Axegrinder 16.02.2007

Holborow's drink-drive ban story is on the limitt

THERE WAS much cruel hilarity in Kensington following last week's drink-drive conviction of former Mail on Sunday editor Jonathan Holborow. In case you missed the story — Holborow had been to a Tory party shindig and was driving home when police pulled him up; his subsequent breathalyser reading was so alarming that it earned him a 16-month ban from Kent magistrates.

The incident has brought to mind a story, perhaps apocryphal, repeated bitterly to me on several occasions by reporters who had fallen foul of Holborow over the years in his executive role either as news editor or editor. According to the story, Holborow might never have reached the editor's chair had it not been for a youthful indiscretion, while as a newly-recruited junior reporter on the Daily Mail in the Sixties, which apparently left him carless for a period of time. Holborow had apparently just been posted to Manchester when the alleged incident took place and, as a reporter unable to use a car was no use to the Mail, he was promptly dumped on the newsdesk — from there he climbed through the executive ranks until he became the editor of the MoS. He never went back on the road for the remainder of his career.

Now, it would seem, things have come full circle.

Sun Telegraph release has a qaulity touch

A RAP on the knuckles for the press release writer who sent out news about the circulation figures of the Telegraph titles. According to the release, "The Sunday Telegraph sold an average of 659,841 copies a day last month…" Isn't the paper sold only on Sundays? Meanwhile, "Telegraph.co.uk remained the UK's number one visited quality newspaper website in Jaunary". Jaunary?

Fat's the way to make a PR, er, exciting

MEANWHILE, hacks who dread receiving mind-numbingly dull PR emails will have been cheered up by this release from Faye Westrop at KMS Creative. Westrop might have spent hours pondering an attention-grabbing intro for her despatch, but in the end she came up with this…

"Good Afternoon. Hope everyone is well, if not I am sure you will be after reading this extremely important message regarding health and the removal of trans fat from every single aspect of cooking The Orchid Group manages within it's [sic] many restaurants."

Faye told the national media that she "would love it if you could find space within your publication to highlight these issues". So far, there's been one taker for Faye's trans fat hype — The Publican.

Todd ready to take on top role at Zoo

WHEN Ben Todd announced in November that he was leaving his job as assistant editor of the Sunday Mirror to become deputy editor of the weekly lads' mag Zoo, friends wondered whether he was doing the right thing.

But now let's look at how things have turned out at Emap, the company which publishes Zoo.

This week it emerged that Anthony Noguera, editor-in-chief of Zoo, was leaving the post to become editor-in-chief of FHM. This means that Todd could now rise through the ranks from deputy ed to take Noguera's job of editor-in-chief at Zoo. Not such a silly move, after all.

15k a week for Wright? How wrong is that?

SITTING next to Axegrinder's favourite table at Joe Allen earlier this week, were a couple of showbiz agent-types discussing projects for a certain "Matthew".

"How much does Matthew get for the show?" asked one of the diners, as she dissected the calves liver and bacon. "Fifteen grand a week," was the response.

Hushing my guests so that I could listen in a little more, I ascertained that the Matthew in question was in fact Matthew Wright, host of Channel 5's Wright Show and previously underpaid Daily Mirror columnist. At long last we have an explanation for that permanent grin on Wright's face. Why Dacre was speechless at Edwards' bash JOHN Edwards' farewell dinner last week lacked the one ingredient that is usual at "retirement" parties — a speech from the editor.

Guests who had gathered at Kensington Place to toast the columnist's departure from the Daily Mail, understandably expected to hear a few words from Paul Dacre.

Sadly, that is precisely what they got: a few words. "I made a speech at John's last farewell party," said Dacre. "I'm not going to do it again."

Welsh-born Edwards was presented with a cartoon by Mac. It showed a group of little lambs wearing Edwards'-style specs and the mummy ewe telling them, "Good news. Daddy's coming home."

Peter and the wolf leaves them howling

MEANTIME, the black tie bash had the funereal feel about it when sports columnist Jeff Powell started reading aloud Edwards' finest pieces.

These included a despatch that Edwards filed when he was covering the first Gulf War, and had the poignant line: "A lone wolf howled." This produced a moisty-eyed response from most guests, but the effect was somewhat ruined by Peter McKay (goes by the name of Ephraim Hardcastle), who started howling. In fact, he was still doing the wolf impersonations as he was poured into a cab.

Farrow fails Thunderbirds audition

GARY Farrow, the fire-fighting PR and husband of Sun columnist Jane Moore, was approached and asked if he would represent Danielle Lloyd, one of the Big Brother contestants accused of racial bullying.

"Are you mad?" replied Farrow. "I do damage limitation not international rescue."

Bizarre goings on at NI's gossip desks

The knives are out at Wapping between The Sun's gossip queen Victoria Newton and her arch rival Rav Singh at the News of the World.

Rav — billed as "Britain's hottest showbiz reporter" — used his column (11 Feb) to break another of his famous exclusives about Kate Moss and Pete Doherty. "Kate Moss has catwalked out of Pete Doherty's life to find her Mr Right, I can exclusively reveal," he boasted. And Rav certainly seemed to have the story nailed down. His unnamed "source" disclosed how Potty Pete was in tears at the break-up and was on the verge of sinking into "total chaos".

