Diary

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FUNNY, UNTIL IT'S TIME TO PAY UP

Early Day Motions are a useful apparatus by which MPs can raise issues of importance that the House would not normally have time to discuss. Some EDMs are of considerable significance, others are not. Michael Fabricant recently tabled one suggesting that his favourite Lichfield curry house be asked to open a branch in the palace of Westminster. John Smith is top EDM tabler, with 49 of high seriousness since the election: Peter Bottomley is the keenest Tory - he's had 29 since May, on issues ranging from female priests to health matters that you might think he could more easily ask his wife, Virginia, over breakfast. Bottomley's not above the silly EDM either: there was one a couple of weeks ago congratulating Chris Moncrieff, the Press Association lobby correspondent, for having spotted an error in a previous Bottomley EDM. All fun, though, and not un-useful. But these things cost money to process and print: the 1,283 EDMs tabled in the 1991/1992 session cost a total of pounds 860,000, according to the Commons administration committee. That's pounds 670.30 each. There have been 993 EDMs since the election, so P Bottomley's bill in the period is pounds 19,438.70. Smith's is pounds 37,844.70.

ERNEST SAUNDERS, the former chairman of Guinness, is to address the Irish Marketing Society Christmas lunch (IR pounds 50 a head) in Dublin's Conrad Hotel on 18 December. According to the society, Saunders will be talking 'in the marketing/ management area'. Last year Saunders was diagnosed as suffering from Alzheimer's disease and released from prison: doctors reported he was then unable to repeat more than three numbers backwards and was confused over the identity of the American president. Long periods of remission are not normally associated with Alzheimer's.

BLANK TAPES

A terse announcement can be expected from BBC Radio 3 in the next week or so: Death and the King's Horseman, Wole Soyinka's play, will not be broadcast as promised on 20 December because of technical problems. This needs fleshing out. Last month 19 black actors, headed by Clarke Peters, were hired by the Radio 3 producer Faynia Williams (white - there are no black drama producers in BBC Radio) to do the Nobel prize-winner's play. Soyinka himself was flown over from Nigeria to oversee the production. Inexplicably, a number of the tapes subsequently found their way to the BBC's erasure and recycling department, where they were, well, erased and recycled. An entire Death and the King's Horseman will be broadcast, it is hoped, 'at a later date'.

CONTRARY to popular belief, when George Best last appeared on Wogan he could string a sentence together. But it was unprintable. This Friday he'll have the saintly duo of Sister Wendy Beckett and Cliff Richard to keep him on the unswervingly straight and narrow.

THOSE MPs' BILLS:

Norman Lamont has a friend in Sir Ivan Lawrence. The Tory MP for Burton appeared in the Burton Mail on Monday to defend the Treasury's decision to foot Lamont's legal bills. He insisted: 'Tight-fisted, totally scrupulous Treasury mandarins decided that this was a perfectly proper payment.' After getting a good quote from Sir Ivan, it seems cruel of the paper to cover Tuesday's front page with the headline 'Ivan told to pay up]', and record the fact that the MP had just received a county court summons from a local decorator over an outstanding pounds 4,700 on a pounds 10,000 bill. 'I strongly dispute this bill and will fight this claim all the way,' says Sir Ivan.

WARNING. If, this Christmas, a Spectator reader offers you plum pudding, refuse. Early in November the magazine carried a piece by Petronella Wyatt (ordinarily the young people of today correspondent at the Sunday Telegraph) advising readers to start fermenting their Christmas pud immediately, to a recipe she supplied. In today's Spectator there's a letter from the same Wyatt: she has noticed 'with horror' her omission from the list of ingredients of 'four large fresh eggs - without which the finished result will not be all it should'. Quite. A cook advises us that the pudding will, in fact, fall apart, rather, you imagine, as has Wyatt's career as a cookery columnist.

A DAY LIKE THIS

4 December 1800 Charles Lamb writes a brief note to William Godwin: 'I send this speedily after the heels of Cooper (O] the dainty expression) to say that Mary is obliged to stay at home on Sunday to receive a female friend, from whom I am equally glad to escape. So that we shall be by ourselves. I write, because it may make some difference in your marketing. I am sorry to have put you to the expense of twopence postage. But I calculate thus: if Mary comes she will eat - Beef, 2 plates 4d; Batter Pudding 2d; Beer, a pint 2d; Wine, 3 glasses (I drink no wine]) 11d; Chestnuts, after dinner 2d; Tea and supper at moderate calculation 9d; Total 2s 6d, from which deduct 2d postage = 2s 4d. You are a clear gainer by her not coming.'

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