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The Independent Culture
WILL TONY Blair win a Nobel Peace Prize this year? Will he share it with John Hume, David Trimble, the American mediator George Mitchell, Mo Mowlam, or even Gerry Adams? Pandora's sources indicate that the prize is almost certain to go to participants in the Northern Ireland peace agreement and that it will be a shared award. Most recently, the Nobel authorities in Norway have announced that they have booked the Irish band The Cranberries for a December concert in honour of the new Nobel laureates.

THE FORMER Tory MP Neil Hamilton is writing a novel. He is 50,000 words behind his wife Christine, who has put her planned cook book "on the back burner" to progress her own novel. When Pandora spoke to Neil about his project he explained that it would be about "the melting-pot of the business, media and political worlds, based on personal experience but not a fictionalised account of my own life". However he admitted that "parallels may be perceived" for some characters. In contrast, Christine said her novel was "completely non-political and the characters have a healthy contempt for politics and politicians". Quite right too.

KEN JACKSON, leader of the Amalgamated Engineering and Electrical Union, is a staunch opponent of efforts to reform Britain's electoral system. He came close to putting the issue to a vote at Labour's Blackpool conference, but last-minute negotiations with the party's National Executive derailed the move. Still, Jackson's views are uncompromising: "For some in New Labour, proportional representation is the hammer to smash the union link. It is the hidden agenda." Pandora was surprised, however, to learn that Jackson's union employs a company called Electoral Reform Ballot Services to conduct its own internal membership ballots. The firm is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Electoral Reform Society, leading UK campaigners for proportional representation.

IT'S DIFFICULT to feel very sorry for star athletes who reap millions in sponsorship deals, but 18-year-old Martina Hingis, the world's current No 1 ranked female tennis player, sounds as if she truly deserves our sympathy. She has been beseeching the Italian sportswear manufacturers Sergio Tacchini to do something about the trainers with which they supply her as part of her $3m a year contract with the firm. Apparently, the shoes just don't fit properly but give her blisters and leg cramps, reports the NY Daily News. A Manhattan foot doctor, Dr Thomas Novella, who examined Hingis during last month's US Open, says that the young Swiss star "might as well have been playing in sandals". Apparently Hingis isn't too pleased by some of her other Tacchini gear, as well, particularly her sports knickers which sometimes creep up to expose part of her bottom. Hingis signed her contract with Tacchini when she was nine years old; it has three more years to run. That is, if she can still run by then.

THE ACTOR Roddy McDowall, who died earlier this month, was one of Hollywood's most popular insiders and also, apparently, a prolific diarist. However, his celebrity friends were able to relax last week when they learnt that McDowall had left his private papers to Boston University with the stipulation "Not to be opened until AD2100". Presumably even if the baby-faced megastar Leonardo DiCaprio were given to confiding secrets to McDowall, he won't be bothered 102 years from now.

FERGIE (PICTURED) may be a hardworking, down-to-earth, share-your-pain chat show hostess by day, but there's still a grand duchess waiting to emerge after dark. Last night she was in New York preparing to make a grand entrance at a charity ball held at the New York Sheraton among a guest list headed by President Clinton. Her glittering presence was ensured by $3m worth of diamonds, lent to her by the famous Fifth Avenue jeweller Harry Winston. Pandora doubts if any Bond Street firm would have been quite so generous to Sarah Ferguson but, as Ann Treneman pointed out in these pages last week, New York still loves her. Madly.

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