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Keen to build on new-found ratings glory after Martin Bashir's interview with the Princess of Wales, the people at Panorama are gleefully planning a further coup. They intend their next major exploration of current affairs to be an interview with the Duchess of York.

So we could yet witness Bashir looking solemnly through his spectacles at the Duchess and asking probing policy questions such as: "Duchess, how exactly did you feel when you and Mr Bryant explored the erogenous qualities of toes?"

But I suspect that the duchess, who may yet repair her marriage to Prince Andrew, is unlikely to rock the family boat in quite the same way as her sister-in-law.

"We have been asked in the last few days if she is going to do it, and her answer is emphatically 'No'. I was right beside her when she said it," said the duchess's press secretary, Dominique Vallemy, yesterday.

The Panorama team were coyer: "We haven't heard anything about this," said a spokeswoman.

I suppose their shyness might stem from the unduly long time it is taking the programme's editors to find a suitable link with the duchess. Sadly for Panorama, she has no great interest in rugby. The Princess of Wales interview was mediated through Will Carling - Bashir and Carling became friends some years ago through their shared love of the sport. Some say this friendship explains the peculiar omission of any questions about Carling in the interview with the princess. Eagle Eye is not so cynical and is sure the investigative Bashir just ran out of time.

There was a notable horticultural faux pas this week when an episode of the BBC's Gardener's Question Time was recorded on the terrace of the House of Commons. Hosted by Westminster's all-party Gardening Club, the panel of experts took questions from such gardening experts as Ken Livingstone, Alf Morris and the Australian-born life peer, the suitably named Lady Gardner of Parkes.

The guest panellist, Gordon McMaster MP, a professional horticulturalist himself, waxed aggressively on the subject of poinsettias, those ubiquitously seasonal red-leaved horrors. Asked for advice for all those saddled with them as Christmas gift, he snarled that they should be quietly done away with.

A good, controversial show, and what better way to round it off than refreshments at the Speaker's house? Betty Boothroyd herself greeted them on the steps. Who, she asked indignantly, had been so rude about poinsettias? She glared loftily from the elegant Speaker's staircase, festooned from top to bottom with glowing poinsettias.

After stirring things up somewhat in national lottery circles, Richard Branson, I hear, is planning a return to his first love - running a record label. The founder of Virgin Records, who sold his youthful dream to Thorn EMI in 1992, is suffering withdrawal symptoms three years on. He has set up a working party to investigate how he can make his mark in the music business once more. Branson has inquired about several artists, including Janet Jackson. But whatever his new label is called, it will not be the title most associated with him. Virgin Records executives are adamant that he will be legally unable to use the Virgin name.

If you are one of those who find it exhausting enough to have just one Father Christmas at a time appearing round every corner, spare a thought for the shoppers at the Emporium store in San Francisco, who this week found themselves facing a giant crowd of 100 Father Christmases, all running riot at the same time.

Two Santa Clauses were arrested for tussling with guards in an argument involving a Christmas wreath. Some of the roving white-beards invaded a rooftop children's carnival and stole decorations and other Christmas props. And a Mother Christmas was charged with indecent exposure after allegedly popping her breasts out in front of the assembled company.

The event was organised by the resonantly named Cacophony Society, which had invited the Santa Clauses to converge in downtown San Francisco. But police inspector Randy Krings - yes, really - did not enter into the festive spirit.

"This is something you'd expect from teenage kids. You'd think these people would have a higher sense of responsibility." But I have some sympathy with the inspector. There is no police manual guidance on what to say when Mother Christmas exposes herself.

A mysterious, elegantly coiffured lady was pictured yesterday on three newspaper front pages with the MP David Ashby as he left the High Court after losing his libel case. The Guardian had a large front page picture solely of Ashby and the woman; the Times and Telegraph also showed her in close proximity to him. Could she have been a skeleton from his closet that might yet save his reputation? The truth is more prosaic. She was Independent reporter Rebecca Fowler after one last quote, and at the same time providing her newsdesk with ocular proof three times over that she hadn't skived off to do her Christmas shopping.

Eagle Eye

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