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Riot squad game spooks Moscow


14 April 1831 Charles Greville writes in his journal: 'The campaign (for the Reform Bill) has reopened with a violent speech by Hunt denouncing the whole thing as a delusion; that the people are being humbugged, and that as it will make nothing cheaper they don't care. At the same time J Russell announced some alterations to it, not, as he asserted, entrenching its principle, but, as the Opposition says, altering it altogether. On the whole, these things inspire its opponents, and, as they delay matters, are bad for the Reform cause. Besides, though the country is universally in its favour, they seem not to care very much about it and people begin to think that it may be rejected without dreadful consequences. The state of Ireland is such that it is thought there can be no dissolution - not that I feel any security on that head, for I believe the Cabinet is ruled by two or three ministers reckless of everything provided they can prolong their own power.'

SELDOM has a president received so warm a welcome from his people as Boris Yeltsin did last night on his return to Moscow from Spain - but then, as he has doubtless discovered by now, his townsfolk had good reason. Only hours earlier, as sirens wailed and armoured personnel carriers descended on the Luzhniki soccer stadium in Moscow, Muscovites believed that hardliners had staged a coup in his absence.

The mood in the city these days is never relaxed when the President is out of town, but pandemonium erupted yesterday when, in the wake of the army vehicles' descent on the stadium, interior ministry troops, armed to the teeth and in riot gear, were deployed in the streets throughout the district. Their presence, I'm told, caused the entire neighbourhood to emerge from their houses and tower blocks, many carrying radios tuned to Moscow Radio (which won a considerable reputation for its coverage of the 1991 coup attempt).

It was only towards 3pm - after several hour's anguish - that commanders of the units bothered to inform community representatives that they were merely 'rehearsing riot and incident control' - and would be doing so periodically until 1 May, when big anti-Yeltsin demonstrations will take place for real.

AN EMPLOYEE of John Lewis - and a wag by the sound of it - writes the following letter in the company's in-house magazine, the Gazette: 'Sir, I was interested to discover that the Partnership offers a pounds 100 bonus for suggestions which will save the Partnership money. As we are all supposed to be tightening our belts, I suggest we lower this bonus to pounds 50. I claim my pounds 50. Yours etc . . . Quiffy.'

Barnet's bard AS HIS last contribution to local politics in Barnet, north London, the retiring Labour councillor John Davies tabled a motion to be put before his final council meeting next week. Sadly, the mayor judged it inappropriate, and instructed the councillor to withdraw his motion, the first part of which went thus: 'There was an MP called Hartley, whose career was progressing quite smartly . . .' (For the uninitiated, the second part of the limerick went on to refer to an MP's well-known friendship with the researcher Emily Barr.) Incensed at the ban, Davies has written two more limericks, about the mayor, Victor Lyon, and the man Lyon consulted before imposing the ban, Barnet's chief executive, Max Caller.

Limerick one: 'There once was a mayor called Lyon, whose judgement you should not rely on. He doubted the truth of the verse about Booth, but I think that it's only a try-on.'

Limerick two: 'There was a town clerk called Caller, quite quickly reduced to a pallor. For he would find libel in even the Bible, not a person of very much valour.'

AS PART of his campaign to talk up London, John Gummer has enthusiastically endorsed a glossy booklet aimed at enticing foreign companies to set up shop in the capital.

Had he read the small print, however, the Environment Secretary might not have been so fulsome in his praise. The London Factor, which extols London's position as 'one of the world's great centres for the creation, production and distribution . . . of the written word', was printed by Emirates Printing Press, Dubai.

Model pupils BEFORE last Tuesday's Berkeley Dress Show, the Lucie Clayton school encountered dress-rehearsal problems with some of the debutantes chosen to model in the show. 'The girls kept insisting that they bring their books with them,' Peter Townend of Tatler tells me morosely. 'I've never seen anything like it. We've had to fit all the catwalk rehearsals round their work. In the old days people were much more sensible - they never bothered about exams.'