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Camping out

The latest buzz word inside the upper echelons of the Government has a certain fairground flair. The phrase is "big tent" as in "there's room enough in here for everyone, left and right, young and old". The phrase has, like so much of New Labour's political gadgetry, been imported from America. On Wednesday night, the "tent" was billowing at press officer Tim Allan's leaving party in 10 Downing Street. Thus there was room for both Rachel Whetstone, the former special adviser to Tory Michael Howard, and Jane Bonham-Carter, the former director of communications for the Liberal Democrats, plus all the predictable Labour faces. The evening's high point came when the Prime Minster delivered a speech that teased Allan about some of the less flattering press stories that he had supposedly arranged. Pandora should caution the Labour spin doctors, however, before they start flinging the "big tent" buzz word around too recklessly. There is a popular old Australian slander which has also reached our shores, as in Julian Clary is as "camp as a row of tents."

Desert stories

While we are on the subject of tents, the author of a new book entitled Escape to Hell and Other Stories composed all his fiction in a "writing tent" in the Libyan desert. Yes, Colonel Gaddafi has just brought out a new inspirational book in which people who live in cities are called "snails", "worms" and "rats". "Depart the city and flee to the village," Gaddafi urges his readers, as if he is still living the nightmare of American bombers targeting his palaces in Tripoli. Still, nothing Gaddafi writes is as odd as the book's preface by American Pierre Salinger, who was once JFK's press secretary and more recently has been running a campaign to convince the world that the TWA 800 was blown out of the sky by an errant US missile. According to Salinger, Gaddafi has abandoned his support for terrorism and is now as gentle as a lamb. Yes, and rats can fly.

Dummie speaks up

What a freakish resemblance there is between our Leader of the Opposition and Chuck, the dummy of American ventriloquist David Strassman, who has made a name for himself by insulting Prince Charles and even banishing his human master from the stage and performing solo. "Chuck challenges authority," says Strassman. "That's a fantasy we all have." Surely William Hague could not have put it any more neatly.

A change from nightwear

Hugh Hefner, founder of Playboy, has finally been elected to the American Society of Magazine Editors' Hall of Fame. Pandora can't imagine why it took this long for Hef to reach this gleaming pinnacle of recognition. But the great man, "bunny" merchant and author whose finest hour stretched into years as he penned his interminable "Playboy Philosophy", was very gracious in his acceptance speech. "It takes something special to get me out of my pyjamas," he told his fellow editors. "And this is special."

I'm sorry, I'll say that again

Most people who saw Boris Johnson on last week's Have I Got News For You thought he acquitted himself remarkably well in the face of an embarrassing verbal offensive from Ian Hislop and Paul Merton. However, it does seem rather churlish of Johnson to reveal in the latest Spectator that most of the amusing "ad libs" in the highly successful programme are scripted in advance. Indeed Johnson compares his revelation to the Van Doren TV quiz show scandal that shocked America in the Fifties. "The whole thing is a fix" writes Johnson about HIGNFY, including the fact that Angus Deayton is given the opportunity of repeating his lines over and over in front of a prompted audience until he gets them right. Frankly, Pandora cannot believe there is a single viewer over the age of 12 who ever believed this "quiz" was anything but a satirical stitch-up. Or are Spectator readers remarkably naive?