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Major blessing

THE TABLOIDS were trying to track down John Major in America yesterday for a quote about his son's engagement. Pandora is happy to help. Talking to a friend recently about Emma Noble, his highly photogenic future daughter-in-law, the ex- Prime Minister said, "She's even nicer in the flesh."

Street smart

DERRY to the rescue! On Tuesday, the final day of the Lord Chancellor's visit to Washington, he arrived at Georgetown University Law Center to discover that he was expected to give a speech. Lord Irvine of Lairg promptly improvised for 15 minutes, including the revelation that he and Mao Tse- tung were the only two honorary life members of the London School of Economics student union.

Afterwards, Derry met with a group of poor youths from the Bell Multicultural School who belong to a "street law" club. The club was in danger of losing its funding from Washington's municipal school board, but a representative of the board was present. After watching the Lord Chancellor spend an hour "rapping" with the tough kids, the official went back to the office and demanded that funding continue.

Horse opera

THE start of the Royal Windsor Horse Show today must give Mohamed Al Fayed a cold shudder. After 13 years of Harrods sponsorship, in January the show's organisers ruthlessly dropped the Knightsbridge store as sponsor in favour of the Bond Street jewellers Asprey, who had made a higher bid. "This was entirely a commercial decision," said Simon Brooks-Ward, chairman of Windsor Equestrian Promotions. Perhaps, but there's no secret about the Royal revulsion towards Mr Fayed since the death of Princess Diana and his remarks about an "Establishment conspiracy".

It's well known that Mr Fayed treasured his annual photo-opportunity with the Queen at Windsor. Last year he hosted a lavish Saturday lunch in the Harrods tent where his late son Dodi was in sparkling form at one table, telling amusing but fond anecdotes about his father. How different things are this May for the grieving Egyptian.

On the other hand, Asprey's owner, Prince Jefri Bolkiah, the Sultan of Brunei's brother and no stranger to controversy himself, cannot be bothered to fill Mr Fayed's old seat in the Windsor Royal Box tomorrow. Or to have his photo taken with the Queen. He's not expected back in Britain until June when his polo team takes on Prince Charles's in a match at Cirencester. But that's a private affair, not a commercial decision.

Nerd flick

MICROSOFT'S Bill Gates faces more than just a potentially disastrous federal anti-trust action. Hollywood is now on his case. Michael Tolkin, author of the novel upon which Robert Altman's scathing satire about the film industry, The Player, was based, has teamed up with Sydney Pollack and Paramount to produce a film that sends up the $20bn man.

According to the Web's Drudge Report, Tolkin has said, "We wanted to make a movie about the most fascinating person in our culture right now, and we wanted to ask the question 'Why does anybody need $20bn?'" The answer is obvious to Pandora. With $20bn, if the prospect of being lampooned makes you cross, you can always buy the movie studio.

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