AT LONG last Bill Clinton has appointed his new ambassador to the Irish Republic. As predicted by Pandora (3 June), the new Dublin envoy is to be Mike Sullivan, the obscure former Governor of Wyoming, to whom the President owed a political favour or two. Indications are that Sullivan, who served for two full terms and was chairman of the Western Governor's Association, may be a shrewder political operator than Clinton's other envoy to these islands, US Ambassador to the Court of St James, Phillip Lader. The latter recently outraged the Scots with his undiplomatic suggestions about US reaction to an independent Scotland.

PANDORA SALUTES Gus Macdonald who, in a matter of weeks, has made a very auspicious impression as Minister for Business and Industry at the Scottish Office. The former chairman of Scottish Media has many friends north of the border, of course. They are now crowing that Macdonald has achieved more in one month than his predecessor, Brian Wilson, achieved in over a year. Wilson, you will recall, has gone to work under Peter Mandelson at the DTI where, as Pandora noted (3 August), conditions are highly favourable for party fundraising. Meanwhile, Macdonald's only mistake to date came when he scoffed at the SNP's proposal to use Ireland as a model for Scottish development. "Dublin is a great place to go for a stag night - but not for an economic policy," he said. The remark offended many on both sides of the Irish Sea. One economist said, "He is talking rubbish, and it doesn't look good to talk rubbish to people you are trying to attract to Scotland."

SPECIAL ADVISERS at the Department of Health no doubt felt they were more than earning their salary when they had to sell Gordon Brown's two- stage pay increases to unhappy health service workers. Now that Government special advisors have learned about their own salary arrangements, the DOH advisers have been "thanked" with a pay boost that comes in two stages, as well. Their reaction to this "what's good for the goose is good for the gander" scenario is, apparently, one of ironic amusement.

ALAN BORG, director of the Victoria and Albert Museum, wants to change the institution's name to reflect "every facet of the museum's attractions". Keen to win the prize bottle of champagne that Borg is offering for the winning suggestion, Pandora has been brainstorming. One possibility: a name seen on a roadside sign in rural America recently: "Gobs o' Antiques". Or, if Borg is looking for trendy street cred, how about just the name "Stuff".

ALWAYS AHEAD of the news, Pandora wants to be the first on this summer bank holiday to offer readers a Christmas shopping tip. A London company named Pinecove International is offering, via the Internet, an "International Press ID Card" for the bargain price of $239 (pounds 150). With this in hand, claims the company, anyone can gain discounts, free tickets, invitations to premieres, access to movie stars and "protection from callous government thugs at home or abroad". Best of all, according to the sales pitch, is that you don't have to do any reporting or writing. "All you have to do is state on your application form that you are pursuing journalistic interests." Completely sold, Pandora immediately tried to telephone Pinecove International to place a rush order. Sadly, the firm's number was unobtainable.

THE LATEST, post-cigar Zippergate joke has just reached our shores. Apparently, Washington insiders are now referring to Clinton as the second president in US history to have had a Cuban missile crisis. Meanwhile, one joke circulating in the British Embassy at the moment goes, "Tony Blair has done more favours for Bill Clinton than Monica Lewinsky, so when is he going to appear before the grand jury?"

MERYL STREEP (pictured), the actress with a 1,000 accents, all of them annoying, has recently replaced Madonna in a film called 50 Violins. Now Streep seems to be chiding the blonde bombshell about recent photographs she's posed for with her daughter Lourdes. "If you have your picture taken with your baby," Streep told the US magazine Good Housekeeping. "You have put your child under the umbrella of your fame." Pandora suggests that Streep take care or tough Madonna may decide to rain on her parade.

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Stewart Lee (Gavin Evans)


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