Oliver Duff's media diary

And shut the door on your way out!
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The Independent Online

STRETCHER-BEARERS to Kensington High Street, please, where crackly reports – interrupted by the sound of gunfire – suggest that one of the personal assistants to London Evening Standard editor Veronica Wadley has "walked", following a disagreement. "She had a screaming row with Veronica, then stormed out," claims a frightened witness. "That would be at least the third gone in the last three years."

When telephoned on Friday, Wadley was unavailable for comment. Her Australian secretary Rhiannon MacDonald, who holds the paper together by paying freelancers and expenses, was "on leave", although the editor's office insists that she will be back at her desk today. No doubt scrubbing the blood off the carpet.

UNLIKELY TO improve Wadley's mood is the departure from The Observer of Fleet Street's charming Mr Tourette, Roger Alton. Although he will be 60 in December, he remains, in the words of a colleague, "the king", and is "as charged as a bull elephant in must". Alton is rumoured to have been sounded out about the editorship of the Standard on more than one occasion, and staff at the newspaper gossip openly about working for him. Wadley must hope that recent circulation gains endure.

ONE RUMOUR that we can scotch right now is that, during a heated office row, The Guardian's editor, Alan Rusbridger, threatened to refer The Observer to the Press Complaints Commission himself unless it fell into line and apologised for July's ill-sourced splash linking the MMR jab with autism. Rusbridger – clothed, and sitting at his desk rather than at his grand piano – reassures me that this is "bollocks". Alton concurs. So Fleet Street's specialist reporters can stop gossiping. All right?

IS CRYING when your boss skis into the sunset touching, or just pathetic? Time, I think, to begin a "name and shame" campaign to out the members of Rog's staff who blubbed into their bubbly. The news desk, I am told, were gushing offenders. Indeed, the Obs are a weepy bunch, generally speaking. An incident last year comes to mind, when the artist Sebastian Horsley had Observer readers gagging on their Black Forest rye with his Easter Sunday advice column on the delights of anal sex. One fragrant senior arts journalist is said to have become so distraught that she confronted Alton about it in tears. Horsley was promptly instructed to disappear up his own backside.

THE CONSENSUS among Kamal Ahmed's colleagues at The Observer is that he quit the news editorship for three possible reasons. Firstly, because of Nick Davies's book and Ahmed's alleged association with the dodgy Iraq dossier, although Ahmed has denied input and said the book was not linked to his departure. The second theory concerns Ahmed's supposed political ambitions, which will be easier to achieve under the wing of über-panjandrum Trevor Phillips at the Equality and Human Rights Commission. The third factor, and by no means the least significant, was a visit Ahmed made to Roger Alton's office, in which it was reportedly inferred that he had risen as far as he was going to at the paper.

MOVING ON to more cheerful affairs of the heart. Cyberspace's one-handed surfers keep the words "internet" and "romance" estranged from one another, but there are, nevertheless, touching tales to be found on the web.

Conservativehome.com is a (rather good) Tory site edited by Tim Montgomerie (not the money-laundering, steroid-injecting former sprinter, but a disciple of Iain Duncan Smith). Tim prominently mentions one Nadine Dorries – a fruity, recently divorced Tory backbencher who has blogged about her "white, lacy" knickers – and runs a picture of her under the banner "Politics is for beautiful people". Rumours persist that Nadine, 50, has a toyboy, some 14 years her junior. A certain Tim Montgomerie. They say they are just friends. Either way, it makes you feel all warm inside.

SIT BACK and let that tingly sensation wash over you: the News of the World's showbiz editor, Rav Singh, a 39-year-old Leicester lad at heart, has whisked off his angelcake (and her young sons) for a lavish stay in New York. The lucky lady is Marion, the former Mrs Piers Morgan. "It is a family holiday with the children, a big deal," apparently. "It's a bit early to prepare your buttonhole, but he is very serious about her and wants to show his love."

FLYING OUT of the sun comes a timely oration from the former Channel 4 head of news and current affairs, David Lloyd. Ahead of C4's 25th birthday celebrations this week, he attacks the channel's programming and calls for a return to public subsidy: "Look at the schedules now. How Crap Is Your House?, followed by Loud Mouth Twerp Can Cook, followed by Can You Shag Ragged?. The channel has to be converted to a not for profit trust... to return to its founding spirit and culture." One to discuss over the canapés.

ONE CONVERSION that has gone horribly wrong is the £7.7m refurbishment of the Press Lobby's quarters at the Palace of Westminster. The telephones don't work properly, the old bar has disappeared, the women's khazi is broken and reporters are complaining already that they miss the musty ambience of mice droppings and decades-old dust. Coffee has soared from 40p to £1 a cup.

LASTLY... There can be few winners in a "Lesbian Tennis Coach" paedophilia trial involving a 13-year-old girl, but the Jon Gaunt Prize for Sensitivity goes to the Daily Mail for its insightful round-up of proceedings at Liverpool Crown Court. "According to Henry Wancke, editor of Tennis Today magazine," the Mail reported, "young hopefuls often suffer from the lifestyle that goes hand in hand with the sport." Keep it up.

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