Diary

The new lean, not to say gaunt, appearance of the former Chancellor Nigel Lawson (left) continues to fascinate the newspapers, though cynics are less convinced. Four stone in six months? So what: Norman Lamont lost seven billion pounds in a day. In any case, we should have learnt by now that anything Tory Chancellors take off before an election they invariably put back on afterwards. It must be common knowledge that the only things Conservatives manage to lose between general elections are by-elections. The impending publication of the Nigel Lawson diet book coincides with the much-vaunted discovery of a treatment for rats grown fat through a combination of artificial feeding and greed. It's called a tax on executive share options.

Having finally played down his reference to 57 old farts earlier this year, Will Carling must have been mortified to open his door this week to find about 157 of the bastards cluttering up his lawn; proof that in the silly season, the Devil finds work for idle hacks. Anyway, what's the big deal? As far as I know there are only two men who haven't had the pleasure of breathless, excited, affectionate telephone calls from the Princess of Wales, and one of those is Prince Charles.

And I seem to remember being told of a recent picture showing the England captain locked in a clinch with Dennis Easby, the chairman of the Rugby Football Union, which is a much more interesting proposition.

In the meantime, rather than expose himself and the gorgeous Julia to a tide of innuendo, Will should position Jason Leonard, Brian Moore and Victor Obogu on his garden path and ask for any queries to be directed through them. Personally.

Sir Paul Condon, the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, has now officially launched his crackdown on street crime based on research which sees things in black and white (black, mostly). But then, they all look the same, don't they, these police commissioners? The campaign threatens to create a new cultural identity for London's ethnic minorities: young, gifted and helping-the-police-with-their-inquiries.

News arrives from the cricket world that Graham Gooch has been approached by a company that manufactures wigs, and is considering their offer. He should think carefully. Not only will he have to tend his new thatch carefully, watering it regularly, using the heavy roller and working out whether or not it will take spin, but we may have to endure the spectacle of Geoffrey Boycott sticking his car keys into the side of Goochie's head to check for moisture.

Another bastion of decent society is under threat this week following a strategy report which says that open prisons may become a thing of the past: it seems there are too few inmates who can be trusted not to abscond. What is the world coming to if you can't even trust criminals? Particularly those who would normally be locked away and have the key thrown at them. It reminds me of an invitation I received a few years ago to play in a pro-celebrity cricket match at Ford Open Prison. There seemed no shortage of celebrities on the inside, their numbers including Gerald Ronson and that well-known Guinness double act, Fence and Saunders. The mind boggled. Would there be any local rules - six and out, for instance? And would any disappearance of the ball into the next-door field be greeted with massed shouts of "I'll get it"? I declined the invitation, though I was curious to visit the jail where the amount of white-collar fraudsters guaranteed a better class of deal: the going rate for an ounce of shag was 150 non-voting A shares in ICI, and a tap on the radiator signified not a riot in D-wing but a significant drop in the Hang Seng following heavy overnight trading.

Hearing that the Royal Family's flagship was up for sale, I naturally assumed this was a reference to Her Royal Highness the Queen Mum, Gawdblessyouma'am. I now realise the redundant object is Britannia, the floating home of the Royal Family which was due to be scrapped in 1997. As indeed was the yacht. I suggest Greenpeace snap it up immediately and sail it to the nuclear testing grounds of the South Pacific. Would the French then be so keen on blowing up a piece of British history with such strong connections with our monarchy? On second thoughts ...

Talking of recidivism, as the soccer season returns, the Fantasy Football League is with us again. Having briefly had a go last year with Fantasy Cricket, where I imagined what it would be like if Curtly Ambrose were playing for my team (a fantasy I shared with his county captain, Allan Lamb), I think it's time to move the concept on and bring it right up to date with a United Nations Bosnian Fantasy League. Each player would be allocated a budget of, say, $456m and asked to choose a team. This would have to contain at least two top-line reporters, one British Commander, an international negotiator and at least one indicted war criminal.

Among the available choices: Reporters - Kate Adie, pounds 150,000. Danny Baker, needs the work, pounds 2.50 and a can of Budweiser. Martin Bell, pounds 30,000, thrives in war zones, will pay you.

Warlords - General Mladic, pounds 500,000. Motto: people say you have to be cruel to be kind. Bollocks. Why not just be cruel and leave it at that?

Negotiators - David Owen, pounds 250,000 plus expenses and overnights. Hobby, collecting air miles. And political parties. Yasushi Akashi, pounds 100,000. Not so much a diplomat, more an attack of hay fever. Jimmy Knapp, pounds 20,000 and a ham sandwich. Say what you like but at least he made the strikes run on time. Jim Bowen, 20p. "Now that area's safe." Paddy Ashdown, MP for Sarajevo (West). 50,000 ecus. May lose seat in boundary changes. Radovan Karadzic. May lose head in boundary changes. Jimmy Savile. Fix that one then, matey.

The scores would follow the model of Fantasy Football, with points for border incursions, territorial gains and out-and-out victories. And there's the appalling prospect of teams managed by celebrities you'd never dream of putting in charge of an army: Patsy Kensit, Naomi Campbell, Michael Portillo. The winner is the first team to achieve lasting peace in the Balkans. Now there's a fantasy for you.

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