Axe grinder 21.10.05

Cameron’s pa-in-law takes it out on Heffer

IT WAS 2am but the champagne was still flowing when Simon Heffer
felt a jab in his G-cup bosom. The prod was followed by a tirade of
abuse which left him cowering in a corner, humiliated and embarrassed.

The right wing ranter, who has used his Daily Mail column to write
nasty things about Tory leadership contender David Cameron, had found
himself faceto- face with Cameron’s father-in-law.

Guests at last
week’s party in Venice, hosted by stinking rich Tory peer Lord
(Greville) Howard, looked on in delight as Heffer received the verbal
battering from baronet Sir Reginald Sheffield.

An eyewitness
says: “A few of us were aware that Simon and Reginald were within
spitting distance of one another. I think Reginald just wanted to do
his bit.

He went in all guns blazing, steam coming from his ears,
finger jabbing to the chest, that sort of thing. It was not a pretty
sight and went on for a good 10 minutes.”

Sir Reginald, father of
Cameron’s wife Samantha, was said to have been relieved that he “got it
off his chest”. In the hope he will elaborate, I have left messages at
his 18th century pile in Yorkshire. “He’s in France at the moment but
if he calls in I’ll tell him you called,” says his assistant.

Heffer, I am told, left the soiree minus the broad smile that had accompanied him.

It’s chi whizz as Mr Wong hits Wapping

RUPERT MURDOCH has sent his feng shui expert into Wapping.

A nattily dressed man by the name of Mr Wong has been touring the
News International complex, wearing an access-all-areas badge. He has
scrutinised the position of plant pots, fiddled with noticeboards and
studied the colours of doors. Senior executives have been told he is
there “to improve the life space”.

My source tells me: “Mr Wong
has changed the red carpet because it is too dark a shade of red.
Within the next few weeks, every back bench will have coins taped under
the desks to help bring peace, harmony and good fortune into their
lives.”

Telegraph boss takes flak over wartime legend

THE SEASON of goodwill is drawing near, so I am sorry to have to
report a tale of Telegraph cost-cutting that would put Scrooge to shame.

There has been uproar at the newspaper group’s Canary Wharf HQ
because the Barclay brothers’ chief pennypincher, group managing editor
Lawrie Sear, has considered stopping the annual payments to the famous
war correspondent, Clare Hollingworth.

“It is a shocking
suggestion because Hollingworth risked her life many times over so that
she could file her frontline reports,” says a Telegraph
executive. “She’s an institution.”

Back in 1939,
Hollingworth had beentravelling in Poland for The Telegraph when she
borrowed a car, nipped over the border into Germany, and noticed rows
and rows of massed tanks. She concluded that an invasion was looming
(though when she rang London to report that the Second World War was
coming, there was disbelief).

She went on to report from the war
zones of Algeria and Vietnam; think brave and fearless, and there you
have her. When Hollingworth retired, The Telegraph continued to pay her
a small pension – currently £10,000 a year – as a goodwill gesture.

Enter
ex-Daily Mail man Sear… with his calculator. OK, so maybe he was only
doing his job and perhaps he was unaware of Hollingworth’s importance
in the paper’s history.

When Sear’s proposal to stop the cash was
met with disbelief and alarm, he retreated into his bunker. Since then
he has not dared to raise the subject. “Clare, God bless her, is
91 years old,” says my friend at Canary Wharf. “There’s no
way we could cut off her money.”

And they’re off as going gets heavy at Post

MORALE has slipped so low at the Racing Post, I learn, that a hefty
chunk ofthe staff are hoping to jump ship and take jobs on a soon-to-be
launched rival.

Some 34 Post staffers have applied for jobs at The Sportsman, due to come out as a competitor early next year.

Staff
were angered by the decision to publish a grovelling apology to the Aga
Khan after running a light-hearted profile of the racehorse owner (as
reported in last week’s Press Gazette). They are equally peeved to
learn that their Christmas party has been cancelled. Last year Trinity
Mirror made £20m profit, give or take a million, from the Post.

Editor
Chris Smith may well end up feeling like the loser, while the winner
could be Charlie Methven, who will edit The Sportsman. Methven says:
“At the moment I’m too focused on what will be the first national
sports paper to be launched in 20 years. I haven’t got time to indulge
in schadenfreude.”

Petsy’s reasons to be absent

SCOOTER-DRIVING Scot Peter McKay has given Petronella Wyatt a
six-month contract to help him compile the Daily Mail’s Ephraim
Hardcastle column. I’ll be keeping an eye on the lass’s attendance
records.

Petsy, the delightfully posh and breezy daughter of the late Woodrow
Wyatt, has form for not pitching up to work, most notably when she was
a gossip for The Telegraph’s Peterborough column under Robert Hardman.
She gave perfectly plausible excuses for her absence.

On one occasion she phonedHardman and informed him: “I’m not coming in today – it’s too windy.”

Another
day she offered the explanation: “I can’t come in today. We’ve had a
domestic crisis. Someone’s stolen our garden furniture.”

The
classic Petsy tale involves the time Hardman took a call from his
underling’s mum, Lady Wyatt. The conversation went like this: Lady
Wyatt: “Petronella won’t be coming in today. She’s very, very poorly
and hasn’t left her bed.”

Hardman: “But Lady Wyatt, Petronella is sitting here now, at a desk opposite me.”

Lady Wyatt: “Oh dear. It’s tomorrow I should have phoned.”

We have ways of making you gobsmacked

WHEN IT comes to Rod Gilchrist, there can’t be a single soul who has
an axe to grind. Yet he deserves a mention in this column if only
because the mere mention of his name brings a smile to the faces of
those who have known him during his 35 year career in Fleet Street.

The other night he celebrated his departure from The Mail on
Sunday(where he was deputy editor) with a bash at Leighton House,
Kensington.

He reflected on Dougie Marlborough, who was briefly a showbiz reporter when the Daily Mail went tabloid.

Over
to Rod… “One day Dougie was sent to cover the Eurovision Song Contest
which was a big deal in those days. He was wound up by a rival paper
that the German singer, a very beautiful young blonde, was a former
member of the Hitler Youth.

“This was a gift to Dougie. He could just imagine what the the headline would be… ‘Nazi Songbird sings for Adolf’.

“So
the press conference began and showbiz reporters were asking the kind
of questions showbiz reporters asked in those days – stuff like ‘What’s
on the B-side of your record?’ and ‘Did you knit your own Lederhosen?’

“Then Dougie suddenly came awake.

‘That’s enough of this rubbish,’ he said.

‘What’s all this about you being in the Hitler Youth?’

“The singer burst into tears and said: ‘I wasn’t born until after the end of the war.’

“This
would have silenced most people but not Dougie. He was quiet for a
moment and then said: ‘Stop trying to change the subject…'”

Could a female colleague calm Crackers down?

THERE
are developments on Axegrinder’s recent item about The Sunday Times’s
exhaustive and costly search to find a deputy for its political editor,
David “Crackers” Cracknell.

I am told that two frontrunners have
emerged. One is Helen Rumbelow from The Times. The other is the Daily
Mail’s highly competent Jane Merrick.

As previously mentioned
here, Crackers’ demanding management style has not always been
appreciated by his staff. Surely he’d be softer with the ladies,
though.Crumbs!

The Muffin Man’s so excitable

JOHN Kierans, well-fed editor of the Irish Daily Mirror, has earned himself the nickname Muffin Man. But why?

I learn that he recently hosted a morale-boosting shindig in the conference room at the newspaper’s offices.

Glamorous
sales reps, as well as the editorial bunch, were invited along.Kierans
had laid on a nice spread of food but nibbling was prohibited until he
had delivered a rallying speech about licking The Sun and the Mail.

Halfway through his homily, however, Kierans was struck by hunger pains.

He
picked up a blueberry muffin and – unskilled at table manners – he
continued with the stirring speech, spraying saliva-coated crumbs from
his mouth and on to the audience.

One witness tells me: “An
executive had to apologise to the advertising girls afterwards for
John’s behaviour.” The concentrated strength of Kierans’ language was
another unsettling experience for his many of his guests.

Standard terms for redundancy

ANXIETY attacks have broken out at the Evening Standard after
executives received a letter telling them that their annual pay rises
have been “delayed”.

Veronica Wadley’s department heads assume this can mean only one
thing: management is working out who costs what and whether they are
worth it.

The mere minions have received their October pay rises.
But the execs are shuddering at the prospect of the dreaded tap on the
shoulder.

The 1pm girl

HE has shaved off the goatee.

Now will The Sun’s political editor Trevor Kavanagh unburden himself of the job?

Over a dreadful lunch in the Commons this week, the gossip centred on the great man’s future.

The
Sun lobby team has gone up from four to five with the arrival of
Michael Lea, back from Brussels. “The view is that Mike is being
groomed to become permanent when Trevor goes,” says a Commons source,
“and George Pascoe Watson would become political editor.” As I
understand it, there’s not even a permanent desk space for Lea at the
moment.

NAT MAGS seems to be stumbling over plans to launch a
reallife magazine, supposedly called Real People. It was due to be out
before Pick Me Up and Full House and a rumoured September launch hasn’t
happened.

The gossip is that no one will edit it because everyone
is worried it will flop. “I know four people who’ve been offered the
job and turned it down,” says a good source. I now hear whispers that
Maria Trkulja, who was dep ed at Reveal and left “to pursue other
projects”, could be offered the role.

ANYONE trying to fix a
lunch date with Sunday Times business editor John Waples is being told
by his assistants: “He’s not free for lunch between now and January.”

STUNNED
looks from the audience as Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson delivered
a speech to the British Society of Magazine Editors. He says it takes
him 20 minutes to write his column for The Sun. Why so long?

He
adds that he threatens to resign “every week” but adds: “Rebekah Wade’s
way of placating me is to say she will pay me more. Then she calls back
to say it will take her a while to sort out the pay rise because she
has to work out who she can lay off.”

Clarkson reveals the effect of Wade’s technique: “Instead of pay rises I have taken several pay cuts because I feel so guilty.”

Hacks behaving badly

Continuing this column’s theme of men in dresses, here is a snap of
Daily Telegraph district man David Sapsted (foreground) in a slinky
white chiffon number. Sapsted was celebrating the 25th anniversary of
his marriage to Anne-Marie, who is seated beside him and apparently
created her Cleopatra dress from the remaining chiffon. In the
background, from left, are: Sean O’Neil (Times) as a cowboy; Kelly
Scott and Paul Eccleston (Telegraph) as Sonny and Cher; Mike Horsnell
(Times) and wife Linda as Teddy Boy and Mod; Sandra Laville (Guardian)
as Star Trek’s Lt Uhuru; Ian Cobain (Guardian) and wife Jackie as
gangster and moll; and Ulster-born Sunday Mirror snapper Phil Coburn as
Captain Hook, looking like King Billy.

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