Mandelson's stomach spins at Disney World

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The Independent Online
"I don't remember smiling. I'm sure I wasn't smiling." Peter Mandelson, the Minister Without Portfolio, is baffled by the photograph snapped of him as he sank at more than the speed of gravity in a lift in the Tower of Terror at Walt Disney World yesterday. But smiling he was. Out of terror, probably, not joy.

On only one other occasion yesterday did Mr Mandelsonbriefly lose his grip on the controls. He avoided the dreaded photo-opportunity with either Mickey or Minnie Mouse (no big ears on this ministerial head). But on a tour of the Innoventions pavilion, Whitehall's arch spin doctor found himself in a fake television studio, being interviewed by a virtual Jay Leno, America's talk-show star. "Why are you here?" Leno asks. The minister is just beginning his piece about Britain's Millennium Dome when he is rudely cut off. "Well, that sounds pretty interesting," Leno barks. "I think that's all we have time for".

Mr Mandelson yesterday - and his large caravan of British media folk - actually suffered more from complete sensory overload. Soon after the Tower of Terror came the "Honey, I Shrunk the Audience" 3-D attraction. Among its highlights: a thousand mice that seem actually to stampede through the theatre. Mr Mandelson did not much care for it - or, indeed, for the press's variation of "Tony, I Shrunk the Majority".

The purpose of this two-day jaunt is, of course, serious. He is looking for inspiration in his search for something to put in the Millennium Dome rising by the Thames in London. This theme park - 30,000 acres, 257 restaurants and 2 million British visitors a year - cannot be compared with what the Millennium Experience Company is trying to conjure in Docklands. Mr Mandelson, however, did get the idea of creating a "Town Square" at the heart of the Dome from walking down Disney World's main street.

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