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IN A Commons debate on "competitiveness" last Wednesday, the nation's greatest living spin-doctor, DTI minister Peter Mandelson, was stunned by an Alien Force described by Mandelson himself later as "extra-planetary". Can anyone provide Pandora with a translation of Tory MP John Redwood's following statement: "Is the e-envoy in addition to the digital envoy announced a short while ago? Will those two gentlemen or ladies be in competition, or has the digital envoy been abolished before being approved, only to be replaced by the putative e-envoy? The whole thing is risible and muddled." Anyone have a Vulcan dictionary handy?

AS THE joyous Christmas television festival descends upon us, Pandora offers readers a few "must-see" tips. On Christmas Day, during Before They Were Famous III on BBC 1, don't miss the clip in which schoolboy David Beckham is shown juggling a football in front of a bunch of seated lads until he accidentally makes contact with one of their heads. Presenter Angus Deayton chimes in with: "David later claimed he never made contact with the lad, but if we carefully examine the video evidence I think we can see that he did." Isn't that hilarious? And if your sides aren't already split beyond repair, tune in on Boxing Day to BBC 2's profile "Are You Watching Jimmy Hill?" in which Terry Venables describes walking across the pitch with Jimmy at an Everton vs Liverpool match. The crowd began to chant "Jimmy Hill's a wanker, Jimmy Hill's a... " And what did Jimmy say? "They love me here." Oh yes, you'll laugh till you cry.

Is James Brown (pictured, in laddish days) beginning to show signs of strain? In The Times last Friday, the ex-editor of Loaded and now pinstripe- suited editor of GQ declared that "to partake in the GQ lifestyle" it's not necessary to be wealthy or upperclass - "you just have to feel that you could rob a bank". It's to be hoped this won't be necessary, but the ex-New Lad certainly has a struggle on his hands. The magazine's total ABC news-trade sales figures for the period January-June 1997, just before Brown's arrival, were 111,547. The most recent figures, January-June 1998, were 104,481.

TAKI'S DIGNIFIED announcement in the current Spectator that he is to leave these shores - "I crap on cowardly pygmies like Cook, Mandelson and Straw, and will give up my British residence as soon as Palazzo Taki is ready in February" - threatens to cast the nation into mourning. In the meantime, news reaches Pandora of a triumph scored at a recent New York luncheon party by the astute Greek political and ethical commentator. While brandishing his cheque book, the lion-hearted Taki managed to face down such celebrity dwarves as novelist Norman Mailer, writer Gay Talese, actor Michael Douglas, Vanity Fair editor Graydon Carter and Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist David Halberstam - all of whom lacked the courage to accept the Greek's political betting proposition. And what was the wager? Taki wanted to bet that Bill Clinton would not be impeached.

NOT LONG ago media luminary Janet Street-Porter sparkily regaled executives at an Institute of Sale Promotion lunch about her latest television commercial. She reported that she had been rewarded with pounds 35,000 and an original Alexander McQueen dress from entertainment group ONdigital. The thrust of the ad took advantage of Janet's unique place in the public's affection, with her saying to camera: "Hello, I know you don't like me, but now you have a choice." Unfortunately, when Pandora finally reached Janet to discuss this original marketing ploy, Ms Street-Porter was not in her usual beneficent mood. "Stop harassing me," she rasped. "You're really irritating me. Go ahead and write what you like. I don't ever call back. I don't want to be in diaries." So it will be, darling.

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