Monday 22 February 1999 01:02 GMT

ALUN MICHAEL may have scraped his way into the hot seat of Welsh Assembly leader-elect, but he has yet to make it to the Assembly itself. The Welsh Secretary will face some interesting competition from Richard Booth, the self-styled King of Hay-on-Wye, who will represent Arthur Scargill's Socialist Labour Party in the Mid and West Wales region. Booth, who is credited with founding Hay's famous book culture, unfurled a Red Rose banner over his home of Hay Castle to support New Labour during the 1997 general election but has now broken ranks. The eccentric "monarch" will appear on the top-up list with Welsh Secretary Alun Michael, and some on the Welsh political scene have half-joked that Booth may well prove an attractive option to voters who view Michael as a Blair poodle.

READERS OF this paper will have no doubt read the responses to "You Ask the Questions" by Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams last week. In response to one question about terrorist deaths Adams replied: "I like to think that all of these killings are an incentive for those of us who are committed to building a lasting peace settlement." Pandora notes the rather disturbing use of the word "incentive", showing, perhaps, just how much the mindset of both sides in Northern Ireland has to change before further progress is made in the peace process.

THERE IS some irony in the auction of Eric Clapton's guitars, taking place at Christie's in New York this summer. The money raised from the auction of the instruments, which include a 1956 Fender Stratocaster on which Clapton played his famous `Layla', will go to Clapton's drug and alcohol rehabilitation centre in the Caribbean. It was Clapton's own problems with drugs that prompted the musician to set up the facility, indeed as Clapton's biographer Harry Shapiro indicates, the money he spent on drugs meant that Christie's auction could never be definitive: "Not having immediate access to the money he earned, the habit cost him the odd car and some of his very rare guitars, but at least he survived."

THERE WERE some shocked faces at an Oxford University ball recently. Amongst the invited guests was Austrian Ambassador Dr Eva Nowotny, who showed that she knew more about bright young things than was expected. After participating in the more formal waltzes, Dr Nowotny was observed to ditch the Strauss jive and head downstairs for some latter-day techno.

MEANWHILE, AGRICULTURE Minister Nick Brown has raised as few eyebrows at MAFF. Strong rumours of a soon-to-be held policy meeting between Brown and the Liberal Democrats have been circulating. However, it is not the lingering whiff of cross-party cooperation that is rubbing Brown's ministerial colleagues up the wrong way. Sources say it is the fact that he has yet to hold an official meeting with them since he became Agriculture Minister last July. A spokesman at MAFF told Pandora that no date had been set for the meeting with the Liberal Democrats, although it was rather hard to make out exactly what was said over the sound of rustling diaries.

PANDORA IS so excited to have received an invitation to a "New Media Arts" Conference at the University of Luton in March. The opportunity to discuss the function of interactivity, analytical metaphors of the new media and hybridising cultural identities is positively mouth-watering. However, Pandora cannot see any window of opportunity to discuss the way this venture is travelling at high speed up the information superhighway and stationing itself in its own back interface.

SPEAKING OF Garbage, uncompromising singer Shirley Manson (pictured), is setting her sights on an acting career. The fiery-haired Scot has been going online during her band's current tour with Alanis Morissette. In one Internet session Manson told TV Guide Online that acting was: "something I'll probably be doing at some point" and that she "has had some tempting offers". Pandora can envisage Shirley as a spirited lead in, say, an Irvine Welsh adaptation, but as for Oscar-winning performances Shirley might take note of band member Duke Erikson's pessimistic outlook on Garbage's collective success: "We are such losers," he remarked to the internet magazine.

Pandora can be contacted by e-mail on: pandora

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