Axe grinder 07.10.05

 

Wade on warpath as Littlejohn shuts up

AN ALMIGHTY legal battle is
looming between Sun editor Rebekah Wade and Richard Littlejohn,
following the writer’s refusal to file his weekly Right- Wing rant
column for the paper.

Wade has spoken to corporate lawyers at News International with the
intention of suing Littlejohn for breach of contract – they are due in
court this week.

Her meeting with the legal team followed a
hostile telephone call to Littlejohn, an exchange which was described
by one Sun staffer as “a screaming match that went on for 10 minutes…
those who happened to be within earshot are still suffering tinnitus”.

Littlejohn,
who signed up in May to write a column for the Daily Mail, had hoped to
work out his £300,000-a-year Sun contract and depart in February on
good terms before starting his new job.

He changed his mind, however, after talking to Mail editor Paul Dacre.

Dacre,
I understand, is anxious for Littlejohn to join as soon as possible
because later this month he will lose Simon Heffer to The Telegraph,
leaving the Mail without a Right-Wing ranter. “It was suggested that
Richard could down tools,” says a senior executive at News
International. “And that’s precisely what he did. He refused to file a
column.”

It was not long before Wade discovered the reason behind
the one-man strike – now entering its third week – and then, as they
say, the gloves were off.

What is now unfolding is a tug of war between the two editors, with Littlejohn in the middle.

Burchill bites as Knight takes swipe at Moss

THE CLAWS are out. India Knight used her column in The Sunday Times
to take a swipe at Kate Moss, which, in turn, has infuriated Julie
Burchill.

Pondering over Moss’s troubles, Knight described the supermodel as
being “like a slutty, out-of-it child”. Of Moss’s duvet conquests,
Knight concluded: “… the sex stuff is pretty sordid, even if you don’t
hold the view that promiscuity is evil. The shenanigans in question
don’t recall Fitzgerald’s The Beautiful and Damned (the somewhat
adolescent theme for Moss’s 30th birthday party at Claridges last year,
where there was cake, champagne and an orgy), but rather call to mind
those depressing American novels about poor white trash and incest.”

Such
remarks have angered columnist Burchill. She has fired off a letter to
The Sunday Times, making insensitive – and unfounded – comments about
Knight’s private life.

So contentious is the note that it would
be seriously unwise for me to publish it here and I am not surprised
that the letters editor at The Sunday Times hasn’t found room for it.

Loaded pals are a pair of right Charlies

THERE’S been a jolly reunion (for now) at Night and Day, where staff
are working, erm, day and night in time for the Mail on Sunday
supplement’s laddish relaunch later this month.

Former hell-raising Loaded editor James Brown, who has been drafted
in as a consultant, has found a desk for his old chum, ex-Loaded
contributor Martin Deeson. When Night and Day is revamped, Deeson will
be the “bar correspondent” (that’s pubs and clubs rather than legal
issues).

It will be intriguing to see how long Brown and Deeson exist in harmony.

Toby
Young, journalist and author of the bestseller How To Lose Friends and
Alienate People, recalls an uncomfortable situation when he brought the
pair together for a Vanity Fair photoshoot.

Recalls Young: “At one point, they got into an argument and Brown ended up punching Deeson in the face.

I noticed that Deeson didn’t retaliate, in spite of being almost twice the size of Brown.”

It
was at that same shoot, incidentally, that Brown told Young he wanted
some cocaine. “Fortunately, I had some left from [a] Damien Hirst
shoot, so I offered to give him some in the loo,” says Young.

“‘Don’t
be daft,’ he said in his thick, Yorkshire accent. ‘Just rack ’em up
right here’.” Young knew it was a reckless thing to do, “but it was at
the end of a long day” and he couldn’t stomach another confrontation.
“Brown handed me a £5 note and together we bent down and inhaled the
drug.”

All very Moss-like rather than M-o-S-like.

You don’t have to be Crackers to work here… but it helps

IT’S ANADIN time at The Sunday Times, where political editor David
“Crackers” Cracknell searches for a new deputy following Andy Porter’s
defection to the Daily Express.

Cracknell’s managerial manner is not to everyone’s taste. In fact,
it is fair to say there are certainly ambitious hacks at the paper who
have not applied for the post as Crackers’ number two.

Indeed,
The Sunday Times has taken what appears to be the unprecedented step of
advertising the job – an ad which has the feel of desperation.

Applicants, it reads, will be considered if they have held “a senior post at a top regional newspaper”.

What’s
more, “the individual should preferably have experience of writing
about politics, though…” and here comes the eyebrow raiser “… this is
not essential”.

Associated gets sniffy after a testing time

HACKS at Associated Newspapers are well on their way to winning
awards for cocaine busting, as they trek from one glitzy party to
another, inspecting cubicles with jiffy bags in one hand, swabs in the
other.

First the Daily Mail teamed up with The Evening Standard’s reporters
to dust the enamel surfaces of toilet cisterns at fashion parties with
their swabs before announcing to readers: “Cocaine abuse is rife at
London Fashion Week.” Is the Pope a Catholic?

Then the cocaine
seekers went to Brighton for the Labour Conference, where the
Standard’s Patrick Sawyer reported that “we found traces of cocaine in
the disabled lavatory cubicle close to the BBC party” and “in
firstfloor men’s lavatories close to the Bloomberg party… the traces of
white powder on the seat in one cubicle were unmistakable”.

By the looks of it, Associated’s obsession with cocaine started after the Daily Mirror broke the Kate Moss story.

