Axe grinder 10.02.06

Will Chantelle rue messing with Max?

How PR guru Clifford was voted out by the Celebrity Big Brother winner

ONE MINUTE Big Brother contestant Chantelle was being represented by Max Clifford. The next she was being handled (as the jargon goes) by John Noel.

What happened in between, I can now disclose, was the sort of remarkable stitch-up not seen since the glory days of Singer sewing machines.

The story begins shortly after Chantelle’s incarceration.

She was, of course, the only non-celebrity, but it quickly became clear that, while she was thick, the British public adored her sweet, down-to-earth nature.

Although Chantelle was unable to communicate with the outside world, her mother approached Clifford. The PR guru, in turn, assigned his assistant Nicola Phillips to the case.

Phillips, a diligent twentysomething, eagerly took to the task. Deals were arranged with News International; another was done with OK! mag; there were talks with Richard & Judy. Clifford’s friend Simon Cowell, the X Factor judge with the Midas touch, was also anxious to give Chantelle a break in TV.

However, the Clifford-Chantelle relationship ended abruptly on the night of the BB evictions when the Essex girl won the contest.

"Nicola had gone to the Big Brother house to see Chantelle, but when she arrived she got the cold shoulder from Chantelle’s mum. She wouldn’t talk to Nicola," I am told.

"When Chantelle emerged from the house she was whisked into a room by John Noel… and she emerged being represented by him."

Clifford didn’t make a penny.

For what it’s worth, Noel also represents Davina McCall (and former BB housemate Jade Goody) — so inevitably there will be accusations of string-pulling, all of which will be denied.

Should any nasty stories emerge about Chantelle, it remains to be seen how Noel will deal with them.

While Clifford has won badges for his fire-fighting skills, Noel is the man who advised John Leslie when the presenter’s career went up in a blaze.

Theatre critic misses her cue

THE ARTS pages of newspapers quite often sound off about the poor behaviour of West End theatre audiences — how their mobiles chirrup in the middle of shows and how ill-disciplined theatregoers turn up late and have to barge their way in during the first scenes, causing disruption to everyone else.

So who was that arriving late for the first night of The Soldier’s Tale at the Old Vic the other night? Yep — Sarah Crompton, arts editor of The Daily Telegraph.

It’s worse. Her paper even sponsored the production. Oops!

News Channel blow for Nina

THE RECENT closure of ITV’s News Channel has been something of a bore for shiny-lipped newscaster Nina Hossein.

She only joined ITV News a short while ago, having been recruited from BBC London with much expansive talk about how she would be used on the News Channel and on ITV’s main evening bulletins.

Alas, Nina is now to be found presenting local bulletins on London Today, and is only an occasional sight on the main network shows.

Talk about back to square one.

Is this just an example of how the fates can be unkind? Or has one of her sister newscasters elbowed her in the ribs?

Bargain break — but without the bargain

WHEN IS is a Readers’ Offer not worth the paper it is published in? When it’s a Sunday Times bargain break, it seems.

The issue has brought author and journalist Chris Hutchins into a headto- head with his one-time employer, Rupert Murdoch.

Hutchins (in whose autobiography, Mr Confidential, Murdoch features at length) picked a one-night break in France from The Sunday Times’s Travel Direct supplement. He got it from a page headlined "Taste of France from only £35pp one night by car".

"I thought it a bit steep when I booked and was told my chosen hotel, the Chartreuse du Val St Esprit, was a bit special and the one night with Eurotunnel would set me back £338, but it’s an anniversary so I bit the bullet," Hutchins tells Axegrinder.

"When the invoice came in it clearly stated that not only was dinner and breakfast NOT included, but the double room — nothing special — was costing me £252. I phoned the Chartreuse and asked them if they had a similar room for the night in question and how much it would cost. €103 euros, — that’s about £80. So the ‘bargain break’ was more than a 300 per cent mark-up on the hotel’s normal price.

"I sent all the details to Rupert after first notifying the managing editor, Richard Caseby, of this scam. I know how Rupert hates being ripped off. He even takes Savile Row suits to Hong Kong to get them copied cut-price, so I can’t wait to hear what he thinks of his favourite paper taking its readers for such an expensive ride."

