Axe grinder 07.04.06

Love’s labours lost for Telegraph bard

AT FIRST glance, it had every chance of turning into sweet romance. Jonathan Isaby, deputy editor of The Daily Telegraph’s Spy diary, was having dinner with chums and talking about his talents as a poet. From across the table a young woman called Martha, a House of Commons researcher, said, "Why don’t you write a poem for me?"

Inspired by wine, besotted Isaby headed home and created a six-verse love poem dedicated to Martha, an assistant to Tory party policy director Oliver Letwin.

For your consideration, here are the final two verses… Alas, for reasons not known, Isaby’s passionate stanzas failed to achieve the desired effect. Martha, I am told, had to take time off work. Isaby is being talked of in stalker terms.

When Axegrinder phoned to chat about it he sighed, "It entirely backfired. What can I say? It backfired. There is no progress report whatsoever.

The whole thing was all rather embarrassing. I’d clearly had a few, but I thought I would send it to her nevertheless. It’s embarrassing all round. Someone told me she has a boyfriend. Have you spoken to her about this?" No.

"It’s probably best if you don’t. I’m sure she just wants to forget about the whole thing."

But I’m not sure that pouncing is the very best way
To secure your affections, Martha, my dear;
I’d rather use my intellect, humour and wit
Though I need to make my feelings clear:

In the immortal words of Kylie Minogue
I just can’t get you out of my head;
And believe me, if you choose to be with me
You’ll be loved, adored, cared for and fed

– Jonathan Isaby

The latest line in a Wright royal slag off

AFTER losing its court battle against Prince Charles, The Mail on Sunday splashed last weekend with a nasty story about the father of Prince Harry’s girlfriend, Chelsy Davey.

Many will have seen this as editor Peter Wright getting his own back. But evidence emerges which suggests Wright’s dislike of Charles goes back way before the legal battle started.

A former Mail on Sunday staffer tells me: "Peter always had a very odd way of acting whenever a Charles story came up. If a discussion about Charles was pursued in conference, Wright would get more and more agitated, his leg going up and down under his desk.

"Often he would call Charles a ‘useless shit’. And he called Camilla ‘that horse’. God knows what he had against them, but it was certainly deep-rooted."

The recent legal battle, of course, is not the first fight Wright has picked with Charles and his family. MoS writer Barbara Jones delivered a story about Prince William supposedly killing a deer-like animal, known as a dik-dik.

Clarence House told Wright the story was untrue. But it was published, there was a complaint and Wright refused to back down. Only once the PCC got involved did an apology appear.

Another Jones story was about Harry going through a form of marriage ceremony with Chelsy. Other staff considered the tale to be bonkers, but Wright insisted on going with it.

A certain MoS executive recalls having to accompany Wright to a reception at St James’s Palace (before Charles had moved to Clarence House). I am told: "When Peter was introduced to Charles, Peter started sweating and shaking. He was very nervous at finally meeting the man he had relentlessly slagged off."

Declining bog standards? That’s rich!

DAILY TELEGRAPH columnist Alice Thomson uses the newspaper to bleat about how council tax bills have soared while the number of public loos has declined under Labour.

"I am paying £1,098 in council tax to watch an embarrassed elderly Japanese tourist being forced to urinate behind a tree, and to sneak my children into pubs when they’re desperate," whines Thomson about her bill from Westminster Council The heart bleeds.

But hang on a sec. Her hefty bill places the Bayswater home she shares with husband and Daily Mail columnist Edward Heathcoat-Amory in the authority’s Band G — the second highest possible and generally levelled only on homes worth at least £1 million. Surely she is living in utter comfort.

What Whiley reads on the way to work

RADIO 1 DJ Jo Whiley told The Guardian’s Media section all about her newspaper reading habits. In addition to the Daily Mirror and The Sun, Jo said she read "The Times on the train to get all the showbiz news". The more you think about it, the more amazing it is that Sir Simon Jenkins stayed so long on "the top people’s paper".

D’Ancona is ‘intrigued’ by PR link, honest

DOES Matthew d’Ancona’s vocabulary betray his defensiveness? In last weekend’s Sunday Times article about Editorial Intelligence, the new Spectator editor used the word "intriguing" to describe the interface between journalism and PR which he has got himself so ill-advisedly mixed up in.

On Monday in his interview in The Guardian, he says that he is "intrigued" by how little attached Spec staff are to their Doughty Street offices.

How "intriguing" indeed that he should use the same root word twice while making such questionable claims.

Cohen’s fate sealed quickly — and ‘barely’

EVENING STANDARD columnist Nick Cohen tempted fate with a comment that the instant response to mistakes on blogs and websites makes for better writing.

And fate duly stepped in to attack the lead sentence in another item on his page.

A thousand actors, he apparently wrote, have launched into Cole Porter’s "These Foolish Things" with that aching line, "A cigarette that bares a lipstick’s traces". Naked as nature intended, no doubt.

BBC sizes up Grazia’s TV potential

PETE Townshend’s favourite magazine, Grazia, looks set to become a TV show as well as a magazine. Managing director David Davies has been approached by an independent production company which wants to send the cameras into the mag’s offices in order to make a BBC fly-on-the-wall documentary.

Viewers would see Grazia staff discussing the virtues of handbags and glad rags.

Editor Jane Bruton is apparently up for the idea. It seems like good PR. But other women there fear the exposure could backfire badly. A source at the BBC tells me: "Readers of celebrity magazines might think the people behind them represent style and taste, but we’re hoping to find the new Armstrongs."

