Pandora

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The Independent Culture
PADDY ASHDOWN may have won the first round in his effort to convince the Liberal Democrats to accept closer policy links with the Labour government, but only after he lost a vote of censure by the party's federal executive on Monday. The executive body censured Paddy for "lack of consultation" on a matter of "party strategy which is constitutionally the remit of the federal executive". Lib Dem spin-doctoring skills must be improving, because the censure vote received no publicity yesterday, while the vote to endorse the joint constitutional committee received wide news coverage. The censure is echoed by an internal poll carried out on the Lib Dem's e-mail facility that showed a clear majority of party members unhappy with the lack of consultation - and a 60-40 rejection of last week's joint Blair-Ashdown announcement. As one Lib Dem MP said, "We weren't so much bounced as treated like mushrooms, left in the dark and covered in manure."

"UNLIKE MANY Eurosceptics in this country, I am both a francophile and a germanophile," proprietor Conrad Black wrote in The Daily Telegraph in July. Pandora can confirm Black's ardour for our industrious German cousins, having learned that he now prints the Telegraph's Saturday magazine in Germany. Huge lorryloads of bound copies of this excellent glossy supplement are sent weekly from Dresden to England. Meanwhile, the leader pages of Black's newspaper continue to deride the "Left-leaning" German government of Chancellor Schroder along with Germany's economy, which the Telegraph believes is under "severe stress". How decent of Mr. Black, a Canadian, to send a bit of lucrative business across the Rhine, although Pandora wonders what his Eurosceptical readers will make of this gesture.

CHANNEL 4 - once lambasted by ethics exemplar Paul Johnson for its "culture of filth" - may be about to break one of the last remaining sexual taboos it hasn't already explored after the 9pm watershed. Yes, bestiality may be on the viewing menu next year. Channel 4 confirmed to Pandora that they are currently considering a proposal to make a programme on bestiality submitted by an independent production company to the science department. It's just "one of several being looked at for next year", according to the Channel 4 spokeswoman, who added, "We don't know how it is going to be treated." Of course, any treatment of this bizarre subject is bound to be distressing and controversial. And likely to capture a huge audience.

IN AN article described as "a scurrilous piece" and "without a shred of public interest" by media critic Roy Greenslade, the Express on Sunday published, on 1 November, an interview with a so-called "close friend" of Peter Mandelson. The piece enraged Mandelson, provoked widespread criticism outside the newspaper and angered editor Rosie Boycott, who has launched her own investigation to find out who was responsible. The inquiry's latest discovery: the photograph of the "friend" published on page 7 was doctored to remove the man's hand from the foreground. It had been raised to ward off the unwelcome attentions of the Express's photographer - hardly the style of scurrilous tabloid journalism the "new" Express wants to project.

IT'S A feud made in American celebrity heaven: the Kennedys vs the Streisands. Back in 1978, Jackie Onassis Kennedy went into a real estate investment deal with Sheldon Streisand, brother of egocentric singer Barbra. The lion's share of the profits from the investment of $780,000 went into trust for John F Kennedy Jr (pictured) and his sister Caroline. Recently, however, the Kennedy kids have filed suit in Manhattan Supreme Court against Sheldon for having allegedly "engaged in a pattern of self-dealing and deceitful concealment in an effort to steal the economic value of the partnership". The case goes to trial on 23 November.

In the meantime, matinee-idol-handsome JFK Jr is reported to be keen on launching his television career via a broadcast version of his eccentric, not-very-profitable political magazine George. Network producers are salivating at the prospect, while one observer told the NY Daily News, "This could be the perfect way for him to start easing into politics." So it goes on the other side of the Atlantic, where actually standing for election is the least promising way of launching a political career.

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