Diary: Labour moves into the black

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The Labour Party has long been able to score political points over the Conservatives on the subject of apartheid, but with the South African elections in sight, its rivals are gaining the upper hand. Following a meeting of the Parliamentary Labour Party on Wednesday night, Conservative MPs were surprised to learn that all eight Labour representatives selected to go on the 20- strong Westminster delegation to oversee next month's historic vote are white.

This, to put it mildly, caused some eyebrow-raising among Labourites at the meeting - although 24 hours later, the party announced that the name of Diane Abbott, MP for Hackney North, was on the list. However, that announcement came hours after the Diary had spoken to Bernie Grant, MP for Tottenham - who has spent much time with the ANC in South Africa - who said: 'They (the party) are going to rectify it. I don't know how.'

Nobody would confirm yesterday who made the appointments. Suspects include the whips, the Speaker, or, most likely, international governmental organisations such as the CPA (Commonwealth Parliamentary Association) or IPU (Inter-Parliamentary Union).

Whoever was responsible, any rectification by Labour came too late to prevent the Tories smelling a rat. Voicing their thoughts before Labour's statement last night was one of their own representatives, Lady Flather, a well- known black race relations campaigner. She said yesterday: 'All the delegates have had to apply for creditations by now. Of course all the selections have been made.'

Alerted by interest from a newspaper, Guy's & St Thomas' Hospital Trust this week put out a statement denying 'that a woman was offered a gag instead of a local anaesthetic during a day procedure at St Thomas's'.

Watts in Kent

Anyone in need of a holiday can pick up a brochure offering short breaks to 'Kent's Leisure Coast' which includes, the brochure tells us, the resorts of Margate, Broadstairs and Ramsgate. What about PowerGen's power station at Richborough? Council tourism manager, Stephen Payne, thinks the three cooling towers (with a nearby wind generator thrown in) is a selling point for the area and has emblazoned it across the front of the brochure, citing British Industrial Heritage Year in justification. Councillors are, however, less impressed. 'You would have thought that with all the beautiful photographs of Thanet, they could have come up with something better than a power station to sell the place as a holiday destination,' said David Pettit. 'It hardly makes you want to leap into the car and take a short break here.'

Coming under the hammer in June is a rare French doll. She last appeared in a raffle during the Second World War - and raised pounds 43 for Red Cross food parcels. Now she is expected to fetch more than pounds 15,000.

Victoria comes with a wardrobe of four silk dresses, a black velvet riding habit, ivory-topped cane and top hat, parasol, jewellery and a silver powder compact. Before she was donated to the Red Cross she was the plaything of Lady Alexander, wife of the mayor of Faversham, Kent. Christie's is expecting a hard-fought battle between doll buffs, Kent folk and French women after a smart toy for les enfants.

Unholy smoker

Embedded in the crest of the Isambard Brunel school in Portsmouth is a portrait of the dandy engineer smoking a cigar. According to Country Life, this integral part of the engineer's make-up has now been removed - parents thought it might encourage their children to smoke.

As the National Maritime Museum prepares to exhibit artefacts from the Titanic this autumn, time to declare the luckiest member of that crew: John Coffee, 24, who jumped ship at Queenstown, Ireland before the iceberg loomed.

A day like this

25 March 1940 Dylan Thomas writes to Sir Kenneth Clark: 'Augustus (John) said he'd written to you and talked to you about me, about my chances of getting a job, any kind of job I'm capable of doing, to avoid conscription. And he told me that you'd said you'd look out for a job but that anyway you didn't think I would be conscripted. In my letter, which perhaps has gone astray, I asked you if you'd be kind enough to tell me how probable my exemption was and if it wasn't very probable, could you help me to get some work which would exempt me? I'm to register on April 7th, which leaves me hardly any time, and if I do have to register it will have to be as an objector. I don't want to do that because, though I will not fight I am perfectly willing to do some kind of work, and I think it would be wasteful and silly for me to be made to work at something I know absolutely nothing about.'

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