Axe grinder 17.03.06

Waterhouse isn’t taken for a ride

THE Daily Mail’s Paul Harris was sent to cover Ronnie Barker’s recent memorial service at Westminster Abbey, but for some reason the event’s most dramatic moment failed to appear in the paper.

Keith Waterhouse, the Daily Mail columnist and legendary Fleet Street hellraiser, was there in the pews when he suddenly suffered a black-out.

There were no smelling salts to hand, but the literary giant was helped out of the building and into the fresh-ish air of Westminster.

And there’s more. An ambulance arrived and Waterhouse, 77, was lifted into it but then, as if he were talking to a London cabbie, he boomed: "Earls Court, please!"

The ambulancemen explained that they were not "a taxi service" and explained that they were taking him to Chelsea and Westminster Hospital rather than home.

Waterhouse was having none of it. He did time at Chelsea and Westminster last year after he broke his arm when he fell from his bed following a seven-hour lunch. He has horrid memories of sharing a ward with snorers.

So he promptly climbed out of the ambulance and tottered off, doubtless for a jar or two. It was, as Barker might have said, goodnight from him.

MacLennan looks over his shoulder

AFTER his brutal sacking of Sarah Sands, should Telegraph chief executive Murdoch MacLennan start worrying about his own job?

One rumour at Canary Wharf, perhaps a little premature but nonetheless intriguing enough to earn a mention here, is that editor-in-chief John Bryant has been looking at MacLennan’s position and has been sizing it up for himself.

Bryant, who is closer to the Barclay family than any other journalist, went on the record in the Observer to make some distinctly unhelpful remarks about how Sands should not have to take all the blame (ie, MacLennan should share it) for the Sunday Telegraph’s problems.

Once the papers have moved to Victoria, is it possible Bryant’s temoporary stint as editor of the Daily might come to an end?

Staff ponder a truly moving experience

MEANWHILE, work grinds to a halt at the Telegraph as staff try to work their way through the 21 pages of mindnumbing bumf about the move to Victoria.

The listed benefits of the resettlement include these three… 1) "A reception is provided for courier deliveries, minimising traffic through the main entrance." In other words, all those oiks on bikes won’t upset the MPs and Cameroonians who come to court the Telegraph high command.

2) "There are 19 parking spaces." At Canary Wharf, the Telegraph has its own car park, so the move means there’ll be no spaces for hacks.

3) "Victoria Plaza has… passenger lifts with internal height of 2.6m." Great news for Telegraph staff who happen to be just under eight and a half feet tall.

Will the gag be on Stenson?

VERY hush-hush, this one, so keep it to yourselves. News of the World assistant editor Jules Stenson doesn’t want anyone to know he is making his debut performance as a stand-up comedian on 27 March.

He is frightened that fellow hacks will turn up to heckle.

Celebrities, vicars and sports stars who have been stitched up by the Screws might like to take a seat in the audience when Stenson tries to leave more people in stitches. Whether he is at The Comedy Club or The Comedy Store (both near Leicester Square)

remains a closely guarded secret.

Cabinet of curiosities

MORE evidence of the cosiness between Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger and Tessa Jowell’s estranged husband, David Mills. As revealed here last week, the pair are close chums and are in regular contact — despite the furore over Mills’s business dealings and the fact he is facing a corruption trial in Italy.

This week it emerged Jowell has not taken part in Cabinet discussions over Iran because of her husband’s business affairs there. Fleet Street ran banner headlines on Monday, screaming about Jowell’s "Cabinet ban" after the initial story in the Sunday Mirror.

But the Guardian’s political correspondent Tania Branigan ran the following bizarre intro to the story: "Tessa Jowell’s decision to remove herself from Cabinet discussions on Iran because of her estranged husband’s business links is evidence of her integrity, colleagues insisted yesterday."

Mmm. How much longer will Rusbridger remain one of the few still impressed by the "integrity" of the Mills duo?

Receipts were a giveaway

THE Sunday Mirror’s courageous reporter Stewart MacLean delivered a compelling exposé of Nazi groups in Britain — but how long did he manage to stay under cover?

The group he was infiltrating considered him ever so slightly suspicious when apparently he asked for receipts in the pub. MacLean was deemed to be "either a reporter or a red".

No pregnant pause for Libs

SIR Menzies Campbell’s wife Elspeth is a racy lady. Here, verbatim, is an exchange last week between the Independent newspaper’s tall, rakish sketchwriter Simon Carr and Lady Campbell.

Carr: "Are you going to have a baby to keep up with the other party leaders’

wives?" Lady C: "Are you calling me fat?" (Coquettish laughter.) Then, when pressed again by Carr, she said: "If I were to, it would have to be through IVF." Carr (gallantly): "Not while there’s breath in my body, it wouldn’t!"

