Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer has, during his relatively short political career, become no stranger to political embarrassment and a newspaper report yesterday will do nothing to diminish his blushes. This is especially true as the report concerns Indonesia, the country's closest neighbour and a source of great concern in Australia at the moment as it prepares for the political fallout from Jakarta's economic traumas. Urbane and well groomed, Mr Downer appeared a cut above many Australian politicians who have graced the corridors of power but he has also had a gift of saying the wrong thing at the wrong time. His inappropriate comments cost him dearly a couple of years ago when he was dumped unceremoniously as leader of the Liberal Party after only six months in power. Further embarrassment came not long after when, after being demoted to Foreign Minister, he found himself at the centre of a scandal about a highly critical report on Australia's Pacific neighbours. He can scarcely be blamed for this, as an official in the government left the report, which included scathing remarks about Pacific leaders' personal habits and competence, sitting on a chair during a forum about greater co-operation in the Pacific region. Unfortunately for Mr Downer, the report found its way into the hands of a sharp reporter who felt the world should know what the government really thought about the people with whom it was conferring. Now, Mr Downer's trip to Washington to meet the International Monetary Fund and United States administration heavies has been marred by another leaked report. Sources in Canberra tell us the report came from within his own ministry. In typically robust Antipodean terms, the author of the report says Indonesia is on the brink of hyperinflation, has breached its agreement with the IMF and is being run to protect the financial interests of President Suharto. True, this is not the first time such accusations have been made. However, not long after the newspaper leak hit the streets, Mr Downer came out of the meeting and told assembled reporters: 'It does look to me as though things are moving very much in the right direction in Indonesia.' As in comedy, in politics, timing is everything. Islington Council has, over the years, won a deserved reputation for being the home of London's politically correct. The trendy and the upwardly mobile have felt truly at ease under the care and attention of the liberal spirits who have ruled the north London enclave. Throughout the period of Conservative Party rule, Islington stood firm against the nationwide shift to the right and championed every liberal cause with generous funding. Racial minorities and women's issues have been high on the list of usually admirable causes which the council stood behind. However, the members' zeal for political correctness often reached absurd levels, especially when large dollops of cash were handed out to the most obscure, fringe groups. It seems the council has again run into the accusation of being excessively 'correct'. This time it has nothing to do with political correctness but with aesthetics. A certain Mofakharul Shahin has been hauled over the coals by the council for daring to spend GBP100,000 (about HK$1.29 million) brightening up his Indian restaurant and renovating the dull, soot-covered exterior of his establishment. The council has told him he should blacken the bricks with soot to make the curry house blend in with the rest of the terrace, but Mr Shahin has refused to comply. 'They want it to be dirty and scruffy like other buildings in the street. Can they be serious? Do they really want me to cover the brickwork with soot?' he complained. According to a council spokesperson (as he or she would no doubt wish to be called): 'Islington is trying to maintain a certain harmonious look. He ignored that. It doesn't matter where the bricks come from, they did not blend in.' Will the colour of bricks and the broader question of 'brickism' become a key issue at the next weekly meeting of the Islington council? Still on the subject of political correctness, the Ford Motor Co in Britain has withdrawn a television advert based on a spoof of the hit film The Full Monty, after a complaint that it featured only white men. The 40-second advert, for its Escort car, featured a group of white actors as strippers. It prompted a complaint from a member of the public who pointed out that the real Full Monty included a black stripper. Two years ago, Ford was at the centre of controversy after it was revealed white faces had been superimposed over black faces in a photograph used for an advertising campaign. Ford yesterday apologised. 'Ford adheres to a strict equal opportunities policy and diversity training has been and is going on throughout the company to make Ford people aware of the importance of accepting and valuing all kinds of differences, including ethnic background.' It's ironic that Britain's biggest box office success has spawned such an expensive flop for Ford.