The Grey Cardigan 02.06.06

IF RULE One of newsroom life is always make friends with the secretaries, Rule Two is never, ever, fall out with the subs.

They might look like a docile bunch of old buffers, more concerned with a mysterious shortfall in the tea fund and their troublesome prostrates than the cut and thrust of blatant ambition, but fuck with these old boys, and they'll make your life a misery.

In future that beautiful intro you spent hours crafting will be ripped from the womb and claimed as a smart-arse standfirst. Your byline will be mis-spelt, your sources will be questioned, your grammar mangled, and if you ever make a genuine mistake it'll be bolded up, displayed in a panel and then be the subject of a regretful memo to the editor before breakfast.

Cut to the Daily Mail gulag on Derry Street during leader conference.

Lord Dacre is away on his hols, and the poor sap in charge is trying to second, third and fourth guess the maestro, who's lurking malevolently on a sunbed somewhere exotic.

The subject is Ruth Kelly (who still reminds me of a fag I used to beat at school) and the original draft contains a sentence that goes something like: "… if anyone thought giving John Prescott's job to Ruth Kelly would sort out the Government's problems, they had another thing coming".

Yes, that's right, "another thing coming". Now as far as we cardigan- wearers are concerned, this is just bollocks. It's "another think", not "another thing". Eny fule knos that. Objections were duly lodged and, remarkably, ignored.

The offending words were published and much is the gnashing of dentures on the subs' desk as they know they've been made to look silly in front of their peers on rival newspapers.

Retribution will doubtless be swift. And vicious.

I HAVE grown weary of those Sunday morning kiss-and-tells, wherein some chemically-enhanced "model" tells how she accompanied a minor soap star or second division footballer back to his hotel room before indulging in the "best night of my life", "seven times", "he knew how to satisfy me", "shoved his phone up his arse and asked me to ring him"… blah blah blah.

Frankly, they bore me limp.

However, my interest was aroused when The Mail on Sunday's US correspondent Caroline Graham turned up to anonymously dabble her fingers in Earl Spencer's misery as he tried to flog "Althorp"furniture to fat Americans in shopping malls. Having inveigled herself into his inner circle by buying an over-priced trinket, the lovely Caroline is invited to "Come back and talk to me later when I've finished".

At this point, a mundane story could well be heading for page one at a rate of knots.

But thank God for English gentlemen. The Earl, whose wife has just had a baby, walked out of the store at the end of the night and into a waiting limo before returning to his hotel room to "crash".

The lissom Ms Graham is thus left sitting in a reproduction chair, possibly cursing that escaped splash. (Oooer, Missus.)

AS THIS week's diatribe seems to have turned into a DMGT special, I'll leave you with this marvellous memo to company car drivers from the group currently boasting in its accounts that it has managed to sack 850 regional newspaper employees in the past year.

"When driving with your air-conditioning on," it reads, "keeping your windows closed can reduce fuel consumption." I'm sure Lord Rothermere constantly reminds his chauffeurs of this money-saving tip.

You can contact me, should you be minded, at thegreycardigan@gmail.com

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