The Feral Beast

Sands bags Mays for new 'Reader's Digest'

Jane Mays, the long-serving literary editor of the 'Daily Mail', has left to join 'Reader's Digest'. She has been snapped up by my colleague and former 'Mail' honcho, Sarah Sands, right. Mays, is one of several recruits for the monthly mag, which is being relaunched in September. Former 'Telegraph' and 'Mail' hack Harry Mount will be joined by ex-'Telegraph' scribes Stephen Robinson, Bill Deedes's biographer, and David Jenkins, partner of 'Vogue' editor Alexandra Shulman. Mount and Robinson were casualties of recent blood-letting at the 'Telegraph'. "The firing of 'Telegraph' foreign staff was the best thing ever to happen to me," says Sands, who used to edit 'The Sunday Telegraph'. Also climbing aboard is ex-deputy ed of 'The Spectator', Stuart Reid. Sands has even managed to bag her Sun Tel PA, Hazel Gilbertson.

Hua's long march at 'Times'

The death of former Chinese leader Hua Guofeng elicited a varied response from obituary editors last week. 'The Guardian' marked the occasion with just over 1,000 words; 'The Daily Telegraph' cleared space for a 2,500 word obit. But it was Rupert Murdoch's paper that gave this important moment in Chinese history its due coverage: 'The Times' ran a yawn-inducing 3,724 words, filling two pages. No doubt Wendi will be pleased.

Boris beware, says Gilligan

Is the love affair between Andrew Gilligan and Boris Johnson coming to an end? In the run-up to the mayoral election Gilligan and his paper, the 'Evening Standard', were Boris's greatest cheerleaders, and it was widely considered to be the 'Standard' wot won it. Now Gilligan has issued a doom-laden warning that "without the right backup, he [Boris] will fail". Johnson has no shortage of detractors, but without Gilligan onside he really could fall.

Sopel takes the gold for looking 10 years younger

Has Jon Sopel had a 'coup de mieux'? The BBC news presenter has been looking radiant over the past two weeks while broadcasting from Beijing. But is it just down to the change of scenery? Although Sopel, turns 50 next year, he has been sporting a particularly luxuriant head of raven-black hair of late. Compare and contrast with pictures of Sopel covering the Boxing Day tsunami of 2004, in which his hair bears a slightly peppery hue, and he now looks several years younger. Good for him!

Rich & Judy's paper trail

So it was farewell to Richard and Judy, who appeared on Channel 4 for the last time on Friday. The good news for those without cable TV – they are moving to UKTV – is that the cheerful couple have struck a deal with the 'Daily Mail', launching a "New Writers Book Club". Good news for everyone except Richard Desmond, their friend and neighbour in North London. R and J are already signed up to write a Saturday column for his paper, the 'Daily Express', whose chief rival is ... the 'Mail'. What will Desmond have to say about that?

Please, Veronica ... relax

It's the silly season, but August has its upside as the month when editors take their hols. But there's no relaxing at London's 'Evening Standard' while its editor takes her break on Long Island. I'm told Veronica Wadley, has arranged for the paper to be delivered to her by air mail. You can take the girl out of the office...

Where's Auntie's umpire? There's trouble on t'pitch...

Much huffing at the BBC after my revelation last week that Mike Selvey has been dropped as a commentator from 'Test Match Special'. Producer Adam Mountford has written a rambling defence of the move on a BBC blog, in which he refutes allegations of "dumbing down". But it is not just fans who are up in arms – I'm told two senior 'TMS' commentators have been privately expressing their displeasure at the way the programme is heading. An insider tells me: "To be fair, it's not all Mountford's fault – he's just a yes-man for people higher up. In fact he's known as 'Noddy', as he just nods and obeys." Mountford, who joined 'TMS' last year to replace Peter Baxter, who produced the programme for 34 years, denies any knowledge of discord among the team when I call ...

Who's the 'dangerous dandy' now?

Geoffrey Wansell, hatchet specialist at the 'Daily Mail', was wheeled in after the death of Leo Abse last week. He duly filed nearly 1,000 words on the maverick ex-MP, headlined "A very dangerous dandy". He concluded that Abse's "most potent legacy was to have been responsible for helping weaken the institutions of marriage and family life". Wansell, should know. Only five years ago the flamboyant hack, something of a dandy himself, was divorced from his wife of 26 years. Wansell commemorated the occasion with a double-page spread in the 'Mail' entitled "Requiem for my marriage", which he adorned with photos from his family album. Doubtless the fat cheque helped ease his pain.

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