Axe Grinder: 17 November 2006

Thar she blows! Spurned Susie on whale meat again

TO the delight of chuckling colleagues at the Sunday Mirror, reporter Susie Boniface has penned another travel piece that appears to draw on her troubled love life. As I revealed in September, Boniface used a feature on a singles' trip to Turkey to share her views on her split from Sun journalist hubby.

"Paragliding is one of the many things my soon-to-be ex-husband was simply too scared to do – along with parallel parking and picking up spiders," she wrote.

In her latest piece for the paper's travel section (12 November), Boniface compares her new friend, Flipper – a dolphin she met on a freebie to Virginia – to certain men she knows.

She writes: "For one, dolphins don't drink. Not even sea water. They don't roll up at 2am, throw up in the bathroom sink and leave it for you to find when you go to brush your teeth the next morning.

"Number two, they don't pretend that they're not going to swim off with the first desperate bit of blubber who bats her eyelashes."

Friends of feisty Susie are convinced that she has a particular "big-boned" whale in the sights of her harpoon.

Gilligan tip-off doesn't stand up

MY attention is drawn to a more gushing travel piece by the portly Andrew Gilligan in British Airways' High Life magazine.

In an article aptly titled "Spa Virgins", the "hardened" Evening Standard hack says, rather implausibly, he's never been anywhere as "dangerous" as a health spa.

So just what is Gilligan – best known for his role as a BBC reporter in the Hutton Inquiry following the death of scientist Dr David Kelly – so worried about?

His chums have warned him of the dangers of getting "stimulated" during the body massage sessions at the luxury resort in India, writes a quivering Gilligan.

After getting naked for his pampering, Gilligan reveals the attentive staff are "far too professional for that kind of caper". Having seen the accompanying picture of a prone Gilligan enjoying a head massage, it's not hard to see why.

No Lords-a-leaking in honours probe

AN army of political and crime hacks are desperate to get a decent revelation in the long-running "loans-for-lordships" saga that has engulfed the PM.

The trouble is that the inquiry – headed by acting Assistant Commissioner John Yates – has been one of the least leaky investigations by the Yard for some years.

The omerta has only increased the tide of highly speculative stories about Tony Blair's involvement – stories which have been largely ignored by Downing Street.

But that changed with a tale by Mail on Sunday political editor Simon Walters that the PM was consulting law firm Kingsley Napley for advice. Number 10 issued a rare on-the-record denial and insisted Blair had done no such thing. How did the MoS respond? By printing a correction? No chance. The paper merely said Downing Street had "accused the police of smearing them by leaking a one-sided account of the investigation".

That must be where the duff info came from then?

Harry Landale ditches specs

BUYING a new pair of glasses for his on-screen appearances turned out to be a big mistake for the BBC's political correspondent, James Landale.

The Old Etonian thought he'd copy his boss and political editor Nick Robinson – who sports a trendy pair of Gucci-framed specs – by getting his own distinctive pair.

"Trouble is they made him look like Harry Potter," chortled one colleague. "I think he wore them just once in front of the camera before ditching them."

Heaven forbid that Gilmore gets God slot

WHAT'S so embarrassing about being a religious affairs correspondent? I only ask because the idea of such a job has clearly upset pixie-like Margaret Gilmore.

The Beeb's home affairs correspondent demanded an apology – sorry, correction – from The Observer for daring to suggest she was being shunted off to write about religion.

The paper's For The Record column admitted that Madge was "leaving of her own accord and not because she was offered a religious affairs post".

Amanda bites the hand that feeds her

Amanda Platell vents her spleen in her Daily Mail column to attack David Blunkett for pocketing "around £650,000 for his assorted media appearances".

"Blair wants to stop criminals from cashing in on their crimes – how about extending that to disgraced Cabinet ministers?" fumes the anguished Antipodean – herself no stranger to picking up cash for media appearances.

Perhaps Amanda doesn't realise that among those contributing to Blunkett's coffers is her editor, Paul Dacre.

The Mail paid a handsome sum to serialise The Blunkett Tapes.

Sadly, we do not know exactly how much. According to the latest Register of MPs' Interests, Blunkett says the amount is "yet to be notified".

It just goes to prove Kim's point...

KIM Fletcher poured praise on the sterling work of sub-editors in a lengthy piece in MediaGuardian (13 November).

There was even a picture of a sub toiling away on screen at the very article by Fletch, which appeared in the paper on the subject.

Shame that the whole piece was undermined by the final paragraph which read: "Newspapers have found it difficulty (sic) to recruit subeditors over the last few years." Clearly, nowhere more so than The Guardian.

If Moore is less, blame those subs

Talking of subbing, it looks as if The Mail on Sunday's editor Peter Wright's execs have turned to a bit of judicious pruning.

Author and ex-Tory MP George Walden fired off a letter to the paper (12 November) to complain about some unfriendly fire from MoS columnist Suzanne Moore.

But his letter appears to have undergone some tactical editing.

Walden wrote that he wouldn't normally bother to reply to Moore's criticism "except that her readers have a right to know that she was commenting on a book she had not read. Not very professional".

Strangely, by the time the letter was published, it read: "Except that her readers have a right to know that she was commenting on selected extracts from a book."

Still, Moore can always blame the subs for the omission.

Eight out of 10 think polls are poor value?

READERS of the Daily and Sunday Express must be on tenterhooks for the results of the money-spinning phone polls, which they are asked to take part in each week.

The shock results of one poll last Sunday were that 97 per cent of Express readers were against green taxes. The second poll disclosed the even more staggering news that 94 per cent of readers who phoned in thought problem families should be housed in sin-bins.

Axegrinder hopes Express owner Richard Desmond might come up with a slightly more challenging poll next time.

How about: "Are phone polls that cost readers a minimum of 25p per call great value for money – or not?"

News reaches me of a tabloid reporter who has been carpeted by his bosses for calling "inappropriate" chatlines on his company mobile phone. The lengths some hacks go to in pursuit of a story.

Words of support for cruciverbalist

THE Telegraph's new crossword editor is a far cry from the string of pearls and sensible shoes image traditionally ascribed to cruciverbalists.

Kate Fassett, who took over this month from the revered Val Gilbert, turns out to be the long-standing office heart-throb of weak-kneed hacks at the Torygraph.

"Kate used to work in the library, and all the old male reporters were madly in love with her," Axegrinder is told by an underling of the editor.

"If Will Lewis is canny, he'll stick a photo of Kate on the crossword page every day. The Telegraph's older readers would be in heaven."

'Exclusive' was only 18 months old

AXEGRINDER wonders why The Independent's exclusive last week on Muslim cop Amjad Farooq suing the Met Police wasn't widely followed up. Could it possibly be because the story first appeared under the byline of The Sun's crime man Mike Sullivan in May last year?

BOSSES at the politically correct BBC will be infuriated to learn the nickname given to Sloaney young female graduates at the corporation.

The grumpy old men who make up the Beeb's old guard have taken to referring to the bright young things as "The Pony Club".

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