Pandora

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The Independent Culture
PANDORA CAN reveal that a top Cabinet Minister has been in South America behaving in a manner that would be considered against the law and scandalous back home in Britain. John Prescott, the Deputy Prime Minister, who has just returned from Buenos Aires, ate a T-bone steak "as big as a table" during a trip to attend the recent Earth Summit in Argentina. According to an inside source, Prescott "enjoyed every mouthful" of his beef-on-the-bone experience. Pandora regrets if this revelation causes embarrassment to Mr Prescott or to his family, but surely the British people have a right to know what their leaders are doing on official business trips abroad. (Did the Deputy Prime Minister use a toothpick? Don't miss Monday's shocking details - only in Pandora.)

BUCKINGHAM PALACE have been making arrangements to tone down the ritualistic festivities at next week's Queen's Speech. However, one traditional rite will still be observed. Black Rod (pictured, circa 1977) will walk from the Lords to knock on the door of the House of Commons and summon MPs to hear Her Majesty in the upper chamber. As the premier hereditary peer, how will the Queen cope with a statement along the lines of "My Government propose to abolish my own seat and that of my son, the Prince of Wales, in this chamber"? And how long will it be before the gold sovereign coin embedded in the tip of Black Rod's rod is taken out and replaced with a shiny new euro?

HE HAS received more than 2,000 letters of support, Ron Davies told a local newspaper in Caerphilly, Wales, including letters from Virgin boss Richard Branson, playwright Tom Stoppard, and American soul queen Diana Ross. "Life exacts too high a price, except from those who are Teflon- coated," wrote the former lead singer of the Supremes to the disgraced MP. "But you are one human who did human things."

PEREGRINE WORSTHORNE criticises Britain's newspapers for being too clever, not too dumb, in the new edition of The Spectator. To his credit, he offers an illustrative anecdote about his own earlier career on The Daily Telegraph when he was sent to cover an African coup d'etat. "Instead of keeping my eyes open in the bus on the way from the airport to the city centre, I had mine buried in some learned tome about the country's history. As a result, unlike the tabloid reporters on the bus - few if any of whom in those days had a degree - I failed to notice the decapitated corpses lying by the roadside."

PANDORA HEARS that Kelvin Mackenzie is settling in comfortably as the new proprietor of Talk Radio. Recruitment is the order of the day, and top candidates to join the broadcasting ranks include The Sun's Jane Moore, Jonathan Ross (who needs to be convinced to leave Virgin Radio) and - here's a surprise - massively controversial Will Carling. Meanwhile, Kelvin has been meeting with lots of "consultants", including former Sun editor Stuart Higgins; Tom Petrie, the former columnist for the The People, and Mike Parry of the Press Association. What these guys know about radio may be unclear, but it all sounds very chummy.

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THEY ARE confident at The Literary Review that Stephen Fry will turn up to present next week's Bad Sex Awards. Last year, of course, he forgot, and instead flew off to Canada. But everything should be fine - recently, Fry told the organisers, reassuringly: "I've tied a knot in my penis to remind myself."

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THINGS ARE heating up in Britain's blackest market. Yesterday, this newspaper reported on the Church of England's efforts to take a more proactive role in dealing with the bereaved. Now Pandora can reveal the imminent release of "The Dead Citizens Charter", from the National Funerals College. Among the points made by the Charter are criticism of the "vertical integration of the funeral industry", the sale of crematoria by councils and a proposal that

advocates re-use of old graves. Founded by Lord Young of Dartington, the National Funerals College is calling for the new appointment of a Regulator/ Ombudsman for the funeral industry. Suggestions for the first holder of this position on a postcard please.

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