Axe Grinder 14.10.05

 

Exclusive: Littlejohn seeks Mail for loving

THE Wade vs Dacre High Court battle – with Littlejohn in the middle
– is developing marvellous twists ahead of its 20 October hearing
(standing room only).

All sides have now served their legal papers and Littlejohn’s
documents contain just the sort of jawdropping lines that you’d expect
from the master himself. One of Littlejohn’s main complaints is that
Sun editor Rebekah Wade did not love him enough.

That
is to say, he felt unwanted, abandoned, alone, a solitary figure,
hunched over his computer, agonising about his pathetic relationship
with the editor.

And who in court could dare argue with him? He couldn’t make it up, after all, could he?

Did he picture himself on a rug with Rebekah in front of a log fire? “No, no, no,” says a Littlejohn ally.

“But
Richard’s complaint – and he has made this clear in his statement – is
that Rebekah didn’t call him every day to ask him for his views. When
David [Yelland] was editor he was on the phone all the time to Richard
asking him about this and that.”

Littlejohn’s future boss, Daily
Mail editor Paul Dacre – due to be subpoenaed by Wade in the courtroom
battle – will obviously have to set aside quality phone time if he
wants to keep in with his new star signing.

Baldwin heads Stateside after Riddell rant

AFTER years of writing Blairite stories in The Times, the
newspaper’s political investigations reporter Tom Baldwin – a great
chum of Alastair Campbell – is being posted to the United States.

Why?

Well, I understand that Baldwin, who with his inner and
outer demons recently tried to do down the Today Programme’s John
Humphrys, had increasingly started to disturb senior colleagues
including The Times’s august commentator Peter Riddell.

At a recent editorial conference, the mild-mannered Riddell suddenly exploded, accusing Baldwin of talking “utter crap”.

Others
let the paper’s editor, Robert Thomson, know that “Baldwin will no
longer do”. Apart from the Humphrys episode, Baldwin has also earned
more bad publicity by featuring in Lord Ashcroft’s new book, Dirty
Politics, Dirty Times.

Exit Downing Street’s favourite dirty tricks operative, bound for Washington DC.

The matrons of Georgetown should beware.

Why Mirror duo are Quo’s latest groupies

IF YOU have nothing better to do than read the liner notes of Status
Quo’s new album The Party Ain’t Over, way down the exhaustive “special
thanks to” list you’ll come to the names “Richard Wallace” and “Eugene
Duffy”.It’s Quo’s way of thanking Mirror editor Wallace and the paper’s
group managing editor Duffy for plugging the band’s latest opus with
last month’s Quo Week in the Mirror.

Use a magnifying glass to spot the newspaper pair – they appear just after Astro TV Asia and the Rhein-Fire Cheerleaders.

Orr’s making waves over GQ assault in Indy

DILIGENT HACKS at the Independent have always felt duty-bound to give GQ a good press.

The Indy’s editor-in-chief, Simon Kelner, is a contributor to GQ,
while GQ editor Dylan Jones writes for the Indy. What’s more, the two
men are great mates.

Now Indy columnist Deborah Orr has put her
oar in, so to speak. In her column last weekend she described GQ as
“Britain’s most self-congratulatory magazine”.

Kelner doesn’t
appear bothered in the slightest. But Indy staff are astonished that
she got away with the verbal assault. They are calling Orr “defiant,
provocative, goading”. Three reasons for keeping her in the job.

Kate will need more help than hapless Higgins

NOT-SO-SUPER model Kate Moss has apparently acquired the
“fire-fighting” services of Sun editor-turned-PR Stuart Higgins to
help her extinguish the blaze of devastating publicity.

Should Moss have any doubts about Higgins’ competence, I would urge
her to dip her nose into former diarist Chris Hutchins’ hilarious new
autobiography, Mr Confidential. Hutchins recalls how he sold to Higgins
(then Sun editor) the story that Princess Diana was going out with
tycoon Christopher Whalley. A few nights later the gossip columnist was
at home when the phone rang…

“‘Christopher, it’s Stuart
Higgins. I need so see you urgently.’ I said that was fine by me and he
said, ‘Name a pub close to your house.’ I nominated the Marlborough on
Richmond Hill and we arranged to meet there half an hour later.

“Before
I left the house, he phoned again to say that he couldn’t find the
Marlborough so I suggested that he come to my home instead.

“I
was watching News At Ten when the doorbell rang. I opened the door [and
Higgins] pushed his way past me and walked around the living room
banging his fist against his head. ‘What a fool, what a fool I am,’ he
kept repeating.

‘I must be crazy. Chris Hutchins? I got the numbers mixed up. I thought I was phoning Christopher Whalley.'”

Higgins failure to get the right doorstep meant the scoop about Diana’s new man would have to wait another day.

FT’s Pretzlik is in the pink

JUST before editorial conference at the FT the other day, deputy
editor Chrystia Freeland bounded over to Charles Pretzlik, editor of
the broadsheet’s Companies section.

She told Pretzlik that Glen Moreno, the paper’s new chairman, would
be in conference, adding: “So don’t do your usual conference speech and
say all your team are useless.”

