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Signoff: David Taylor

I SUPPOSE John Prescott had no choice but to take his punishment in last week's cabinet reshuffle. After all, he'd totally disgraced himself and there's no way he could continue to take responsibility for something as important as urban renewal, construction and housing.

How humiliating for him to have this workload snatched away. All he has left is his job title, his graceand-favour apartment in Admiralty House, an official country residence at Dorneywood, his £133,000 salary and just one Jaguar. But at least he's taken his punishment like a man.

I've just remembered a small private indiscretion of my own that even now, 38 years later, turns my ears pink with shame.

Feeling I had no choice but to come clean, I told every thing to the editor last Friday and made it quite clear that I was prepared to face the consequences.

He could transfer the honour of filling the Signoff slot every week to one of his junior reporters and although it would burn like the lash of shame, I would accept the punishment, retaining only my flattering picture byline and my regular fee. If he wanted, out of the goodness of his heart, to throw in lunch at fashionable Moro every now and then, I'd accept my fate with obsequious gratitude.

You can imagine my surprise when the editor magnanimously forgave my wrongdoing and insisted I retain my essential workload. I was even more surprised to discover that just about everybody in the editorial office now knows which primary school I attended.

WELL, John Prescott's history now - and here comes Ruth Kelly.

I am sure I shall soon become accustomed to the sound of her rich baritone voice promoting the virtues of affordable housing and chastising the middle classes for their nimby hypocrisy. She's a great advocate of equal opportunities and I'm all for that.

I don't even mind that she's a member of a bizarre and secretive religious sect, some members of which like to wear spikey pants.

Of course we don't know if she wears them - and why should we?

It's private. As she herself has said on the record, she has her own 'private spiritual life and I don't think it's relevant to my job'.

I'm sure she's quite right. But isn't that more or less what Tony Blair was saying about the Prescott affair last week?

PEOPLE in the middle of Manchester have been reporting strange goings-on at the new 47-storey Beetham Tower, Europe's tallest residential building.

Eerie whining and whistling noises have been coming from the top of the building and experts have been called in to get to the bottom of it. (Silly experts - they should be starting at the top, where the noise is coming from. ) The Beetham Tower is of course highly fashionable and the penthouse apartments at the top have been snapped up by rich Mancunians such as footballer Gary Neville. Rumours have been circulating that the highpitched keening sound is emanating from another of these celebrity residents, singer and X-Factor winner Shayne Ward.

But although it sounds a bit like Shayne it can't be him because nobody's moving in until October.

The experts are investigating the possibility that the unusual latticework at the top of the tower is generating the noise as the wind blows through it.

You might wonder what the purpose of this latticework is. Officially it is an architectural device that makes the tower appear to 'dematerialise' into space. In fact, it's almost certainly just a cheap way of adding height so the building can make it into the record books. It's an old trick.