COULSON PRAYS FOR CHELSEA AS GREENBERG SIGNS ON FOR MURDOCH

AFTER weeks of Guardian headlines, it seems News International has decided it is time for some drastic action on the News of the World phone hacking saga.

It has brought in a public relations expert in the form of Simon Greenberg, to head up corporate affairs.

Greenberg is being parachuted in to the job fresh from heading up England’s 2018 World Cup bid.

Of course, you don’t have to be a sunburnt, George’s flag-painted skinhead to know that England’s World Cup bid… didn’t go so well.

It was, in fact, a disaster, with Old Blighty garnering just two votes after an outlay of £15m by the Football Association.

Undeterred, News International has put Greenberg straight onto its executive team, reporting directly to chief executive Rebekah Brooks, nee Wade.

He’ll presumably, then, be able to advise against little stunts like James Murdoch and Brooks’ rampage into the offices of the Independent last year, when Murdoch the younger decided he didn’t much care for the paper’s election coverage along the lines of “Rupert Murdoch won’t decide this election – you will”, and barged into Simon Kelner’s office to tell him about it.

Luckily, Greenberg is probably used to managing the eccentric needs of his bosses: his role prior to the England bid was as public affairs chief of Chelsea from 2004 to 2009, reporting to Roman Abramovich.

Downing Street communications director and former News of the World editor Andy Coulson, who is thoroughly embroiled in the hacking row, must be praying that Greenberg can work up a little more of his Chelsea magic and a little less of his FA doom.

ON THE CARAVAN
A stressful day yesterday for Eric Illsley, Member of Parliament for Barnsley Central. He was convicted of fiddling his expenses to the tune of £14,500.

Funnily enough, the events don’t seem to get a mention on the “About Me” section of his website. The page tracks his life story and movements for the last fifty years, including a paragraph on caravans: “I take a keen interest in caravanning issues and have been an active caravanner for many years,” he says proudly.

But there’s a rather prominent detail missing from this epic tale of a love affair with mobile homes: “I had joined the Labour Party in 1979,” he declares. But he doesn’t mention being expelled from the party last year, nor has he appended any notes to the rolling slideshow of him shaking hands with various Labour figures.

Still, once he’s sentenced, he’ll probably find he has a lot of time on his hands to make the relevant changes.

BIKE-WAVE
A report reaches The Capitalist that heavy doses of energy drinks such as Lucozade enabled 33 intrepid cyclists from Chartis Insurance to raise £50,000 for charity.

The riders, drawn from all over the firm, came together to raise the cash for Brainwave, a charity that works with children who have disabilities and developmental problems.

They charted the 280-mile route to arrive right under the Eiffel Tower, braving grazes, bruises and losing one colleague along the way who was unable to finish the course.
The cash will keep the charity in rent and rates for a whole year – until the next bike-ride then.

CITY SPECTRES
Spare a thought today for the former denizens of the City, who this time 70 years ago were cowering in the tunnels of Bank station in an attempt to hide from the German Blitz.

Lord Mayor Michael Bear laid a wreath at the Walbrook entrance to Bank Tube yesterday to commemorate the deaths of 111 people when a bomb struck the station. The hit left a crater so large that a temporary bridge had to be constructed over it in the wake of the War to allow traffic through the intersection.

And two days after Bank was hit, 500 people died as bombs destroyed Guildhall, eight churches built by Sir Christopher Wren and numerous ancient Livery Halls. It’s enough to make you see ghosts wandering the streets during the lunch hour.