International Papers

Tory Meltdown

Britain’s Conservative Party has reached what the Independent called “a new low”: Madam Tussaud’s decided that leader Iain Duncan Smith is too “lifeless” to justify the $56,500 investment to create a wax likeness. Every Tory leader since 1884 has been displayed in the waxworks’ political hall of fame, but a spokeswoman told the Times of London: “We want figures who will inspire strong emotions and provoke strong reactions. In our view Mr Duncan Smith, who most people have never even heard of, is unlikely to achieve either of those feats. Ever.” Since former leader William Hague has already been rendered, the only Tories left in the museum are Margaret Thatcher and Winston Churchill. To add insult to injury, the Times added, “Tony Blair’s dummy is said to be one of the most widely admired.”

What are the odds? Sure, betting is legal in Britain, but it’s hard to imagine the book on the new European Central Bank president will see a lot of action.When Europe’s top banker Wim Duisenberg announced Thursday that he will step down in July 2003, the betting, in theory, began. The Times reports that France’s Jean-Claude Trichet is odds-on favorite to succeed Duisenberg, and Bank of England Governor Sir Edward George is 33-1, even though he can’t take the job unless Britain joins the euro. Finland’s Sirrka Hamalainen is the rank outsider at 100-1, suggesting perhaps that the bookies don’t know the story of Finnish-born Marutei Tsurunen, who beat the odds to become the first Westerner to take a seat in Japan’s upper chamber of parliament.

Order in the house: Israel’s Ha’aretz reports that members of the Knesset will have some new perks. MKs will be entitled to a $650 stipend to learn a foreign language, and the legislature “will also pay for lessons for MKs in the use of a weapon if they receive approval from the commander of the Knesset guards.”