Victim of diarist's mudslinging chooses act of revenge in kind

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The Independent Online

When John Major inquired what sort of treatment he should expect from The Sun on the evening of Black Wednesday, the newspaper's editor Kelvin Mackenzie replied: "Well, John, it's like this. I've got this big bucket of shit on my desk and I'm going to tip it all over your head."

The tables were turned yesterday morning, however, when a journalist at London's Evening Standard was assaulted by a member of the ruling class who decided it was his turn to do a bit of muck-flinging, after apparently being slighted in the paper's gossip column.

Sebastian Shakespeare, the long-serving editor of the mischevious Londoner's Diary, which pokes fun at the capital's rich and famous, was attacked with manure at about 7am while in his car outside his home in Notting Hill, west London.

An assailant threw open the car door before emptying a sack of animal excrement over the journalist and his car. The attacker is believed to be a high-profile critic. Shakespeare later told colleagues he was a "well-known individual" who had apparently been upset by a short item in the paper the previous week.

"Sebastian arrived in the office, looking rather shaken, at about 8am," said a colleague. "He said he had been assaulted, but wouldn't tell anyone who did it. For most of the day, he had a stain on his shirt caused by a large dollop of the manure."

According to his colleagues, Shakespeare's attacker stayed at the scene shouting obscenities for several minutes. Later, however, he calmed down and agreed to visit a nearby coffee shop to discuss the story at the centre of the row. "It turned out that the man had been stalking Sebastian for four days. He'd searched the electoral register to find out where he lived. Unfortunately, the first house he staked out was a completely different property in Battersea, which Seb rents out, so it had taken some time to pin him down.

"The ironic thing, that emerged when they went for coffee, is that the man had been upset by a story that ran in Londoners Diary when Seb was on holiday."

Shakespeare refused to comment on the incident yesterday. He is Fleet Street's longest-serving gossip columnist and although yesterday's attack was unusual, it is by no means the first time he has received "comeback" for his scribblings.

In Alan Clark's final volume of diaries, the Tory lothario branded the 42-year-old a "tricky little prick" and a "little runt" when recounting a conversation with the reporter about applying for the safe Tory seat of Kensington and Chelsea in 1997.

Shakespeare also enjoyed a lengthy feud with Martin Amis over the writer's dental bills. Another longstanding enemy is the writer Zadie Smith, who was upset when Shakespeare decided to print an email from her, in which she begged him to secure tickets to see Madonna at the Brixton Academy.