Axe Grinder 10.08.06

Just picture it: the editor's daughter and the fugitive

I WONDER if Evening Standard editor Veronica Wadley's daughter Sophie Bower can shed a little light on the curious case of John Washington?

I only ask because, as the picture on the right shows, Oxford University undergrad Sophie is not exactly unacquainted with her fellow student Washington, who hit the headlines last month.

He went on the run after allegedly attacking a man with a champagne bottle in a St Tropez nightclub.

Fugitive Washington, 43, apparently assaulted financier Colin Hall, 35, because he thought he was flirting with his stunning holiday companion and fellow student, 21-year-old Laura Clegg.

Coincidentally, the American-born postgraduate chose to "break his silence" last month in a phone call to the Standard's sister paper The Mail on Sunday.

In a not wholly unsympathetic piece, he claimed that his drink had been spiked and that he had received death threats.

Ambitious Sophie clearly shares her parents' journalistic leanings. So far, she has enjoyed a stint on the Standard's Londoner's Diary.

Perhaps twentysomething Sophie — the daughter of Wadley and investigative hack Tom Bower — might now like to share with readers her thoughts on the riveting story of her university colleague?

Dude, where's my car parked?

BOSSES at the Telegraph Group appear to have a made an hilarious (to Axegrinder at least) oversight during their planned move to swanky new offices at Victoria.

When the move was revealed in December, the Telegraph boasted that it was leaving Docklands after 18 years for "state-of-the-art" offices owned by the Barclay brothers, the paper's plutocratic publishers.

Chief executive Murdoch MacLennan hailed the "positive and dynamic" changes which the two floors of palatial office space at Victoria Plaza would help bring about.

All very well, but someone's finally noticed a major problem. Unlike the paper's offices at Canary Wharf, there's no parking for the hacks, who might just have to hit the road in a hurry.

One "positive and dynamic" solution being considered involves retaining the paper's existing parking spaces at the Wharf. In the event of a major news story, Telegraph hacks would merely have to race off to Victoria Station, jump on board the Tube, change trains at Westminster and head all the way down the Jubilee line to Docklands to pick up their motors.

With luck and without any delays, they should be on the road a mere 45 minutes behind the rest of Fleet Street.

Now even lorry drivers blame the bloody subs

IT seems that one of the few "perks" on offer to worker bees at the wastelands of Wapping is the acres of free parking.

Or maybe not. Staff have just received an email ordering them to move their cars from one of the main car parks before 7pm each night.

Apparently, several badly parked motors have hindered the juggernauts which thunder out of the plant each night with the Murdoch titles on board.

The eye of suspicion has fallen on latenight subs.

Perhaps News International might consider subletting the space to their more deserving (and desperate) chums at The Daily Telegraph?

Never felt more like singing the blues…

Further to my revelations last week about the Westminster press pack's jamboree with Tony Blair to the States, I have tragic news about two hacks on the trip.

Sunday Telegraph political editor Patrick Hennessy and The Sun's George Pascoe Watson were desperate to meet their heroes — and I don't mean George Bush and Arnold Schwarzenegger.

The diehard Chelsea fans thought they could hook up with José Mourinho and the lads by getting invited to a party in Los Angeles where the team was on tour.

But their cunning plan was scuppered by Downing Street in its efforts to protect the PM from unwanted attention from the lobby following him on the junket.

The hacks feared the worst when Number 10's head of events, feisty blonde Jo Gibbons, demanded to see the guest list for the glittering event.

To the despair of Hennessy and GPW, an unwavering Gibbons — who just happens to be a Spurs supporter — declared: "Absolutely no media."

Is this a dagger I see before me? No, it's a prick

Auto-cutie Fiona Bruce is clearly keen to shed the stern image which earned her the nickname Lady Macbeth among her BBC colleagues.

The sacks of fan mail she receives include a letter from a modest admirer who informs Bruce that he has a "mediumsize penis". An utterly appalled Bruce exclaims in the Observer Woman magazine: "My God! You'd think you'd at least claim you were a pole-vaulter!"

Express hack casts her pearls before Swayne

Even by silly season standards, the Daily Express has come up with a preposterous suggestion as a replacement for David Cameron.

On Monday this week the paper's Hickey column tipped the Conservative leader's endearingly nutty and super-fit sidekick Desmond Swayne for the job.

The suggestion sparked hoots of laughter at Tory HQ. It came after MP Swayne was derided for writing a series of embarrassing memos which were promptly leaked to the press.

But insiders in Camp Cameron believe they may have an explanation for the gushing article about Swayne.

They believe the article was the handiwork of the Express's newest recruit, Katy Taylor-Richards.

She used to work at the Commons for matinee idol and failed Tory leadership challenger David Davis before defecting to the Express.

But, according to my spy in the Conservative ranks, Katy has "something of a crush" on the dashing Swayne. Expect more plugs for Swayne the swoon-maker soon.

