Wednesday 08 May 1996
Any hopes John Major might have of a pre-election truce with the Euro- sceptics are about to be shattered. The "heroes and heroines" (their words, needless to say) of the Conservative party, including Teresa Gorman (below), Sir Teddy Taylor, Tony Marlow and others, have restyled themselves with a heavy whiff of martyrdom "the Westminster Eight" and are holding a number of "Save Our Currency" meetings.
An invitation to a meeting in Chester next month claims that "these are the heroes and heroines who stood up to the Government's bullying on Europe and were punished by having the whip removed". It adds, lest we think the event will be merely a piece of old-fashioned, healthy democratic debate in which all sides have a healthy, old-fashioned democratic respect for each other: "Save Our Currency invite you to hear the Euro-sceptics' side of the argument to balance the ceaseless drivel churned out by ... Kenneth Clarke and others ...".
Just in case anyone in the Government still thinks there might be a united front lurking there somewhere, one of the Westminster Eight, Christopher Gill, will be launching a new book today, In Their Own Words, full of quotes "that reveal the deceitfulness that has gone on throughout our membership of the EU".
Anybody for a coffin you can fold away?
Macabre tales of innovation from Zimbabwe, where the latest growth industry is ... the coffin. Roadside coffin sales, I learn, are the latest thing; and one bright entrepreneur has spotted a market for frugal ingenuity: the collapsible coffin. Handy to transport to isolated villages, the canvas-covered wooden frame folds up like a deckchair and fits neatly into a briefcase-sized bag.
A prudent investment. After all, in the words of the accompanying advertisment - one to make Saatchi & Saatchi eat their hearts out - "You bury your dead, not your future."
Soaraway BA flops with its staff
I must hand it to British Airways News, the in-house journal of our national airline. It won't let loyalty get in the way of a good story.
On the back page of the new issue is an employee opinion survey. It says that "only around 50 per cent of people are satisfied with the level of involvement and opportunity to use initiative. Furthermore, only approximately a third of employees feel that British Airways is open and honest in its internal dealing with them."
When even your own employees are unimpressed with your honesty and openness, it takes a brave man or woman to reveal that to the world. Small wonder the intrepid British Airways News hack merely signs him or herself "News Reporter".
After the Knowledge, time for charm school
Now that New York cab drivers are reportedly having courses in charm - beginning with 50 courteous phrases, from the most elementary "thank you" to "I'm sorry if you think I am driving too fast, sir," I inquired whether our own "only speak when I'm spoken to" Hackney carriage drivers have similar instruction. I'm told there is no formal courtesy training, but they are judged on "temperament" by examiners at the Public Carriage Office when they take the Knowledge. A pleasing temperament translates into street parlance as: "I thought this route would cut out traffic, guv."
Sorry Ringo, the joke's on you
My selection yesterday from the current round of jokes in the music industry vilifying drummers has prompted a reader of a certain vintage to remind me that there was an earlier butt of such jokes before Ginger Baker, late of the supergroup Cream (What do Ginger Baker and canteen coffee have in common? They're both awful without cream.) Ringo Starr, it seems, was the first target of these jibes, back in the Sixties. For example: "OK, I admit he's not the best drummer in the world." "Come off it, he's not even the best drummer in the Beatles."
And all for rather more than three tenners
A breathless press release reaches me about the Three Tenors concert at Wembley in July. Though the event has not sold out, the promoters have "found" a further 8,000 seats at Wembley, so it can now be watched by 55,000 people - "one person per 1,000 out of the nation's population", the promoters marvel; or rather fewer than watch women's hockey at the same venue, to put it another way. The Wembley show is planned to be the last ever together by Messrs Pavarotti, Domingo and Carerras, and a snip at pounds 35 to pounds 350. For those who want to revel in the occasion and buy VIP seats, I discovered yesterday what that entails. For a mere pounds 995 you not only get to see the show, you not only get a meal afterwards graced by the big three, but you also, wait for it, get free parking.
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arts + ents... and a chance to paint Booker Prize winning author Hilary Mantel
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