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New year salutes from the big guns

THE following new year greetings to readers of the Independent have been received from world leaders.

Michael Heseltine, President of the Board of Trade: 'It has been brought to my attention that 12 months ago I wished you readers a very happy new year. It has now become clear that the year, though clearly at one point new, was in no sense very happy. However, I can say only that I made my statement in the light of the information available to me at the time, that my greeting was cleared by government law officers and that there can be no ministerial responsibility for subsequent developments. I shall not be resigning. In further mitigation, I would add that I was myself one of the very people for whom the year was not very happy. Starting with John Major's triumphant surprise victory, nothing went right for me. I'm sorry. Make that: after John Major's triumphant surprise victory, nothing went right for me.'

John Smith, leader of the Labour Party: 'All of our research shows that a majority of British voters still favour some form of new year felicitation. I am therefore happy to make it clear that, whatever other policy reviews may be pursued, these will have no implications for the end December/start January celebrations as they are presently


Bill Clinton, US President-elect: 'Hi y'all. Gen, er, Hillary, Chelsea and I are staying in Little Rock for new year. We would have gone away, but apparently Jim Baker's got our passports. I've been thinking: I appear to be the only guy whose passport travels without him. My papers seem to have been going back and forth between London and Washington like David Frost. However, at this time, I send a happy new year to all of you. Except, of course, those of you who do not wish to be wished a happy new year, on whom I impose no such greeting. Our cat, Socks, adds her best wishes, though this in no way indicates that a Clinton administration would in any way discriminate against dogs and their owners. Does that cover all angles? Oh, and I also send a special greeting to all those good old boys in the Kremlin, who showed me such a good time at the KGB Christmas party, way back in '68. Hah] Gotcha] Only joking, George, only joking]'

Francois Mitterrand, President of France: 'Non.'

George Bush, outgoing US President: 'Hey now, mistletoe over, mulled wine in kinda retrograde action, drop that advent calendar, get out that sort of calendar calendar, the non-advent type, know what I mean? Resolutions, pesky creatures, never could keep the darn things, like the one about a kinder gentler America, maybe it wasn't and I'm sorry, but nobody's perfect, specially not that blow-dried guy from Arkansas. How many days we got left here, Bar?'

Norman Lamont, Chancellor of the Exchequer: 'I raise a glass of fairly cheap champagne and a Raffles cigarette to you all]'

Ross Perot, former third party candidate in the US presidential election: 'Folks, what I always say is, you want to clean out your ear, you don't use a Christmas tree. It's that simple.'

Slobodan Milosevic, Serbian nationalist leader and President- elect: 'This year, I was fortunate to receive 2,143,876 Christmas cards. You want to know how I am so precise? Because I used the very same experienced tellers employed in my recent re-election. This is how I am so precise. What? You want a message of peace and goodwill for the new year? Hah hah hah hah hah hah. Now I invite you to pull my other one. Well, OK, if you must, I will give you the lyric of my new peace ballad I have written. It begins: 'The cobra shakes hands with the bird/And offers shelter inside his warm stomach. . .' That do?'

J Danforth Quayle, outgoing US Vice-President: 'A happie newe yeare to you all in 1989.'

APOLOGY: It has now become clear that the above message from the Chancellor of the Exchequer is a hoax, maliciously invented by two members of the Diary staff on their own initiative. One of the two people concerned has been sacked. The provenance of the other messages is now being urgently investigated.


31 December 1733 John Egmont, Earl of Egmont, records in his diary: 'This week a labourer's wife in the parish of Plumstead dreamt that in her hog sty she should find in digging a pot of money buried. In the morning she desired her husband to clear the sty, which he refused, whereupon she took her spade and fell to work and according found a good quantity of King Charles the Second's silver coin, with which she went immediately and paid her debts. It happened that a neighbour over a hedge saw her, whereupon she went to a lawyer to know if she were not entitled to the half, by which means the matter came to the ears of Mr Mitchel, lord of the manor, a rich gentleman at Richmond who sent a constable to demand the money. The woman said she had paid it away, but if he pleased she would give him the receipts.'