. Phil Jones, Labour Party spokesman for the pro- leadership slate of candidates in the upcoming National Executive Committee elections (and MP Ben Bradshaw's research assistant), apparently has been working at the Cabinet Table in Number 10 lately. Or so he was telling people last week. When we asked Jones to confirm this, the busy young man rang back on his mobile. However, as soon as he learned it was Pandora, the reception began "breaking up" and the phone duly went dead. Another "communications problem" that will need sorting out when the big boys get back in September.

LIFE IMITATING politics - in Battersea Park? Top advisors from both the Labour and the Conservative parties played a frenetic football match yesterday, south of the Thames. Final score was a Labour 9-6 win. Shades of the last election, you might think. At the heart of the Tory defence was Alex Aitken, head of Tory Central Office. Has the time come for Manager Hague to recruit some foreign stars?

"RUUD GULLIT'S not here because we couldn't afford his fee," jested Ken Bates, the Chelsea FC chairman, recently at the launch of a range of books about the club. Chelsea were forced to introduce a new, third colour kit before last Saturday's match against Coventry because both of the existing colours clashed with the Midlands' club. Chelsea will now have a new range of clothing to sell to enthusiastic fans, so why not package the new books in all three colours (blue, white and yellow). Pandora suggested this to Bates, but his hilarious wit failed him at this point. "I don't know about that," he said, and looked to his promotions executive to bail him out. "It would look nice on the shelves," agreed the promotions man. From the colourless look that crossed Bates' face, it seemed his employee had just scored an own goal.

AFTER DONALD Dewar, Secretary of State for Scotland, boasted that he had neither read nor seen Irvine Welsh's Trainspotting, Pandora wondered how the Scottish Nationalists would react to this disdain for their native literary talent. Roseanna Cunningham, SNP MP for Perth, has both read and seen Trainspotting. "At first I withstood the hype," she told Pandora. "Then I relented and found both extremely good. They were a reasonable reflection on a section of Scottish society." A troubled section to be sure, but one that Donald might try to understand if he wants to become the future leader of the Scottish Parliament.

"QUICK LAMB" was launched last week by the Meat and Livestock Commission. The aim is to "reposition" lamb as a trendy meat. There has been industry concern over the fact that research shows 70 per cent of all lamb eaten in the UK is consumed by people over 45. At the launch, a new TV advertisement was screened featuring "women behaving badly". True, that's a far cry from the old "Slam in the Lamb" ads. But why not a hip campaign that really gets down with the younger generation? How about "Express Joints"?

MEET JOE Black, the new movie starring Brad Pitt (pictured), is a romantic drama whose budget has zoomed to $90m (pounds 55m). That is in sharp contrast not only to other recent examples of the romance genre, like Bridges of Madison County (cost $35m), but $20m more than special effects monsters like Deep Impact or Spielberg's Jurassic Park. Hollywood observers are having difficulty understanding why so much money has been invested in the film, unless elaborate effects were needed to distract from Pitt's two-dimensional acting abilities.

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