Diary

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The Independent Online
DOOMED TO A FATE WORSE THAN BRUSSELS

JOHN MAJOR is, of course, not a man to make craven deals with the French Euro-bullies: but it appears, none the less, that he has quietly agreed, as President of the Community, that Strasbourg will remain the home of the European parliamentary chamber. Hearing of this, 17 British Conservative Euro MPs have sent a letter of protest to Major. Edward McMillan-Scott, foreign affairs spokesman and MEP for York, is so angry that he is threatening to boycott all but major sessions of the Strasbourg parliament. At present, MEPs spend one week a month in plenary sessions in Strasbourg and the remaining three weeks in committee and group meetings 250 miles away in Brussels. The European Parliament's secretariat and library, meanwhile, are based in Luxembourg. For practical and financial reasons, a majority of MEPs of all persuasions want parliamentary activities to be centralised in Brussels. But for la gloire de la France and for domestic political reasons - not least the Strasbourg economy - the French want sessions to continue there, and have been putting on pressure by refusing to agree to the locations of any other new inter-European bodies. Peter Price, Conservative MEP for London South-East, says it is important for other European governments to resist the French attempts to 'blackmail' the Community, and warns that the extra cost of operating in three cities instead of one will be at least half a billion pounds over the next five years. Leo Tindemans, a former Belgian prime minister and president of the Christian Democrats, told us tersely yesterday: 'An agreement between two does not make unanimity.'

IN THE wake of ITN's relaunch, reporters there have been moaning about having to do two-way interviews that involve them hanging around in the pitch dark outside a variety of buildings in all weather. Now a memo has now gone round saying that they don't have to do them when it is raining - it diminishes their authority on screen,

apparently . . .

FOR THE BIRDS

Consider two organisations in a recession: one thrives with a membership of 850,000 and an income of around pounds 30m, the other is demoralised, creaking under the weight of its deficit, with barely 261,000 members and, at the end of its last financial year, an income of only pounds 6.9m. So no surprises then that the latter, the Labour Party, should swot up on the former, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds. Mike Veitch, an aide to John Smith, visited the RSPB's Bedfordshire HQ only for the purposes of the MBA he is completing at Edinburgh University. But, he tells us: 'I think if the Labour Party was looking at an organisation, then it could consider the RSPB as an example of a growing organisation with a dispersed national membership.' The RSPB's chief executive, Barbara Young, claims to enjoy 'an unrivalled record for signing up London taxi drivers'. Whenever she's in a cab she tackles the driver - a refreshing reversal. 'If you believe in what you're doing, it's important to take every opportunity to get supporters,' she says.

WHAT IS one to make of the news that the canteen at News International's Wapping base has turned to plastic cutlery, having lost pounds 66,000 worth of the metal stuff in the last year?

ANTI-EUROPEAN UNITY

The labour MP Bryan Gould and the right-wing Tory Sir Teddy Taylor will be holding hands at a Maastricht referendum rally next month - showing once again that Europhobia is a mental condition so dominating that it can drive out even the strongest-held convictions. Here, for example, is the Labour MP Austin Mitchell on the Conservative Europhobe Bill Cash's speech in the Maastricht committee stage on 1 December: 'Normally, I get bored when Bill says 'Hello'. Today I thought he was superb. Cool, confident and crap-cutting, swatting the Euro Twerps away like blowflies.'

LOT 21 at a charity auction of celebrity's ties in London yesterday: a narrow, unlabelled, silk tie, patterned on a red background, one previous owner - Kevin Maxwell. Sold for pounds 40 to the man at the back in the dark raincoat. Who is? Tony Clinton, currently on secondment from Coopers & Lybrand to the Serious Fraud Office.

A DAY LIKE THIS

11 December 1866 The Goncourt brothers write in their journal: 'The Empress bears him (Nieuwekerke, director of the Louvre) a grudge. Having been put up at Windsor by the Queen in rooms full of old pictures, she decided, when the Queen visited France, to decorate her suite in like manner. Nieuwekerke raised no objection to a demand for some masterpieces. But the Empress had two embarrassing moments as a result. First, on her arrival, the Queen recognised the pictures and came out with: 'Ah, that picture comes from the Salon Carre, and that one over there . . .' And then she wanted to go to the Louvre, and the Empress, going with her, found notices hanging where the paintings had been, announcing: Removed by order and taken to the Tuileries. Which struck her as a protest to the nation against her caprices.'

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