FT stable fills with Collins’s favourites

INTERESTING to see how many of Neil Collins’s protégés from The Daily Telegraph City pages have pitched up at the FT.

Paul Murphy has recently arrived to become editor of the new screen service.

He joins Charlie Pretzlik (editor of the second section), Dan Bogler (managing editor), David Wighton (NY bureau chief), Andrew Edgecliffe- Johnson (media editor), Sunny Tucker (Sydney correspondent), Dan Roberts (returning from NY to edit Lombard column) and Charis Gresser (Lex column in NY and married to Wighton).

They all worked under Collins in the mid ’90s and now form an incredible power base at the FT. It is a reverse takeover if ever there was one.

Clarke snubs Irish subs

MAIL EXEC Martin Clarke has long since returned to Kensington HQ, but over in Dublin, stories of his ass-kicking trip are still circulating.

When Clarke arrived at the Irish Mail’s office, one of his ingenious ideas was to create a booklet which was handed out to the "English" HQ-based journalists as they were parachuted into Dublin to assist with the launch.

Clarke’s helpful booklet explained to the new recruits how to pronounce a variety of "difficult" Irish words — e.g. "Taoiseach: Tee-sock".

Meanwhile, Irish staff felt belittled as the masses of Derry Street hacks arrived.

"No one is saying the Irish aren’t up to it," Clarke told the Dublin brigade reassurreassuringly, "it’s just that we need a big team."

However, just a day or two later the bonhomie was spoiled slightly. Clarke emerged from his office and screamed at editor Ted Verity, "Don’t give that job to the Irish subs — they’ll mess it up! Give it to the English subs."

Muffin Man isn’t miffed at hack’s exit

STICKING with Dublin, yet another hack has left the Irish Daily Mirror to join The Irish Sun. Michael Doyle has given up a staff job on the former to become a freelance working for the latter.

Cake-loving Mirror editor John Kierans, nicknamed Muffin Man (I’m sure his learned friends understand it’s only ever used in good heart and humour), has taken Doyle’s departure in good spirits.

Kierans delivered a brief speech to his remaining reporters: "I know you all hate me. I know you all love Mick [McNiffe, Sun editor]. That’s fine."

Draper is odd choice for PM ‘revelation’

MUCH head-scratching over the Mail on Sunday’s decision to use Derek Draper to "reveal" Tony Blair’s bid to thwart Gordon Brown last weekend.

Former spin-doctor "Dolly" Draper used to work for ex-Cabinet minister Peter Mandelson, but quit Westminster in 1998 after losing his job and flying out to San Francisco to retrain as a psychotherapist.

"God knows what Derek knows about the machinations of the Labour Party these days," sighed one insider at the paper. "He works as a shrink now and no one has seen or heard of him at Westminster for almost a decade."

Draper is, of course, best known these days as GMTV Kate Garraway’s other half.

Sindy’s email plea for texts

READERS of The Independent on Sunday have been invited to submit letters by sending them in text form to the editor. But Frank Jezierski, the paper’s associate production editor, was worried that not enough texts would be sent. Would it be a disaster?

So he emailed staff, begging:

"In order to ensure the service doesn’t go off half-cocked, it would be helpful if friends and relatives — youngish ones, probably — were encouraged to contribute, following the simple instructions on this Sunday’s Letters page.

Thanks in advance."

Keep an eye out to see how many of Jezierski’s "youngish ones" have their text letters published.

Begging letter of the week

Heart strings tugged at Manchester-based Cavendish Press on receipt of Andrew Nagy’s unusual job application. They still didn’t hire him, though. But we think his efforts deserve a wider airing.



Throughout England it’s a stark fact that countless talented individuals are striving to find work in the fiercely competitive profession of journalism. Andrew Nagy is in that position and for him life in unimaginably hard: “Life is unimaginably hard,” said Nagy, 25.

Andrew has become a shadow of his former self. Daytime television dominates his life, food is scarce and he’s not entirely sure where the next pair of pants are coming from.

As ever he tries to remain positive. His TV addiction means he currently has a higher news intake than Jeremy Paxman, the lack of food means that if the waif look ever returns he’s laughing and the pants, well, he’s still coming to terms with that.

Perhaps the greatest tragedy of all are his skills and qualifations going to waste. A BA Hons Journalism graduate, he’s already held the position of Editor at two high circulation B2B magazines. He’s also just returned from a round the world trip, where he worked for a Sydney based magazine chronicling his adventures round the country in 50 articles.

Add tot this the fact that he’s got experience editing www.nonleaguedaily.com as well as feature writing and research experience at Blowback, FHM, Loaded and FourFourTwo and it all adds up to a talented journalist whose skills are tragically lying dormant.

These sills will count for nothing if he has to work as a florist or hitman simply to make ends meet. With your help he could achieve so much more.


How often does ITV get the opportunity to not only improve the life of a fellow human being but enlist a talented writer into the bargain?

To employ Andrew and make a world of difference, simply read his CV and call on: 07877290969. He’s available at anytime – apart form during The Jeremy Kyle Show, obviously – to discuss his background and the Assistant Soaps Editor vacancy.

Please, waste no time, official statistics show an unemployed journalist becomes addicted to Quizmania every 28 seconds.

“Remember, buy a man a pint and he’ll stop out for half an hour, give a man a job and he’s out for the evening.”

Thank you.

If you’ve got an axe to grind, email axegrinder@pressgazette.co.uk


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