Diary

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Is Lady Archer one of the names?

Amid hopes that the new president of Wolfson College, Cambridge, will last longer than the preceding one - the BBC journalist John Tusa threw in the towel after eight months, saying he had better things to do - the college will today start sifting through the nominations for the post. The list includes, I am told, the name of Lady Archer, wife of the novelist.

Although the names are a closely guarded secret, there will be some surprise if Lady Archer's does not feature when Professor Michael Redhead, the college's vice-president, announces the candidates at 10am today. He told me: 'I cannot comment on whether Lady Archer is a candidate until then.'

After the Lloyd's hardship committee, Wolfson would be a tonic for Lady Archer, who is seen by many as an obvious choice for the job. She has connections with both town and gown, living only a three-hour punt down the Cam in Grantchester, while she spent 10 years of her academic career at Trinity College and Newnham. The college bursar, John Seagrave, thinks she would be as suitable as anyone. 'We have to have an academic, which she is. But we must also look at the person as a whole, since their academic field is too narrow a base on which to judge. I don't know Dr Archer, but she is clearly a distinguished person.'

CARRIED away by its 'Shame of Daily Mirror' campaign, the Sun yesterday reported an attack on its rival by Labour's health spokesman, David Blunkett, who accused the Mirror of undermining the NHS by 'luring' readers into a private health scheme. Last August, the Press Complaints Commission upheld a complaint that another newspaper had run a readers' offer for a personal healthcare plan that was 'unethical and immoral in that it appealed to the fears and distress of NHS patients . . .' Shame of the Sun.

Stretched limos WITH meetings often lasting until 3am, Eurocrats in Brussels are worried about the stamina and health of the Greek prime minister, Andreas Papandreou, who takes over the EU presidency in January. So worried are they that protocol is to be altered.

The official cars once arrived and departed in this order: first, president; second, foreign minister. In Papandreou's case, it will be: first, president; second, president's wife, Dimitra (a former air hostess, now director of her husband's political office); third, Dimitris Kremastinos, Papandreou's private doctor, who has been appointed health minister; fourth, the foreign minister.

THREE days before his Guildhall speech in which he called for higher educational standards, John Major unveiled a plaque in Wandsworth (where they are proud of their schools) with his customary smile. However, it became strained when he read the inscription, which commemorated the unveiling: 'on the occassion (sic) of the centenary of Battersea Town Hall'.

Scoop oops AFTER last week's announcement in Australia of the Queen Mother's death - a Sky News videotape editor mistook footage rehearsing the event for the real thing and told his mother in Australia, who told a radio station - news editors have become increasingly vigilant. None more so than Mike Lawrence, executive editor at LBC, who fired off a memo to staff insisting on accuracy.

A few hours later, Lawrence found himself a 'scoop'. While driving past the clinic rumoured at the time to be treating Michael Jackson, he saw a glitzily dressed man with long hair stepping out of the clinic, thought 'It's Jackson]', and immediately interrupted Frank Bough's lunchtime programme with a live 60-second announcement that the singer had been found. Applause all round - until Carlton Television announced that the LBC man had fallen for a lookalike. Lawrence, it may interest you, is Australian.

A DAY LIKE THIS

17 November 1899 Mary Berenson writes to a friend: 'My agent went to Assisi taking his own packer and restorer. Secretly, inside the monastery, they were able to make a case for the picture, and glue down a little blister, and wait till midnight and then drive away in a cart with the picture out of the old Papal States (whose laws are very strict about exporting works of art) and get on the train at some Tuscan station. No one in Assisi was to know they had gone, except of course, the friars. It is a fear of plot . . . Quite as exciting as the life of a smuggler of old in the caves on the coast. (Later) The picture is hidden away in a back upstairs room in order to have the cracks mended. It is a perfect beauty, one of the very best painted in the 15th century and worth a great deal. It is to be taken out of Italy, but I must say first that I don't consider this wrong, because here pictures are apt to go to ruin from carelessness.'

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