Axe grinder 15.12.05

Dear diary, must check my sources

ONCE AGAIN, poor old Andrew Gilligan’s sources are being questioned.

I
learn that Gilligan, who left the BBC’s Today after being criticised in
the Hutton report, is the man behind a contentious article that has
prompted a migraine outbreak at London’s Evening Standard.

Rather
than repeating the story that appeared in the paper’s diary, allow me
simply to give you a taste of the apology that followed several days
later… “Further to my story last week about Sri Lanka’s outgoing
president, Chandrika Kumaratunga, being a prospective buyer of the Duke
of York’s Sunninghill Park house, her office has been in touch to let
me know that she has no plans to buy the home, nor does she propose to
own property abroad.”

The former president took exception to the
article, not only because of its content, but also because it was
picked up by the Asian Tribune.

Most Sri Lankans are
poverty-stricken and live in shanties and shacks, so the Tribune was
understandably horrified by the thought of Kumaratunga shelling out for
a mansion in Britain.

The Asian Tribune called for “an immediate investigation as to how she earned £10 million on a president’s salary”.

It’s
all very embarrassing for Sebastian Shakespeare, personable editor of
Londoner’s Diary, and his otherwise superb team. Lawyers are involved.

So much for Gilligan’s hopes of keeping a low profile.

 

Staff get their cards as Sly gets the boots

THE TRAUMA of having to sack so many staff is finally taking its toll on Sly (Sylvia to her mum and dad) Bailey.

In an attempt to combat the stress, the Trinity Mirror boss has thrown herself into retail therapy with some gusto.

Her
shop-while-you-chop antics have been witnessed by fretful Daily Mirror
staff. Awaiting their fate the other day, hacks noticed the paper’s
courier service wheeling massive parcels of goodies – Manolos, perhaps,
or Chanel – up to Bailey’s office.

Some onlookers felt Bailey
should have postponed her extravagant armchair purchases for another
day – three Mirror staff had just lost their jobs.

Axegrinder is sending her a copy of the 2003 Government report entitled “Policies for Sustainable Consumption”.

The
dossier concluded that retail therapy is driven by deep evolutionary
forces such as sexual competition, and does nothing to make us content.

 

The further adventures of the Indy pudding thief

FURTHER to Axegrinder’s report about the theft of a Christmas
pudding at The Independent, the sweet-toothed thief has struck again.

Martin Hickman, the paper’s consumer affairs correspondent, is
pleading for the return of a packet of mince pies that have been swiped
from his desk.

Sounds like another case for editor’s PA, Denise
Thompson, whose threat of checking CCTV footage secured the return of
the pudding.

 

Blunkett gives editors plenty to whine about

DOES David Blunkett have an expenses account to accompany his new job as a columnist for The Sun?

I only ask because the philandering former Home Office Minister
enjoys fine wine – a pleasure that has already cost the newspaper
industry dearly.

Editors and political hacks who have arranged to
meet Blunkett for lunch may well arrive punctually at the restaurant,
but it is only to discover that their bearded guest is sitting
comfortably at the table, having ordered his first bottle of exquisite
claret.

“It is his favourite trick,” I am told.

“Turn up early and order the most expensive wine. He is a sommelier’s dream.”

Experienced
hacks have tried to beat him to the table by arriving 15 minutes early.
But they are still greeted by the sight of Blunkett shooing away the
wine waiter and saying: “Not to worry with the wine list, I have
already ordered.”

 

Davies to write memoirs – as is the fashion

CHRISTMAS has come early for former Times fashionista Emily Davies.

Davies, who parted company with the paper in June after a dispute
over expenses, has now signed a nice deal with Random House/Ebury for a
tell-all book about her years as a fashion writer.

The book was the subject of a frenzied auction conducted by Simon Trewin at literary agent PFD.

Anne
Spackman, the managing editor who fired Davies, and Lisa Armstrong, the
paper’s fashion editor, are already facing the prospect of an action
for unfair dismissal in the new year, but will have to wait until
February 2007 to discover whether Cinderella Davies has cast them as
the ugly sisters in a book being described as a cross between The Devil
Meets Prada and How to Lose Friends and Alienate People.

Meanwhile Davies, it seems, shall go to the ball.

 

Sun hack’s exit kickstarts Rio’s writing career

UP UNTIL recently, The Sun’s motorbike column (entitled, erm, Biker)
was being written by Keith Jackson. He did a very nice job of informing
readers about the exciting and remarkable aspects of Harleys, Hondas,
Ducatis and Kawasakis.

But last month Jackson suddenly disappeared, faster than a Yamaha
MT-01 (a 1670cc monster in the cruising world and the spiritual
successor the V-Max).

Biker’s leather-coated editor’s chair is now occupied by Janie Omorogbe, formerly known as Rio in TV’s Gladiators.

Omorogbe tells visitors to her website that she’s a panto star, but has also been “concentrating on her career as a journalist”

and is “enjoying every moment of it”.

She
doesn’t have space to mention her Sun column, but is ecstatic about her
commissions for The Sunday Times, which included test-riding “the
futuristic hydrogen fuel-cell powered ENV”, no less.

“Writing is just so much fun,” she coos.

