Diary: PS: This is not for publication, but . . .

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The Independent Online
TORY MPs are sweating away answering last week's postbag over the mine closures - the Commons post office was receiving nearly four times its usual daily delivery of 30,000 items - and trying hard to balance political prudence with the sort of soothing words the constituents need. Some succeed better than others. Dudley Fishburn, normally the good-as-gold MP for Kensington, received 200 letters, and he sent one constituent a very forthright view of the Government's performance. 'What a cack-handed way of going about things,' he wrote, adding: 'I agree with you entirely that the last 10 days have been a cruel fiasco.' And he goes on: 'The Government looks badly off-balance at the moment,' though its leaders are 'competent and thoughtful men'. But 'they are certainly to blame for the recent succession of botched policies'. Stirring stuff, but not enough, of course, to stir Mr Fishburn into the opposition lobbies. He told us yesterday that the distribution of his 'private' letter was unhelpful: 'You end up helping people less when every letter you write has to become a press release.' Meanwhile, Winston Churchill's staff are wading through 6,000 letters - 99 per cent of them supportive of his criticisms. A proportion of the other 1 per cent enclose - oh, cruel] - white feathers.

THE COMMONS select committee on agriculture yesterday announced an inquiry into the EC's banana market. And so a delegation of the committee will shortly proceed to producer countries in Latin America and the Caribbean - 'to see the problems faced by those countries at first hand', explains the committee's chairman, Jerry Wiggin. And we're a banana.

FAMILIAR FACE

For a man hounded out of office by the media, David Mellor spends an extraordinary amount of his time snuggling up to it. Since taking his early bath just a month ago, Mellor has become a BSkyB football pundit, a Guardian arts columnist, a Radio 5 phone-in host and, most recently, co-presenter of a new weekly political slot on LWT. He's done Clive Anderson's chat show and even a fighting piece in in last week's London Evening Standard supporting his friend, John Major (the passion on Major's side, it is said, has cooled). And now he has suggested he present Capital Radio's weekly Westminster round-up. But here his career juggernaut has been halted. Capital has turned him down - 'He's just a media tart,' says a Capital person. Mr Mellor, by the way, remains Conservative MP for Putney.

WHAT do you get when you cross Guy's and St Thomas', as recommended by Sir Bernard Tomlinson in his report on rationalising London hospitals? Guy's newspaper, the Bridge, suggests St Thigh's.

SPACE-AGE ARCHER

It is good to know someone takes Tasmin Archer, until last week at No 1 in the pop chart with 'Sleeping Satellite', with all due seriousness. That someone is Mark Hempsell, lecturer in space technology at Bristol University, who has written to EMI to ask if he might interview the star for Spaceflight magazine, the journal of the British Interplanetary Society. 'Why?' EMI asked. Because, Hempsell wrote back, the song's words 'are a very clear political statement of the current consensus view of the UK as to the rationale behind space exploration and is a subject we have long wanted to see in the wider public domain for debate'. Here, then, are some of those words: 'And when we shoot for the stars/What a giant step/Have we got what it takes/ To carry the weight of this concept?/Or pass it by/Like a shot in the dark/Miss the mark with a sense of adventure.'

THREE Romanian refugees arrived in Trafford Park freight terminal in Manchester yesterday, took one look and immediately demanded to be sent to Belgium. They had thought the container they'd hidden in 11 days ago was destined for Canada. 'They were really down in the mouth when they found out where they were,' one terminal worker said. 'We pointed at a sign for Manchester United Football Club and that seemed to cheer them up a little bit - but not much.' So immigration officials kindly put them on a flight to Brussels.

A DAY LIKE THIS

29 October 1863 Richard Cobden writes to Lady Dorothy Nevill: 'I suppose you have heard of the extravagant and incredible scandal about which everybody is talking in London - no less than a charge of crim con against old Lord P (Palmerston, the Prime Minister) just as he enters his 80th year] The account I hear is as follows, but, of course, I don't believe a word of it. There is a suit commenced in the Divorce Court, in which the wife of an Irish parson named O'Kane is respondent and Lord P co-respondent, - that letters from Lord P are in the hands of the plaintiff, and that the damages are laid at 20,000 - that the affair is so recent as the last three months: - all this and a good deal more was told me when I was in London, by a highly credible person, who said he got all his information from a clerk in the Divorce Court.'

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