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Can you ring back in nine months?

WHETHER or not the Labour party Clintonises itself, one thing's for sure: buttering up the media is not going to be top of the agenda in the immediate future. Out of necessity, the party, which normally has six headquarters press officers, will shortly have none. Three are embarking on maternity leave, one post has been vacant for more than a year; the parliamentary PR, Lesley Smith, has taken a job with ScotRail and funds have not yet been found to replace her, and the chief press officer, Gez Sagar, leaves on Valentine's Day. Sagar, widely thought to have been one of the better things about Labour's '92 campaign, is an intriguing character, not least for his former career with the punk rock band The Toys during the Seventies. He is off to Los Angeles to work on arranging music for films, but tells us he will eventually return to London, start a family, and become a public relations officer in boxing. 'Dealing with Terry Marsh or Frank Warren would make for a much calmer existence than the one I've had for the last four-and-a-half years,' he sighs. The gaps at Walworth Road will be filled in the interim by existing staff, says David Hill, the party's director of communications. 'It'll stretch us a little, but it won't run us into the ground.'

MANCHESTER is overrun with bishops, in town to discuss the fall-out from the female priests debate. Over breakfast at one hotel yesterday, two were heard discussing their rooms. 'The window wouldn't stay open - I had to prop it with a book,' said one. 'At last]' said the other. 'A use for the Gideon Bible]'

Camilla's choice AMID the unlikely twitterings on the 'Camillagate' tape (really, everyone knows the tenderest tendresse an upper-class man coos to his mistress is something like 'Dear old stick]' - at which she just glows fetchingly) is this charming, but particularly incredible, exchange. The supposed Camilla Parker Bowles: 'I can't bear a Sunday night without you.' Charles: 'Oh, God]' C P B: 'It's like that programme Start the Week. I can't start the week without you.' And so on. But Marina Solandy-Brown, producer of Radio 4's Melvyn Bragg chat show, Start the Week, has no doubts about its authenticity. 'I'm not surprised she listens,' she tells us. 'We cross all boundaries. It's a terrific plug - it's just a shame he didn't say it.'

THERE's a party in Westminster tonight to mark the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Labour Party's progenitor, the Independent Labour Party. The ILP still exists as a pressure and publishing group and, curiously, still gets a fair amount of post for one of its founders, Keir Hardie (who died in 1915). Most of it is from the Post Office, to advise Mr Hardie of new rates and services.

Crystallised porn A MICROBIOLOGIST's attempt to liven up his article on the crystallography of histocompatability molecules in the human immune system in Nature magazine has resulted in an entertaining outbreak of ill-feeling in the correspondence columns. Peter Parham of Stanford University, California, wrote that 'the class I MHC molecule is an intrinsically female structure', while the shapes of the 'bound peptides remained decidely uncertain'. 'A cavalry of crystallographic gentlemen' had charged, he said, to try to ascertain the shapes. The protests in today's issue include a letter from Harry White of University College London, who writes that this is '. . . science for Naturism not Nature'. He is incensed especially by the colour picture accompanying the Parham piece of 'a frankly vulval class I molecule filled by a pink penile peptide'.

THE beleaguered Shetland Salmon Farmers' Association entertained the press corps to a salmon dinner on Sunday night, and, as going-home presents, gave each of them a side of their product and a copy of The Salmon Cookbook by Tessa Hayward. In which there is a recipe that's sure to deal with any stubborn, oily stains on your Shetland salmon: 'Cooking salmon in the dishwasher'. If you wrap your salmon securely in foil, and run the long, hot programme on your dishwasher (that's usually 90 minutes at 65C) it should reappear delightfully poached. 'Remember,' Hayward warns, 'not to add any powder.'


14 January 1816 Henry Brougham writes to Thomas Creevey about forthcoming business in Parliament: 'As to home politics - here we should make our main stand, and the ground is clearly Retrenchment - in all ways with ramifications into the Royal Family, property tax, jobs etc. Last of all, but not least, the proposal of measures unconnected with ordinary party topics, whereby much immediate real good is done to the Country. For example, prison reform, education of the poor, tithes - above all the Press, with which last I think of leading off immediately, having long matured my plan. It embraces the whole subject: of allowing the truth to be given in evidence, limiting the powers possessed by the Crown, and abolishing special juries in cases of libel. But the material point is - won't you come over to our assistance?'