Pandora: Hindu voters offended by Oona's seasonal greetings

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The Independent Online

* The Labour MP Oona King has upset the Hindu community, with a botched attempt to court the Muslim vote in her constituency.

* The Labour MP Oona King has upset the Hindu community, with a botched attempt to court the Muslim vote in her constituency.

Last week, the Bethnal MP decided to send a greetings card to local Muslims, in celebration of the religious festival of Eid, which fell at the weekend.

However, since King doesn't possess a list of local Muslims, her office sent the cards - slogan "wishing you and your family Eid mubarak" (happy Eid) - to locals who happen to have an Asian-sounding surname.

That was a big mistake: some of these people are Hindus, and others Sikhs, and they're not happy at being lumped together with their Muslim neighbours.

"This is down to ignorance, and Mrs King ought to be more aware," says the Association of Hindu Students, who represent many of her constituents. "I can quite see why it has upset people."

One upset local, Mukesh Bhatt, has filed a formal complaint, noting that King didn't send a card for the Hindu festival of Diwali.

Asked to explain the matter yesterday, the MP's office admitted a "mistake".

"We compiled a list of Muslim names in the constituency, but there are some such as Patel that can be both Muslim and Hindu, and we couldn't check every single one," I'm told. "We tried to delete all Hindus, Ethiopian Christians, and Chinese from this list, but some slipped through."

* SIR ELTON JOHN has explained his recent charm offensive, which counts victims as diverse as Hugh Grant, Madonna, and the people of Taiwan.

Apparently, the portly singer has made the decision to start speaking his mind because he neglected to stir things up enough during the 1980s.

"I now feel too strongly about things," he says. "In the Eighties, at the beginning of the Aids crisis, I wasn't heard. I didn't raise my voice. I'm ashamed I did nothing during that period. So now if I feel strongly about something, I'm gonna say it."

As if to prove his point, Sir Elton, holds forth on world affairs in this week's Time Out . "I hate what's going on in the world. Bush and his administration are the worst thing that's ever happened to America. Mind you, I'm just as angry with Tony Blair. You lied to us, Tony!"

* AN INTRIGUING party invitation flutters on to Pandora's doormat. Tonight, in Belgrave Square, Jonathan Aitken's wife, Elizabeth is launching a new business, selling handbags and accessories to her well-heeled friends.

According to the invite, Aitken and her business partner, Beata Rees-Williams, have designed a range of "fabulous fun furs, jewellery, decorative mirrors and a variety of glamorous accessories ... for all the ladies in your life".

Recalling the difficulties credit cards have brought the Aitken clan, the invite (confusingly headed "At Home") notes: "No credit cards, so cash or cheque please."

* FORGET BAND Aid: the musical "happening" of the week is at the Barbican tonight, where the London Symphony Orchestra will collaborate with the KwaZulu-Natal Philharmonic, to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the demise of apartheid in South Africa.

In their first joint venture, 129 LSO and KZNP musicians and two choirs will rattle through a mixed card of Mendelssohn, Ravel, and a specially-composed number called "Zizi lethu! Themba lethu!".

"The combination of the two orchestras signifies South Africa's acknowledgement of the support Britain demonstrated in the movements which led to the demise of apartheid in 1994," says an organiser.

Tickets cost between £5 and £25. Call 020 7638 8891 for details.

* Prince Charles might talk to trees, but the Queen endorses the New Age practice of whispering to horses. The Household Cavalry recently hired an animal clairvoyant, Amelia Kinkade, to work with their unruly nags.

"They had real discipline problems with their horses," said Kinkade, at a fundraiser for the Vanishing Herds Foundation. "A particularly bad one was ridden by the Deputy Adjutant. So I spoke to him, and he said he missed another horse, Bernard, who used to stand with him."

"When I told the soldiers about this, they were amazed, because a horse called Bernard had recently moved to Highgrove. I went up there and spoke to Bernard, and he wanted to come back. So they brought him back, and everyone was happy."