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FOLLOWING THE resignation of Ron Davies after he was mugged and had his car stolen last week, his replacement Alun Michael's first engagement as the new Secretary of State for Wales was at a Victim Support centre near Cardiff. Considering the paucity of "support" Mr. Davies received from his New Labour bosses, it might have been more seemly for Michael to have postponed his first official Welsh engagement.

YESTERDAY'S LIST of "The Power 300" in The Observer was a hilarious example of that ever-popular, space-filling, journalistic wheeze: the celebrity name list Actually, "Power 300" was even funnier than the riotous annual Sunday Times "Rich List". High on concept, low on reality, the list was compiled by such obsolete "insiders" as Lord Hattersley, Will Hutton and early Eighties style-guru Peter York. The latter's influence is particularly noticeable in such "rankings" as, at No.12, his old management consultancy partner and corporate "eminence grise" Dennis Stevenson - whom readers are supposed to believe is far more "powerful" than, say, either the Home Secretary (17th) or the Foreign Secretary (39th). It was also hilarious to see that model Naomi Campbell (203) ranks 47 places higher than William Hague (250th). Indeed the Liberal Democrat leader Paddy Ashdown didn't even make the list.

THE FBI is outraged at film director Oliver Stone, this time because of his forthcoming TV documentary about the crash of TWA Flight 800 off Long Island in 1996. Conspiracy connoisseur Stone accepts the theory that an errant Navy missile downed the TWA jet, despite the fact that two years of Federal investigation showed otherwise. According to FBI investigation leader, James Kallstrom, Stone is one of those "who spend their life bottom- feeding in those small, dark crevices of doubt and hypocrisy". Considering that many of the passengers' bodies have still not been recovered from the Atlantic, Kallstrom's choice of metaphor seems in rather poor taste. However, Pandora doubts if Stone, the director of Natural Born Killers and Salvador, will be offended.

IS COLUMNIST Matthew Parris, who "outed" Peter Mandelson on Newsnight last week, just a little nervous about his future at the Murdoch-owned Times? If he's been reading Murdoch's Sun and News of the World, he might well be, although it's seemingly inconceivable that The Times would want to lose one of their most esteemed writers. Still, after last week's Sun criticisms of him, yesterday Richard Stott in the News of the World proclaimed: "What Parris did was contemptible and hypocritical. He is no different from the men who beat him up on Clapham Common. He is showing the same intolerance, the same thuggery... " This, of course, after Rupert himself exonerated Mandelson of any blame following Mandy's referral of BSkyB's bid for Manchester United to the Monopolies and Mergers Commission.

WHEN PANDORA caught up with Lord Jenkins after last Thursday's press conference to release his report on the voting system, the obvious question seemed to be "What next?" Would Roy now be returning to advance the cause of consitutional reform full time in the Lords? "Certainly not. I'm going to write books," snapped the noble Lib Dem lord.

ZIPPERGATE IRONY No. 1,613: In the midst of his "inappropriate" capers with Monica Lewinsky, President Clinton actually took time out to sack his ambassador to Eritrea for sexual misconduct. Ambassador John F. Hicks was suddenly recalled in 1997 for attempts to kiss and grope two secretaries who worked in the embassy in Asmera, according to yesterday's Washington Times. Bill couldn't stand for that, of course.

SIR IAN McKellen (pictured) was in a lively mood recently when interviewed by New York journalist Michael Musto about his new film Gods and Monsters, concerning the relationship between film director James Whale and his gardener. Whale, who directed Frankenstein, was a secret homosexual and McKellen, who is widely admired for his honesty about his own sexuality, mused, "I wonder what career is so worth having that you should spend your time living a lie!" He told Musto he was particularly fond of a scene in Woody Allen's latest film, Celebrity, in which one actor teaches another the nuances of "inappropriate behaviour" using a banana. "If you notice, I have no bananas," McKellen quipped, pointing at his fruit bowl.