THE OUTGOING chairman of National Heritage, John Letts, will use his farewell speech at this afternoon's Museum of the Year awards to attack the Government's arts policy. He will announce a new prize, The Emperor's New Clothes Award, for the person who most vividly exposes the Government's failings. Letts has chosen Sir Peter Hall for this year's award because of his fierce South Bank speech in January in which he attacked the cuts in the Art Council's budget. While Sir Peter received a thunderous standing ovation on that occasion, Culture Secretary Chris Smith remained seated and granite-faced. Unfortunately, neither Smith nor any other ministers are planning to be in the audience today to hear Letts declare: "We are fed up with policies that are spin-doctored and polished almost into oblivion; with government of the bland, for the bland and by the bland."

LARGER-THAN-LIFE US comedienne Roseanne, who has just launched her own television chat show, told CNN recently that she would happily pay up to $2m to Monica Lewinsky for an appearance. This follows her rival Oprah's ethically-upstanding announcement that she would never pay any guest, including Lewinsky, to come on her show. "I can understand why journalists have that integrity thing but, fortunately for me," Roseanne told Larry King, "I have no integrity. It doesn't get in my way."

THERE'S AN exciting treat in store for Conservative delegates at the climax of their Bournemouth conference. On Friday morning, after the address by Tory deputy leader Peter Lilley and closing remarks by Michael Ancram, the new party chairman, the very fitting culmination of the week's events is listed as "musical entertainment by the Dorset Youth Wind Orchestra". Hot stuff.

IF YOU were one of those Labour delegates like Health Secretary Frank Dobson whose arrival in Blackpool last week had been delayed by Virgin Trains, you'd have wanted a word with Richard Branson. That's what many delegates thought they'd had after a Richard Branson look-alike wandered the stalls at the Winter Gardens. Hired to promote an event management company called Event by Pinewood, so convincing was the Branson imposter that he was even approached by a fellow from Rolls-Royce who asked how many airplane engines Virgin would be wanting next year. "The next day people were coming up to our look-alike," marketing director Lyn Boardman told Pandora, "and saying, `You're not the real Richard Branson. He was here yesterday.'"

DUNCAN KENWORTHY, the producer of Four Weddings and a Funeral, is feeling very confident about the prospects for his new film, Notting Hill, which stars Hugh Grant and Julia Roberts and is due to be released in 1999. Kenworthy told Pandora: "We've done a test screening in Feltham which got an 82 per cent approval rating." Had they considered a screening for the trustafarians who inhabit Notting Hill? "No, they would like it too much," gloated Kenworthy.

LAST WEEK in Blackpool at a press briefing with the Prime Minister's "official spokesman", Michael White, The Guardian's erudite political editor, asked a "question" which, for once, evoked great sympathy for its much maligned "official" recipient. White proclaimed: "It is implicit in everything that has been said today that HMG takes the view that the Chinese leadership was wiser in seeking economic modernisation before political modernisation than was the former Soviet Union in doing it the other way round." The "official spokesman" wasted no time in smacking down this smug palaver. "It is the view of this bit of HMG that this is a briefing, not a historical seminar."

AT LONDON'S Ham & High newspaper literary lunch in Belsize Park last week, Barry Norman (pictured) gave new credence to that old saw, "Those who can, do; those who can't become critics." Sky TV's new film reviewer regaled his audience with a few anecdotes from his reviewing career, including the fact that he once turned down an invitation from Brigitte Bardot to play poker. "I had a deadline to meet, so I made an excuse and left. I think it was the act of a total wimp and I've never stopped regretting it."

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Stewart Lee (Gavin Evans)


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