The fax factor

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Oh how treacherous is technology. It is barely six months since the London Evening Standard confused a faxed article by the former Labour golden boy Bryan Gould with a piece of political juvenilia penned by the teenage son of the Home Secretary, Michael Howard. But this week a letter of sympathy from Mr Howard's wife, Sandra, to the Tory rebel Peter Thurnham turned up on the fax machine of the Bolton Metro News.

The lives of journalists, scrubbing around for good stories of embarrassments to the rich and powerful, would be made immeasurably easier if the following "communications" also ended up in the wrong hands:

Dear Gardner Merchant,

Some additional requirements for our annual garden party. We need another 45 bottles of the Veuve, an extra 50 caviar vol-au-vents (black, not red), and a large selection of cigars (note: Cuban only). I trust that in addition to the comestibles you have remembered the red flags.

Sincerely, Anne Scargill

Dear Jason,

Life is horrible here at St Olive's. The boys are all stukk up, and immagine that their better than everyone else. They spend all their time boasting about limoozines, yots and helicopters, and going to the country at weekends. As for their parents, they are the most dreddfull social climers, all complaning about crime and the decline of commyoonity. What's more I don't think the education hear is up to much neither. Why o why didn't Mum let me go with you to Grot Street comprehensive?

Yore friend, Joe (Harman)

Dear Richard Shepherd.

Michael has no idea that I'm writing, but I saw you on Newsnight and just thought "gollygosh, isn't this chap brave, defying the whips over that big Scott report thing". I mean, you're wrong of course. And Michael says even a bit unhinged. I know that, but you are soooo courageous.

Faithfully, Sandra Howard

Dear Auntie Doreen.

I'm that fed up. Yesterday at another one of those rallies we keep having to go to, that Cherie Blair ponces up to me, dressed like a Wakefield tart, and starts telling me in her la-de-da voice what a hard time she's having juggling child care with her 200 grand a year job getting poll- tax defaulters sent to jail. And oh, she says, cool as a cucumber, I do love your hair, Pauline, so very Sixties. Still, as John says, one more election defeat and she'll be going the way of Glenys Kinnock.

Your niece, Pauline

Dear Milkman,

This note is to say that we're all going away this weekend. I've left the back-door open, so that you can put the organic milk and bio-yoghurts directly into the refrigerator, if you wouldn't mind. Your money is in the garage, underneath a half-empty petrol can, on the shelf next to the car.

Back Tuesday, Jane Ashdown

Dear Mr Manning,

I wonder if I could trouble you by asking for your autograph. It's my husband's birthday, and he is a great admirer of yours, constantly retelling your jokes at dinners and party conferences.

In anticipation,

Carolyn Portillo

Dear Kidsparties,

Draft menu for 12th birthday party. Nothing with beef in it (stuffed full of brain-rot). No eggs (salmonella). No dairy produce (destroys sperms. Problems in later life for boy guests). No vegetables (DDT). Nothing from the Newbury area (like trees, hate cars).

Got it? Ms Cordelia Gummer

Dear Peter Mandelson,

Michael has no idea I'm writing, but I felt I just had to tell you how very much I've enjoyed your new book, that you wrote with Mr Little. It was Michael's copy I picked up and he'd left lots of notes in the margins, saying things like "I completely agree", "the party should adopt this one" and so on. Why have we never met at any party gathering? Perhaps soon.

Admiringly, Sandra Howard