Pandora

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The Independent Online
HARPERCOLLINS'S chief Eddie Bell, who was blamed by his boss Rupert Murdoch for the fiasco over Chris Patten's book on Hong Kong, is a tough but genial Scot. He won't need counselling to repair his fragile feelings. But the publisher might try reading a book to find some consolation. Pandora has a particular tome in mind: The Victory by Pamela Williams, which chronicles the March 1996 Australian election in which John Howard crushed Paul Keating. The Murdoch press was particularly unhelpful to Keating during the campaign. According to the book, "Keating insisted Rupert Murdoch had telephoned him the day after the election to apologise 'that we got it wrong: correction - Ken got it wrong' - a reference to Ken Cowley, chief executive of Murdoch's Australian operations." Clearly Murdoch's men around the world should know by now exactly who foots the bill when things go wrong - they do. Sadly for Eddie Bell, this tale has no happy ending. Ken "Got It Wrong" Cowley left Murdoch's employ last year and was replaced by Rupert Murdoch's son Lachlan.

MICHAEL Foster's, Labour MP, sees his anti-hunting Bill return to the Commons today, although it is highly unlikely that the Government will find time for it. His chief adviser on the Bill is one John Bryant, author of a book which declares "pet animals should be completely phased out of existence". Bryant is also a consultant to the International Fund for Animal Welfare, whose political wing (the Political Animal Lobby) donated pounds 1m to the Labour Party. Is the Government really concerned about the countryside lobby or worried lest another Ecclestone-like donation scandal arises should it enable Foster and Bryant's Bill to become law?

A USUALLY reliable source informed us, wrongly it turns out, that Geoffrey Robertson QC was the new chairman of the anti-monarchy Common Sense Club, whose members include journalists Roy Greenslade and Anthony Holden and PR gladiator Brian Bashem. "I've been to a few of their dinners but ... is that really a position?" Robertson is an outspoken republican and regards "a hereditary head of state as unsatisfactory as a hereditary poet". He doesn't want to see the Royals "taken down into some cellar and shot or something." His ideal solution is a written constitution. "I suggest we turn the Millennium Dome over to a Constitutional Convention after the exhibition." It sounds a good idea to Pandora. Why not skip the tasteless exhibition and hold the noble convention in its place?

ONE of the most fortunate men in Britain is refurbishing what promises to be one of London's most spectacular new homes, directly adjacent to the Albert Hall on the site of the former Royal College of Organists. Robert Tchenguiz, together with his brother Vincent, runs the multi-million- pound property group Rotch. Like several other phenomenally successful modern Brits, including the Saatchi brothers and Alan Yentob, Tchenguiz has an Iraqi Jewish background, although his father Victor came to Britain via Iran where he was a friend of the Shah. Not only is Robert very rich, but his girlfriend is Wonderbra model and men's magazine covergirl Caprice Bourret. Is this historic building - a third the size of Harrods, whose refurbishment is costing millions of pounds - destined to be a palatial new home for Tchenguiz? Remembering the reports of how Caprice and he were violently mugged one evening last April while walking home in Hampstead, Pandora rang him. No, he insisted, he was not moving to Kensington Gore. "I won't say anything at all about this house until it's ready in six or nine months' time." What is the big mystery? All Pandora's wiles failed to persuade this lucky man to say another word.

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