Strengthening the ill-feeling between the Liberal Democrats and the Devon and Plymouth East Literal Democrat candidate, Richard Hugget, is speculation that Mr Hugget who, the Lib-Dems claim, stole thousands of their votes in the Euro-elections by confusing the voters with his party title, has links with the Tory party.

On top of the Lib-Dems' call to re-run the ballot, a local investigation is being carried out to establish whether Huggett, a former headmaster who resides in a 12th century manor house, ever belonged to the Tory party, and, if so, whether he may have been put up as a spoiler candidate.

Adrian Sanders, the Lib-Dem candidate who lost by 700 votes to Tory candidate Giles Chichester, says he has been inundated with calls from voters who say they voted for Huggett by mistake; he is convinced that there is a conspiracy afoot.

Chichester, son of sailor Sir Francis, naturally denies this, saying he never laid eyes on Huggett until an all-party

meeting in May. Last word, however, should undoubtedly go to Graham Elson, the Lib-Dem general secretary: 'There's no evidence of a link but it's a very odd thing to do.'

There are prayers at the BAC theatre, Battersea, that the opening night of Manifesto - a play by the Volcano theatre group, will not be a repeat of their last performance in the

studio of the Alhambra theatre in Bradford. The play - an attempt to dramatise Marx and Engels' Communist Manifesto - includes, unsurprisingly, some exciting theatrical effects to liven up the text. It starts with smoke billowing off the stage - but in the Alhambra someone left the studio door open, letting the smoke out into the main auditorium in the middle of a performance by the Birmingham City Ballet. The 1,000-strong audience and dancers had to be evacuated as fire alarms rang, the safety curtain fell, and chaos

generally ensued.

No surprise that the Lords had an easy victory over the Commons at Monday night's annual tug-of-war match. The Labour contingent was not much help, claiming 'fatigue' from its Euro-election celebrations the night before. Some players wimped out at the last moment, causing captain Malcolm Moss to rush around recruiting. Fortunately, he found Sebastian Coe, a valuable asset in matters athletic, but was not so successful with Paddy Ashdown, a regular muscle-pumper, by all accounts. The weary-looking Lib Dem leader told Moss, who caught him sauntering past the party marquee, that he was sorry but he was just 'too busy'.

Hackney Council, former territory of Tim Yeo's ex-mistress, Julia Stent, and orchestator of the persecution of local school-mistress Jane Brown, is now acting as a part-time consultant for the scriptwriters of Eastenders. To deflect criticism that its scripts are not entirely representative of life in the EastEnd - and to ensure that they have certain facts right, particularly over the workings of its fictional council, Walford, the BBC sends some scripts to Hackney for approval. The councillors are responding with quivering enthusiasm. According to a local newspaper they have asked for several amendments to the storyline, but only, the BBC assures me, in areas where they have specific knowledge. At least that means we won't have to watch sensationalised tales of political adultery and the outlaw of homosexuality. . .for the moment.

Although I share the popular view that the D-Day celebrations should be taken seriously and not with the levity of Spam fritters, some people seem too reactive. Last Tuesday Lady Soames, Churchill's daughter, was asked at a private party

by a plump-faced twenty-something how she had spent

the previous day. 'I was on the beach,' she replied. 'Oh,' said the youth, nodding in all seriousness, 'that must have been fun.' Not knowing, as I do, the fellow to be a truly Wodehousian type, much eulogised in grandes dames circles for his impeccable manners, Lady Soames mistook his tone for irony. 'Certainly not,' she shrieked, in a manner universally described by onlookers as 'ballistic'. 'That is not why we were there at all. . .'

(Photograph omitted)

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