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Model of a modern Labour minister

DESPITE (or because of) his Scottish brain, looks and charm, the shadow Chancellor, Gordon Brown, has his critics among the anti-modernisers in his party - but he has now taken steps to improve his standing on the left. He has recruited Charles Whelan, a former Communist trade-union public relations man, with the brief to revamp Mr Brown's image and improve his relations with the labour movement.

Whelan, 39, took up his pounds 20,000-plus a year post this week as Labour started its preparations for this summer's council and European elections.

Whelan is initially on secondment for six months from his employers, the Amalgamated Engineering and Electrical Union (the most consistent supporters of the party's 'modernising' faction - led by Mr Brown and shadow Home Secretary Tony Blair). He came to the notice of Labour leaders during the bitter internal row over constitutional reforms at the party conference in Brighton last year, where his impressive campaign supporting 'one member, one vote' was perceived to be a lynchpin in defeating the hard- line traditionalists. Now Mr Brown hopes Mr Whelan can do the same for him.

FOR those aficionados missing the soap-opera storyline of the original Gold Blend commercials - Sharon Maughan and Tony Head fall in love with a cup of coffee, and then, ultimately, with each other - the American version (until now the same with Head adopting a New England accent) has added a new scene after the famous seventh episode, aka The Kiss. The scene shows a young man greeting a surprised Ms Maughan with the words 'Hi, Mom.' I'm assured the scene was shot before single parenthood became such a topical issue over here.

Ulterior embraces OVERHEARD at Michael Ward's exhibition of photographs in London on Wednesday night, the following exchange:

Fenella Fielding (ageing actress): ''If it isn't Bryan Wharton]'

B Wharton (ageing photographer): 'Fenella, darling]'

They embrace. Wharton gazes into her eyes. 'How do you stay so young?' he asks, running his fingers through her hair.

F: 'Whatever are you doing?'

B: 'I'm looking for evidence of scar tissue - to see if you've had a facelift.'

F: 'Well, stop it]'

B: 'OK - I don't want another vase smashed over my head.'

F: 'I never smashed a vase over your head.'

B: 'Yes you did, years ago.'

F: 'Well it must have been a very cheap vase]'

TERESA Gorman was recently asked to do an interview at home by GMTV, the breakfast television station, but it never took place because the station rejected her (unusual) demand for a pounds 50 fee. She said she was asking for the fee because it was a Sunday. A surprising argument, given the MP's support for total deregulation of Sunday trading.

Feeding the hand THE decision by Allied Lyons to offer a pounds 3.3m sponsorship deal to the Royal Shakespeare Company was warmly welcomed by the arts world - and, no doubt, by the twin sons of the sponsor's chief executive Tony Hales.

Michael and Robert Hales were among a handful of children given walk-on parts in a 1992 production of The Winter's Tale - a production staged at Stratford-upon- Avon by the Royal Shakespeare Company.

AS ONE member of Conservative Central Office whiled his time away usefully yesterday, sticking stamp after stamp on envelopes, he noted that the Post Office's new collection commemorates the age of steam.

'A pity' he pondered wryly to nobody in particular, affixing yet another picture of the railways, 'that the agendas of the Post Office and the Government have failed to coincide quite so



20 January 1980 Roy Jenkins, then President of the European Commission and on a visit to New York, writes in his diary: 'At Marietta Tree's large dinner party there was a bizarre interchange between Sam Spiegel (a film mogul who moved in liberal political circles) and Nico Henderson (then British ambassador in Washington), neither knowing who the other was, but neither being able to understand that they didn't know someone as notable as the other obviously was. It all arose over a discussion of the Christmas holidays, when Edward Heath had somewhat surprisingly spent two weeks more or less alone with Sam Spiegel in the West Indies. Nico couldn't think who this man was with whom Heath had spent such a long time; and Spiegel couldn't think who this man Henderson was who knew Heath so relatively well.'