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Into the groove with new Labour

You never know who you might run into in a trade union canteen these days. John Prescott trying to impress Madonna (below) on the virtues of being middle class, perhaps.

The new Blairite political education trust, Progress, looks like having a bizarre weekend school next month. Set up last November, the trust plans to spread the word of new Labour to party activists, or build "their knowledge and confidence, enabling them to develop themselves and win support for Labour's ideas". As part of this training the trust plans to run a course called "Preparing for Government" at the Electrician Union's training college in Esher, Surrey, in mid-May. Shadow Cabinet members will be among the speakers.

However, the venue has attracted the attention of another grassroots political event. The location manager for the film of Evita has expressed an interest in the same weekend. Nothing has been booked but it was the building's resemblance to a French chateau and its stone staircase that the film company was interested in for scenes about Evita's travels through Europe. Madonna will be at the college if the booking goes ahead, and no doubt will be delighted to attend classes on Blairism at the millennium. Progress's director, Derek Draper, who is also Peter Mandelson's erstwhile Commons assistant said, "We are hoping we might be able to book it jointly."

I'll bet. It could be the best-attended weekend school of the decade.

Not quite a Fitz

These real-life Crackers are such a wheeze. Professor David Canter of Liverpool University, said to be one of the models for the Robbie Coltrane figure in the TV series, chaired a seminar on "The broadening horizons of investigative psychology" at the British Psychological Society Conference in Brighton at the weekend. The society organised a press conference afterwards at which Professor Canter refused to answer any questions, instead haranguing the assembled journalists on the inadequacies of their organs (psychologists go in for that). Eventually, the journalists tired of the in-your-face psychology and walked out en masse in protest. Sadly, the point seemed to be lost on the professor, who was overheard remarking to a colleague later that the journalists would have been an excellent group to study, adding: "Did you see how they just all rose as one and trooped out like that?"

Ouch! Edwina again

A suggested plot for Edwina Currie's next novel: MP gives interview to newspaper criticising her home city, education and Jewish background; offends home city and Jewish community and gets her old mum into trouble. Any resemblance between that and any persons living or dead would, of course, be entirely coincidental. And it certainly should not be confused with Mrs Currie (below) telling the Daily Mail that she "was always glad to see the back of Liverpool", and was determined to leave the Jewish faith, and how she was estranged from her orthodox father. Mrs Currie has now had her invitation to address the Merseyside Jewish Theatre and Cultural Group withdrawn; the group's secretary Bertha Crawford says the community has been "outraged" by the MP's remarks; the Jewish Chronicle has taken up the story and Mrs Currie's mother, Pessie Cohen, may now lose her invitation to speak to Liverpool's Thursday Club for Jewish senior citizens on the subject of "My famous Daughter". Not a bad chapter one.

Security spectacle

Having put great faith in the impenetrable-looking security arrangements set up by Scotland Yard to stop terrorists setting foot in Docklands, I was greatly alarmed by a spectacle I witnessed at one of the many police checkpoints. At a sentry box near Marsh Wall, where the Docklands bomb went off, was a sight I cannot imagine striking fear into the hearts of would-be bombers.

My taxi driver, somewhat amused, alerted me to the fact that the WPC stationed there appeared to be leading an aerobics session for the bored constables charged with protecting the economic heartland of England. On closer inspection, it became clear they were heavily involved in a game of hopscotch. Or perhaps they were practising an Irish jig for infiltration purposes.

Art kicks off - with an own goal

Just when you thought it was exciting and imaginative enough to go back into the football stadium, our national game has gone and attracted support of a most unfortunate kind. The contemporary art movement has decided to inflict itself on soccer. Opening alongside the European Championships in June will be an exhibition called "Offside! Contemporary Artists and Football". It will run at Manchester City Art Galleries and is being organised by the grand sounding Institute of International Visual Arts, which is in fact a relatively new modern art body richly funded by the Arts Council.

The exhibition includes such gems of pretension as "Colombian artist Freddy Contreras' installation, `Stud', which incorporates a series of Vivienne Westwood fetishised stiletto shoes to manipulate the relation between sport, advertising, fashion, art and sex" and, pictured here, Lucy Gunning's new Footballers video which "reveals two women mysteriously dressed in white medical coats kicking a ball around an empty gallery interior. Gunning's women enter into an activity with which they would not normally be associated in a space seemingly inappropriate for playing football. The work reveals an uneasy relationship between mass culture and high art, masculinity and femininity." Exactly what I murmur at Highbury every other week.

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