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No further use for his services

THE DAYS of de-whipped Tory spy-writer Rupert Allason may be numbered as MP for Torbay, but for the time being he continues to exert his influence in the House of Commons on the subject of espionage. But even this is now in doubt following overtures the MP has recently been making to the Liberal Democrats.

Anxious for a place on the new parliamentary committee on the intelligence services, the MP for Torbay asked the Tory Chief Whip Richard Ryder to put his name forward to the selection committee the other day. Ryder, I'm told, was not enthusiastic. Persistent man that he is, Allason turned to Archy Kirkwood, Ryder's opposite number for the Lib Dems, hoping that he - as guardian of waifs and strays - would give him a place. Rejection again, I'm afraid, this time on the grounds that the party had its own man in mind - Nigel Jones, who tipped off the allies about the location of the Iraqi defence HQ during the Gulf war, and who has GCHQ in his constituency.

Chief anti-Allason grouse, at least among Tories, stems from his suggestion that Stephen Milligan may have compromised national security. 'People are not terribly happy with him after those comments, and because he's so conceited,' said Peter Holland, a member of the Torbay Conservative Association. 'He should be loyal to the party, not stand around telling jokes.'

HOW would St Hilda's College, Oxford like its apostrophe misappropriated? I don't know, but a press release announcing that the college has raised pounds 4.5m for its centenary appeal goes on to tell us it has just celebrated it's (sic) 100th birthday.

Too many pots THERE is an unwritten rule that when you move house, you have to leave certain things behind. Lady Wynne-Jones, head of the Friends of Chelsea society and a firm campaigner for good community relations, did not subscribe to this theory when she recently moved from Cheyne Walk to Elystan Place.

Much of the blame for the way she transplanted two willows and a russet apple tree and carted them round to her new house should be apportioned to her butler, Chris, who heard her ruing their loss and promptly dug them up. But Lady Wynne-Jones's new neighbours do not see it that way. They are vigorously complaining about the 15ft willows now standing in pots on the porch of her new house - they claim they obstruct the pavement - and the 25ft apple tree which doubles up as a nesting place for her aviary of skylarks, yellowhammers, golden finches et al.

'I know that we can't all be rich,' she declared when I rang to sympathise with her for the harassment, 'but we can at least be pleasant to one another.'

A POLICEWOMAN claiming sex discrimination against South Wales police is being backed by the Police Federation, whose local branch secretary, John Prosser, has described Detective Sergeant Heather Milton, 34, as 'a bright girl'. Mr Prosser would do well to use language in her defence that wasn't, well, sexist. Take a jump LORD REDESDALE, a bouncy Lib Dem peer, is preparing for a 100-foot bungee jump from a crane after being cornered by a party researcher in the Lords Bar when in convivial form (he is an active member of the Parliamentary Beer Club). Selena Bevis asked him to sponsor her jump so she could spend 10 weeks counting mammals in Vietnam, and Westminster's youngest hereditary peer (he's 26) told her: 'Hey, you can't have all the fun - I'll do it, too.' The jump was scheduled for last weekend but postponed because it was too windy. Redesdale isn't worried about breaking his neck, he tells me. It's more his attire. He attempted such a jump once before in black tie and his starched shirt fell out of his trousers.


8 March 1802 Dorothy Wordsworth writes in her journal: 'During William's absence a sailor travelling from Liverpool to Whitehaven called, he was faint and pale when he knocked at the door - a young man very well dressed. We sat by the kitchen fire talking for two hours. He told us interesting stories of his life. His name was Isaac Chapel and had been at sea since he was 15. His last voyage was to the coast of Guinea, on board a slave ship, the captain's name Maxwell, where one man had been killed, a boy put to lodge with the pigs and was half eaten, set to watch in the hot sun until he dropped down dead. He had been away in America and had travelled 30 days among the Indians. He had twice swam from a King's ship in the night and escaped. He said he would rather be in hell than be pressed. He was now going to wait in England to appear against Captain Maxwell. 'O he's a Rascal, Sir, he ought to be put in the papers]' '