You can bank on the Indy

Newspapers have tried everything to boost circulation — from cutting prices to giving away free DVDs — so it only had to be a matter of time before they started literally paying readers to take their paper.

Buying a copy of The Week in WH Smith this week, I proffered the usual £2.15 coverprice. So imagine my surprise when the assistant at the till handed over a copy of The Independent and informed me that the purchase would now only cost £1.85.

Cheers, Simon. Too kind. But why don’t we cut out the middle man? I’ll be happy to double your circulation by taking 200,000 copies tomorrow at the same rate. I make that 60 grand. I’ll send you the bank details.

‘Til death us do part

AXEGRINDER reader Eva Johannson draws my attention to a press release from Shout! Communications.

Shout! has dispatched a report about National Marriage Week (7 to 14 February) in which a few facts and figures about marriage are included.

"The average wedding lasts 11.5 years," declares the release.

This will come a shock to future brides and grooms who were expecting to wrap up their wedding in a day.

Glover may have touch of the right stuff

THE Guardian announces that young Julian Glover is to replace Martin Kettle as chief leader writer.

Are they sure about this? Glover, a close friend of former Tory MP Matthew Parris, is not generally regarded around Westminster as a leftwinger.

Nice fellow and all that, but until now he has even been regarded as slightly to the right of centre.

Or is The Guardian now so keen to be thought the new paper of record, rather than the home of the Left, that a belief in Labour values is no longer required essential for its main leader writer?

The Commons is no place for honesty…

THE Evening Standard sales drive in Westminster is not going well.

As mentioned here recently, copies of the paper are available from an unmanned stand at the entrance to the House of Commons from Westminster tube station. Buyers of the paper are supposed to leave their 40p in an "honesty box" alongside the papers.

However, I am sorry to report that readers — MPs or hacks, or perhaps both — have been lifting the papers without leaving the cash.

A stern handwritten note now sits beside the stack of papers: "40p please.

These are not free."

Give it a week before the honesty box is pinched.

…neither is a BBC newsroom

BBC News is still shamelessly trying to claim the credit for exclusives by using its "BBC News has learnt" line at the beginning of an item.

On Tuesday, Radio 4 listeners were told that "BBC News has learnt" that Omar Khayam, the demonstrator who dressed as a suicide bomber, is a committed crack cocaine dealer.

Of course, the Beeb’s report should have started "BBC News has learnt from the coverage in national newspapers this morning that…"

Job hunter’s Wapping error

I’LL SPARE the blushes (for now) of the People hack who went for a job interview at the News of the World. He was foolish enough to agree to meet with news editor Ian Edmondson in the Wapping HQ of the paper.

Needless to say, it did not take long before his appearance was gleefully reported back to execs at the People’s base in Canary Wharf.

the 1pm girl life begins at lunchtime

WORD is going round that The Independent is about to take on a new executive who is currently "a very disgruntled sports editor" on one of the qualities.

Ben Clissitt is sports editor of The Guardian and is said to be feeling a tad dissatisfied with life at the moment.

What’s more, Clissitt is good mates with Indy editor Simon Kelner.

BAY City Rollers singer Les McKeown is set to sue the police for £160,000 in lost earnings after being cleared of drug dealing. He claims he lost tens of thousands after having to cancel gigs in the US while facing the charge. US gigs? Sounds very glam.

Trust he’ll be keeping his promise to appear on stage at the Ipswich Regent on 19 March.

That’s when BBC Radio Suffolk has hired flare-wearing McKeown to perform at the station’s 16th birthday party.

THE COPYRIGHT Club, in Pennington Street, is firmly on News International turf and is a favourite lunchtime haunt of hacks from the Wapping HQ.

But at the end of their meal customers are now being served Daily Telegraph-sponsored chocolates with the coffee and digestifs.

"Someone from the Telegraph gave us boxes of the stuff free of charge," discloses a waitress.

It’s guerrilla marketing like we’ve never seen before.

ANDREW Neil has apparently been dining out on the story about a lady who walks into a cocktail bar and says: "I’d like a Double Entendre."

To which the barman replies: "I’ll give you one."

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