Axe Grinder 16.06.06

Light lunches and late nights for Utley

REMARKABLE though it may seem, Tom Utley is already disenchanted with his job at the Daily Mail and is contemplating life after Kensington.

He joined the Mail as long ago as Tuesday of last week.

Even before signing up for the £120,000-a-year position as leader writer and columnist, the gifted writer feared two major problems.

The first was that the Mail does not have a lunching culture and Utley enjoys a long lunch.

The second was that the Mail leader writer job is considered to be the worst job on Earth and involves waiting hours for a response from the editor.

Now, just days after signing up, Utley’s fears are becoming reality.

At lunchtime, when he has attempted to make Steve McQueen-style great

escapes from the office others have sneered at him.

“I’ve been filing the column at 6.30 in the evening,” he has confided in former colleagues at Canary Wharf, “but don’t hear anything back until 10.30 at

night.” His head eventually hits the pillow at midnight.

I’ll say this only once: when Utley left The Daily Telegraph he was given an assurance by Murdoch MacLennan that he can return whenever he wishes.

Sly fuming at her penthouse exposé

SLY Bailey has (to coin a phrase) hit the roof after it’s emerged that not only is she selling her riverside home in Limehouse but that the property — according to The Independent — contains an enormous photo of the Mirror Group chief exec in an, erm, artistic pose.

On Tuesday, The Indy’s superb diarist Guy Adams reported that the townhouse in Blyth’s Wharf is on the market for £1.25 million. Of the photograph which allegedly hangs in the master bedroom, Adams quoted a viewer: “She’s covering her feminity with both arms and hands.” Mischievous Adams encouraged readers to visit Knight Frank’s website for a virtual tour of the property.

But since Adams’s piece things have moved on speedily.

Bailey is livid. She earns a fortune from privacy-invading tabloids, but she did not want her own private business “splashed all over the place”.

First let’s hear from Knight Frank press officer Davina MacDonald who is sheepish when Axegrinder calls.

“Unfortunately I don’t think I can comment at all,” she says.

“It’s under offer at the moment… The piece in The Independent wasn’t generated by ourselves.” Axe: “What about the picture of your client, naked?” Davina: “Is that what you want to expand on? We don’t want to follow up on that piece as you can imagine. I don’t think the client is very happy. She didn’t want it splashed all over the place.”

Axe: “But she runs newspapers. Live by the sword, die by the sword.” Davina: “I’ll get somebody at the local office to give you a ring.” Axe: “And the property seems to have been removed from the website.” Davina: “It’s been removed. And photographs of the property have been removed from the window of the estate agents, as requested by the client.” Over to Nino at the Canary Wharf office of Knight Frank.

Axe: “Have you seen the piece in The Independent?” Nino: “I have seen the piece in The Independent [giggles nervously]. We weren’t best pleased with it. I can’t really comment.” Axe: “If it was Posh and Becks selling their home then your client wouldn’t think twice about running the news in one of her papers.” Nino: “I’m just under orders to say nothing so I can’t comment.” Axe: “Is it correct to say the decoration is extraordinary?” Nino: “I think it’s a nice house. That’s all I’m going to tell you.” Axe: “Do you read the Daily Mirror?” Nino: “No.” Tune in next week for Axegrinder’s description of the property.

Glover shoots himself off his pedestal

THE Independent’s media section columnist Stephen Glover stepped into his Anglican pulpit this week to excoriate freelance hack Quentin Letts.

Glover and Letts may work alongside each other at the Daily Mail but that did not stop “Bishop” Glover assailing the Parliamentary sketchwriter and theatre critic for leaking stories to media gossip columns.

Whatever can have sparked this attack? Axegrinder hears that it was all to do with a diary paragraph about Peter McKay wanting to leave the Daily Mail and take over The Times diary instead.

Glover was furious that this highquality gossip should have reached the outside world and blamed Letts.

But who was the original source of this intelligence? Yes, you guessed it: the Bishop himself! After such a pious denunciation of Letts, the least Glover should surely now do is to flay himself, in the manner of a fledgling Opus Dei acolyte.

Yelland’s nose for news not what it was

THEY say you never lose your nose for a story but clearly no-one told former Sun editor David Yelland that old adage.

Last Friday the media pack descended on a South London estate to report the fatal stabbing of a teenager.

All the gang were there — the Daily Mail, the Evening Standard, ITN news and the local rag — knocking on doors and snapping pics of the forensics team at work.

So imagine their surprise when bespectacled Yelland strolled past the scene without a care in the world and without even a backward glance.

Clearly the PR supremo has his mind on higher things nowadays…

Critics with something to declare

ARE some of Fleet Street’s theatre reviewers becoming a little forgetful about declaring their interests? A few weeks ago The Guardian’s Lyn Gardner gave a rave review to street theatre show The Sultan’s Elephant — without mentioning that her byline had appeared on some publicity material issued by the production.

