NEIL HAMILTON, ex-Tory MP and victim of the cash-for-questions affair, is no longer a member of the Conservative Party, so there's no question of his attending its Bournemouth conference. However, the thought of making mischief has crossed his mind. He told one of Pandora's colleagues this week: "I may go with my bucket and spade, and sit in the middle of the beach. The delegates will need some light entertainment."
YOU MIGHT expect to see a drug-detecting sniffer dog at the arrival gate of a flight from Bogota, but not at the top of the escalator in your local Northern Line underground station. On Tuesday evening, in London's Camden Town, homeward-bound commuters were indiscriminately sniffed and surveyed by a crowd of uniformed British Transport police. One officer told Pandora that they weren't chasing a particular criminal: "This is part of a new general initiative, cracking down on crime all over the system." The dogs are trained to smell a number of illegal drugs, including lingering traces up to 24 hours after possession. "If the dog reacts, we will search the person," promised the policeman. But, according to Chief Inspector W McCafferty, of the British Transport Police, "We go to locations based on intelligence. We don't just turn up anywhere." In other words, Camden Town, but not Golders Green. Several lawyers Pandora contacted thought there was a civil liberties issue here. "The indiscriminate use of police tracker dogs," says Adrian Clarke of Bindman & Partners, "has the effect of circumventing these important protections and, as such, amounts to a worrying breach of civil liberties." The British Transport Police are under the jurisdiction of the Department of Transport, so Pandora rang John Prescott's office. They've promised to look into the matter. We'll keep you posted.
AS RUMOURS swirl about the possible curtailment of the televised party political broadcast, a new video called Party Political Broadcasts: The Greatest Hits is about to be released by Westminster's Politicos bookstore. It runs to three hours and carries more than 40 broadcasts. Pandora suspects that one viewing ought to be enough to convince anyone that PPBs should be abolished for ever.
PANDORA'S STORY on Tuesday about Chaka Khan has outraged the World Entertainment News Network, which cut the quote from its broadcast, but not its newswire service. Yesterday, Jonathan Ashby of WENN faxed the editor of this newspaper to say the story was "a gross slur on WENN's reputation" as "a news network of some integrity". He elaborated, "During the course of the taped interview with Chaka... Chaka made the emotive comment about Bill Clinton's dick, included in The Independent report today, but Hannah [WENN's interviewer] was forced by Chaka's PR to rewind the tape and erase it... [He threatened] to terminate the interview there and then if Hannah didn't agree." Pandora salutes this fine example of journalistic integrity, knowing how frightening those rock music PRs can be. After threatening to sue us, Ashby closed with a charming solicitation: "I would suggest that The Independent becomes a regular subscriber to our entertainment news wire service in order to obtain great stories like this." Sounds irresistible.
POOR SALMAN Rushdie. The fatwa continues to plague his life, not only forcing him to live in secret under constant guard, but now spoiling the prize-winning author's bid to become a film star. The New York Daily News reports that Rushdie was offered a role in a film called Lulu on the Bridge starring Harvey Keitel and Mira Sorvino. While the film's insurers had no qualms about Rushdie's appearing on set, several of the film crew expressed doubts about security and the unions got involved. It seems that the part may go to the actor Willem Dafoe.