The Feral Beast

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The Independent Online

There are no free lunches at 'The Spectator'

Stephen Robinson will this week launch 'The Remarkable Lives of Bill Deedes', his biography of the former 'Telegraph' editor and Tory cabinet minister, at El Vino, one of Bill's favourite watering holes. But one little detail has been overlooked. After decades reading and writing for 'The Spectator', Dear Bill (left) cancelled his subscription a few months before his death, infuriated by what he felt was Andrew Neil's vulgarisation of his beloved magazine. Some felt the Barclay brothers, owners of 'The Telegraph' and 'The Spectator', might have ensured he received a free subscription when he was in the departure lounge of life.

Fancy a no-frills flutter?

Cheltenham aficionados seeking winners have been telephoning a curious daily hotline manned by the mysterious "Colonel Pinstripe", who not only regales them with racing information but also makes fruity – if not inappropriate – remarks about the sponsors of the various races. He even went as far as to insult the sponsors of the Ryanair Chase, calling the airline "one which insults passengers and treats the disabled badly". Ryanair boss, Michael O'Leary complained, but to no avail.

Out of the horse's mouth

Still at Cheltenham, my man with the trilby says he spotted former 'Telegraph' journalist Charlie Methven, who crossed to the dark side into PR and by all accounts loves his new-found career. Methven, wearing his trademark custard-yellow socks, spent most of his time chatting to the jockeys in the paddock. Does he have some potential clients up his sleeve?

Roger discovers radio works in mysterious ways

The 'Sunday Programme' on Radio 4 is designed to be a religious news show but a few blasphemous words must have been uttered in its studios last weekend. The programme went out on time as normal, just after 7am, but with a distinctly tinny quality. Presenter Roger Bolton sounded as though he was speaking into a metal bucket. The problems with the new computerised control panel multiplied and the programme had to disappear for a few minutes, sombre music filling the interval. Bolton, to his credit, handled the disasters with aplomb. When he came back on air he told listeners how much he had enjoyed the classical music interlude.

Second best is safer

The British Press Awards (winners next month) has a new category – journalist of the year. Two of the nominees are Rebekah Wade (pictured), 'Sun' editor, and her defence editor, Tom Newton Dunn. Says my mole at Wapping: "Poor Newton Dunn. Can you imagine how he will feel if he wins and Wade doesn't?"

'Telegraph' noise nuisance

Over at Telegraph towers, the new management is trying to show not only its multimedia adeptness but its eco-friendliness, too. And what a good example they've set in the canteen, where there are recycling bins for paper plates and cutlery. But their effort has been undermined in the women's loo. There, I'm informed, is a large supply of paper towels and a sign forbidding the use of the hand dryers. Apparently the dryers "make too much noise in the studio next door".

Close squeak for Cameron

There were pre-interview jitters in the GMTV studios on Friday prior to the arrival of "Dave" Cameron. Sources say no one was too concerned about tricky questions (there weren't any), but everyone got their knickers in the proverbial over the mouse in the green room. However, one staffer chimed: "Over at Classic FM, they have their own in-house mouse, called Jingle, so we'll have to think of a name for ours."

It takes one to know one

You couldn't make it up. Here's Richard Littlejohn, forgetting what organ he is spleening in these days, being tastelessly unpleasant on the subject of the failure to hold a referendum on the Lisbon treaty: "Had [Gordon Brown] been PM in 1939, he'd have done a backstairs deal with Hitler." Mmm. And doubtless Rothermere's 'Daily Appeaser' would have fully supported him.

Sweet rewards for sporting gossip

Anyone who watched BBC1's 'Sport Relief Does "The Apprentice"' will have seen Clare Balding, Kirstie Allsopp (right), Lisa Snowdon et al against the likes of Phil Tufnell, Kelvin MacKenzie and Lib Dem MP Lembit Opik. The teams were given empty, adjoining West End shops to sell goodies in, all profits to Sport Relief. But what, the Beast wonders, was the larger-than-life Jonathan Isaby, 'Telegraph' gossip columnist, doing in one of the stores? I hope the producers fed him doughnuts afterwards – his favourite snack.

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