Pandora

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The Independent Culture
TONIGHT'S VOTE in the Commons on the age of consent for homosexuals could prove to be a bit of drag. It is likely that voting will take place between 8pm and 10pm - during the England-Romania game. The play-off between the two events could prove an interesting dilemma for some MPs, perhaps wrestling with views expressed in their constituency mailbags. The real man will, of course, be in the Chamber and not in the bar.

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MANCHESTER'S education authority took a battering last week. Truancy, exclusions and budget deficit are running at a high level while standards of achievement are low, concludes a report by the Office for Standards in Education. Though the report acknowledges the will for improvement, there is much to be done; as one parent said in The Independent last week: The council needs a "kick up the rear". Could this all have been avoided if Manchester's politicians had listened to one of the city's most famous sons, Morrissey (below right)? Back in the Eighties, the miserable wordsmith warned: "Belligerent ghouls / Run Manchester schools / Spineless swines / Cemented minds." Harsh words maybe, but there could be a place for "Moz" as a layman examiner on the Ofsted team.

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PANDORA RECENTLY reported on an odd memo listing words outlawed by Evening Standard editor Max Hastings. The list included such run-of-the-mill words as "famous", "insisted", "joke", and "lounge". It all seemed to be a bit of a leg-pull. Not so, Hastings indicated when Pandora bumped into him at the Annual General Meeting of the Royal Society of Literature last week. "I'm sure you have the same sort of list," he remarked affably. We did not know whether this was one of Max's "famous jokes". Later, from the comfort of his lounge (sorry, drawing room) he "insisted" it wasn't.

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FRANK DOBSON has been talking a lot lately about "striking off" doctors. But it was the idea of "taking off" that he was trying to promote in an exclusive interview given to his local paper, the Ham & High. In the interview, published last Friday, the Secretary of State for Health suggests that obtaining an operation should be as easy as booking a flight.

"Most people are now used to the idea that you could find the nearest telephone box and if you had a credit card you could ring any airline and book a seat ... That's the approach I would like to see." Not surprisingly, Dobson's comments have come in for some stick. A spokesman from London Health Emergency, the capital's largest NHS pressure group responded tartly: "That is all very nice, but if the plane is full you cannot get a ticket." Quite. At least Dobson will have a new catchphrase for saving the NHS: rather than the favourite "like turning around a supertanker", he could try "Fly me, I'm Frankie."

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NOTWITHSTANDING anything else Bill Clinton may or may not have given Monica Lewinsky, his present to her of Walt Whitman's erotic poetry, Leaves of Grass, must have been appreciated. Lewinsky seems to have had an affinity for the written word from an early age. A recently discovered poem, written when she was 11 years old, shows that she was not averse to sensuous suggestion either. Appearing in the American literary quarterly Open City, the poem reads: "I am a pizza / I can be a delicious lunch, dinner / or breakfast, if you're weird / I have a great deal of toppings on me / I am a round flat piece of dough / with lots of toppings / I make your mouth water / I'm very good to eat but I'm / fattening! / I am a mouth's best friend / I make you say `Yum Yum' / I am a pizza." That's one with extra cheese, please.

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STAYING WITH all matters presidential, Clinton's forthcoming visit to China has been the subject of much debate. Republican National Committee co-chair Patricia Harrison has been agonising on American television over the etiquette of whether or not the president should visit Tiananmen Square. In her interview on C-Span's Washington Journal she says firmly: "This president should really stand up as the leader of the Free World and not let Chinese communists dictate to him where and when he is going to meet." Facing up to the fact that the trip is happening, Harrison added: "I think the only thing we can insist upon" is that he "at least have some moral turpitude" by avoiding Tiananmen Square. "I think some people need to look at their history books," she added. Or perhaps, as the Washington Post suggests, Harrison might want to check out her dictionary.

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