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Straw in humour shock

HOLD the front page! The Home Secretary has a sense of humour. This was confirmed yesterday when he rang one of Pandora's colleagues to say that he had ordered a leak sinquiry into the source of our April Fool's Day spoof story. Deadpan, he said that a plan to choose "People's Lords" by lottery was about to be announced. "We will have to establish a leaks inquiry into how you obtained this information. These minutes are circulated to a limited list of only 10 officials, so I am carrying out a full inquiry straight away," Jack Straw said. He then admitted he was joking.

Unfortunately, the joke would have fallen a bit flat over at the newsdesks of the Times and the Daily Mail. Both phoned their Westminster correspondents at midnight on Tuesday when they saw the first edition of The Independent. and demanded to know why they did not have this story?

Now concentrate ...

A FRIEND has sent The Box a rather clever maths puzzle that is currently buzzing around the Internet. Follow these six steps, and do not peak at the answer at the bottom of this column.

1. Pick a number from one to seven.

2. Multiply your number by 2.

3. Add 5.

4. Multiply the result by 50.

5. If you have already had your birthday this year, add 1748. If you haven't, add 1747.

6. Final step: subtract the four digit year that you were born.

Now read on and you shall have this last three digit number explained to you in due course.

Lording it down at B&Q

LORD Mackay of Clashfern, Derry Irvine's predecesor as Lord Chancellor, has been eagerly sought by hacks who want to ask him questions about his old Westminster flat and the timing of plans for its refurbishment. But Lord Mackay has succeeded in eluding all, including Pandora. However, another witness has come forward who definitely recalls that he had his rooms redecorated when he took office in 1987 because he found them unpleasantly redolent with the smell of the dogs owned by his predecessor, Lord Hailsham (above). In fact some of the wallpaper Mackay chose was bedecked with pineapples and definitely Puginesque! Could it be that Lord Mackay was an avid DIY decorator who purchased and installed this himself? If you are reading this, Lord Mackay, please ring Pandora at your earliest convenience.

MoD playing with fire

IN the meantime, I have learned that Lord Irvine's hunger for fine art is far less voracious than that of the Ministry of Defence, which has so many pictures that it doesn't know where they all are. Recently John Spellar, defence minister, instigated an inventory of the MoD's walls. A total of 166 out of 204 works of art could not be found. But some works of art have been removed from this list of missing pictures on the grounds that they were not "art" at all. This includes a cartoon from the Sun. Isn't this last deletion, from New Labour's favourite newspaper, just a bit risky?

Now that's tacky

FORGET about the margarine. If you're on a quest for for the crass and vulgar, you've got to head for New York City. The New York Post this week revealed that a new delicatessen had opened on the Lower East Side called "Diana-Dodi". It's owner is a native of Alexandria, Egypt, in common with Mohamed Al Fayed, although Abdel Rahaman has never met Al Fayed, his son or the Princess of Wales. His counter manager explained that, "Dodi was a very good businessman and he was from a very good family. He's an example for young people".

Here is the AMAZING SOLUTION to the maths puzzle given above. Look at the number you obtained from your final computation. The first digit is your original number. The second two digits are your age. Pandora has been assured that this is the only year it will ever work.