The Box

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SOURCES in the Cabinet Office have told me that Sunday's march of countryside supporters on London has had a dramatic effect on the Prime Minister. He was truly upset by the number of people openly hostile to him. "He wants to be loved by everyone," my source said. "We've starting calling him the `Andrex puppy' behind his back."

FORTUNATELY, the Prime Minister did not attend the first Commons meeting of Friends of Oxford University Labour Club on Monday night. He might have overhead an exchange which would have left him doubly depressed. Austin Mitchell gave a speech to this group founded to bring students together with "like-minded ageing lefties from other periods at Oxford". One of the grey-haired members sidled up to two very attractive female undergraduates. "So are you both Blairites? Would you suck Tony's toes?" The answer was less than kind. "I wouldn't give him the time of day," said one. But the news is not all bad. According to Jonathan Auburn of Magdalen College, "The university Labour Club is split fairly evenly between pro-Blair students and other students with more left-wing views. Very few are actually anti-Blair."

IT'S AN open secret that the investigative journalist Tom Bower is hard at work on a biography of Mohamed Al Fayed, although no publisher has yet been announced. Following the Harrods pharoah's "voluntary" visit to a police station on Monday, I asked Bower - the author of superb biographies about Robert Maxwell and Tiny Rowland - what he made of the latest twist in the Fayed tale. "It's a great story for my book," Bower said. "And it makes you see how clever Michael Cole was to have got out of there last week." He continued: "I think the legal case will come down to the two sides arguing over whether there were any jewels in the safe deposit box or not."

BACK in the comparatively real world of showbusiness, Pandora has learned that several scenes in the television docudrama being filmed about Princess Diana and Dodi will feature a "Mohamed Al Fayed" character. The Egyptian mega-shopkeeper was shown the script and he approved it. The major problem, however, was finding an actor skilful enough to play the demanding role of dynamic, self-made, unusually articulate Al Fayed. But the director is confident that she has found just the right man: Al Fiorentini, whose TV, theatre and film credits include Agatha Christie, Barefoot In the Park and the newly released Act of Will. What special preparation did Fiorentini undertake to play Fayed, including the scene in which he speaks tenderly to his son and assures him that "you got balls". Pandora caught up with Fiorentini and he said, "I didn't have to do any research as I thought the script was fine. I'm sure that Al Fayed is a nice guy."

THE latest issue of `Campaign' brings news of comic Harry Enfield's long- term deal to advertise "adult" Hula Hoops on television. This came as a surprise at the Groucho Club, as Enfield is a strong supporter of the boycott by Equity, the actors' union, of the advertising industry's television commercials.

THE smokers' rights group Forest is opening a new office next week with an advanced air filtration system. To hype this gala event they've sent Pandora an invitation with a small sample bottle containing, says its label, "the FRESHEST air in Britain ... possibly!" Very cute, but somewhat off-putting as this type of bottle is usually handed out by doctors' surgeries to take a "sample" of a far less agreeable nature, one that definitely fails to bring "fresh air" to mind. Time for a new wheeze, Forest folks?

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