People: Keating says something nice about a (dead) Pom

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The Independent Online
AUSTRALIA'S Prime Minister, Paul Keating, who once enraged Britain by accusing it of having abandoned Australia during the Second World War, confesses that his first hero and political inspiration was Winston Churchill.

'The first person I was interested in from political life was Churchill,' said Mr Keating, who reads Churchill biographies in his spare time. 'I used to think as a kid, 'if that's the business he's in, that's the business I should be in'.'

He was less complimentary about more recent leaders such as Bob Hawke and Baroness Thatcher: a 'reasonably sad bunch'. He was particularly damning about former politicians who wrote their memoirs. 'They all end up being self-serving and they have no value.'

THE HEROIC but hapless British ski-jumper, Eddie 'The Eagle' Edwards, has tried to leap back into the Olympic spotlight, only to be turned away. Edwards, who came a distant last at the 1988 Calgary Games and was scratched from Albertville in 1992 because he was not good enough, informed officials in Lillehammer that he was taking part in the high-hill event.

Spurned yet again, he claimed the judges wanted to keep him out for fear he would jump too far. 'I have a new secret weapon,' he warned darkly, 'jet engines concealed in my bindings'.

BRAZIL'S soccer legend Pele, who despite his humble origins has tended to lean to the right politically, has surprised Brazilians by crossing to the left and endorsing Luiz Inacio da Silva, 'Lula', the charismatic leader of the left-wing Workers' Party.

Pele, or - as it no doubt says on the electoral roll - Edson Arantes do Nascimento, says that the former steelworker Lula is the only person fit to run the country. Disappointingly for his many fans, Pele, 53, insists he has no intention of entering the political game himself.

RECENT photographs suggest the ailing Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping, 89, is nearer to death than to life, but among the younger generation of Chinese the lust for life and romance seems stronger than ever: on St Valentine's Day yesterday, Peking's shops were awash with roses and the streets full of eager chaps bearing bouquets.

Officialdom is sniffily disapproving and has feebly tried to stay aloof from this Western frivolity, but the entrepreneurial Chinese are cashing in. Judging by the explosion of red roses, St Valentine upstaged the New Year celebrations which, because of the the ban on fireworks, were a bit of a damp squib.

(Photograph omitted)