Pandora: Sven dashes North Korean dreams

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The Independent Online

As far as the millions of love-struck women living above the 39th parallel are concerned, the world knows only one impish, receding figure, with enough charisma to change the weather merely by his mood.

But anyone who followed the fortunes of the England football team from 2000 to 2006 of course knows different. So the rumours yesterday that Shir Shven of Svensska was flying to Beijing to have talks with the North Korean Football Association about the possibility of managing the team in next year's World Cup understandably caused quite a stir.

All too aware of Mr Eriksson's embarrassments in his recent short-lived spell as Mexico coach (a news reporter asked him if he liked chilli. He replied saying, "Yes, Santiago is a beautiful city"), Pandora calls with a useful glossary. Is the Swede aware of the following everyday phrases: "net-net-doul" (four-four-two); "haek-missile-shilhum" (nuclear missile testing)? Or the more obscure "ink wen" (human rights). "I don't know if Sven knows any of those words," says his management. "We've not been approached by the North Korean FA. Sven is currently in Nottingham, not in Pyongyang. There is no truth in any of these rumours."

If a heart breaks in a state where freedom of expression is outlawed, does anyone hear it?

Visionary leader beyond compare

Gordon Brown's announcement that, despite several tears in his good eye, his sight was normal provoked one Blairite backbencher to quip wickedly about the PM: "In that case his eyesight must be the only part that is normal." Rather reminiscent of Evelyn Waugh's remark, after Randolph Churchill had a non-malignant growth removed, when he said the surgeon had removed "the only part of Randolph that was NOT malignant". Poor Gordon at one time harboured notions of appearing a Church- illian figure. Wrong Churchill, it seems.

Will Dannatt get behind the booze cruise?

Incoming! Already a campaign for Tory "political gimmick" General Sir Richard Dannatt to be getting on with, as he resigned yesterday as chairman or the Royal United Services Institute to take up his new role with the Conservatives. For the man who earned praise when the publication of his expenses revealed he had catered for top military dinners with bulk buys from Wine and Beer World in Calais, will no doubt be furious at a Department of Health report, published yesterday, that threatens to limit the amount of alcohol Britons can bring into the country, and thus spell the end of the booze cruise. We called to see if the General is prepared to defend the right of plucky Brits to perennially invade the landing grounds of northern France, but he is not putting his head above the parapet.

No expense spared in conkers battle

Congratulations to Bob Russell MP, the winner of the inaugural Parliamentary Conkers Challenge in association with the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health. "People are saying it's a fix, as it was my idea to put it on," says the Liberal Democrat member for Colchester. But where was Ken Clarke? Surely a good moment to show off some of the prime specimens that surely grow in a garden lovingly tended with £4,733 of public cash? "Er, I don't think we'll be commenting on that," a spokesperson for the shadow Business secretary says.

The boys don't want to grow up

"Dom and I are essentially the same person," said Gavin and Stacey star James Corden, of his best mate and fellow History Boy, Dominic Cooper, when the pair turned up for the Bulgari Vogue party on Tuesday night. So which one is it whose chiselled six-pack wowed Mamma Mia! co-star Amanda Seyfried on the beaches of Skiathos? And which one is on first-name terms with the staff of the Chinese takeaway he lives above? "The same people, but in different bodies," he corrects. "Neither of us ever wants to grow up."