It appeared Rav had landed the big showbiz story of the year — the final chapter in what he called the end of the "Kate and Pete show".

Not quite. Just hours later, Vicky "showbiz writer of the year" Newton had her own very different take on the pair's relationship in the following day's Sun. She used the lead item in her Bizarre column to reveal: "Kate Moss has vowed not to give up on druggie boyfriend Pete Doherty and is splashing out on a remote love nest."

One of the supermodel's "close friends" told Newton: "She cannot leave him. She absolutely adores him."

Moss is even searching for a Scottish pad "similar to Paul and Linda McCartney's farm" (how did they suddenly pop up in the story?) as a rural hideaway for Doherty, asserted Newton.

So, Kate and Pete are definitely over — but they are very much in love and are getting a loveshack together in Scotland. Hope that's crystal clear?

Labour's £550 fee is taking the pass

TONY Blair has come up with a lucrative ruse to sting the political hacks who have made his life such a misery over the cash-for-honours scandal.

The cash-strapped Labour Party has emailed lobby journalists to reveal the fees for anyone who dares to make a late application to cover their annual conference.

The event kicks off in Bournemouth on 23 September, but anyone who applies for a security pass after 16 September will be charged an eye-watering £550. Any applications received after 1 August will incur an equally astonishing £400 fee — a massive amount given it that it allows the lame-brains at Labour HQ six weeks to sort out a pass.

So, woe betide any quaking political journalist who is forced to explain the huge charge to editors who, typically, leave their applications until the last moment.

Nelson's return is snow joke for readers

The fortunes of one News of the World hack appear to have enjoyed a swift change under new editor Colin Myler. Poor Screws columnist Fraser Nelson saw his full-page column shrunk to half its size in ex-editor Andy Coulson's final days before he walked the plank. But, not only is Nelson's column back to a full page under Myler, he was also given the facing page to give his insights on Tony Blair's education reforms at the weekend. However, some insiders at Wapping are less than impressed with Nelson's musings from "inside the corridors of power" which he also shares with his readers in The Spectator and The Business.

"Fraser's mates are all in the Tory Party," muttered one. "We want to know what is going on inside Tony Blair's Cabinet."

A tad unfair on Nelson, reckons Axegrinder — especially after his fascinating views last weekend (11 Feb) on recent snowfalls.

Nelson observes that the snow is heavier in Sweden, but the transport system still works — an "inside" fact for which Nelson thanks his Swedish wife.

Why Mail's Leslie might be in for a shock

The Daily Mail is "brilliant at scaring people" when it comes to public health issues like bird flu. Now, that's just the sort of snide remark you might expect from a pointy-headed columnist from The Guardian or The Independent.

But the verdict on editor Paul Dacre's shock tactics was delivered by the paper's own Dame Ann Leslie on a late-night paper review on Sky News.

Clearly, Leslie clearly meant it as a compliment. But the famously scary Dacre might have put it rather differently.

Sunday Express poll was really worth the  wait

THE Sunday Express really should put just a little more thought into the money-spinning phone polls it runs each week.

Following an unlikely story about plans to introduce a single syllabus across Europe, the paper asked readers: "Should Germany dictate to British pupils?"

The result? Yes: one per cent. No: 99 per cent.

What a nervous wait it must have been for that knife-edge verdict.

Oh Brother! Is Malone set to join Myler?

Spotted at the Ivy on Tuesday night: newly-appointed News of the World editor Colin Myler and Sunday Mirror columnist Carole Malone enjoying dinner together.

Did Myler arrange the cosy get together so that he could try to lure Big Bro contestant Malone over to a job at the Screws? Perhaps Daily Mirror editor Richard Wallace could answer that question? Coincidentally, Wallace was dining at a neighbouring table and within earshot of the Myler/Malone tête à tête.

Indy left like dopes over MoS exclusive

When is an exclusive not an exclusive? Well, when the two journalists involved sell it to a rival Sunday paper. The alleged dope-smoking past of David Cameron was the "revelation" of Francis Elliott and James Hanning of the Independent on Sunday. The enterprising pair have written a biography of the Tory leader and have been granted access to his inner circle.

Their tale of Cameron's alleged dabble with cannabis during his days at Eton was predictably splashed all over their own paper. But the pair sold the serialisation rights to the book to the Mail on Sunday, which also splashed the story as their "exclusive" on the same day.

The subsequent chaos that followed is documented by wannabe Tory MP and blogger Iain Dale: "The amusing part of this story is how the Mail on Sunday have a so-called EXCLUSIVE from two journalists from the Independent on Sunday. "Money talks, eh??

According to Dale, either Hanning or Elliott rang BBC News 24 to complain after the network wrongly credited their tale to the MoS.

"The BBC replied that if the Indy had bothered to tell them it was their story in the first place it would never have happened. Elementary PR, you'd have thought," chortles Dale.

Meanwhile, Hanning and Elliott's rivals at Westminster are questioning just how "unhappy" Cameron's circle really was about the story. Cameron's allies were allowed to "fact-check" the book, Elliott told News 24 viewers. A fact which would have given the Tory leader ample opportunity to quash the cannabis story — if he had chosen to do so.

If you have an axe to grind — or some scandal to share, email axegrinder@pressgazette.co.uk
Alternatively, call the Press Gazette newsdesk on 020 7234 2337

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