News monkey; A simian slant on last week's news

t HOSPITAL CRISIS. The NHS is either coping perfectly well with the winter rush or falling apart at the seams, your point of view largely depending on whether you're Frank Dobson or everybody else. In what amounts to a kind of millennium bug dry-run, a flu outbreak combined with a record shortage of nurses has led to some hospitals asking relatives to nurse their own kin. If the shortage gets any worse the NHS may have to rethink its official resistance to the hiring of crazy people who think they are nurses.

t THE PRINCE AND THE PR. Prince Edward has managed to surprise us all with the announcement of his engagement to Sophie Rhys-Jones. The pair were so successful at keeping their low-profile romance private these past few years that many people forgot there was a Prince Edward. The publicity surrounding Royal marriages can be difficult to cope with, but the Prince's work in television and Miss Rhys-Jones's career in PR should at least prepare them both for the prospect of the press leaving them alone for months on end.

t SPIN OFF. The abrupt departure of Peter Mandelson and Charlie Whelan from the corridors of power leaves Tony Blair and Gordon Brown in the unseemly position of having to carry on their feuds first-hand. But even in the short time the spin doctors have been absent, the rivalry seems to have taken on a wholesome air of friendly competition, especially after it was revealed that Mr Blair made the brilliant move of rescuing a drowning man while on holiday in the Seychelles. We can expect Gordon to open up a donkey sanctuary by way of retaliation.

t ROD SPLITS. Rachel Hunter's decision to give up on Rod Stewart because he's old and boring marks her out as something of a latecomer - most of the rest of us came to a similar decision in 1982. Still, one hates to think of Rod spending his declining years without a blonde 20 years his junior by his side, but it's probably a simple matter of him ringing up the modelling agency he uses and asking them to send round another.

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