Paxman declares BBC boss Thompson 'clearly insane'

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* Jeremy Paxman has never been one to shy away from a fight, but Newsnight's rottweiler-in-chief may have bitten off more than even he can chew - after launching a scathing attack on the BBC's director-general.

* Jeremy Paxman has never been one to shy away from a fight, but Newsnight's rottweiler-in-chief may have bitten off more than even he can chew - after launching a scathing attack on the BBC's director-general.

In a private e-mail to a colleague, which is about to become very public, Paxman says that Mark Thompson, far right, "is quite clearly insane".

The comment follows a lengthy correspondence, in which Paxo's colleague Anthony Massey claims he was once attacked and "bitten" by Thompson in the BBC newsroom.

"Gosh!", writes Paxman. "I wish I'd got this earlier... The bloke is quite clearly insane."

Massey goes on to detail other tales of bullying, including an (unsubstantiated) report that Thompson attempted to throttle a picture editor when he was editor of the Nine O'Clock News during the late 1980s.

"Bloody hell," responds Paxo. "If any of this came out, he'd be toast."

Paxman's correspondence with Massey took place earlier this year, while he was preparing to interview his DG on the subject of - among other things - the BBC's programme of redundancies.

The exchange was intended to form a background to that interview, but came to light when it was leaked yesterday.

Through a spokesman, Thompson yesterday admitted the biting incident, but described it as "a bit of horseplay that backfired". He formally denies ever throttling a member of staff.

* SARAH JESSICA Parker is said to be "mortified" at her (supposed) replacement as the face of Gap clothes by the soul singer Joss Stone.

Strange, then, to hear that SJP just e-mailed Gap's executive vice-president, Jeff Jones, to ask what all the fuss is about.

"The first SJP knew about this row was when she was sent recent English newspaper clippings, so she asked what's going on," I'm told.

"Jeff's reply said that he'd no idea. Joss Stone isn't going to be Gap's new face anyway, and the row's been totally cooked up by the press."

A Gap spokesman adds: "SJP was a brand ambassador, and was used in all our global TV, print and in-store adverts for three seasons. Joss Stone is in just one TV advert, which will only air in the US. She's certainly not our new face."

* MICHAEL FLATLEY is an accomplished swordsman, but there are times when the squillionaire Lord of the Dance star fails to "score".

The aristocratic supermodel Jasmine Guinness recalls being on the receiving end of Mr Flatley's charms after meeting him for the first time.

Says a chum: "Flatley was pretending to be a hypnotist, saying: 'Jasmine, look into my eyes, I am going to LA in my private jet, and you are coming with me.' Jasmine found it faintly revolting, and told him to get lost."

Quite right, too: Miss Guinness is a woman of impeccable taste, and remains devoted to her fiancé, Gawain Rainey, with whom she is shortly to have a second child.

* COULD THE former Labour and UKIP politician Robert Kilroy-Silk be about to part company with his third political party? There are rumours of an ugly power struggle at the top of his new "firm", Veritas.

According to senior party sources, Kilroy-Silk was threatened with replacement as leader at a recent meeting of his own ruling executive. Apparently, a leading financial backer is unhappy at the "direction" of things.

Putting meat on this bone is tricky, though. The official Veritas press officer strongly denies any putsch. As well she might. Her name is Jan Kilroy-Silk, and she's the former chatshow host's wife.

* The first PR stunt of the election silly season is upon us. Ann Winterton, the Tory MP for Congleton, has been sent a pedometer by her Labour opponent, Nick Milton, in an effort to see if she is (in his words) "one of the laziest MPs in Britain".

It follows this column's discovery - reported in October - that Winterton hasn't held a constituency surgery for 21 years. The revelation followed her brief suspension from the Tory party for telling a tasteless joke about cockle-pickers killed in Morecambe Bay.

"I'm challenging Winterton to get off her bum and record the number of steps she takes in the election campaign," says Milton. "I'll also wear a pedometer, and we'll post the results on my internet site." The wonders of modern democracy!

pandora@independent.co.uk

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