The party girl who'd like to be on the shelf

IT HAD to happen. First the column — now the book.

Axegrinder can reveal that one of the original 3am party girls is — as the trio might have put it themselves — going to "lift the lid on the showbiz secrets behind the scenes at Britain's best-loved column".

Jessica Callan has secured a book deal from publishers Michael Joseph to tell about her five years at the Mirror's 3am.

"She was planning to write a novel based on the column. But the book is now going to be Jessica's true story about the celebs, the booze, the drugs — the whole party scene," whispers a pal.

"I think there are a few secrets that they and the other 3am girls must be praying won't appear in the book," confides a Mirror insider.

Pneumatic model Jordan and her footballer ex Dwight Yorke are among the host of celebs certain to appear in the book, to be published next year.

I guess that means everyone else has a few weeks to plead with or bribe Jessica to be nice about them.

Forget showbiz news… here's a bunch of arse

The Daily Star's "award winning" showbiz hack Joe Mott has returned from his holiday and is back blogging. But Joe, where's the showbiz?

Axegrinder only asks because he dropped into Mott's online column only to read the following insight on the world of celebs: "You can keep your hotpants and your miniskirts. I want blue denim stretched taut over the cheek, with just enough give in the fabric to allow for a little quiver while walking or dancing.

"Plus, if you lovingly slap it, it must — MUST — wobble for at least 1.5 seconds, or it's of no interest to me.

"I know this makes me sound a bit pervy, shallow and sexist, but I'm not. I just like bums where many men fixate on breasts."

In a crushingly apt comment on this soft porn, a sub has headlined Mott's musings "Bunch of Arse" and posted a photo of a denim-clad female bottom on the site.

Why the Mail's human bomb went ballistic

Is no one at Associated too lowly to feel the wrath of the Daily Mail's Martin Clarke?

The infamously irascible Clarke has continued to climb the greasy pole under Paul Dacre, but that doesn't seem to have mellowed him.

According to my mole at the paper's Kensington HQ, Clarke exploded when a security guard informed him there was a bomb scare.

The luckless guard went around telling everyone, including Clarke who was editing for the day, that police were investigating a suspicious car parked outside.

But Clarke was furious at the suggestion that his team should leave the Mail's third-floor offices and head downstairs to the canteen until the scare was over.

"How long would the scare take?" barked Clarke. "Five minutes? Half an hour? Two hours?" Didn't the guard realise that Clarke had to get a paper out?

The guard politely explained to Clarke that he had no idea long it would be until what passes for normality at the Mail returned.

With an aggrieved scowl, a chastened Clarke slunk off and left confused hacks to ensure their own safety until the alert was over.

Hard Times on the Thunderer's business desk

The Times's new business editor, James Harding, has clearly got a head for figures — at least when it comes to his watching his own expenses.

As part of his efforts to fill the stilettos of the paper's former business chief, Patience Wheatcroft, the ambitious Harding has embarked on a "getting to know you" exercise with his minions.

This has included breaking bread with the underlings over breakfast. The trouble is that pennywise Harding has left some of his underlings to pick up the tab.

Things wouldn't be quite so bad if Harding wasn't getting the business team's floor space redesigned to create his own office.

So, is George cruising for a bruising in the High Court?

Just when News of the World editor Andy Coulson thought it couldn't get much worse, I hear his legal manager Tom Crone will soon be working overtime.

The paper found itself on the wrong side of legal judgments over its "fake sheikh" Mazher Mahmood and the maverick Scottish politician Tommy Sheridan.

A now there's the, ahem, little local difficulty with Clive Goodman. If that wasn't enough, I also hear that the Screws might be batting on a sticky wicket after printing pictures of George Michael following one of his strolls on Hampstead Heath.

Not only is Michael talking to his lawyers, but I'm told the other chap named in the story, Norman Kirtland, is also seeking legal advice.

Let's talk about sex — or then again, let's not

Talking of George Michael, I'm perplexed about the role of two of the columnists at the Evening Standard.

"None of the young gay men I know go cruising except one," writes the paper's heavyweight writer Johann Hari, who gives a frank account of his own homosexual preferences in a piece on the pop legend.

How unlike the paper's dating columnist, Laura Topham, whose rare mentions of anything remotely sexual have included a quick snog (nothing more, mind you) over a can of Stella in a park.

As one critic put it, her column is "about as interesting as a floor tiling convention in Dagenham, but with none of the glamour".

Exposed: First editor's trivia shortcomings

Those delicate souls at First magazine are apparently unimpressed with their editor's nose for hard news, which is supposed to be one of the title's selling points.

Staff gave former Heat deputy editor Julian Linley, who runs the show, an impromptu news quiz.

Apparently he was stumped when it came to naming the two countries involved in the Cold War, according to my sources.

Worse still, when asked who uttered the historic phrase: "I have a dream,"

Linley replied: "Chantelle." He was clearly joking, wasn't he?

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