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Murder most foul on the BBC

The BBC is likely to face its most severe criticism yet for putting too much sex and violence on screen with a new drama season for schools that breaks all previous barriers.

The new season of daytime plays, which begins today, will contain scenes of teenage sex, rape, murder, killing babies, cross-dressing and suggested incest. In one drama a girl has her tongue cut out and her hands hacked off. In the same play, two men are murdered and their remains are eaten in a pie.

Details of the forthcoming BBC season outlined in an internal memo will anger campaigners for a V-chip on television sets so that parents can switch off dramas likely to upset their children. Plays seen at school would foil a V-chip.

According to one source in the BBC education department, it is not so much the worry of offending public morals that should be concerning BBC senior managers as accusations of racism from the Commission for Racial Equality and the Board of Deputies of British Jews.

He added: "I've seen scripts which have a violent black man murdering his young white bride, and another concerning a vengeful Jewish moneylender. I'd have thought we were in enough trouble already with the Government. I don't believe in censorship as such, but there comes a time when decency and common sense should prevail."

The BBC has decided not to publish details of the entire series in advance of each broadcast. But it is understood that one contains a scene where a mother and her young son are brutally murdered by intruders. Another has an old man tied to a chair while his eyes are gouged out.

In an attempt to shield the writer from publicity, the BBC refused yesterday to reveal his name. A spokesman said a little lamely: "I hope people will look beyond the sex and violence to the poetry and character insights that we genuinely believe these plays contain." He added that the Warwickshire- based playwright was not a trendy new writer, but had a proven track record. The series begins today at 11.55am on BBC 1.

Triple whammy for Blair

I hear that the Labour leader, in his ever-intensifying endeavours to woo the City, took lunch at Barclays Bank with its chief executive, Martin Taylor, and a board member. Blair gave his views on inflation, enterprise, small businesses and everything else that the two gentlemen wanted to hear, and they beamed with satisfaction as he spoke.

After Blair had departed, the board member, who as it turned out was the former chancellor Nigel Lawson, confided to his chief executive that he found Blair more right-wing than John Major and most members of his Cabinet. Lawson apparently sat back in his chair and said of the Labour leader with an admiring sigh: "He is a true Conservative."

As if that weren't bad enough, Blair discovered last week that he had forgotten the anniversary of his wedding to Cherie (above).

Could anything else go wrong? Yes, they come in threes, Tony. Delivering the keynote speech to the Federation of Small Businesses in Maidstone, he chose as his theme "Technology Today". What a shame that the state- of-the-art screen behind him should choose to pack up for good halfway through.

Red faces at the Pink 'Un

There was a most mysterious absence from the British Press Awards ceremony last week. Nearly all of Fleet Street's finest were gathered at the sumptuous Royal Lancaster Hotel to wine, dine and backstab as Clive Anderson handed out accolades. All, that is, save the Financial Times. How could this be? Did the highbrow journal perhaps consider itself above such boozy beanos? Surely not. No, the reason is more simple: it had not received a single nomination. Up came the shortlist for Business Reporter of the Year - and no FT candidates. Industrial Reporter of the Year? The same story. And so on.

Had the pink one really performed that badly? "Absolutely not," an FT insider tells me. "People are very irritated here. We should have been right up there in the running - except that the person in charge of applications clean forgot, and didn't send them off until six weeks after the closing date."

No FT, no comment, no memory, no awards.

Eagle Star flies into trouble

Eagle Star may have a lavish advertising budget, but they have not, I fear, been spending it entirely wisely. One consumer decided he'd had quite enough of their advert on Sky TV, and called up the Independent Television Commission to complain. His complaint was promptly upheld. The problem? The ad was going out in Northern Ireland. And Eagle Star don't actually offer the troubled province insurance cover.

Eagle Eye

The Oscar triumphs of Braveheart, starring Mel Gibson (left) may have confirmed to the world Scotland's image as the land of warrior folk, but those proud Highland clansmen must, I fear, be warned. A radical makeover is stirring in the lowlands. The flamboyant London fashion designer "Sebastian", the man responsible for (among others) Mystic Meg's more unusual ensembles, is designing a brand new tartan. What, then, one wonders, will the Scottish Tartans Authority, whose job it is to "safeguard this internationally valued, unique heritage" by registering new tartans, make of Sebastian's exciting new offering? His tartan is an exotic explosion of glorious pinks. And its proposed name? The MacPoof.

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