Diary

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Sky's the limit at Westminster

If you notice a sharp drop in the 7 pm voting record of your MP it may be because it coincides with the start of football coverage on TV. As of yesterday, television sets throughout Westminster - including those in MPs' private offices - will have Sky News, CNN International, Sky Sports and Sky Sports II to add to the routine coverage of Parliamentary debates.

Asked who was paying for the service, Sky says that it cannot comment on a commercial agreement. The service has been arranged by the House of Commons information committee, which would suggest that the footie coverage comes courtesy of the taxpayer. It would also suggest some embarrassment for MPs who have campaigned against Sky monopolising sports coverage.

Jack Cunningham (above), Labour's heritage spokesman, led the campaign for keeping key sporting fixtures on terrestrial television. However, he too will be having his personal satellite coverage. A spokesman in his office said yesterday: "Mr Cunningham is far too busy to discuss this. His views are a great deal too complicated for a diary story."

Equality for all, as long as you're a MAN

A press release arrives from the British Medical Association promoting equal opportunities in the NHS. The BMA report from its Career Progress of Doctors Committee emphasises that everyone in the health service "should be personally committed to a culture in which prejudice of any sort is unacceptable". The press release quotes exhortations to equality from Dr Liz Shore, chairman of the Career Progress of Doctors Committee and Helen Fallon, chairman of the BMA's Medical Students Committee. Unusually, the press release contains an NB for editors in bold type. Is it some feminist homily? Actually it turns out to be a post-feminist homily. The word chairMAN, it stresses, is "the preferred title of each of these women".

Greater horsepower

There's nothing better to take your mind off losing 40 horses than getting a good motor or three. Henry Cecil, the Newmarket trainer, who saw Sheikh Mohammed remove all his horses from the Cecil string last autumn, has secured a sponsorship deal for his yard with Saab, the Swedish car manufacturer. Stable sponsorship is a fast-growing trend, with all that TV exposure for paddock sheets, staff jackets, and sweat rugs (expect to see sweat rugs placed on even the coolest horses henceforth).

The deal will be formally announced at a champagne breakfast at Newmarket tomorrow.

Cecil tells the Sporting Life: "I have been trying for more than a year ... to tie up with either a fashion house or a top car firm. Natalie, my wife, may be having the new convertible. I'm also getting one of the range for my nanny to drive our son Jake around and even getting one for my mother-in-law."

I know the Swedes are family minded. But nanny and mother-in-law? They're in danger of giving sponsorship a good name.

Relief in a can

I have news that will come as a great relief to, I'm told, one in five of the population. Today is officially National Constipation Day. "It may not be the kind of thing people chat to each other about," Georgina Pinnington, one of the organisers, concedes. "We have had terrible difficulty getting any celebrities involved. No volunteers at all, as yet." So hard to imagine why.

But there is one happy coincidence for the organisers to celebrate. Tesco have reduced their baked beans to 3p a can.

Projection of bad luck

The publicity launch for the new and last Dennis Potter television series was held, unusually, at the Institute for Contemporary Arts in London. The BBC and Channel 4 both decided not to use the Bafta building for superstitious reasons as Potter had failed to win recent Bafta awards. Superstitions can be unlucky. The ICA projector broke down three times.

Feeling off-colour? Shed your shirt

Manchester United's spectacularly unsuccessful tactic of binning their two-tone grey away strip in the middle of a match is striking a chord with sports psychologists. In case you missed it, the team were losing 3-0 to Southampton and reappeared after half-time in a blue and white strip. Why? If you ask eminent sports psychologist Dr George Sik, he will tell you: "It could be a case of external locus of control - that means rather than blaming your poor performance on yourself you blame it on external factors, like your shirt." Fellow sports psychologist Jack Lamport Mitchell sees the advanced stages of "paranoia, over-sensitivity and obsession". But what of the players' claim of grey being a difficult colour to see? Dr Richard Cox of Heriot Watt University concedes it could be a case of scientific validity - particular colours having greater peripheral visibility than others, but when pushed, attributes the move to "face validity" - that means superstition to you and me. Whatever the psychological reasons they still lost 3-1 and perhaps should take some advice from Philip Cornwall of the football magazine When Saturday Comes. "It is not uncommon for teams to feel that kit is connected to bad luck. On 12 September 1989 Crystal Palace lost 9-0 to Liverpool. They never wore the shirts again." Not all the Man U players will take heart from this. Palace also got rid of their goalkeeper.

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