Axe grinder 02.12.05

IT seems the hard-hearted souls at Associated Newspapers are
determined to strip former Mail on Sunday deputy editor Rod Gilchrist
of the last of the trappings he still enjoys after his lucrative
retirement.

The latest blow, I learn, concerns one of Gilchrist’s two Jaguar cars.

Despite
hosting the most lavish leaving bash in MoS history and needing a small
truck to cart away his pay-off, “Two Jags” Gilchrist was still garaging
one of the limos in the car park below the paper’s Kensington HQ.

But
bean-counters at the paper were less than impressed – even though Rod’s
motor is far from the only Jag in the car park, as I revealed last
month.

Staff without a parking spot are claiming more than £20 a
day in expenses to park in the NCP car park opposite, and Gilchrist’s
mansion in Holland Park is only a short walk away from Rothermere
Towers.

“Roddy has been told that he’s not on the paper anymore and to come and get the Jag,” reveals my source at Associated.

“He won’t be happy because it’s one of the best and most secure parking spaces in town – and it’s free.”

Foreign desk consigned to Express annals

The last vestiges of foreign news coverage by staffers at the Daily
Express is about to disappear. The paper’s youthful foreign editor,
Gabriel Milland, is moving to Westminster to replace the paper’s
popular political correspondent Kirsty Walker (one of the few hacks
with a pilot’s licence) who is joining the Daily Mail’s lobby team.

But the word at the paper is that the job of foreign editor will not
be replaced as the owner Richard Desmond continues to look for savings.

This
will not come as any great disappointment to Express foreign
correspondents, as there are none left these days. What passes for
foreign coverage is now in the hands of a string of freelances.

It’s
all a far cry from the paper’s heyday at the Black Lubyanka in Fleet
Street when a picture of a veritable football team of staff foreign
correspondents graced the editor’s wall.

“Seems like the only
foreign coverage we’ll be remembered for now is the days when Desmond
owned Asian Babes”, sighed one staffer.

Gove plays a game of cat and spouse…

Former Times hack Michael Gove – whose £59,000 salary as a Tory MP
is still thankfully cushioned by £65,000 from his old paper – has a
helpful ally in his battle to get David Cameron elected as the next
Tory leader. The diary at The Times ran two stories on the same day
last week attacking Cameron’s rival David Davis.

One compared Davis ally Lord Tebbit to the evil Lord Voldemort of
Harry Potter fame, while the second item suggested Davis’s team needed
reminding women were not a “irritating”

minority group.

And
who do Cameron and Gove have to thank for this Davis-knocking copy?
Answer: Sarah Vine, also known as the wife of one Michael Gove.

No defence for falling in love (Ahhh…)

Wedding bells are in the air for former Sunday Times defence
correspondent James Clark who swapped the Wapping sweatshop for
Whitehall a few years back and is now defence secretary John Reid’s
spin doctor.

I’m sure Blairite hardman Dr Reid will be unworried about the
prospect of pillow talk between Clark and his fiancée, The Observer’s
political editor Gaby Hinsliff. The Official Secrets Act might make
good bedtime reading.

Bolland and Black in clear over mix-up…

It seems my careless colleague, the 1pm Girl, was somewhat hasty in
pointing the finger of blame towards Guy Black and Mark Bolland in the
Mystery of the Mixed Up Picture Captions at last week’s Newspaper Hall
of Fame party.

I owe an apology to the two blameless gentlemen, who were in fact
the victim of one of those dreadful mix-ups that tend to feature in
West End plays. This email from Daily Mail managing editor Robin Esser
– the most upstanding witness one could hope to find – shows how the
misunderstanding arose: I was at the Hall of Fame when Mark, Guy and I
saw that Paul Dacre’s picture was captioned David Astor and vice versa.

There was no obvious way of correcting that ourselves as the pictures were secured.

I
asked for the curator, explained the mistake to him, introduced myself
as one who knew the difference between the two men and the curator
arranged to swap the captions. The story in your gossip column is
wrong. (Mark merely lifted the photograph, which was secured, to see if
it could be easily swapped. On seeing it secured he replaced it on its
tripod).

Robin Esser, executive managing editor, Daily Mail And
whilst I am on bended knee, I must beg further forgiveness from the
fragrant Mr Bolland for the wholly erroneous suggestion that he was
behind a separate set of wildly wrong rumours circulating in media
circles. He is not, and I am ashamed of myself for thinking otherwise.

…but Littlejohn vandal still on the loose

Meanwhile, further evidence has emerged of unrelated disgraceful
antics at the Hall of Fame. Close analysis of our footage of the event
has revealed that one of the portraits of the Hall of Fame legends was
the subject of a shockingly petty – almost sacrilegious – act of
vandalism.

A guest at the bash ripped a page from their notebook and scribbled
the word “scum” on it before attaching it to one of the mounted images,
where it remained for several minutes before being removed by a
vigilant member of the National Portrait Gallery staff – although not
before the Reuters photographer had snapped the evidence.

