Axe Grinder 30.06.06

Dacre has no chance of nicking Matt

THE DAILY Mail’s cunning strategy to poach the Telegraph’s finest members of staff has reached new levels.

For I can reveal that Mail editor Paul Dacre is trying to hire Matt Pritchett — better known as that Telegraph institution, award-winning cartoonist, Matt. It is said that many Middle England readers consider his witty illustrations to be the best thing in the broadsheet.

Dacre has instructed former Sunday Telegraph editor and new Mail exec Sarah Sands to lure Matt from his drawing board at Canary Wharf to Associated HQ in Kensington. Sands, if you like, is Telegraph gamekeeper turned Mail poacher.

Negotiations have been kept under wraps… so don’t breathe a word please.

But when I got a Canary Wharf exec legless on Monday he told me: “Matt has been offered huge sums to jump ship. What the Mail doesn’t know is that he will be staying here. He’s more than happy at the Telegraph. Promising to give Matt a whacking great salary might impress others, but he is not driven by money. We don’t even need to give him a pay rise to keep him.” This is not the first time Dacre has tried to poach the cartoonist. I understand the Mail carrot was dangled last year after the departure of Telegraph editor Martin Newland — Matt’s brother-in-law. This latest attempt comes in the wake of Tom Utley’s decision to quit the Telegraph and take £120k to join the Mail as a leader writer and columnist.

Water Wag — Gardner sinks his chances

BRITISH HACKS who have invaded Germany for the World Cup have one mission in mind — to infiltrate the Wags (wives and girlfriends of England footballers). Getting close to the likes of Victoria and Coleen has not been easy, but Andy Gardner — freelancing for The People — deserves top marks for effort.

Employing his usual charm, the former Sunday Mirror crime correspondent managed to position himself at the same table as a gaggle of Wags, forgetting to mention that he was a tabloid reporter. Gardner then produced a credit card, drinks were ordered and to start with it was all rather jolly.

However, someone must have spiked Gardner’s Evian because he fell asleep at the table. As he snored, the girls then examined his two mobile phones and were horrified as they scrolled through the text messages. There were orders from the newsdesk which talked of “digging the dirt” on his female companions.

Gardner’s phones, I am sorry to say, went to a watery grave — they were chucked in the river by the girls. He has since returned to Blighty.

Tigerish Sly’s bedroom: the bear facts

THERE’S MORE to report on Sly Bailey’s Limehouse townhouse which reportedly contains a controversial photograph of the Trinity Mirror chief exec posing in the nude.

Bailey’s loyal underlings are putting it about that the picture in the master bedroom is not a photograph of their naked and enchanting boss, but instead a watercolour of a woman with clothes on. Who to believe? The person who viewed Bailey’s home or the loyal servants at Canary Wharf?

It’s no use asking the estate agents — they have clammed up on instructions from “the client”.

Nevertheless, more details of the townhouse have made their way to this column. They are a bit sketchy, but here’s what I know… The bed where Ms Bailey sleeps is apparently festooned in a white and turquoise, tiger-striped-style bedspread — oh, and the curtains match.

It is not for Axegrinder to comment on Bailey’s sense of style (or indeed lack of it). Yet interior designers are rarely flattering about people who put up curtains which mirror (so to speak) the bedcovers.

It doesn’t end there.

On the floor in the “living space” of the pad in Blyth’s Wharf, there is a dead animal. Or rather, the skin and head of a dead animal — one source tells me it is a polar bear. Another insists it is a brown bear. Let’s pretend it might be a tiger — to continue the theme of the curtains and duvet cover.

That’s a First — quins story was made up

FIRST magazine hit the shelves last week with a two-page feature about Qiao Yubo, the woman in China who is expecting quintuplets.

Thirst mag goes to press on a Friday. If only staff had bothered to do a Google search they’d have found this report in the China Daily: “As people are widely concerned about the health of Qiao Yubo and her five babies in her phenomenally big belly, the super-pregnant woman confessed Wednesday to the local reporters and doctors that the whole thing was made up.”

Moore chance of knighthood with Cameron AXEGRINDER hears that David Cameron’s people at Tory HQ think Charles Moore is hungry for a knighthood.

A member of Cameron’s team notes that former Daily Telegraph editor Moore, who remains influential at the paper, has agreed to defend the Conservative leader at a coming debate being organised by Intelligence Squared.

“Some of us think Moore would love to become a Sir and we are glad he has become such a strong supporter of David,” says my Tory mole.

Sir Charles, as we will perhaps soon be able to call him, will speak alongside Tory MP (and former Times executive)

Michael Gove at the debate. The opposing, anti-Cameron view will be put by Peter Hitchens and Andrew Alexander, who will have to rely on Tony Blair for a knighthood.

Coming soon: Rebecca’s tales of lurid sex


THE DAILY Mail’s unfairly named poison dwarf*, Rebecca Hardy, has been excitedly dispatching manuscripts to publishers in a bid to become a bestselling novelist.

