In the blue corner: Saatchi vs Tarzan - it's a jungle out there

By Oliver Marre
Saturday 06 July 2013 04:36

Hezza's Haymarket Publishing company - where, by the way, Saatchi started his career - produces Campaign Magazine. The publication was involved in a minor spat with Immediate Sales, an advertising firm owned by Saatchi, over its recent reports that the Tories planned to change advertisers. Immediate Sales demanded a retraction, and told Pandora at the time that it was "just untrue".

What a difference a month makes. Saatchi's company now looks almost certain to be sacked by the Tories since it emerged that it charged £769,000 for its work. The mogul has also lost the support of key members of the party's ruling board. And by the end of the year, Saatchi's friend, Michael Howard, will no longer be leading the party.

Although Heseltine's magazine stops short of accusing Immediate Sales of lying over the initial story, it claims that the ad men were "economical with the truth" and Lord Heseltine would like an apology. However, none is forthcoming.

"At the time of the article, the current leadership was still working with my company," says Immediate Sales's chief executive, Michael Moszynski. "Until the leadership issue is settled, this is still a non-piece of gossip."

* Catholics are a forgiving bunch. Having lost control of his newspapers, sold his Kensington townhouse, and currently living out of a London hotel, Lord Black of Crossharbour has been given a chance to redeem himself.

A rubber ring has been thrown to the former Telegraph group proprietor by a weekly newspaper, The Catholic Herald, which is running a competition to find the greatest Catholic Briton. While the most controversial inclusion will be Shakespeare, who is not widely thought of as a papist, it has asked the disgraced press baron to put forward the case for Cardinal Newman.

"He's agreed to do it, and it will be appearing in the paper at the beginning of September," I am told. "He is an authority on Newman and has, of course, written a book about him so he was an obvious choice."

Black, by the by, maintains a large shareholding in just one British publication: The Catholic Herald. It appears that he will be paid for his article, as would any professional writer.

* Poor Sir Elton John. The pop pianist, who plans to wed his boyfriend, David Furnish, in one of the first civil ceremonies - followed by a huge party - this December, will find a load of Scots stealing his thunder. For the law allowing "gay marriages" will come into effect north of the boarder on 20 December, a full 24 hours before they are permitted in England.

It's all because the Scottish Registrar General misread the wording of the legislation, which states that countdown to the big day begins "the day after notice is recorded."

For the benefit of those people who have planned their weddings in Scotland already, Duncan McNiven insists he will not be correcting the error, even for Sir Elton's benefit.

"It was a minor mistake on our part. It means Scotland is pioneering civil partnerships, even if it is just by a day," he explains, just a little smugly.

* Finally some good news for both camps in the battle between Michael Fish and the author David Benedictus, whose memoir alleges that the weatherman used to indulge in wife-swapping.

At Benedictus's recent book launch for Dropping Names, he said that he is prepared to remove the allegation from future editions. But I learn that he is likely to make a further concession, too.

"As we understand it, Benedictus will be inserting an individual correction slip into the front of each copy of the first edition," says a friend of Fish. "There are only three hundred of them, as it turns out, so it won't take him long."

And so one of the great legal squabbles of our time draws to a close.

* Sir Richard Branson would have taken some pleasure over the weekend in surveying the disastrous results of industrial action on his long-standing rival, British Airways.

But the tycoon's airline, Virgin Atlantic, had trouble of its own last week. Its flight from Heathrow to New York on Wednesday was severely delayed because someone spotted a mouse on board.

"The flight crew couldn't catch it, and then they thought it might have chewed through a wire," said one passenger. "So they got us all off, and changed the plane for a 747."

A Virgin spokesman confirms that "a rodent was believed to have been seen."

Who'd have thought a mouse could ground a jumbo jet?

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