Watching brief - Amanda Platell tips a woman to edit the Mirror

The <em>Mirror</em> may now return to the ground that Piers Morgan abandoned by poaching its new edi

Could we be about to have our first female editor of the Daily Mirror? The dark horse to storm from behind in the race for the prized chair vacated by Piers Morgan on 14 May is Jane Johnson.

With Tina Weaver, the Sunday Mirror editor, still away on maternity leave, she is the only serious female contender on the shortlist and has just been named Periodical Publishers Association editor of the year. This might not sound like much, but she launched the celebrity magazine Closer into a publishing market almost as fiercely competitive as that of tabloid newspapers. That was in September 2002 and it's now selling 400,000, which is quite an achievement.

Johnson also has tabloid executive experience, having started as woman's editor on the Mirror and risen to number three in Scotland, where she regularly edited the Daily Record. She briefly returned to the Sunday Mirror, which was not a success for her, then went off to launch Closer, which was.

Those who say the Trinity Mirror chief executive, Sly Bailey, is looking for a poodle after Piers are wide of the mark. People close to Bailey say she would prefer an editor who will produce the kind of paper she wants without constant hassle. As a former chief executive of IPC Media, Bailey's background and instincts lie with magazines, hence her leaning towards Johnson.

It would be a most dramatic shift back to the ground that Morgan abandoned when he dumped the Mirror's red-top image and tried to take it upmarket. But we know showbiz sells at this end of the readership.

As for the other serious contenders (and despite his many talents, Alastair Campbell is not one of them), there are question marks over most candidates. If the board was going to anoint Phil Hall, development director of Trinity Mirror, it would have done so by now.

Peter Hill, the man who turned around the fortunes of the Star and now edits the Express, is talented and vibrant, but one suspects that his politics are too far-right to make him at home at the Mirror. Richard Wallace, acting editor of the Sunday Mirror, is liked and respected and still in with a chance. Des Kelly, former deputy editor of the Mirror and temporarily editing it, is thought to be too close to Morgan. And I can't imagine why 35-year-old Andy Coulson, editor of the News of the World and golden boy of News International, would consider leaving that group to go to the troubled Mirror.

Frogmarching Piers Morgan from Canary Wharf was a misjudgement, even if it was done by the kindly company secretary, Paul Vickers. It says a great deal about the paranoia of the organisation. Grown-up management does not send its editors off into the night without giving them the chance to say goodbye to their staff of nearly nine years or to collect their jacket. However it all ended, Piers Morgan is one of the most brilliant editors of his generation.

The Daily Mail got it right in its comment the day after the sacking: "In a war marked by dodgy dossiers, bogus claims about WMDs, the hounding of Dr Kelly to his lonely death . . . isn't it utterly astonishing that the only people to have paid with their jobs are the chairman of the BBC, its director general, a reporter and now a national newspaper editor?" Yes, astonishing indeed.

Our Saturdays will never be the same again. No longer will we be regaled with tales of Anne Robinson's couture shopping or her trips in first class on British Airways and those eternally amusing conversations with customs officials and baggage-handlers. How on earth are we to keep up to date with her daughter's career? How are we to know when the next collection is in at Versace?

As of last Saturday, she is taking leave of her Daily Telegraph column. To those who think she was sacked because she cost too much, you are wrong on both counts. Robinson was not sacked; it was her decision to give up the column, as the pressure of her TV work was too great to do both well (as if that ever stopped her in the past). And for the record, the Telegraph claims that it would have her back in a flash.

As I well know, the rehabilitation process after a life in politics is a long and lonely one, so it is with some curiosity that I have been following Fiona Millar's foray into broadcasting. First came her TV programme on the state of education in Britain. It was impressive, as was the round of interviews she did to promote it. When she popped up on BBC1's Breakfast on Monday, attacking grammar schools and defending what her partner once described as "bog-standard comprehensives", she was again both assured and articulate.

Millar has lost ten years since she left Westminster. But if she wants to be taken seriously on TV, it's time she ditched the jeans. Only Jeremy Clarkson can get away with that.

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