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The Independent Culture
ALUN MICHAEL'S bid to become leader of the Welsh Assembly took a double blow last week. In his role as Secretary of State for Wales, Michael held a public meeting in Newport last Friday where only 25 people turned up. The meeting was the first in Michael's devolution tour of Wales, designed to "engage with people directly all over Wales" and a convenient bandwagon for his leadership ambitions. In recent weeks Michael's campaign for assembly leader has been boosted by the appearances of both the Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister, but Michael's opponent, Rhodri Morgan, has shown determination in the protracted campaign for the post and enjoys popular grassroots support. If the poor turnout at his own showcase meeting were not bad enough for Michael, elsewhere in the same building (The Newport Civic Centre), members of the Newport West Constituency Labour Party voted 23-3 to back Rhodri Morgan as their choice of assembly leader.

A MOTION to be debated at the Liberal Democrat's spring conference in Edinburgh next March suggests that ordinary Liberal Democrat Party members should elect a panel of potential nominees to the House of Lords and that the leader of the party, Paddy Ashdown, would then choose the final nominees from that panel. The motion is bound to cause controversy. When Pandora spoke to the leader of the Lib Dem peers, Lord Rodgers, he sounded a warning: "It is entirely premature to mess with areas like this in the current climate where one cannot predict what will happen. There may not be any more Liberal Democrat peers in the future."

THE NEW Penguin Book of Art Writing mistakenly acknowledges the "late RB Kitaj", and thus puts a macabre twist on an old Art world tale. Kitaj, a leading member of the school of London with Lucien Freud and Francis Bacon, harboured a notorious hatred of art critics after his 1994 retrospective at the Tate Gallery was panned. The hurt caused was augmented when, later that year, Kitaj's wife died. Kitaj proclaimed of his critics: "They tried to kill me. They got her instead." Two years later Kitaj's The Critic Kills was exhibited at the Royal Academy, a testimony to his accusation. A Penguin spokeswoman told Pandora that "apologies have been issued to those concerned".

THE BACKLASH against Alanis Morissette (pictured) has found itself a focus. For those tiring of the Canadian songstress's angst-ridden lyrics why not try the Alanis Morissette Lyric Generator ( This internet gizmo allows the user to punch in a list of their own hang- ups and have them turned into a new set of lyrics accompanied by Alanis's music. It is the idea of one David Neilsen who dreamt it up after buying Morrissette's latest album Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie. Neilsen tells the latest edition of Entertainment Weekly: "After I listened to it, I thought she should pay me for a therapy session. If I could have just one result from this, it would be that Alanis would say: `Hmm, maybe I will just get over it.' "

PANDORA ENTERS the second week of the Tony Banks vigil. Despite the publication of The Wit and Wisdom of Tony Banks, the opinion of the great man on this work has been sadly lacking. Further excerpts are obviously required: "I got pretty pissed at university and I've never been pisssed like that since. Over the years as an MP your tolerance builds up. I'm hardened. I'm no hairshirt socialist. I like to relax and I like relaxing with a drink."

FOR THOSE concerned that the European issue might prove to be a little hard to explain to voters at any future referendum on the issue, Pandora has the perfect antidote. Proving that integration can be easy is the following passage from an explanatory note to a European Commission directive on employee involvement: "The Commission's view is that, quite apart from the intrinsic dimension represented by the actual impact of a given Community action, the question as to whether an action is consistently with the principle of subsidiarity must be seen in the light of its merit in terms of the context, objectives and actual content of the proposed rule, to establish whether in fact that action is necessary to achieve the objective of the Treaty." Nuff said?