FRIENDS OF the former cabinet minister, David Clark, are egging him on to enter the race to become the next Speaker of the House of Commons, Pandora has heard. The competition for Betty Boothroyd's job (she is rumoured to be retiring in the year 2000, when she will be 70) will be fierce. Conservatives are expecting one of their number to get it. Meanwhile the Liberal Democrats will lobby hard on behalf of their elder statesman Alan Beith. The post of Speaker does not normally require a contest, however; the last time the post was vacant a play-off between Peter Brooke and Betty Boothroyd (pictured) was required. It looks like an election will be needed again, but with the prospect of a more exciting three-cornered contest this time.

LEONARD CHESHIRE, a charity for disabled people, are staging a series of events during the party conference season. Unfortunately, there are no disabled toilets at the venue for the organisation's "Lancashire Hotpot Supper" at October's Labour Party Conference in Blackpool. This particular disadvantage arose because of a dearth of appropriate facilities, say the organisers. One would hope that legislation would make it easier to find such venues in the future. However, Government guidelines relating to the Disability Discrimination Act, request service providers to consider such facilities from 2004. That's six more party conference seasons, a very long time in politics and an even longer period of time for those with disabilities.

IT IS something of a first when gangland warfare has a positive effect on a country's tourist trade. But maybe that could be about to happen in Cyprus. British soldiers are under orders not to visit bars in areas where there have been shoot-outs over drugs, gambling and prostitution. An associate of Pandora's in the Cypriot civil service has suggested that "this can only be good for the island". Indeed, Cypriots joke that anyone who has experienced the drunken behaviour of British soldiers would rather take their chances with the gangsters.

VINNIE JONES, despite not having the lead role in the film Lock, Stock, And Two Smoking Barrels, is undoubtedly the brightest star of the film. Vinnie dismissed Pandora's suggestion that his new-found acting career might lead him to try his experienced hand at Shakespeare, and was guarded about what other future projects were beckoning: "You're not paying me enough to answer those questions," he said. Perhaps something with a bigger budget beckons?

PETER MANDLESON has united the design world. Pandora readers will remember that designer Nicky Haslam said something rather unkind about fellow design guru Terence Conran (see Pandora, 21 July). However, Mandy's late-night shop at Conran's Fulham Road store has impressed Haslam. "I think Peter's great," he says. "I've been asked to do a Christmas stocking for the Queen by Tatler, I could put Peter Mandelson in it - do you think I should?" It would certainly be a right royal surprise.

AT LAST the proof has arrived that the "groundbreaking" pop psychology of Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus is bunk. Mattel, the board game manufacturers have brought out a game based on the book by John Gray. Couples who have been struggling over the relevance of the superficial advice can now sit back and treat it with the levity it deserves. The game hit the shelves this week. According to the press release from Mattel, it comes complete with such searching questions as; The hardest thing for a man to put down is: A) the remote control; B) the toilet seat; C) himself? This, of course, could be a trick question.

ANYONE THINKING that Pandora's campaign against rucksacks on the tube is not serious should heed the words of Mr G Feakins of Herne Hill. Mr Feakins writes of his friend visiting London who was recently "knocked onto the track at Leicester Square by a rucksack on the back of an unwitting passenger". Luckiliy, no train was incoming. Unsurprisingly, Mr Feakins has asked Pandora to keep the campaign going. His wish, and the wish of many others like him, is our command.

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