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Local lady activist seeks ...

Peter Mandelson, Labour's spin doctor emeritus, was recently and memorably referred to by Robin Cook MP as "a proper and adequate metaphor for the Labour leader". But has it all rather gone to his head? I gather that he is now in danger of becoming a proper and adequate metaphor for a married man.

Mr Mandelson let slip at a private meeting of London members that he had received a marriage proposal from a lady activist in the Mitcham and Morden party. Mr Mandelson, I have to tell the heartbroken wench, has no plans to settle down in marital bliss in Mitcham. But what better indication could there be that new Labour is at last learning from the Conservatives on how to conduct branch meetings? Never mind the debate, the resolutions, the points of order. Join the Labour Party and you might meet your future spouse.

The luck of the English in '66

So who's a bad loser then? After yesterday's reminiscences of the 1966 World Cup final from the England boys, a word from the Germans. Referring to that spot-on verdict from the eagle-eyed ref and linesman that Geoff Hurst's shot had indeed crossed the line, Wolfgang Weber, scorer of one of Germany's goals, says: "I'd prefer not to make any comments on the more than controversial decision, because it's of no use and enough has been said about it. But in any case it has to be noted that the English team has entered the annals of football history as worthy world champions. In the end, it was the luckier of two outstanding teams." Luckier, eh? Is that preferring to make no comment or preferring to bear a 30-year grudge?

Nissan can, but children mustn't

The Independent Television Commission, is, I hear, receiving objections from TV viewers about an ad for the Nissan Micra. The advert features a man returning to his girlfriend's house in her Nissan. A surreal candlelit banquet ensues, the couple passionately smearing food across each other and into their mouths. Hot stuff. And what aspect of this odd sexual behaviour has enraged viewers. They are extremely concerned, says the ITC, about "this poor example of table manners, particularly to children".

Free facial hair now

The House of Commons Order Paper on Tuesday contained the following motion under the heading Dining Room Staff Beards: "That this House deplores the instructions to the Dining Room staff by the House of Commons Refreshment Department that they can no longer have beards; regards this instruction as a gross infringement of male liberties; re-asserts that the sporting of a beard is a harmless and reasonable and perfectly hygienic habit; and instructs the Refreshment Department to rescind this absurd prohibition forthwith."

The proposer of the motion failed to declare an interest. He is the extremely hirsute Labour MP for Lancashire West, Mr Colin Pickthall.

Target practice for NHS trusts

My search for unlikely rifle ranges moves on from the House of Commons and the former GLC building, County Hall. A reader from Salisbury tells me incredulously that there is one at her local psychiatric hospital, run by Salisbury Health Care NHS Trust. The range is underneath the ballroom at Salisbury Old Manor Psychiatric Hospital. It seems that the range was established during the First World War when the hospital was private and catered for ex-servicemen. A spokesman assures me it is no longer functional, but was presumably built to enable the staff to keep their eye in with target practice in their spare time, in case of a sudden call-up. It must have provided some unwelcome background noise to the patients, most of whom were suffering from shell shock.

Cheeky cow

A wit at large in Malton, North Yorkshire. He or she has put up a card on the customers' noticeboard at Safeway: "Go mad. Buy beef this weekend."

Eagle Eye

Checkmate! Eventually...

The chess defeat of grandmaster John Nunn by 15-year-old Ruth Sheldon (above right) came as no surprise to us. We have long been predicting the end of male domination of chess, which had at its roots nothing less than a 200-year-old curse on women chessplayers. It was in the mid-1790s that the first woman chess player appeared in public, when Mademoiselle la Chevaliere d'Eon (above left) did battle with the great Philidor in London. The "mademoiselle" was, in fact, the noted transvestite, fencer, dragoon captain and part-time nun, Le Chevalier D'Eon (which led Freud to coin the word `eonism' as a synonym for transvestism). Anyway, it was a mortal blow to women's chess when they discovered their first great player was a chap. But even the worst trauma never lasts more than a couple of centuries.

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