Hardy — whose Dacre-esque language so endeared her to the staff of The Scotsman, where she was briefly editor — certainly lets her imagination run wild in the pages of the work she wants published.

The manuscript, I learn, is held together by episodes of lurid sex and the sort of coarse language which would never appear in the Mail.

“It’s most disconcerting,” says one shell-shocked publisher who is drinking stiff brandies after seeing the narrative.

“On virtually every page the phrase ‘hard cock action’ appears.” The story, by the way, is said to be entirely fictional. It is the tale of a metropolitan journalist trying to make it amid the Henriettas and Camillas in the British countryside.

Hardy, meanwhile, relocated to the Cotswolds after her marriage to Sunday Express hack Mike Knapp collapsed.

Presumably that’s when Rebecc’a imagination started to run riot.

*The Little People of America website defines dwarfism: “A medical or genetic condition that usually results in an adult height of 4’10” or shorter, among both men and women, although in some cases a person with a dwarfing condition may be slightly taller than that.”

Walker happy to share glory with Eden

WHILE female gossip mongers have generally been happy to share bylines on their columns — the Express’s Day and Night team and the Mirror’s (now depleted) 3am girls, for instance — the male diarists have been less willing to acknowledge the help they are given by others.

The Sunday Telegraph’s diary editor Tim Walker is, however, a noble exception.

When editor Patience Wheatcroft asked him to combine his role on the Mandrake diary with that of theatre critic, he made it a condition that his deputy Richard Eden would henceforth share the byline with him.

“Richard has been a superb deputy over the past four years and this is long overdue,” says Walker. Hang on a sec.

Wouldn’t he always like to steal the

credit? “Yes,” he says, “When I can get away with it. But it’d be grand larceny not to give Richard this accommodation when I’ll now be diverted some of the time with reviewing.” Walker adds optimistically: “I hope other diarists who have loyal, hard-working deputies will follow my example.”

Yesterday in…somewhere or the other

WHAT is going on at Yesterday in Parliament, Radio 4’s once admirably factual report from Westminster?

The presenters have not only come over all matey and jocular in recent weeks, but last Friday they discussed at length Clare Short’s criticisms of Gordon Brown over Trident — even though Short’s attack did not happen in Parliament. Should the programme be renamed Yesterday in Politics? If it doesn’t report Parliament, is it perhaps breaking the BBC’s public sector requirements?

Who targeted the Pressgang Team cyclist?

PROBLEMS during the London to Brighton charity bike ride. The “Pressgang Team” successfully completed the 54-mile journey, but halfway there, Charlie Murray, of Sun Chemical, was knocked off the road.

Emailing chums to tell them about this incident, Murray says: “I was launched, bike and all, into a ditch, courtesy of some very kind soul (idiot)

who decided that I was his archenemy and cut across me when we were going downhill at a fair rate of knots. However being the courteous soul that I am, I got up (with the help of St Johns Ambulance) shook him by the ****** and continued with the journey bruised, battered and with a buckled wheel for six miles until the next Halfords pit stop where they fixed my wheel, but reckoned I was beyond repair!” Bruises aside, the team raised five grand for the British Heart Foundation.

Byline bandit Piecha nicks Murray’s scoop

CRACKING scoop earlier this month from Scott Piecha, sports writer on The People, who secured an “exclusive” interview with racing driver Jenson Button.

Button isn’t known for his love of the red-top tabloid. But Piecha managed to get the sportsman to talk. Under the headline, “Jenson fear” the sub-deck was: “I’d be devastated if I never became champ”.

And then Button let rip: “I’d be devastated if I didn’t win the championship because it’s what I’ve always wanted to achieve… If I didn’t win the world championship in the future I wouldn’t be able to live with myself.” Button spoke of, among other things, being “big-headed” and mentioned that he is “very patriotic”. All in all, a good read (if you like racing).

Think of the effort that Piecha must

have made to get this exclusive. The phone calls. The begging letters.

Breakfasts with managers. Lunches with agents. Dinners with publicists. And then keeping it all to himself so that no one else got a sniff of the story prior to publication.

In fact, he had done none of the above. Piecha was living a fantasy. He had simply flicked through a copy of glossy mag, F1 Racing, and spotted a sixpage feature on Button.

The exclusive interview was, in fact, done by national treasure, Murray Walker.

Piecha then shifted into fifth gear, speedily erasing Walker’s good name and replacing it with his own, and chucking it into The People as his own work.

This means that Piecha is now the proud owner of Axegrinder’s “Nicker” award for byline bandit of the week.

They’re all heart at The Independent

THIS WEEK’S green email at The Independent focuses on the tireless attempt to make the paper’s wheezing hacks more healthy and save the environment in the process…

“The closing date for the Cycle to Work scheme is Friday 28 July, so if you wish to participate and save up to 50 per cent on the cost of a bike and accessories through payroll deduction please click on the link below for further information.

“At the bottom of the page it explain [sic] exactly what you need to do in order to obtain a bike and accessories…”


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