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Glowering Gowrie

Despite a public show of unity, there is considerable ill-feeling between Arts Council chairman Lord Gowrie and Heritage Secretary Virginia Bottomley at present. Ironically, the bad blood has been created by the very thing which was supposed to draw them together: the new "coherent package for the arts" which includes the allocation of lottery funds to up-and-coming talents in the arts and sports world and to prevent theatres and orchestras from closing.

The brains behind the scheme was Gowrie and not Bottomley. He, rather ingeniously (one might say audaciously), found the money by claiming that the Arts Council was owed pounds 4.3m from the lottery because of the overtime his staff had put in working on processing the grants. Gowrie had been due to announce his lottery windfall alongside the council's routine grant allocations on 25 January - but, realising its PR value, Bottomley suddenly called a press conference three days before. "It has been possible," she announced, "to make a change in the way calls are made on the Arts Council's lottery fund."

Sources close to Lord Gowrie tell me he is fuming at having his thunder stolen; relations between him and Mrs Bottomley are notably cool, and she is unlikely to partake of the fine wines in the Arts Council cellars in the near future...

Pooping snooping

MI5's next recruitment campaign can give the Nottingham headquarters of Raleigh Cycles a miss. As would-be spies, the Raleigh management are several miles away from claiming the yellow jersey.

After an act of vandalism in one of the rooms at the HQ, Raleigh management decided to install video cameras in the small, indeed the smallest, room. As staff repaired to the lavatory, their every movement was captured for posterity on film. All too inevitably, the camera was spotted, civil rights groups were alerted, and Raleigh was told in no uncertain terms that it was in breach of multifarious employment and civil rights codes.

To add insult to injury, the vandal did in fact reoffend while the video camera was in situ. The management eagerly rewound the tape - only to discover that it had run out just seconds before the vital moment.

Off the ball, 'Times'-style

If I were a sub-editor on the Books pages of the Times, I would be all of a tremble. Peter Jay, formerly our man in Washington and now the BBC's economics editor, is unamused by the unintentional distortion of his prose in a review of the new biography of Aldrich Ames, America's most famous double-agent. When the copy was sent in, part of it read: "Ames was a drunk; but neither that nor his upbringing by a CIA father, another failure, who talked to his son about the KGB and Communists rather than the Redskins, provides any fatal flaw driving this tragic farce ..."

The Times sub clearly is no expert on American football. "Redskins" refers to the Washington team of that name - she, alas, thought it a politically incorrect description of a race. In the Times, therefore, the sentence read: "... the KGB and Communists rather than cowboys and Indians ..."

Mr Jay will be even less pleased when I reveal that the unfortunate sub- editor is an American.

Pride and Opera

The trade journal Arts Management Weekly reports that the same aesthetic ladies who swooned over Mr Darcy in the BBC's Pride and Prejudice are hooked on The House, the fly-on-the-wall series on the Royal Opera House, and have fallen in love with the ROH's affluent, ruthless and elegantly bald marketing director, Keith Cooper.

I am not sure I can quite believe this. I think it more likely that this time it is the male viewers who are doing the swooning. The object of their fantasies is, I suspect, the steely-eyed, demanding, but soft-centred chairwoman of the ballet board, Baroness Blackstone.

When Tessa looks Jeremy in the eye and castigates him: "This is a sorry tale of incompetence", a million hearts quiver. Jeremy Isaacs, smiling benignly while the world around him crumbles, is a perfect Mr Bennet.

And Sir Angus Stirling, the ROH chairman, imagining that the earth will shake, or indeed that anything will be done at all, whenever he says, "I take a serious view of this", makes a highly amusing cameo. Nevertheless, I believe it is the domineering Tessa Blackstone who will feature on the BBC posters.

Air miles for MPs

The arduous workload of our underpaid MPs, part 3. My story last week expressing surprise that honourable members fly from Manchester to London on parliamentary duty instead of using the train provokes a call from an airline worker. Don't be surprised, he tells me. There is a good reason why MPs - and he says there are many of them - use internal flights. They can collect executive points, and then take their families on nice free summer holidays.

How silly of me not to realise.

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