In August, Diana will find true love

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Forget Old Moore. The time has come to introduce you to Old Creevey's Almanac, the surest guide of what is going to happen, or at any rate what ought to happen in 1997, the Chinese Year of the Ox.

January sees Dr Brian Mawhinney relaunch back-to-basics, under the new slogan "Careless Talk Costs Wives". Another Tory minister promptly resigns to spend more time with his girlfriend. MPs return from their long Christmas break, fingering their diaries for the Easter holiday due in six weeks. Conservatives admit pounds 10m donation to party election funds from Serbian boss Slobodan Milosevic (who will have been given a life peerage in the New Year's honours list) but insist: "It is not a bribe". Freak sunshine in Staffordshire hailed as "the hand of God".

February. Tony Blair asks for a lift in Peter Mandelson's chauffeur-driven limousine to open a new hostel for the homeless in Islington. Mandy "too busy". Labour moves parliamentary vote of no confidence in John Major, and government falls. Prolonged rain in Yorkshire leads to hosepipe ban.

March brings general election on the 20th. Major breaks ankle falling off soap-box. Sympathy vote not enough to stem Labour landslide. Blair enters Downing Street and announces Royal Commission to examine "feasibility" of Scottish devolution. Riots in Ren- frew. Chancellor Gordon Brown, "horrified" at state of nation's finances, introduces emergency Budget with VAT on "unsympathetic" newspapers and a tax on passive smoking.

April, the cruellest month, sees Lord Hanson appointed as chairman of new Low Pay Commission, with Lord Sterling, Richard Branson and Sir Desmond "Croesus" Pitcher of United Utilities. Introduction of national minimum wage "may be delayed for some time". TUC goes into deep mourning. Employment minister Ian McCartney resigns, but nobody notices because he's so short. Heavy snow in south-east England blamed on government austerity programme. Cold weather payments abolished.

May brings a new initiative in Northern Ireland. Lord Roy "Crusher" Mason brought back from retirement to impose "military solution" on recalcitrant Fenians. Ulster Secretary Mo Mowlam moved to Social Security. Hattie Harman quits in protest. Bells rung at Westminster Abbey. Foreign exchange controls reintroduced "as a precautionary measure". Tourists may take abroad only 50 euros, the new currency. Prince Philip retires to Greek island of Tossos, with cricket bat.

June ushers in the traditional run on the pound. Eddie George replaced as Bank of England Governor by former cabinet member Sir Frank "The Appetite" Dobson as "financier we can trust". Luncheon vouchers taken into public ownership. Inquiry into "fixing" announced as Darlington beat Arsenal 6-0 in the FA Cup. Outbreak of E coli bacteria in House of Commons kitchens blamed for government's first defeat, on proposed subsidies to foxhunting.

July sees the return of Chris Patten from Hong Kong. Obscure Tory MP with 20,000 majority resigns to spend more time with his directorships. Patten loses subsequent by-election to the newly-formed Fun Party candidate Sir Nicholas Scott. Irish Embassy throws celebration party : five injured, none seriously. Commentators hail return of "pavement politics". High winds in Achnasheen prevent filming of Life of Brian Wilson, Minister of the Interior.

In August, Sir James Goldsmith MEP and Chief Proprietor of the Referendum Party announces that following Labour's reneging on its promised poll, he will hold a national referendum on UK membership of the European Union at his own cost. Under a Private Member's Bill introduced by Ulster Unionist leader David Trimble, voting will be compulsory. Dispute between Royal Mail and postmen over extra payments for delivering ballot papers halts mail for three weeks. August also brings parliamentary recess. With MPs safely out of the way, the Iron Chancellor unveils 10 per cent pay cut for Members as a prelude to similar reductions in the civil service. Document detailing cuts leaked to the Guardian by "disloyal" photocopying assistant, grade four, unhappy about his pounds 75-a-week take-home pay. Gordon Brown warns press that they are "drinking in the last chance saloon". Commentators point out it's his round. England wins a rugby game, against Panama. Princess Diana announces her engagement to Ken Livingstone. She is "so very happy" and he is "happy as a newt". Church of England Synod goes into emergency session.

September. Railtrack admits "possible slight shortfall in investment strategy" as Forth Bridge, engineering wonder of the world, collapses in a giant heap of rust into the Firth of Forth. Shadow Transport Secretary Michael Heseltine blames "awwogant Wabour administwation". Referendum on Europe produces two-to-one majority to stay in. Sir James alleges ballot- rigging by Foreign Secretary Robin Cook, and vows to "spend, spend, spend" until he gets the right result.

October is the party conference season but, under new rules introduced by Tony Blair, Labour's gathering is relegated to a single afternoon at the Albert Hall, when films extolling the performance of the government ordered by Arts Minister John Prescott are screened endlessly, in silence. Entrance fees for delegates fixed at 100 euros, and media banned over "biased coverage". Tories spend a week bickering in Blackpool as John Major finally resigns as leader to take up governorship of Tristan da Cunha.

November's excitement is the Conservative Party leadership election. Fifteen of the 93 Tory MPs stand. John Redwood, Michael Portillo and William Hague among the stars eliminated in the first round. To the great shock of no one, Lady Olga Maitland sails through on the right and promises "a party of the family, Christianity and moral values". The News of the World finally publishes 1,600-page dossier on sex, money 'n' dope among Conservative MPs. Civil servants strike.

December sees Finance Bill amendment rushed through to abolish pensioners' pounds 10 Christmas bonus on grounds of "needless extravagance at a time of economic difficulties". Jerry "Bubbles" Hayes, former Tory member for Harlow, tops the charts with his new hit single "I Never Wanted To Be An Effing MP Anyway". Unseasonably warm weather blamed on healing-up of hole in the ozone layer. Liberal Democrats demand more resources for science. In his New Year message, Tony Blair pledges "new era of unparalleled riches" in Europe. Opinion polls suggest "don't believe him" factor gaining ground.

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