Pandora

THE SELECTION of the former ITN journalist Hugh Pym as Liberal Democrat prospective parliamentary candidate for North Wiltshire has not passed off without incident. The success of the Wiltshire-bred journalist came at the cost of Simon Cordon, the Lib Dem candidate in 1997, who came within 3,475 votes of beating the Conservative James Gray in an area that has been predominantly Tory. Cordon stood against Pym for selection, but Pandora hears that last weekend, when the statuesque Pym emerged victorious, Cordon was less than happy. Pandora can understand that Cordon would be slightly miffed at being usurped, after coming so close to winning the seat last year, and so contacted him to offer consolation. "This was an internal party election and the members have made their decision," Cordon explained. Did Hugh Pym sense that Cordon was upset? "It was a private ballot and it was up to the members to decide," Pym replied. How beautifully on-message they both are - the training is obviously paying off.

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WHILE THE residents of the Wentworth Estate in Surrey grapple with the arrival of General Pinochet on their doorstep, imagine the relief at his previous abode, the Grovelands Priory private hospital. Pandora hears that the Latin-American dictator in fact proved to be something of an exemplary patient. However, one member of staff at the hospital said that they were glad to see him go: "We counted all of our staff afterwards and are happy to say they are all still here."

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THE UBIQUITOUS Brit actress Emma Thompson (pictured) has been asked to star in a remake of the 1968 classic film, The Lion in Winter. The original starred Peter O'Toole as Henry II, and won Katharine Hepburn an Oscar for her portrayal of the vicious Eleanor of Aquitaine. The remake is produced by Martin Poll, who produced the original film and was the man responsible for making Andrew Morton's book about Diana, Princess of Wales into a TV drama. When Poll made this TV dramatisation, he vowed to get quality British actors involved; at one stage Jemma Redgrave's name was linked with the role of Diana.

According to the New York Post, the approach to Emma Thompson to star in The Lion in Winter has not been accompanied by efforts to find a male lead. Unfortunately for Poll, one quality British actor whose shaven face would be ideal for the role is unlikely to accept - Kenneth Branagh.

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HAVING HAILED McJobs and the slacker existence in his cult novel Generation X, Douglas Coupland is now in search of some further advancement. Coupland is leaving his long-time publishing company, ReaganBooks, because he is not satisfied with a suggested pounds 500,000 advance for his next novel, Miss Wyoming, about lost souls in Hollywood. Coupland, apparently, wanted to reel in a cool million for his new book, but this was too much for ReaganBooks which politely waved him goodbye, saying: "It has been a great pleasure to have published Doug. We wish him great success."

That sincere wish must have been granted, as Miss Wyoming is now going to be published by Pantheon for an undisclosed sum. Goodbye McJobs, hello McMoney.

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ANOTHER DAY passes without a call to Pandora from Tony Banks. So here, as promised, is a further excerpt from the The Wit and Wisdom of Tony Banks. On this occasion, Banks gets down to earth with some good suggestions for improving the size of church congregations: "Perhaps the best idea would be to privatise the Church of England, then to get in a regulator - OfGod, or something like that - and a few consultants, and then start marketing the Lord, who is suitable for the 21st century."

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MONICA LEWINSKY'S quest for privacy has been shunned by Hollywood. When she recently found herself in need of some literal breathing-space, her PR people called Woody Harrelson's oxygen bar, O2. They politely asked the Cheers star to close his bar, so Lewinsky could privately participate in the latest health craze. Harrelson was unmoved, telling Star magazine: "Doesn't she know her 15 minutes of fame are up?"

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