`Newsnight' truce is broken as Kearney rounds on Paxman

The Newsnight presenter, Jeremy Paxman, and his political editor, Martha Kearney, are at loggerheads again.

The two, pictured right, had signed an uneasy truce after Kearney accused Paxo of sexism. The pugnacious interviewer had been sending out jokes about dumb blondes to a BBC mailing list in his regular Newsnight round- up e-mails. Kearney took great offence.

Now she has been given the chance to exact revenge on her colleague. Writing about the history of women in broadcasting for the BBC's website, she reports that Paxo is still up to his old tricks. Kearney notes: "A line from a recent programme from my esteemed colleague, Jeremy Paxman, introducing an item on whether women can make good scientists: `And now our science editor, Susan Watts, has put down her knitting to give us this report.'

"I think it was a joke," snipes Kearney.

Warming to her theme, she continues with delightful details about how female producers were known as "news tarts", and how she used to have her bottom pinched.

When Paxman was e-mailing the blonde jokes, the political editor was the first to confront him. Woman's Hour anchor-woman Jenni Murray joined the attack and a poster of Paxo's face hanging in the BBC foyer was defaced.

Yesterday Newsnight put on a brave face. "They enjoy a fantastic relationship both in and out of the office," insists a spokesman.

Freya calls Belle to account

BELLE DE Jour - the self-publicising escort girl who has just published her diaries - has a rival.

The bestselling novelist Freya North, left, has become the latest literary figure to cast doubts on the veracity of Belle's account, and tells me that she should know.

"One of the characters in my new novel uses prostitutes," she explains at the launch of Love Rules at Soho House.

"So I decided that I needed to do some research. I got hold of my local paper in Muswell Hill and a whole load of those cards from Soho phone boxes and called around.

"I found the girls charming and friendly and very down to earth. I was nervous at first, but they were all surprisingly willing to help.

"But the one thing Belle de Jour is not is down to earth. Life on the street just ain't like she describes it."

Golf clubbed

THAT MISCHIEVOUS imp A A Gill has set a cat amongst the pigeons of the golfing world.

In the first of a regular new column for GQ magazine, Gill, right, describes the game thus: "It is, by its very nature, the bottom line of tastelessness and naff. It is also overtly racist and class-ridden, groundlessly snobbish and humiliatingly sexist. Golf is wrist-gnawingly tedious to watch and disembowelling to listen to. Golf is a fundamentally stupid game."

A spokesman for St Andrews Golf Club leaps to the sport's defence.

"The fact that over 200,000 rounds are played here annually and that the game has survived for 600 years tends to indicate it is a sport a great number of people find extremely fulfilling," he says, confidently.

Position vacant

IN DECEMBER, the Speaker, Michael Martin, lost his private secretary when the latter resigned over a difference of opinion with his master. A month and a half on, the position remains vacant and, according to Martin's office, there are no plans to fill it immediately.

"I can't tell you when we will appoint a new secretary," I'm told. "It will be advertised in due course, but it's a matter for the Finance Committee and people like that."

Strange, according to Westminster sources, because to fill an empty but existing position should not be difficult.

"There's a lot of speculation that they're not bothering because Martin is preparing to step down himself after the election," whispers my mole.

The latest celebrity vehicle to hit the London stage is A Life in the Theatre, starring Patrick Stewart (of Star Trek fame) and Joshua Jackson, the American heart-throb from Dawson's Creek.

While much has been made of both men by the show's publicists, Stewart admits that he, for one, had never heard of his co-star before they began working together.

"If I'm honest with you, I'd never seen an episode of Dawson's Creek in my life. I didn't know who he was," Stewart said, at the show's opening night at the Apollo Theatre.

"When the idea of collaborating with him was touted around, I had to ask various friends and contacts if it was a good idea."

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