Marks & Spencer's possible offer of investment in the Labour Party comes at a much-needed moment: the party has just lost the credit card slips handed over to the Labour stand at, of all places, the special conference held at the Institute of Education to welcome Tony Blair as Labour leader on July 21.

Labour HQ at Walworth Road steadfastly refuses to comment, but I have seen a letter, sent to all those who attended the conference, asking people who bought items from the stand to telephone one Nicky Lewis, commercial sales manager. (The letter gives the Walworth Road number). On sale that day, I believe, were useful items such as T-shirts, red-rose Paisley squares, red-rose ties, copies of the late John Smith's biography, a book called Keynes for Beginners, and a mug stating: 'If the Tories had a soul they'd sell it'. And for those who really wanted to splash out - a case of a dozen organically produced wines at pounds 55.99. Because of Labour's silence, I am unable to say how many takers there were for the wine, although one attendee, who wishes not to be named, assures me that the T-shirts went down a treat. The letter, however, carries sufficient urgency to suggest a profit of thousands of pounds rather than hundreds. 'Dear Visitor, it goes, 'we have encountered a problem. . . .'

Good news for ballet lovers. Darcey Bussell, who has had an ankle operation, has been seen in the Royal Opera House canteen - without a stick. It was crucial, according to fellow dancers, that this be the case if Miss Bussell, who has been a principal ballerina at the Opera House for five years, is to make a full recovery. Now the hope is that, though she will not appear in the currrent short season, she

will be back by the autumn. Almighty relief indeed.

Phase magazine, the monthly publication for homosexuals, has lived up to its own slogan - 'it's just a phase he's going through' - and folded. After rejecting a business plan put forward to save the magazine by millionaire financier Ivan Massow, the publication closed after only five issues with debts rumoured at pounds 100,000. Staff, some of whom have not been paid for months have not all, I hear, left quietly. One more canny individual, predicting what was to come, walked into the editor's office for a recent meeting and left with a portable computer under his arm.

One of the few consolations for rejected first-time authors is, usually, that they do not personally know the publishing gurus who, with a sweeping gesture of grandiloquence, deposit their life's work straight into the dustbin. Making a change from this scenario, however, is literary agent Carol Smith - a top London fixer for young first-time writers, who has tremblingly put pen to paper herself, signing her own name at the top of a script. 'I did once co-write a book series called Nightshades,' she explains, 'but it was under a pseudonym which I have never revealed.' The book on which she has boldly stamped her own mark is due for auction in September and is called Echoes.' It is about five strangers who meet in a gynaecological ward in a hospital,' she explains.

'Slowly, each realises they have links to two others - and one is a psychopath.' Sounds thrilling stuff. . .

After what can only be described as the most conspicuous Secret Service manoeuvre ever - I refer to the well-chronicled move of MI6 headquarters to a new tall green building in Vauxhall Cross, which the Queen visited a couple of weeks ago - I am bemused by a detail on a map by Vauxhall Tube station. It shows a street plan, and prominent public buildings such as the police station and post office. The location of the MI6 building is marked, however, by a black spot, labelled merely 85 Vauxhall Cross.

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