Now The Observer’s appropriately named Susannah Clapp has come over all positive about a play at the Soho Theatre written by a youth called Moses Raine.

Should Clapp not have mentioned that her name appears in Raine’s acknowledgements in the printed version of his script?

Is she a family friend of Raine and his dad, the poet Craig Raine? If so, should Observer readers not have been told?

A trumpeting from north of the border

FURTHER to last week’s column, Tom Little, acting editor of Scotland on Sunday, emails:

“I am sure I won't be the first to tell you that Scotland on Sunday is not, in fact, owned by the Barclay brothers.

They sold us, with the rest of the Scotsman Publication titles, to Johnston Press some months ago.

“I can only assume that Patience talked up our splash because it was a great story, well told. In fact, we regularly get a good show on Sunday AM. Cynics would say it is because Andrew Marr is an ex-pat Scot (and former Scotsman hack) but I prefer to think that it is because we so clearly lead the way in Scottish journalism every Sunday. But then, I would say that.”

Not the dish of the day

AND Sun TV critic, Ally Ross, has a word or two to say about last week’s item which reported that a condition of his lease prevents him from installing a Sky dish in his new appartment.

“It was me who was branded ‘ugly and offensive’,” says Ross. “Not the satellite dish.”

A load of old hobblers — as usual

NEWS OF THE SCREWS execs who donned boots to follow their editor Andy Coulson on the gruelling Three Peaks Challenge are said to be suffering.

A friend at the paper tells Axegrinder: “You have to be quite fit to climb moun-

tains and there are people now hobbling around the office. Some long-term damage could have been done.”

Asian author rescued from mauling

ON the Today programme recently, the Daily Mail’s Melanie Phillips debated multiculturalism with much-hyped novelist Gautam Malkani, author of Londonstani.

Malkani was struggling to answer John Humphrys during the debate, as can happen to the best.

But now on The Guardian website, “a mate”, Sunny Hundal — editor of Asians in Media and also a regular columnist at The Guardian — lays into Phillips and Today. He argues that “ripping apart Melanie Phillips’s arguments is like taking candy from a baby”. Hundal is also disappointed that his chum Malkani “was not allowed to provide more insight” by Humphrys. He says Phillips is “a pro and has been doing this for quite a while, he didn’t stand much of a chance, despite knowing exactly what to say and having superior arguments; call it stage fright.” Hundal rushes to Malkani’s defence, saying that some young middle-class British Asian boys “withdraw inwards” and can be “confused about their identity and hence have adopted a masochistic subculture…” Malkani, incidentally, was educated at King’s School Canterbury, then Corpus Christi Cambridge, and is also a hack at the Financial Times.

Psst… Chris Bl**!**rst is the new ****** at The Obs*!*er

CHRIS Blackhurst, all round good guy and highly competent City editor of the Evening Standard, will replace Frank Kane to become the next business editor at The Observer, I learn.

“Negotiations over salary are still taking place,” says my well-oiled source, “but I’m sure there will be a conclusion which keeps everyone happy. Once that’s done, The Observer can make an announcement about Chris.” Don’t want to steal the paper’s thunder, so pretend you never knew.

A bright Star or not? Go figure…

“BRING it on!” boomed the excited front page of the Daily Star last Friday, heralding the start of the World Cup.

Alongside the screaming headline were some Star-style “facts”: “32 teams, 64 matches, 96 hours of footage, 30 billion fans.” Hang on a minute. Thirty billion fans? The entire population of Earth is a mere 6.5 billion. Is the Star living on a different planet?

New name, and media, to worry Telegraph hacks

HUSH-HUSH this one, so keep it to yourselves. When the Telegraph moves to Victoria it will undergo a name change, I am told.

Once in SW1, the company will become the new and improved Telegraph Media Group.

The idea is that it will be a multimedia beast but conditions of the name change mean that staff will have to sign a new contract. “One of the requirements of the contract,” says my source, “will be that hacks must do podcasts.” Will this news send a shiver down the spine of environment editor Charles Clover?

Prezza gets his pants in a satirical twist

LARDY Deputy PM John Prescott gets a good ribbing in the satirical magazine, Bent and Twisted.

Under the headline, “Prescott’s wife shocked at revelations”, the story reads: “Pauline Prescott, 66, yesterday announced that she was ‘shocked’ at the latest revelations about her husband’s secret life.

“I’ve been married to him for 45 years,” she said in an interview published in this week’s Heat magazine. “I know the wife is always supposed to be the last to know, but he was so secretive about it.

“It came as a huge shock to discover that he was Deputy Prime Minister.

I never even knew he was involved in politics, let alone he was an MP — I mean, he never talked about it at home and certainly never did any constituency work or anything…” You get the gist. Anyway, one of the mag’s readers sent the spoof article to a friend who works at the Home Office.

A couple of days later the reader received a call from the office of the Deputy PM, wanting to know where the story had come from. Buffoon that he is, it seems Prezza was taking it seriously!

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