Unfortunately, Pretzlik’s lackeys
were sitting within earshot when the embarrassing comment was made and
all eyes focused on him as he turned an FT shade of pink.

Coked-up hack gets fizzical

TITTLE-TATTLERS at the Sunday Telegraph are gossiping about Matthew
d’Ancona’s nasty Coke habit. The paper’s deputy editor and political
columnist is not hooked on the powder – perish the thought – but the
drink.

When editorial conference is called, I am told, d’Ancona shuffles
from his desk to the vending machine and buys a can of his beloved Diet
Coke. This timeconsuming procedure, which involves him chatting to
mates on the way to quench his thirst, means that he is often the last
person to sit down at the conference table. Editor Sarah Sands is far
too courteous to tick him off.

Evil thoughts over how to pronounce title

STAFF at the Mail On Sunday’s revamped, lad-friendly magazine are in
the peculiar position of working for a title they don’t know how to
pronounce.

On the front cover of the supplement, which was unveiled last weekend, it reads Night & Day Live.

Obviously night and day aren’t a problem.

But it’s the the third word – live – which is causing difficulties.

Staff do not know if they are working for Live that rhymes with five? Or is it Live that rhymes with give?

Superstitious magazine folk consider it an unlucky word for a magazine – read it backwards and it’s evil.

The Mail – it’s fair about Iraq and pro-women

AS PART of The Sun’s think-tank at Butlin’s last weekend, a regiment
of Daily Mail readers were rounded up and enticed into a room and plied
with offensive warm white wine in return for sharing their views on
newspapers. It didn’t go smoothly.

Rebekah Wade’s executives turned pasty as the Mail devotees agreed that they all despised The Sun.

Then
the readers were asked why they bought the Mail. They gave three
reasons: 1. “It’s been very fair-minded about the war in Iraq.”

[Sun
staff shuddered at the phrase fair-minded.] 2. “It’s pro-working
women.” [Sun columnist Jane Moore had to be restrained by colleagues.]
3. “It gives away everything for free.”

The Sun bunch were relieved, however, when Richard Littlejohn’s name was mentioned and a Mail reader asked: “Who?”

What are you guys like?

Last week, Axegrinder asked readers to search their photo albums to
look for the notorious snap of Professor Roy Greenslade wearing a tu-tu
– it was taken in the days when he was the serious editor of the Daily
Mirror rather than a fun-loving media commentator. Instead, a reader
sends in this snap of Daily Mail entertaining features writer and
incisive interviewer Lester Middlehurst dressed in his office attire.

A N D FINALLY…

THE GOSSIPS’ gossip John McEntee was squirming when he appeared as a newspaper reviewer on Sky TV’s Sunrise show at the weekend.

Though
McEntee has been a regular Sunrise fixture for the past decade, the
show’s presenters have rarely praised his columns (first Hickey in the
Express, then Wicked Whispers in the Daily Mail) on air.

So you
can imagine McEntee’s surprise last Sunday when presenter Pauline
Middlehurst said to him in front of viewers: “I read Wicked Whispers
every day. It’s such a brilliant column.”

McEntee shifted
uncomfortably in his seat but, gentleman that he is, didn’t like to
tell her that Wicked Whispers had been axed three days earlier by Mail
editor Paul Dacre

The 1pm girl

THAT Walter Wolfgang story in Brighton saw some shrewd media chaperoning of the central figure.

The Daily Mail was first on to Walter but political reporters Graeme
Wilson and Jane Merrick were aghast when they heard that the
82-year-old conference heckler had agreed to be interviewed live on
ITN’s 6.30pm bulletin.

In a classic Fleet Street sting they first delayed Walter by insisting that they fill up his car’s parking meter.

Then they took him to the pub for a large one.

Only then did they deliver him to ITN, by which time it was two minutes to the end of the bulletin and the slot was gone.

Result: the Mail got the interview, and ITN was hopping mad.

Cracking stuff.

FROM
my stool in the champagne bar of Blackpool’s Imperial Hotel, I spotted
BBC political reporter Norman Smith in the hotel’s foyer.

He was
trying to deliver radio reports but was being driven to despair by the
noise emanating from fellow broadcasters in the bar.

Poor Smith was being shouted at by his producers to improve the sound quality of the live transmissions.

So
he resorted to covering his head with a tablecloth – making him
resemble one of Blackpool’s gypsy rose fortune tellers. But at least
London is happy.

THE BBC4 programme Kelvin MacKenzie Meets Kirsty Wark, broadcast last Monday, came with the warning: “Contains strong language.”

But
at News International the programme unearthed something far more
horrifying than the four-letter words emerging from MacKenzie’s mouth.

Asked
what he thought of the decision to go to war against Iraq, MacKenzie
launched into a rant about how it was a disgusting thing to do and one
which had put thousands of lives at risk.

Considering that the
former Sun editor is expected to take Richard Littlejohn’s place as The
Sun’s Great Right Hope, I feel obliged to remind him that each and
every one of Rupert Murdoch’s newspapers around the globe supports the
war against Iraq.

Kelvin? A Liberal? You couldn’t make it up.

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