THE BOX

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On Wednesday evening, Harriet Harman was feeling a bit lonely, which is understandable, since she's lost so many of her old chums in the Labour Party as a result of the debacle about cuts to single mothers' benefits. Harriet decided to ring up a few newspapers for a comforting natter. Just a few: The Sun, The Times and The Guardian. In the cold light of Thursday morning she may wish she had drunk a cup of cocoa and retired early to bed. For the public relations fall-out from her late- night telephone binge was not entirely friendly. The three newspapers she did telephone all hailed "battling" Harriet, the supposed victor over Gordon Brown in a struggle to introduce tax relief for low paid working couples and single parents. But The Mirror, whom she did not ring, carried a headline on page two that declared, "Why Harriet Must Go". Nor was the spurned Daily Mail very happy; it described a leak "to selected newspapers by a senior minister last night in a desperate campaign to quell the seething discontent on Labour's backbenches". Of course Harriet didn't ring me either, but there are no hard feelings here at The Box. So the next time, Hattie, you want a sympathetic shoulder to cry on and a bit of a palaver, just you ring Pandora, alright luv?

With Germaine Greer back in the news, it's worthwhile to recall that she played an important part in revealing the true character of President Bill Clinton. In the early 1970s, shortly after the publication of her landmark feminist tome, The Female Eunuch, Greer spoke at the Oxford Union. When she paused to allow questions from the audience, one drawling young man leapt to his feet. "Can I ask what is your telephone number?" That young man was Bill Clinton. (The imagination reels. A wild surge of hillbilly violins playing the theme from the film `Deliverance'. Cut to exterior of White House. Documentary narrator's voice drones, "Who would have guessed that, almost 30 years later, a jealousy-inflamed First Lady Germaine Clinton would be arrested in the White House. As she was escorted in irons from the building, she shouted at waiting journalists, `So who's the eunuch now? That's one little redneck we sisters don't have to worry about any more.')

It is heartening to see that Alan Clark, Conservative MP for Chelsea and Kensington, will be speaking at London's Institute of Contemporary Art today on "Free Speech Wars". We understand Clark will be available from 11:15am to share his views on the case against a privacy law. The sponsoring organisation? A magazine called Living Marxism. Presumably this grave and distinguished journal does not publish frivolous parodies of politicians, unlike the Evening Standard, so recently taken to court by Clark in a successful bid to muzzle its satirical "diary" about him.

Is it a mid-life crisis or a New Age rebirth? Having left his wife and four children, Anthony Julius QC, chairman of The Diana, Princes of Wales Memorial Fund and the late Princess's divorce lawyer, has quit his partnership and equity at the firm of Mischcon de Reya. He wants to devote himself more to teaching and writing, although he will continue to work three days a week at the firm. He looked very pleased with all his new arrangements on Wednesday evening at the re-opening of the Serpentine Gallery where he arrived with his girlfriend, Dina Rabinovitch, a journalist who contributes to Time Out. His smile faded when he saw a photographer on the scene - but clever Anthony, making his own privacy law, cut a deal with the snapper. He agreed to pose if Dina was left out of the picture. Always the gentleman, that Julius.

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