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Daring escape from the Cabinet

What job can you give the man who has done everything? I refer to Tristan Garel-Jones, the former foreign office minister who has decided to step down as an MP. He tells his local paper, the Watford Observer, that he wants to spend more time with his family and with the Union Bank of Switzerland in the City. The 55-year- old MP for Watford, a former deputy chief whip as well as foreign office minister, clearly valued the variety of those two posts as he shoves modesty firmly aside to say: "I have done it all and seen it all, so I suppose there was very little for me to do."

But what about a post in the Cabinet? For the man who has seen and done everything? You must be kidding. Mr Garel-Jones goes on to say: "When I left the Foreign Office a couple of years ago, somebody stopped me in the House and said it was a shame because I could have made it into the Cabinet. And to that I said: 'Precisely, that's why I'm leaving.' I had no interest in it at all."

It's a revealing sign of the times, and of the state of the Conservative Party, that the spur to an MP leaving the House is the thought that if he stays he might end up in the Cabinet.

Moving the goalposts

Reading beat Oldham at football over the weekend, a fact of interest only to the citizens of Reading and Oldham, and believers in the paranormal. For Reading now have the services of Uri Geller, the Israeli who sprang to fame in the Seventies bending spoons and forks on BBC TV with such consummate ease that he was later employed by the CIA to use his psychic powers to erase computer discs held by the KGB.

Well, we all mellow in middle age. And now Mr Geller has forsaken espionage and fork-bending to try to help his local football team, Reading FC. After all, if you can bend forks, you can bend free kicks.

No fairweather supporter, our Uri. Last season he concentrated all his powers by walking 48 miles to Wembley to watch Reading in a play-off for promotion to the Premier League, but they lost to Bolton and missed a penalty to boot. And this season they're staring relegation in the face. What went wrong?

Mr Geller tells the new edition of Q magazine: "It's going to be all right, I tell you. Don't give up hope. I might invite the players over to my home just to give them a good surge of psychic energy. You have to do that sometimes because we use only 10 per cent of our minds."

Yes. With another 90 per cent it could be Reading versus Real Madrid in the Millennium European Cup ... Or Division Three and a misshapen corner flag.

Press awards, minus the press

Eagle Eye's British Press Awards part 2: Following yesterday's award to the Financial Times for forgetting to get any of their entries in on time, I have one more booby prize to hand out. Guests at the awards ceremony may have noticed there was no table for the Observer. The cause of this oversight - and winner of our prize - is the UK Press Gazette, the awards' organiser, which admits that all 40(!) of the Observer's nominations were mislaid. Roy Farndon, editor of the UK Press Gazette, says it was the awards PR company that mislaid the entries. He added: "We were amazed and extremely annoyed that this should happen." As presumably was the Observer.

Violence - it was ever thus

And finally, a special seasonal award to the two middle-market newspapers that were taken in by the April Fool which appeared in this column yesterday. The alleged BBC season of violent and sexually explicit plays was, of course, a description of works by Shakespeare. So my apologies to the BBC press officer who was woken just after midnight by the two papers anxious to follow up this scandal. And to the BBC education department, which tells me it has been bombarded with calls from viewers objecting to the new season.

Eagle Eye

If you can't eat it, flaunt it

Beef avoidance has become a fashion statement. The gay lifestyle magazine Attitude has at times been taken to task by the gay community for its less-than-earnest approach. Not so the April edition, which features a hard-hitting fashion spread of a model in a field of cows, and the now all-too-famous quote from Professor Richard Lacey, warning that "over the next few years, tens of thousands of people could start to display symptoms".

BSE as a gay fashion statement? Novel enough in itself. But what's got the Attitude office preening itself is the timing. The shoot was dreamt up back in pre-BSE January - and the magazine hit the news-stands last week, just as the mad cow scare was exploding.

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