Diary: Rupert facing a holy war?

While I was taught from an early age to show proper respect to the confused and the elderly, the sight of a beaming Rupert Murdoch proudly clad in his shorts this week made me think more Mr Burns from The Simpsons than all-powerful head of a morally bankrupt media empire.

Now troublesome types suggest there are ominous whispers coming from the Diocese of Westminster no less, where I'm told there's a growing feeling that the old rogue's papal knighthood dating back to 1998 might not necessarily be a good thing. Rupert, or the Knight Commander of St Gregory, as he likes to be known in religious circles, received the honour after reportedly giving an unspecified sum to a church education fund – a year later he donated £6.2m to help to build a Catholic cathedral in Los Angeles. While the Diocese – and indeed the Vatican, for that matter – curiously had better things to do when I got in touch yesterday to get an official response, I'm told senior church figures are "looking into the matter".

In the meantime, we can only imagine the gems Rupert comes out with when he goes to confession.

* That tired old weasel Paul McMullan has cut an unfortunate figure on our screens ever since the former tabloid hack was dragged out of a drainpipe to offer his professional take on the current News International crisis. McMullan, a former deputy features editor for the News of the World, has been seen coming off a poor second-best when attempting to cross swords with former red top victims Hugh Grant and Steve Coogan in recent days. Indeed, following his mauling in various London television studios, the dishevelled-looking fellow could hardly be blamed for wanting to bid a hasty retreat to the relative safety of Dover, where he is these days the landlord of the Castle Inn. Unfortunately, owners of a similarly named Kent establishment some 25 miles up the road have been experiencing unwelcome attention from both the media and potential lynch mobs, courtesy of the mistaken belief the "Muckraker" is residing there.

"Well this McMullan guy is certainly causing a stir," announces the Dover Castle Inn, Teynham, on its Facebook page. "We've had numerous phone calls from the media trying to speak to him – the last one 11.30pm yesterday. And now this morning I have had an email calling him all the names under the sun." With an understandable hint of desperation, we're reminded: "So once more, if anyone is looking at this... Paul McMullan runs the Castle Inn, DOVER. We are the DOVER CASTLE INN at TEYNHAM!"

* What with yesterday being a quiet news day following those minor reports that both our former Prime Minister and the Queen were victims of News International's henchmen, The Sun proudly stood out from the crowd by refusing to splash on the revelations. Far more relevant was the exclusive news that, after the birth of the Beckhams' fourth child "pals" had told the paper that Victoria might not want a fifth. While this exclusive dominated the front page, a more trivial tale was reluctantly tucked into the top left corner, acknowledging claims The Sun's deceased sister paper the News of the World paid protection officers up to a £1,000 a pop for details on the royals.

It seems a new, potentially regular feature in this column over the coming days could be the ill-fated anecdotes of clearly damaged former News of the World journalists now keen to share their pain with anyone kind enough to listen. Kicking things off, one such former employee emails me the following about a company executive, during the latter's career as a reporter. "I've never forgotten the way he abandoned a Wiltshire doorstep during the Cecil Parkinson love child saga," emotionally recalls the said correspondent. "He disappeared with a pretty young girl reporter, only to return the next morning expecting us all to help him 'catch up' on the story, so he could pretend to have been there all the time." How much lower can these people sink? I hear you ask.

* My attempt to note the Daily Mail's predictably rubbish attack on Steve Coogan yesterday curiously drew an angry response in some quarters. One of Steve's many female admirers writes in with the following warning: "I should remind you that competition in the journalistic world is rife at present with the sudden influx of ex-News of the World employees."


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