“It’s kind of like presenting a TV show, but with less pressure.”

The
pressure is on back at The Sun. Wade, I am told, only learned of
Jackson’s departure when she returned from her hols. It seems that her
deputy Fergus “Bogus” Shanahan had taken it upon himself to appoint
Omorogbe.

Wade now wants Jackson back. If he returns it is bound
to please one R Kemp, EastEnder’s hubbie of Wade. Bike enthusiast Kemp
is a keen fan of Jackson’s full-throttle views.

 

Want to see my fishnets? On yer bike!

ON
the subject of bikes, Guardian columnist Zoe Williams impressed Sky
News staff when she turned up at about midnight recently to do a review
of the papers. She was clutching her cycling helmet and wearing
scuffed-up cycle clips around her ankles.

Williams said she had
pedalled from her home in Camberley to the studio in Osterley. “It only
took about me about an hour and 20 minutes,” she told the lardy
desk-bound news team.

After taking part in a 10-minute segment,
the helmet-haired writer declined the offer of a courtesy car home and
mounted her bike for the return trip.

To the dismay of men who
gathered to watch her departure, Williams did not strip out of her
jeans to reveal a pair of fishnet stockings (Williams’ devotees will
recall a Guardian piece last May in which she revealed she wears
fishnets while on the saddle).

“All my life,” she wrote, “I’ve
been violently opposed to the practice of wearing tarty clothes for any
other purpose than getting laid… But I do find that wearing fishnets on
a bike significantly reduces your chances of being killed.

“Not
because everyone wants to protect your fabulous legs, just because
people notice you’re there, if only because they’re thinking, ‘What’s
that idiot doing in fishnets? She’ll only catch them on her gear set.’
Drivers who’ve noticed you rarely try deliberately to kill you. I have
laddered a lot of tights.”

Apparently, it was far too nippy for “tarty” gear when she left Sky.

 

Desmond deal scuppered for political editor

THE APPOINTMENT of Macer Hall as political editor of the Daily
Express may have come months earlier had owner Richard Desmond not got
himself involved.

I learn that Desmond was encouraged (by an outside source) to offer the job to Sunday Times deputy political editor Andy Porter.

Express editor Phil Hill felt that Hall, then on the Daily Star, was the best man for the job.

But Desmond, renowned for his persuasive powers, insisted on Porter and so he was the one who was offered the position.

Of
course, as Porter served out his notice at the Sunday Times he was then
offered the Sun job as George Pascoe-Watson’s number two, and duly
accepted. It left a vacancy at the Express, so Hill got Hall in the end.

 

Cutting costs, cupboards and Christmas cards

WHEN it was announced (in Axegrinder, of course) that Alex “Ban”

Bannister was leaving the Express to join the Daily Mail, Fleet
Street soothsayers grimly predicted he would impose the same sort of
severe cost cuts he had carried out for Richard Desmond – including,
extraordinarily, the closure of stationery cupboards.

It was déjà vu all over again this week. The Mail’s supplies of notebooks and pens were abruptly halted.

Stunned journalists were told they would have to buy their own tools of the trade.

Ban’s
ban lasted just a few hours. It was lifted by executive managing editor
Robin Esser the minute he was alerted to the crisis. Esser told his
inner circle: “I’m glad I found out before it was too late. Imagine if
Axegrinder or the other media pages had found out about it – they’d
have had a field day.”

MEANWHILE, hard times continue to hit the
House of Rothermere. Lord R’s Christmas card to execs shows two of his
delightful children posing… with bare feet. The poor kids have no shoes!

No wonder the family silver is being sold off.

 

the 1pm girl

EVENING
Standard reporter Isabel Oakeshott (pictured)n emails to confirm last
week’s item that she has signed up to be deputy to Sunday Times
political editor David “Crackers” Cracknell.

“I’m very much
looking forward to it,” Oakeshott says of the job that was previously
turned down by 22,725 journalists (approximately).

For reasons
best known to herself, she gives me a rundown of her CV: “Standard for
three years, very happily – latterly as political correspondent, and
previously as health correspondent.

Prior to that I was on the Daily Mail as a political reporter, and before that I was the Sunday Mirror’s (wo)man in Scotland.”

However, she quite rightly takes exception to my mention of her “lightly freckled nose”.

Oakeshott adds sternly: “I am, in fact, an entirely freckle-free zone.

I attach a headshot. Hope you can clear all that up next week.”

THERE
is a certain tension at the Independent on Sunday. New political editor
Marie Woolf is struggling to fight off the challenge of Whitehall
editor Francis Elliott, who keeps getting scoops.

Elliott felt the job of political editor should have been his.

The way their stories are being treated suggests he’s at least considered the equal in rank of Woolf.

I fear it could end in tears.

DAILY
MAIL “deputy editor” – that’s how they describe him on the switchboard
– Martin Clarke is hiding in a third-floor office with a designer.

One
theory is that he is working on a re-design. Let’s hope, if it’s true,
that he bears in mind those all-important women readers. They may not
appreciate his sense of humour – after all, this is the man who once
said: “Some women are discouraged from breast-feeding by their
partner’s jealousy at baby hogging the teat. I don’t see why – most
women have two.”

What would ladies who love the Mail make of that?

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