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Damping down Teresa's fire

CONFIRMATION that today's Budget will be particularly bruising comes with the disclosure that Teresa Gorman, the Tory MP for Billericay, and John Major's personal bete noire, has been called in by the Chief Whip, Richard Ryder, for a pre-emptive pep talk.

Mrs Gorman, the Government's most formidable in-house irritant, received the call the other day and was astonished to be told that she was expected to behave herself during the usual flurry of media interviews that follow the Chancellor's Budget Day speech.

The reaction of the woman who leads the group known to the PM as 'The Bastards', and whose book of that name laid bare the shenanigans of the anti-Maastricht revolt, was, I am told, one of suppressed amusement - and there are many who yet expect to see her speaking bluntly on 'the Green' at Westminster later today.

The torch most likely to light Mrs Gorman's touchpaper is the Chancellor's confirmation of VAT on fuel. It was, after all, the outspoken MP's coining of the phrase 'old and cold' that did so much to fan the fuel tax row.

Not that Mrs Gorman is unused to reprimand: the Whips' Office has called in the colourful Essex Woman for a wave of the yellow card before: that time it was over her opposition to Maastricht, during which she claimed she was sexually harrassed in the Commons chamber by a pair of Europhile Tory MPs.

I AM glad to note that staff at Sussex Radio and LBC have been usefully employed, continuing their own version of the Bookseller's sequel to the Booker of Bookers - the Oddest of the Odd book title competition. While Sussex Radio has unearthed Draining Boards 1800-1900 and their Astrological Influences, LBC has discovered History of the Self-winding watch. On hearing of their following, the Bookseller team was full of self-congratulation: 'So it wasn't all a waste of time,' they joked.

Accounting for Birt

OUTRAGE in the thespian community as plans of another 'Birt special' are released. This time the BBC's director general has said he plans to suspend the network's prestigious drama director's course - previous attendees included Roger Michel, responsible for The Buddha of Suburbia, and Tim Fywell, director of the Barbara Vine/Ruth Rendell mysteries. In its place there is to be a course for production accountants - a new breed that will concentrate purely on the financial aspects of BBC production.

'It is a very dangerous move for the future of the BBC and the industry altogether,' Ronald Wilson, chair of the Directors Guild of Great Britain, told Stage & Television Today. 'I can't think why they need more accountants.'

However, Charles Denton, the newly appointed head of BBC Drama, remains unswayed from Birtspeak: 'We have to get the organisation in line,' he said.

SHOULD the former chancellor Norman Lamont look a trifle harassed when commenting on today's Budget on ITN, it is because he has other concerns on his mind. By a cruel twist of fate, tomorrow is the date chosen by the Boundary Commission for the official inquiry as to whether or not he is, effectively, to lose his seat of Kingston-Upon-Thames. The other MPs affected by the proposed reductions - Toby Jessel (Twickenham), Jeremy Hanley (Richmond and Barnes) and Richard Tracey (Surbiton) - have all agreed to the proposals, which may be why the official Tory lobbyist, Robert Hayward, has not promised to appear before the commission on Lamont's behalf. 'It is unusual,' agrees a commission spokesman. 'This week is a bit of an unfortunate case - we have an exceptionally large number of inquiries.'

Madonna's allure

AFTER eight years of experimentation in coarse fishing circles, the megga maggot has been created. The Gozzer, as it is named, is two and a half times the size of a fishing maggot and is said to be a deadly lure. 'It is a magnificent beast,' says Terry Read, a bait dealer. 'It's so big that it has shoulders and wriggles like Madonna.'


30 November 1830 John Wilson Croker writes to a friend about his resignation as Secretary of the Admiralty: 'The new (Whig) Ministry is at last completed in all its parts. I have this morning left the office and the house in which I have spent 22 years. I left it with the kind of regret that one feels at hearing of the death of a very old acquaintance whom one was not very fond of. You are sorry to think you are never to see Jack again, though you must confess that he was a great bore. 'You guessed right in supposing that we (the Tories) wished to get out; and we thought it safer for the country that we should go on a question of form (that is, of confidence), than on so vital a question as Parliamentary Reform. I have long been of the opinion that we could not go on, and, although there are few more financially inconvenienced by going out, no one can approve it more than I do.'