PANDORA has a modest proposal for Tony Blair. If he wants to put an end to all the carping about his relationship with Rupert Murdoch, he should send Tony Banks, minister for sport, on a fact-finding mission to Spain. Eight months ago, the Spanish parliament passed a law requiring important football matches to be broadcast free on television. Now the Spanish are about to appoint a new sports council that will go beyond just football and declare a wide range of sporting events in the public interest. All those selected will be off-limits to satellite or cable pay TV. Surely if Blair adopted a similar policy here, the enormous gratitude of the British viewing public would eclipse any hostility broadcast by an outraged Murdoch and his media mouthpieces.
Old joke, new danger
FOLLOWING the Prime Minister's speech to the Millennium Bug conference at the Barbican yesterday, John Humphrys, of the Today programme, chaired a panel on the subject. The headstrong radio presenter, who fell foul of the Government for his supposedly rough treatment of Harriet Harman last year, led off with a joke. It told of a new Labour MP who goes to the barber to have his hair cut but refuses to take off the headphones he is wearing. All the barber's entreaties prove useless; the MP insists that "Peter Mandelson says that I must wear these at all times". This makes the barber's job much more difficult and, eventually, he cajoles the MP into taking them off. Within moments, the MP begins to gurgle, choke and then dies. Sometime later, after the politician's body has been carted off for the post-mortem, the barber finds the headphones that have fallen off in the confusion and decides to have a listen. He hears the recorded voice of Mandelson, repeating: "Breathe in ... breathe out... breathe in ..." Pandora's prediction: John Humphrys won't be chairing many Government-sponsored panel discussions in future.
AMERICAN marketing genius - that inspired immodesty which turned a cartoon mouse into billions of dollars and cheap hamburgers into an international corporate empire - is bearing down on President Clinton's Zippergate. Among the 3,000 "novelties" on display at this year's National Memorabilia Convention will be a computer game in which players try to direct Monica Lewinsky across Washington and into the Oval Office. Also a talking "Lewinsky" doll that says "I'm a good intern", "All hail to the chief" and "Whatever you want, Mr President". There are Lewinsky masks for Halloween, Lewinsky birthday cards ("I'll blow out your candles"), Lewinsky wigs, Lewinsky sex toys and even a "Monicondom" that is supposedly designed just for oral ... enough of this tat. Pandora can't help thinking that Cecil Parkinson, David Mellor and Robin Cook are all fortunate they suffered their worst embarrassments on this side of the Atlantic. On the other hand, Pandora fears that Monica Lewinsky's example will provide Fergie with new money- making ideas.
It must be the food
THE Norman Invasion, Part II, is coming to your local post office, bus stop and corner shop. According to Le Figaro, there are now 60,000 French citizens seeking their fortunes in the City of London alone. Meanwhile, a French consular official estimates that there are about 180,000 French men and women resident in Le Bretagne Cool. Many in this unprecedented new wave of Gallic immigrants are under 30 years old, with a Le Figaro poll showing that, after the United States, Britain is the second most popular emigration destination for a generation severely disillusioned with its own society. Not only is the unemployment rate in Paris twice what it is in London, but we now have dozens of Michelin-starred restaurants on this side of the Channel. Poor de Gaulle must be spinning in his grave.
Comedy of errors
SHAME on the Northern Examining Board, whose further GCSE English practice papers for 1998 contain the flagrant misspelling "practise" in bold type on their title page. Pandora suggests the examiners consult their Fowler's Modern English Usage.