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Paddy Ashdown must be smiling: after frantic negotiations in Brussels, the Lib-Dem MEPs have won their first political battle - they have prevented the French Gaullist Party from joining the Liberal Democratic and Reformist coalition in the European Parliament.

The issue is highly controversial. The existing members of the coalition (of which the Lib-Dems are a founding member) have long been divided over whether or not to admit the Gaullists. One side (which includes the British) see them as French nationalists who are far too right-wing to become political allies.

The other, which includes the French Republican Party and several Portuguese, believes that their addition would increase the coalition's numbers and therefore influence. However the arguments of MEPs Graham Watson and Robin Teverson won the day, causing the Gaullists to announce their decision not to join on Wednesday.

Inevitably there will be repercussions: some Portuguese and the French Republicans say they will leave the coalition and join the right-wing European People's Party (EPP). The British Liberals, however, are not alarmed. 'The French do as the French do,' said one yesterday.

A dramatic twist is about to be added to the otherwise tedious saga of Highgate's Men's Pond. Spicing up events - as his is wont - is Peter Tatchell, head of the lesbian and gay movement, Outrage; he is planning to do a protest striptease in the newly constructed changing area where, as I reported recently, the Corporation of London has insisted that bathing trunks be mandatory for the first time in 100 years. The timing of this act of rebellious hedonism must, explains Tatchell, remain a secret for it to be effective; potential spectators should know, however, that the 'unveiling' will take place 'imminently'.

Merchant banker Leonard Ingrams is clearly a more sensible fellow than his naughty brother Richard (aka Private Eye's Lord Gnome). When disaster struck last week at his Oxfordshire home, Garsington Manor, he displayed what can only be described as true Head Boy stuff. A host of people, clad in black tie (and including Lord Lawson and Norman Lamont) had settled down to watch the first act of Richard Strauss's Capriccio in the famous open-air theatre in Garsington's garden, when a scene more reminiscent of Noye's Fludde occurred. The heavens opened, rain poured, thunder rumbled and lightning cut through the power cables, turning both stage and auditorium into a pitch black swimming pool.

In a flash Ingrams was on his feet. Patiently waving all those who insisted on sending for their umbrellas into a barn, he served up what one guest described as 'the fastest dinner imaginable'. So apparently delicious was the guinea fowl that it was with considerable reluctance that the audience returned to their seats when the rain ceased.

A batch of dustbins are the puerile cause of a ludicrous argument between councillor Patricia Nicholas of Hounslow and councillor Laurence Man of Richmond. The rudiments are as follows: after the boundary changes on 1 April whereby parts of Hounslow became Twickenham & Richmond, the dustbins in Talbot Road and St Margarets Road (formerly Hounslow now Richmond) disappeared - leaving the residents with nowhere to put their rubbish.

Ms Nicholas has now owned up to swiping them. She claims that the bins are Hounslow property and she will keep them as such. Man disagrees, saying that the residents have already paid for them. The battle rages on. . .and meanwhile, Richmond Council has issued residents with the small consolation that extra street cleaning services will be provided until the matter is resolved.

It is rare to encounter a director keen to underplay his role, but so anxious is Paul Bernstein, director of Dakota's Belly, Wyoming, currently showing at the Soho Laundry Rehearsal Studios, to avoid the label of a one-man show, that he has invented a pseudonym. Only the beadiest of eyes will have noticed the strange correlation in the biographies listed in the programme between Bernstein and leading actor Hoyt Miller: both have worked in New York for ten years, been together for 15 years - in what is rightly termed 'collaboration'.

(Photographs omitted)

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