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The Scurra.

YET more problems at Portcullis House - the House of Commons' ridiculously expensive disaster zone - nearly claimed its first victim last week, I can reveal.

There was an explosion in the kitchen of the Debate canteen and management are so sensitive about the incident that staff have been told not to talk to the press.

But an angry kitchen worker says: "Electrical wiring just behind the kitchen fell out of their fittings and into a pool of water which had been caused by an earlier breakdown of the freezer units. Someone could have been killed."

At the last count, Portcullis House had 7,500 defects, including problems with the roof (glass panels cracking and nuts falling off), the fountains (no water), the doors (300 loose handles) and fig trees (dropping leaves) that cost pounds 150,000. This despite the fact the building cost pounds 234million - more than pounds 1million for each of the 200 MPs' offices it accommodates.

Labour MP Ronnie Campbell, who is on the Commons Catering Committee, promised an inquiry when I broke the news to him yesterday. "Bloody hell," he said. "There have been some cowboys working on that building. If Health and Safety is informed they might close it down until it is working properly."

A CLEARLY eccentric self-made businessman has paid almost pounds 5,000 for a framed strip of loo paper adorned with the face of Margaret Thatcher. Entitled Government Property, the picture by Colin Self was the first item to be sold at the The Blue Room gallery exhibition of a collection of art inspired by Thatch.

The buyer, businessman Peter Patsalides, tells The Scurra: "My wife said I could only buy it if we hung it in the downstairs loo."

FORMER jungle inhabitant Christine Hamilton tells me she is pleased that Edwina Currie will not, after all, be a camp mate in the forthcoming TV series of I'm A Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here.

"If that woman had been a contestant she'd have been in the jungle on her own," says Hamilton. "All the others would have run a mile, darling, run a mile."

BACK to the investigation at The Daily Mail, where canteen manager Paul Rudd is trying to trace hundreds of items of stolen cutlery. Rudd is now calling for a spoons armistice.

In an in-house email (written in red) he tells staff they should return any missing items which may have "slipped into your pocket, your desk, your office, your home, your caravan or your picnic hamper."

Snooty Mail staff won't like being called caravan owners. But then Rudd's email delivers a knock-out blow: "The alternative will be plastic cutlery - and who wants that?"

FANS of Saddam Hussein's (possibly late) Misinformation Minister Mohammed Saeed al-Sahhaf can now own 12-inch high dolls of the optimistic spin doctor. US toy manufacturer have just started producing the $35.95 (pounds 22) mannekins. It utters al-Sahhaf's best lines: "There are no American infidels in Baghdad. Never! Our initial assessment is that they will all die. No, I am not scared and neither should you be. We have given them a sour taste. They're not even (within) 100 miles (of Baghdad)."

THE joke at Number 10: You can tell the British Government's running Iraq. Street crime has gone up.


HELL: Campbell; DOLL: al-Sahhaf
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Apr 17, 2003
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