But which newspaper great could possibly have aroused such passionate hatred from one of their fellow hacks?

The
picture in question was, I’m devastated to report, that of Richard
Littlejohn, the former Sun, soon-to-be Daily Mail columnist.

Could
the perpetrator be a victim of one of Littlejohn’s legendary lashings
in his column? Or a Sun executive, bitter at his acrimonious transfer
out of the Wapping fold?

It’s back to the CCTV footage once again for some more careful analysis.

A case of too much room at the inn

After the Barclay Brothers’ job cuts at The Daily Telegraph, how
fitting that the venue for their Christmas bash is a City restaurant
called Departure.

The gloomy staff, who have just lost editor Martin Newland, were
unfazed when they were told they would have to share the restaurant –
especially given their shrinking numbers would mean empty chairs.

But,
just when the team thought it could not get any worse, the other party
was revealed as the hacks from the newsroom of their arch rival, The
Times.

Claws out as theatre critics put on a show

There’s clearly no let-up among the drama queens who make up the
increasingly bitchy bunch of theatre critics covering the West End.

The Stage ran a withering attack on Daily Telegraph critic Charles Spencer for a review in which he “rained vitriol”

on Tommy Steele’s new show at the Palladium in an article penned by Mark Shenton of the Sunday Express.

Shenton
fumes: “We must be vigilant against allowing our personal opinions to
not merely cloud our critical judgements, but entirely overwhelm them.

As
chairman of the drama division of the Critics’ Circle, Charlie might be
our spokesperson, but a review like this doesn’t speak for us all.”

It
was left to Daily Mail critic Quentin Letts – who has refused to join
the Critics’ Circle – to run to Spencer’s defence. On the letters page
of The Stage, he writes that the Steele review was “a collector’s item,
a sustained blast of invective”. He adds: “We are not short of drama
critics in this country and many are arguably more serious and generous
than is justified.”

Sounds like handbags in the interval from the perfumed-hanky brigade.

More shame for royal reporters
The travelling pack of royal reporters who delight in tormenting Prince
Charles and the rest of “The Firm” have had another taste of their own
medicine.

Last month, it was Sun royal snapper Arthur Edwards who
was “extremely upset” after the Washington Post portrayed him as some
kind of foulmouthed Cockney.

Now, a few more members of the royal press pack have featured in the US press. Their asides on Charles and

Camilla’s recent US trip were gleefully reproduced by Kevin Fagan, a staff writer on the San Francisco Chronicle.

He
starts by describing the royal hacks – who included The Sun’s Duncan
Larcombe and Hello’s Judy Wade – as “a fairly amiable lot” for “a pack
that gets penned like animals”.

But Fagan then reports Wade as
saying of Camilla: “She hasn’t had a facelift like rich US women would
have. She scrubs up well, but she’s got a hard mouth.”

Larcombe’s
bosses will doubtless be delighted with his view: “Basically, Charles
is kind of boring. A trip like this is what we call DBW –Dull But
Worthy.”

And the Daily Express newsdesk might not be holding their breath for royal scoops from Richard Palmer.

Asked
by Fagan for the most interesting thing Charles has said to him, Palmer
spat out: “Nothing. He never talks to us. He hates us. The best bits
come when you can follow the crowd around and get the odd cheeky
comment.”

1pm girl

I WILL spare
the blushes of the Fleet Street news editor who returned from a lads’
holiday only to inform his unforgiving editor that he required another
two days away from the office. “I’ve got dreadful sunburn,” was the
priceless excuse offered by the hapless executive.

WORD REACHES
me Richard Desmond’s spanking new HQ for his Northern & Shell
empire beside the Thames is suffering from an influx of rats (no, real
ones!). Not what Express staff expect from bosses in charge of the
“world’s greatest newspaper”.

BAD NEWS for the political scribes
in the Press Gallery at Westminster. I hear their subsidised dining
room is to be closed for a while next year while workmen repair part of
the roof at the Commons.

DESPAIR AT the Daily Mirror where the
newsroom fears that chief executive Sly Bailley is about to execute the
job cuts she promised the City – a move which halted Trinity Mirror’s
sliding share price.

“It’s not so much last in first out,”
according to one of editor Richard Wallace’s minions. “We hear they are
going after the few reporters left on a decent salary.”

HYPOCRITE OF the week goes to Sun columnist Jon Gaunt for his rant against his former employers at the BBC.

Gaunt
was forced to give up his job at BBC Coventry after the corporation
decided it would be incompatible with his new role as a wannabe
Littlejohn on the Sun.

This week , Gaunt attacked the “bloated”
for its cross-promotion of its shows as “verging on the corrupt” – an
attack that will doubtless delight his new boss.

But Gaunt is
suffering from amnesia. When he worked on London radio, he was one of
the most relentless exponents of “cross promotion”. He was always
popping up on BBC London’s TV news to, er, talk up his radio show.

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