Not
so. The Mail bought 20 cocaine testing kits, which they intended to use
at the recent wedding of Tom Parker Bowles (yes, son of Camilla and the
same chap who writes a foodie column for the Mail on Sunday’s Night and
Day).

But having bought the kits, Daily Mail hacks – posh though
they may be – couldn’t wangle an invitation to the nuptials (and had
they done so would doubtless have come away with negative-testing
swabs).

This left 20 cocaine testing kits sitting doing nothing. So it was a case of waste not, want not.

 

the 1pm girl

GULPING large ones with the Sky News brigade at the Tory Party
Conference, I notice that they all seem miserable and irritable (or
more so, at least, than usual).

“You wouldn’t believe it,” sighs one of the producers… and then
proceeds to tell me the spectacular cock-up of how the station’s
presenters and crews have been booked en masse into the Park House
Hotel, possibly the only hotel in Blackpool where Sky News is
unavailable in every single room.

Presenters are therefore denied
the opportunity of watching, from the comfort of a hotel bed, their own
gorgeous faces pop up on telly.

“The Park House usually caters
for elderly punters who have booked through Saga Holidays and aren’t
really bothered about Sky,” I am told. “There’s none of those porn
videos either.”

THE BRIEFEST Party Conference chin-wag took place
in Brighton between editor-turned-columnist Richard Stott and Dominic
Midgley, the man behind City-AM’s entertaining Page Nine diary.

Midgley
[extending hand for handshake]: “Richard. How good to see you. Your
column is the first thing I turn to in the News of the World.”

Stott [peeved, but polite]: “Sunday Mirror, old boy. Sunday Mirror.”

TO
AXIS, the London restaurant where the Daily Mail very kindly laid on a
grand reception after Ross Benson’s memorial service… Stepping over the
horizontal, port-perfumed body of my colleague Axegrinder, I encounter
Sunday Express film critic Henry Fitzherbert.

He has sneaked into the bash.

“When
I first turned up to work for Ross [on the Daily Express diary column]
he sent me to gatecrash a memorial service,” says Fitzherbert.

“So I thought, out of respect to him, I’d gatecrash his own one…”

A
WAITRESS with the acrid whiff of urine on her apron totters past me as
I arrive at The Cheshire Cheese, in Fleet Street, to celebrate the 60th
anniversary of the founding of the Ferrari News Agency.

The poor
girl explains that, as she was climbing the stairs to serve the
partying guests in the pub’s middlefloor bar, she was greeted by the
sight of a man standing at the top of the staircase – Dr Samuel
Johnson’s staircase, remember – relieving himself “like a donkey”.

She points a finger in the direction of a tabloid reporter with a sunny disposition. I’ll not name him… for now.

Life’s a beach for Mail after Cherie’s snub

BOY, does Cherie Blair hate the Daily Mail. News snappers milled
round at Brighton, waiting for Cherie to do a walkabout of the
conference stands.

Then a Number 10 minder noticed a Mail hack lingering nearby.
Suddenly the stunt was cancelled, and the No. 10 woman was to be seen
whispering different arrangements in the ears of photographers from The
Times and The Sun.

Rogue Ross is remembered as a rascal

IN THE bidding prayer at Ross Benson’s memorial service at St Bride’s last week, Canon Meara told the assortment of family
and friends that “by general admission, [Ross was] both a truly
stylish, committed journalist and, according to those closest to him,
sometimes a bit of a rascal”.

Rascal? In the first draft of the prayer the superb war
correspondent and reluctant gossip columnist had been described as “a
rogue” – a reference to his love of life and life of love.

Canon Meara, however, was reluctant to speak so unkindly of the dear departed Mail and Express journalist.

So
Peter McKay, editor of the Mail’s Ephraim Hardcastle column, was asked
to come up with a more acceptable word; accordingly the memory of the
late Benson was transformed from rogue to rascal in a penstroke or two.

ABSENT FRIENDS

Raise a glass (of Evian) to the THREE Sun people currently in
treatment. And line up the large ones so that we toast the good health
– and imminent recovery – of the FIVE employees of the Daily and Sunday
Mirror who are also being treated in private clinics.

Powell’s second coming leaves John standing

THERE WAS, it has to be said, a certain charm about Benson’s
memorial, not least because the actor Robert Powell – the man who
famously played Christ – was in church. What’s more, he delivered a
reading that enabled hacks to mill around on the church steps
afterwards, cracking silly jokes about how they had felt like extras in
Jesus of Nazareth.

When Powell was initially asked to do the reading (Ullysses) he had
agreed, but then a job came up and he was forced to withdraw from the
Benson commitment. His place was taken by fellow thespian John
Standing, another Benson friend.

It was only after hundreds of
copies of the order of service had been printed that Powell’s job fell
through, leaving him free to do the reading after all.

Thus
Standing was left standing, and the Jesus of Nazareth star was
resurrected (at some cost to the Mail, which reprinted the order of
service to include Powell’s name).

Why Stothard needs to keep his nose clean

LORD Ashcroft’s book, Dirty Politics, Dirty Times, alleges all sorts
of scurrilous goings on at The Times when Sir Peter Stothard was
editor, including drug taking on, if accurate, an amazing scale.

Ashcroft clearly has an agenda here, but Stothard needs to beware
his reputation, though there is no suggestion that he condoned the
alleged snorting.

He is said one day to hope to become principal
of an Oxbridge college. Even the merest whisper of association to
sniffy-nosed types will not help his chances of landing the stewardship
of an educational establishment.

 

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