Brute force fails to pay off

ONE of the rituals faced by any new editor in the Telegraph group is the telephone call from Bruce "The Brute"

Anderson seeking gainful employment.

Axegrinder hears that all three Telegraph supremos have indeed been blooded in this way, within but a hair’s breadth of their arrival.

Patience Wheatcroft had not even left The Times to become editor of the Sunday Telegraph before she had those dulcet Scottish tones on the blower, full of praises for her visionary style and her excellent credentials. In other words: "Gissa job, wee Patience!" Her response is not yet apparent.

John Bryant, editor of the Daily Telegraph, seems to have given Anderson a definite "no", for the Brute’s thunderous prose has yet to appear in Bryant’s organ, despite a forthright approach from our lad.

Emails strike fear at Gazette

AXEGRINDER is being encouraged to take a close look at the emailing activities of Ken Bird, editor-in-chief of Newsquest’s Somerset County Gazette newspaper in Taunton.

Bird has already despatched a severe memo to staff pointing out that some people are "putting their coats on at 5.29pm, when they are paid to work until 5.30pm". Now he sends another stern missive…"We have someone in the building tampering with the newspapers which are delivered to the offices each morning.…" Tampering with newspapers in a newspaper office — who’d have thought it?

He goes on: "Yesterday, an offer voucher had been cut out of one of the copies of the Daily Mail." Heavens.

"And Vincent" — that’s Vincent Bird, managing director — "has now discovered that the DVD which came free with his Sunday Times has gone missing."

The heart bleeds. "If anyone has taken it, could they return it please?"

Fat chance. "Please can we ensure that these office newspapers are not tampered with in future?" Heavy stuff.

Parting, such sweet sorrow

TEARS OF joy rather than woe over at the Mirror where the investigative duo Andrew Penman and Mike Greenwood are ending their seven-year partnership.

Greenwood is off to the newsdesk as assistant news editor. Paul Gallagher will replace him as Penman’s sidekick.

Greenwood and Penman seem cocka- hoop about their "divorce" and will be celebrating with a booze-up in Davys, the Canary Wharf dive.

Meanwhile, Mirror staff have mocked up this snap (right) to illustrate just how much Penman really cares for his ex-wife/husband.

Gill’s tribute is a Saul point

IT PAINS me to report that the grand and smug Sunday Times critic RAC Gill has dropped some clangers in his book, The Angry Island: Hunting the English.

Writing about the memorial to the Machine Gun Corps at London’s Hyde Park Corner (the one of a naked David leaning on Goliath’s sword), RAC refers first to the Corps as a regiment and then manages to misquote the legend on the memorial’s base.

He gives it as: "Paul has slain his thousands and David his tens of thousands."

Paul? He was the apostle who changed his name, in an early example of being reborn, from Saul.

The king who went around slaying his thousands was Saul.

It’s back to the restaurant reviewing for sloppy Gill.

Looking on the Black side

TELEGRAPH conspiracy theorists suggest that Sarah Sands (editorship of Sunday Telegraph, RIP) may have erred in one small but important way: she did not take Mark Bolland’s side in his row with Prince Charles.

Indeed, her paper’s coverage, if anything, reflected the view that Bolland was a highly dubious piece of work.

Fact: Bolland’s "husband", Guy Black, is personal publicity wallah to Murdoch MacLennan, the Telegraph chief executive who not only attended Bolland and Black’s civil partnership ceremony as best man, but also, later, fired Sands.

"Some of us wonder when Black is going to start attending editorial conferences,"

says one Telegraph figure.

Double take

Maxine Frith, social affairs correspondent at the Indy, emails the paper’s staff asking: "Has anyone else noticed the similarity between that nutter who stands at Oxford Circus at the weekend with a placard, shouting ‘We’re all doomed’ and a certain environment editor? And has anyone seen the two in the same room?"

Surely she’s not referring to her esteemed colleague, the ever-optimistic Mike McCarthy?

Ancient UFO sighting

It was good to see the good old British Rail Flying Saucer returning to the front page of the Guardian this week. Like an old episode of the X-files, it just keeps being repeated — as Martin Wainwright’s story from the venerable issue of 31 May 1978 shows. And he wasn’t the first — he picked it up from the New Scientist.

It’s been in the Guardian at least twice again since then and in many other papers — including the Derby Evening Telegraph. It tends to appear to gullible readers every seven years or so, invariably as a ‘discovery’

and once, possibly in the Sunday Telegraph, as an exclusive.

Any cuttings sightings gratefully received.

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