Pandora

SOCIAL HIGHLIGHT of next week's Labour Party conference will be the Conference Dinner at the Stakis Blackpool hotel on Tuesday, following Tony Blair's afternoon address. Although the pounds 2,000 tables have all sold out, don't look for many Labour-supporting corporate bigshots to attend. In fact, many of the tables will be filled with low-ranking employees of lobbying and PR firms, who have told their clients not to risk exposure in the press after Labour's Cronygate controversy earlier this year. Pandora suggests that next year Labour can raise even more money by holding a "conference dinner" where phantom guests banquet at empty tables on invisible smoked salmon.

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MADONNA HAS no intention of sending her daughter Lourdes to Cheltenham Ladies College, despite recent newspaper stories to that effect, including one in Monday's Guardian. "It's not true. She hasn't applied to the school. It's not the kind of place where she'd send Lourdes," her spokeswoman, Liz Rosenberg, said yesterday. Rosenberg also denied that Madonna was moving to London. A fax from Kim Hill at the college reached Pandora yesterday, saying, "This story sprang from the pen of a journalist at The Sunday Express to whom I have never spoken and who, presumably following some lead, asked for our views were Madonna to send her daughter here... I have never confirmed that Lourdes is registered with us since we never disclose the names of current and future pupils."

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ONE PAST Cheltenham pupil, Express editor Rosie Boycott, will comprise half of an irresistible fringe double bill when she appears at next week's Labour conference on stage with Derek Draper, whom she sacked a few months back. The two feature in the New Stateman's fringe meeting on media and politics. Will Derek be submitting his opening remarks to Mandy for pre- debate vetting? Will Rosie have Philip Gould polling the audience afterwards to determine the winner?

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THE PARTY conference season always means a mad scramble for accomodation, and woe betide any delegate who leaves it late. However one Liberal Democrat MP has a unique way to avoid the fuss. Peter Brand, MP for the Isle of Wight, travelled to Brighton in his boat and moored it at the marina. "It only took two hours to travel from the island. I can take the number 7 bus from there to the conference centre," he told Pandora. The pipe- smoking skipper/politician actually lives on his boat in London when the Commons is in session. However, all indications are that Brand will be coming ashore for next year's Lib Dem conference. It's being held in Harrogate, 47 miles from the North Sea.

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AS THE world gawps at the President of the United States, Hollywood star Michael Douglas, whose marriage ended after celebrated bouts of adultery and treatment for "sex-addiction", has been seen on the town in New York with Maureen Dowd, the moralistic New York Times columnist who, not long ago, likened Clinton to "the Devil". Pandora is not usually concerned with such tittletattle, but this budding new relationship might help to explain why Dowd, a Roman Catholic who has savaged the President in the past for his Zippergate lapses, has suddenly had an amazing change of heart. After the Starr report was made public, Dowd actually wrote a column defending Clinton, saying the report was not grounds for impeachment. This was followed on Tuesday by her column accusing Starr of treating Clinton like a gangster. Odd times create odd couples.

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THE GALLAGHER brothers may have just cause in feeling resentment towards talented actress Nicole Kidman (pictured), who opened last night in David Hare's play The Blue Room at the Donmar Warehouse. After all the criticism Liam and Noel attracted for their frank views on drug usage, will Nicole escape censure after telling US magazine Movieline, "I've never done LSD, but yeah, I've done my share of drugs." She goes on to say that working in the film industry has brought her "in contact with every drug imaginable." Today, quips the wife of Tom Cruise, "I'm addicted to adrenaline". No doubt last night's opening at the Donmar in front of London's tough theatre critics must have given her a healthy rush.

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