The Feral Beast

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Amanda demolishes women’s road cred

TV journalist Amanda Stretton is that rare thing – a female motor racing presenter. But sadly her credentials went up in smoke last weekend when, competing in the Le Mans 24-hour race, she crashed out in spectacular style within minutes of getting behind the wheel. After rounding only five corners, Stretton lost control and stuffed her team's quarter-million-pound Lola into a wall, writing it off instantly. More embarrassing still is that her disaster came four hours into the race after both her team mates, one of whom is her husband, had each enjoyed a successful two-hour stint, rising from 29th to 21st overall. Alas, I fear Stretton has set back the cause of women drivers the world over.

Patrick’s pipped to post

Integration at 'The Guardian' and 'Observer' is causing tension as staff battle over who gets which job. With five new department heads announced, the only 'Obs' employee to triumph is Jill Insley, personal finance ed, now head of consumer affairs. This is a blow for Patrick Collinson, who has, I gather, taken it badly. "It's quite hard on Patrick. His personal finance section is highly respected and he was the architect of the consumer pod concept," says a sympathiser.

Boris lets ‘balls’ stand

Boris Johnson biographer Andrew Gimson has added a chapter in which he claims BoJo has become a potential challenger to David Cameron. On the Radio 4 'Today' show last week, Johnson dismissed this as "a pile of twaddle". Over to Gimson: "Wonderful! When the book first came out, Boris said it was all balls. He then pointed out one mistake – a tiny error in a picture caption. But when I said I was happy to correct any other mistakes, there were none."

Class of 1989 gather for ‘Correspondent’ reunion

It lasted for just over a year and lost £30m, but those who worked on 'The Sunday Correspondent' remember it fondly. Now, 18 years after the 'Corry' collapsed in November 1990, staffers are gathering for a reunion. Many now-eminent hacks joined the paper, which launched as a rival to 'The Observer', including Henry Porter, Robert Peston, pictured, Mick Brown, Ben Macintyre and our business editor Margareta Pagano. Jonathan Freedland and Ian Katz shared the only traineeship post. The paper folded after the launch of 'The Independent on Sunday' in January 1990. Anyone wishing to attend should contact Andrew Morgan at

Gordon’s left bewildered by women in the lobby

It's been a year, but Gordon Brown still hasn't quite worked out who's who in the fourth estate at his monthly press conferences in Downing Street. At the latest such event he hailed a well-built, dark-haired woman as "Julia", inviting her to ask a question. It seems he thought she was Julia Hartley-Brewer, left, Amazonian columnist and former political editor of the 'Sunday Express'. She was in fact Benedicte Paviot, a traditionally built French broadcaster. Everyone at Westminster is now trying to work out which woman is entitled to take offence at the mix-up.

Hull’s finest on song

Fleet Street award ceremonies may have sobered up, but happily provincial hacks maintain standards. At the recent Regional Press Awards, the deputation from the 'Hull Daily Mail' turned up sporting their newly promoted football team's scarves. As fate would decree, it was named newspaper of the year. But every time another paper won an award, the lot from Hull, led by editor John Meehan, broke into the terrace chant "Who are ya? Who are ya?"

A walk too far for the BBC

What is the function of the BBC press previews unit? To send preview DVDs to journalists, you might have thought. So imagine the bewilderment of one critic who rang up one afternoon last week requesting a DVD, to be told he couldn't have it until the following day (after his deadline) as staff only walk to the courier desk four times a day and the last "walk" had just gone. How far is the previews unit from the courier desk? A 10-minute walk.

New ‘Statesman’ editor set to jacket in

Jason Cowley has yet to start as editor of the 'New Statesman', as a spokeswoman was quick to point out after a controversial leader in last week's issue spoke out in defence of David Davis. But when Cowley does arrive fresh from his editor's office at literary mag 'Granta', he will be leaving just as quickly. Not his job but his desk. I'm told that when he worked at 'The Observer', he earned a reputation for arriving at work, discarding his coat, leaving it on the back of his chair and then strolling off a few minutes later. Thus he became known as "Jason the Jacket".