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A Varsity Wragg pans the 'Prisoner'

A COLUMN by Ted Wragg, Professor of Education at Exeter University, in Britain's leading educational journal, the Times Educational Supplement, appears to have been the last straw for John Patten, Secretary of State for Education. Wragg last month compared Patten to Number 6, the character played by Patrick McGoohan in the cult television series The Prisoner. 'The Prisoner, John Patten,' Wragg wrote 'is held in captivity by right-wing nasties. Why is he called Number 6? Simple. He followed the Famous Five - Mark (Who?) Carlisle, Lord Come-back-all-is-forgiven Joseph, Greasy Baker, John MacGregor and the odious Clarke.' A blistering critique of Patten's 1992 Education Bill followed, and concluded by describing Patten as the 'Egon Krenz of British educational history', destined for the same sort of oblivion that befell the sometime leader of East Germany. Subsequently, Patten, on learning that several hundred copies of the TES were being delivered to the Department for Education every week, ordered that all orders should be cancelled forthwith and that officials should not even bring in copies from home. Isn't that going a bit far, Minister, remonstrated John Caines, Permanent Secretary at the DFE. Relenting - a bit - Patten has now permitted just 20 copies into the building each week.

WITHIN half an hour of the statement on the royal separation, William Hill had shortened the odds on the Prince of Wales renouncing his right to the throne before the end of 1993 to 6-1 from 10-1. A disclaimer followed: 'William Hill reiterate that they have consistently refused to accept wagers speculating about the state of royal marriages . . .' But not about possible consequences, it seems.

Rave on - and off A NEW bumper version of The Rave Game, a board game that involves players travelling the countryside in search of an acid house party before it gets busted by the police, has fallen foul of the commercial television censors. The Copy Clearance Secretariat of the ITV Network Centre has just decreed that an Islington company, Ravco, will not be able to advertise The Rave Game: The Remix on television after Christmas because it is deemed to be 'anti-social'. The original version (complete with computer-generated fliers advertising raves and 'energy tokens') was banned from Virgin Games stores earlier this year after a Conservative MP complained to that ageing hippie, Richard Branson. Sometime raver Patrick Treloar, the game's designer, says The Rave Game is meant to be a tongue-in-cheek send-up of the whole rave scene but some people just don't seem to have a sense of humour. 'It's lamentable,' he says, 'the state of free speech.'

MATTHEW BANKS, the Conservative new boy for Southport, arrived two hours late for a transport select committee meeting yesterday morning. 'I apologise for my late arrival,' he explained rather lamely, 'but I have only recently got married.' Last Saturday, to be precise.

Frankly fab, sweetie FASHION PR Lynne Franks has been strenuously denying that she has anything in common with the hippy-dippy fashion PR character played by Jennifer Saunders in the BBC 2 comedy series Absolutely Fabulous. Now we've received an invitation to the Lynne Franks office party, except she calls it an 'Xmas happening'. The event is at the Yaa Asantewaa Arts and Community Centre, Maida Vale, and she is promising 'tribal drinks', 'vibrant vinyl' and 'rhythms of the world'. The invite even comes with a 'jungle juice love bomb' of guarana, ginseng and royal jelly. Sounds absolutely fabulous, Lynne.

NEXT Monday Woman's Hour had intended to feature what the Radio Times bills as the 'South African all-women singing group Ladysmith Black Mambazo'. Until, that is, it realised that Ladysmith is the town in South Africa from which the group hails and not a reference to gender. 'Oh, we made a mistake,' mutters a Woman's Hour type. 'They're not appearing actually, because they're all male. Er, unfortunately.'


10 December 1936 Chips Channon writes in his diary about the Abdication of Edward VIII: 'The dreadful day dawned coldly, and my limbs were numb and chilled. At 2pm Honor and I left for parliament as I had secured her a ticket. The House was full, for there has not been an Abdication since 1399, 537 years ago. I thought everyone subdued but surprisingly unmoved, and Lady Astor actually seemed to enjoy herself, jumping about in her frivolous way. Baldwin was greeted with cheers, and sat down on the front bench gravely. At last he went to the bar, bowed twice 'A message from the King' and he presented a paper to the Speaker who proceeded to read it out. At the words 'renounce the throne' his voice broke, and there were stifled sobs in the House.'