REVIEW : Always guaranteed to spin a good yarn

As Max Clifford tells the story, he lost his first job - in a snooty south London department store - for impertinence. He worked in floor coverings, and when a haughty female customer asked him to show her something suitable for her back passage, he promptly directed her to the candle section. Now, as Max Clifford tells the story, you have to be cautious here. He has a fine eye for a good tale and shows no unseemly prejudice against those that aren't true. Nor is he particularly abashed by this. Did you make up the story about Prince Andrew's girlfriend, asked Andrew Neil sternly in Is This Your Life? (C4). "Yes" said Clifford, without hesitation, his face a mask of guileless candour.

He'd been described, at the beginning of this deliciously ironic confrontation, as "the most single-minded, manipulative person you're ever likely to meet", a tribute he accepted with a little smile. I've had a soft spot for Mr Clifford ever since he routed the humbugs of The Moral Maze last year, and he didn't disappoint here; his performance was an object lesson in giving an interview while under pressure - a brilliantly judicious blend of trap-door admissions, which open up beneath the interviewer, and bold sallies of self-defence. He is, in his own complicated way, an honest man, a figure whose relationship to the real facts is as calculatedly arm's-length as that of a good defence lawyer.

Is This Your Life? exists, as the stylish credits make clear, to reveal the truth beneath the hype, so it made a nice twist to have a hype-broker in the chair. Nicer still was the fact that his interviewer had been on the wrong end of the hype. "He was also involved in the case of Pamella Bordes, the House of Commons researcher... who was so much more as well," said Neil, brushing up against Ms Bordes much more gingerly than was once the case. To Neil's credit he behaved like a grown-up here; his interview never had the faintest whiff of old grudges and he was, for once, as vulnerable to humiliation as his guest. It never came, though Clifford did reveal that he broke the Bordes story as a distraction, to prevent another story from emerging. "She was a sacrificial victim," he confessed.

In truth, the two men actually have a lot in common: a taste for mischief and a slightly chippy contempt for the rules of the establishment club. Politically, they are at opposite ends of the spectrum (Clifford is a devoted Labour supporter and spoke with real anger about the destruction of the National Health Service), but I suspect Neil responds to Clifford's lack of piety, his relish for a fight, even his indifference to the judgements of others. So while he conducted the necessary cross-examination about cruelty and exploitation, his heart wasn't really in it. If the best witnesses against the accused are people like Antonia de Sancha, Eve Pollard and those self-pitying opportunists, the Harkess women, even the fiercest prosecutor might start to have doubts about the verdict.

A few days ago I wrote that I tried not to identify too closely with primates, but Karen Bass's touching film for The Natural World suggests that I was wrong. It opened with capuchin monkey playing a computer game - which won't strike everyone as conclusive proof of intelligence - but went on to reveal that monkeys and apes are far closer to us in culture and social behaviour than was once believed. In some cases, they rather exceed us. The most startling footage was of bonobos having sex, a hairy orgy which took no account of gender, time or place. The only taboo in bonobo society is on sex between a mother and sons older than six. Apart from that, anything goes, and when you've seen four of these animals hanging from a vine and shaking like a washing machine on spin cycle, you know the real meaning of swingers.

Arts and Entertainment

game of thrones reviewWarning: spoilers

Arts and Entertainment
The original Star Wars trio of Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill

George Osborne confirms Star Wars 8 will film at Pinewood Studios in time for 4 May


Arts and Entertainment
Haunted looks: Matthew Macfadyen and Timothy Spall star in ‘The Enfield Haunting’

North London meets The Exorcist in eerie suburban drama


Arts and Entertainment

Filming to begin on two new series due to be aired on Dave from next year


Arts and Entertainment
Kit Harington plays MI5 agent Will Holloway in Spooks: The Greater Good

'You can't count on anyone making it out alive'film
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

    Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

    Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

    Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
    China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

    China's influence on fashion

    At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
    Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

    The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

    Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
    Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

    Rainbow shades

    It's all bright on the night
    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
    Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

    The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

    A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
    'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

    Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

    Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

    The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
    Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

    Vince Cable exclusive interview

    Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
    Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

    Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

    Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
    Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

    It's time for my close-up

    Meet the man who films great whites for a living
    Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

    Homeless people keep mobile phones

    A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before