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Banks in the firing line

Labour's Tony Banks has been doing his best to shame his parliamentary colleagues by calling for the closure of the House of Commons' own rifle range, buried deep in the recesses of the Palace of Westminster. It is certainly an oddity to have a rifle range in a building devoted to legislation, the furtherance of democracy and public policy-making. Surely, such sporting pursuits, if they be such, can be carried out on non-subsidised, private premises.

The only other example that I can recall of the anomaly of a rifle range in a building supposedly devoted to policy-making and public accountability was at County Hall in London at the time of the GLC. The GLC in its last days contained future firebrand Labour MPs Ken Livingstone, Paul Boateng and, come to think of it, Tony Banks. Indeed, Mr Banks used to shoot at that rifle range. But I cannot recall he or any of his colleagues using their powers to close down the rifle range or ever once speaking against its existence. Pressure of work, no doubt.

Tenor penny? More like one in a million

What is the monetary value of a high C? I can now reveal the exact worth of a top-class tenor. Roberto Alagna (left), the Paris-based Sicilian tenor, sometimes hailed as the successor to Pavarotti, is appearing on BBC's Pebble Mill today. His record company, EMI, is flying him by helicopter from London to Birmingham and back for the show, and they have insured him for the flight. They have valued the voice and its owner at pounds 1m. Just so the pilot knows. Steer safely.

How to put your boot in it

Next week sees the launch of the new Reebok advert for the Ryan Giggs football boot. It boasts the largest gathering of famous faces to appear in one advertising campaign, with pop stars, comedians, boxers and the ubiquitous David Mellor all wishing they could step into the boots of Manchester United's Ryan Giggs. Only the rock group Oasis turned down the chance to appear, as they are solid Manchester City fans.

But is Reebok's marketing director, Robert Fallow, getting a little carried away when he says: "The common bond between all these people is that they would exchange their lifestyles to be in Ryan Giggs' boots. However successful they are in their own fields, they all dream of scoring a winning goal in front of 50,000 people."

One of the featured celebs is Mr George Best (left). He has no need to dream. He has scored goals in front of even more than 50,000 people and may indeed consider himself to have been a better player than even Ryan Giggs.

It's all a blur in the underworld

Irvine Welsh, author of the urban underworld novel Trainspotting, has managed to live up to type, getting himself arrested at a match involving his beloved Hibernian against Partick Thistle. He was arrested for being drunk and disorderly, a surprisingly animated state for a 0-0 draw. But no further action is being taken by the Scottish Procurator Fiscal. I gather that the drinking binge started a good 24 hours before the match when Welsh met Damon Albarn of Blur, the rock group, for a magazine article. The two apparently got on like a house on fire despite Welsh thinking his companion's name was Damon Blur.


The Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency are going in for a piece of private enterprise when they auction previously unissued car registration numbers. At the sale in Stratford-upon-Avon next month bidding will start at pounds 1,000 for number plates for egocentric gels or lovestruck boyfriends: plates such as FIO NNA; 13 PAM or N1 CLA.

The DVLA may be a bit hopeful though in expecting pounds 1,000-plus for 2 RSC. Few luvvies wishing to boast their associations with the Royal Shakespeare Company can afford to fritter away pounds 1,000.

Critical blackout for Sir Cliff's Heathcliff

Cliff Richard is beyond criticism. Fearing bad reviews (perish the thought) for his portrayal of Heathcliff in the forthcoming stage musical of the same name, his management has now decided not to give any tickets to critics. Nearly all the 140,000 tickets for the national tour have sold out; so why subject Sir Clifford to the inevitable rubbishing, they reason. Eagle Eye will not concede defeat quite so easily. Here, well in advance of the opening in October, is the first and presumably only review of Heathcliff.

And, to ease Sir Cliff's paranoia, I'll make it a good one, and trust it will be plastered on the walls of every venue the show graces. Here goes: "Cliff Richard, the eternal bachelor boy with a penchant for gospel singing, proves himself a natural choice as Emily Bronte's smouldering, sulle n and sexually dangerous hero. While one yearned for Sue Barker to play Cathy and complete the dream casting, there was no doubting that Sir Cliff gave a performance the like of which I have never seen before."