OXFORD could be about to lay claim, albeit by way of a slightly tenuous link, to a slice of American political history.

Oxfordshire County Council Green Party group leader Larry Sanders's brother, Bernie, is favourite to be elected to the US Senate to represent the state of Vermont next month and, if successful, would become the state's first independent, socialist senator.

Predictions are that the race for overall control of the Senate will be very close and it is not entirely impossible that, if elected, Bernie could hold the balance of power between the Republican and Democrat parties.

ANDREW Smith is in hot water with the Muslim Education Centre of Oxford for dishing out printed Happy Eid cards like confetti.

The Oxford East Labour MP so incensed one predominant Muslim with his expressions of joy at the end of Ramadan that he sent it back and wrote a vitriolic letter to boot.

Meco chairman Dr Taj Hargey said in his letter to the MP: "The good wishes of friends, neighbours and colleagues for Muslim festivals are normally highly valued and appreciated.

"But you are not any of these things to me. In fact, I find it totally repugnant."

QUITE what happens at stadium formerly known as Kassam that promotes such excitement is anyone's guess, but that's where 180 Conservative Party HQ staff are heading tomorrow for a 'bonding day', apparently.

The staff have been ordered to pile into a fleet of coaches by party chairman Francis Maude, who has also dished out strict instructions that none are to sneak off.

Dress is 'smart' and the highlight of the day is a short visit by party leader and Witney MP 'Dave' Cameron - coincidentally an avid Aston Villa supporter.

But those Tories dreaming of blue heaven, or a victory in the next General Election, should probably not pay too much attention to the fact that the venue for this orgy of celebration was witness to Oxford United slipping out of the Football League earlier this year.

THE death knell could be sounded on Keith Mitchell's role as leader of Oxfordshire County County if the Government's White Paper on local government reorganisation - published today -leads to Oxford City Council taking over all council services within the city boundary and unitary councils covering the rest of the county.

But, despite all the gloom, there is some good news for Mr Mitchell. City council chief executive Caroline Bull is leaving in the New Year, so a vacancy has arisen.

Now, wouldn't that be ironic...

IT'S rare The Insider has any good news to impart, but this week we have - and it's not even Christmas yet.

Remember Marvin, the missing Labrador belonging to the niece of Oxfordshire Tory MEP Nirj Deva? No? Well, Marvin has turned up safe and well.

Last month, Mr Deva issued a missive to media outlets far and wide appealing for information and plastered notices on lamp posts and trees across the capital.

His hard work has paid off, since the dog was found near Hammersmith Bridge in London, spotted by a lady who saw one of the many posters.

Now we can all rest easy.