Valets to clean up the car problem

Sir George Young, the Transport Secretary, may like to ruminate on the following suggestion for lessening the number of cars in central London. It comes from a leader of Conservative-controlled Westminster council, so he will want to treat the proposal with respect, even though it is one spark plug short of an engine.

Cllr Melvyn Caplan tells me: "Many people do not wish to bring their cars into our city. We should seek to develop a valet service to discourage people bringing cars into the centre of the city ... and would take these cars out of the centre when they are not required, and then return them when they are needed."

A charming idea. Westminster could become like one enormous, grand hotel, with commuters hopping out of their cars, tossing the keys to a waiting valet, singing out: "Have it back by five," and tripping happily off into the office.

"The scheme hasn't been looked at by our professional staff yet," a red- faced Westminster press officer hastens to tell me. "But it is something Cllr Caplan seems terribly keen on."

Is this artist safe?

There is going to be one British beef export to France after all. Damien Hirst's Turner prize-winning piece of installation art, "Mother and Child Divided", consisting of a cow and calf bisected and pickled in formaldehyde, is to be exhibited at the Galerie Nationale du Jeu de Paume in Paris as part of a display celebrating A Century of British Sculpture. I can assure Parisiens that neither mother nor child suffered from mad cow disease. The artist, on the other hand ...

Is even Jane Austen not immune from BSE scares? Roars of laughter at the cinema last night during Sense and Sensibility when Mrs Dashwood pleads with Emma Thompson's Elinor over the household accounts: "You're not going to stop us eating beef, are you?" As the English teachers always said, that woman is bursting with topical insights.

Appalling for Paula

To speak of ethics and diary-writing in the same sentence may be pushing one's luck. In the case of the Spectator the two seem to have lost all contact. In the current issue their diarist is the opera critic Rupert Christiansen. He makes much of the fact that from his flat he can see into Paula Yates's bedroom, and then goes on to devote a third of his column to revealing what he sees: Paula, her daughters, her nanny, et al. The Spectator even plugs this "scoop" on its cover.

Paula Yates may be a tiresome and over-publicised confection, but she has as much right as any citizen to feel entitled to privacy in her own bedroom without some offensive neighbour peering in and writing up his discoveries for a supposedly quality journal. The editor of the Spectator, Frank Johnson, and its proprietor, Conrad Black, should be ashamed of themselves.

His pants are clean

The following correction has appeared in the Aberdeen Press and Journal. It reads: "Not Grubby. In our issue of March 18 it was said Michael Winner wore grubby Y-fronts. We accept this is not true and it should not have been printed." I am very pleased to be able to bring this endorsement of Mr Winner's personal hygiene to readers south of the border.

Eagle Eye

All aboard for an odd little show

Tomorrow Andrew Lloyd Webber's roller skating musical, Starlight Express, celebrates its 12th birthday in the West End and becomes the second longest running musical there after Cats. I see the publicity is accompanied by the usual unprovable statistics that are wheeled out on these occasions: the skaters have got through 1,200,000 boxes of tissues and 20,000 pairs of skate laces (produce me the person who has been counting). The birthday performance will bring out the usual musical manic obsessives. In the audience will be the civil servant Steve Starlight, who has changed his name by deed poll and seen the show 40 times; the postman Alan Newman, who has seen it a psychologically distressing 750 times at a cost of pounds 21,000 less ice-creams; a T Nunn who, no, wait a minute, he's the director. Actually, not everyone shares the wild-eyed enthusiasm. One lunch companion told me recently he was bemused by the success of Starlight Express. "It's an odd little show," he opined. Neither civil servant nor postman he, but the composer Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber.