Axe grinder 26.05.06

Suspicious times at Mail as secret shower shaggers keep shtoom

AN INVESTIGATION is underway at the Daily Mail, I am sorry to report, after claims that staff have been using the executive shower room for sex.

This disturbing news emerged following a complaint to the building facilities department that the third-floor shower room reeked of cigarette smoke.

The response was: "Yeah, we know someone has been smoking in there and we'd like to know who it is.

But first we want to find the people who are having sex in the shower room."

Precisely what evidence there is of sexual intercourse is not yet known to Axegrinder.

Knotted condoms, perhaps? Or well-squeezed tubes of lubricant? Bite marks on the soap-on-the-rope?

Heaven knows.

Meanwhile, word of the shenanigans is rapidly spreading through the Mail's Kensington HQ. Hacks who see themselves as modern-day Sherlock Holmes types are eagerly now trying to solve the Mysterious Case of The Shower Shaggers. While the gossip and finger-pointing intensifies, slander seems to be of no concern to these amateur sleuths.

As the Mail's own Ephraim Hardcastle would say, ain't life grand?

No nipples please, we're Mail readers

MEANWHILE, the Daily Mail censors have been hard at work.

Last Friday, London's Evening Standard ran the story about Sheridan Ritchie, the naturist who'll be posing naked at the Chelsea flower show.

The Standard article was accompanied by a snap of Ms Ritchie watering some flowers and showing off her left bosom and its protruding nipple.

The story was too good for the Mail not to run and that's what it duly did the following day, using the same shot as its sister paper.

But the Mail's Middle England readers were treated to a picture which showed a deformed version of the naturist — Ms Ritchie's bosom was still there, but her extended nipple had dropped off somewhere between the picture desk and final proofs.

Mirror and NoW fight for Macca spoils

A BITTER spat has erupted between the News of the World and the Daily Mirror over who really broke the story of Sir Paul McCartney's split from Heather Mills.

Both papers are trying to claim the credit for one of the biggest showbiz exclusives of the year as they dream of rewards at future award ceremonies.

The Mirror claims it revealed the news on 17 May and ordered the paper's "Ms Showbiz" Fiona Cummins on to the airwaves to boast about the scoop.

But just four days later, the News of the World reminded readers that it was "the paper that broke the story" on 7 May and ran a ragout of the splash "Macca Marriage in Crisis" to prove the point.

But the claim from Screws editor Andy Coulson "infuriated" Mirror editor Richard Wallace and his deputy Conor Hanna, according to my friends at Canary Wharf.

On Monday they retaliated by running a ragout of their original story which revealed "Macca to Separate".

With both sides refusing to back down, the two papers might be reduced to sharing the baubles when the prizes are handed out.

Did Polly put Sir Alastair in the picture?

SIR Alastair Graham berated Tony Blair this week for failing to deal with Government sleaze scandals such as John Prescott's affair with his diary secretary Tracey "+" Temple.

As chairman of the Commons Committee on Standards in Public Life, Sir Alastair accused the PM of "a major error of judgement".

Axegrinder wonders if he was given the inside track on Westminster sleaze by his delectable daughter Polly Graham, a showbiz writer on the News of the World which has lifted the lid on the sordid antics of many a minister.

Meanwhile, eyebrows were raised at Wapping where The Sunday Times broke the story about Sir Alastair's comments in an interview with Jasper Gerard.

Noticeably absent from the frontpage write-off was the byline of political editor David "Crackers" Cracknell.

The credit went instead to Gerard and, curiously, to Whitehall correspondent Robert Winnett, who is being seen by some at the paper as a potential replacement to Crackers.

People ‘scoop' is scuppered

"ROONEY & Coleen set to snub big bash," screamed the banner headline on The People.

Just a week before David and Victoria Beckham's glittering party, the paper confidently predicted (on 14 May) that the pair would be too busy to attend the £500,000 extravaganza at Beckingham Palace. Great scoop.

But hang on a moment. What's this?

Wayne and fiancée Coleen McLoughlin were "among the first to arrive" at the pre-World Cup shindig where they partied the night away.

Bryant's pants pic is hard for Mail to beat

THE Daily Mail's investigative hacks may be on the tail of Labour MP Chris Byrant following his TV appearance on Matthew Wright's Five show last Monday.

The ambitious Blairite politico spent much of the show launching a ferocious tirade against the Mail. Bryant's rant has gone down extremely poorly at Associated HQ with editor-in-chief Paul Dacre.

"He's either very brave or very foolish", says one senior hack at the paper.

But Bryant, a former clergyman and ex-head of European Affairs at the BBC, is no stranger to controversy.

He was once forced to apologise after posting a picture of himself posing in his underwear to a gay website. Even the Daily Mail would have trouble catching Bryant doing something more embarrassing.

FT hack's behaviour is simply snot on

ALL these bird flu stories have staff at the Financial Times's Westminster office dead worried. They're wondering if their colleague Chris Adams has the deadly virus.

For several months now Adams, a slightly aloof fellow who dislikes small talk, has been erupting with appallingly wet sneezes at his desk. "It happens about once or twice a day," says a neighbour in the room. "Chris just lets rip with the most disgusting, open-nosed, wet-snot sneeze. Globules of germs go flying round the room. He never uses a hanky. We're worried."

FT political editor James Blitz is too amiable a fellow to tell his underling to use a Kleenex, but the company's health insurers might take a different attitude.

A discreet book has been opened on how long fellow hack Ben Hall, who sits next to the ailing Adams, can survive the regular outbursts before he goes down with some terrible lurgy.

Flacks pay the penalty for ref's poor sight

CITY journalists played City PRs in a Hacks vs Flacks football match at the Bank of England sports complex last weekend.

It was a shambles, by all accounts.

The hacks' midfielders included Will Lewis, deputy editor of the Daily Telegraph. Half-way through the game, Lewis marched off the pitch, explaining to his bemused team-mates that he had a seat at the Beckhams' pre-World Cup party and didn't want to be late.

Meanwhile, the Standard's Jim McLean was the ref for part of the match and (surprise, surprise) awarded a penalty to the hacks after announcing the flacks had fouled. It was only over drinks later that McLean confessed that he was wearing contact lenses for the first time and everything on the pitch had been "a bit of a blur".

The score was six-all before the hacks secured a 5-3 victory on penalties.

Spectators are still telling horror stories of the fouls, but there's good news: some £5,000 was raised for Advance, the charity that helps children who suffer from cerebral palsy.

George: ‘I'd be a better editor than Bono'

IT appears that not everyone shares Independent editor Simon Kelner's smug delight at his decision to allow Bono to edit the paper for a day.

Respect MP George Galloway managed to get in a sneaky dig at the ruse in an interview with, of all papers, the Indy.

In response to a reader's question about whether he would like to edit The Sun, Gorgeous George replied: "I would love to edit The Sun for a day. I would be a lot better than Bono and I wouldn't wear sunglasses indoors."

Paper has thug punishment down to a T

MUCH-lauded editor of the independently owned and run Islington Tribune, Eric Gordon, attracted the attention of the police with a rogue headline.

Islington borough commander Barry Norman wrote in to say that, although the headline in question had led to him harbouring some unprintable thoughts about how the police could become more effective at reducing violent crime, they remained a long way from resorting to the tactics suggested.

Turns out it was just an honest mistake — a T had mutated into a G to give: POLICE HUNG SKINHEAD BULLY.

Coulson is encouraged by his ‘mates'

A QUICK glance at Andy Coulson's website shows that the News of the World editor has raised more than £11,600 for charity with his attempt to complete the Three Peaks Challenge — which involves scaling the highest mountains in Wales, Scotland and England in just 24 hours.

A host of Fleet Street chums have coughed up for Coulson's chosen charity — the Evelina Children's Hospital Appeal — and added the odd encouraging remark.

The word "mate" features largely in the messages: "I have every confidence in you, mate" (Neil Reading); "Don't forget to pack those extra socks, mate"

(Stephen van Rooyen); "Watch out for the rabbit holes, mate" (Gurtej Sandhu); "All the best, mate" (Can Faik). Generous Sun editor Rebekah Wade is sponsoring Coulson £1,000 ("No hope, every hope").

And NoW columnist Martin Samuel, who is donating £100, posts the following message on Coulson's website: "Can you believe the crawlers you get on here?" Mate.

Kavanagh's tip for Connery lookalikes

MEANWHILE, Trevor Kavanagh, associate editor at The Sun, has admitted that being mistaken for ex-Bond star Sean Connery is a double-edged sword.

Asked about the problem of being confused with a Hollywood star, Kavanagh says: "The upside is that sometimes I get better tables in restaurants, but the downside is that the tips have to be commensurate."

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