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
Performers drink tea at the Glastonbury festival in 2010

GlastonburyWI to make debut appearance at Somerset festival

Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister

TV reviewIt has taken seven episodes for Game of Thrones season five to hit its stride

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Jesuthasan Antonythasan as Dheepan

FilmPalme d'Or goes to radical and astonishing film that turns conventional thinking about immigrants on its head

Arts and Entertainment
Måns Zelmerlöw performing

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
Graham Norton was back in the commentating seat for Eurovision 2015

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Hammond, Jeremy Clarkson and James May on stage

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The light stuff: Britt Robertson and George Clooney in ‘Tomorrowland: a World Beyond’
film review
Arts and Entertainment
Reawakening: can Jon Hamm’s Don Draper find enlightenment in the final ‘Mad Men’?
tv reviewNot quite, but it's an enlightening finale for Don Draper spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Breakfast Show’s Nick Grimshaw

Radio
Arts and Entertainment

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
'Youth' cast members Paul Dano, Jane Fonda, Harvey Keitel, Rachel Weisz, and Michael Caine pose for photographers at Cannes Film Festival
film
Arts and Entertainment
Adam West as Batman and Burt Ward and Robin in the 1960s Batman TV show

Comics
Arts and Entertainment
I am flute: Azeem Ward and his now-famous instrument
music
Arts and Entertainment
A glass act: Dr Chris van Tulleken (left) and twin Xand get set for their drinking challenge
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
MIA perform at Lovebox 2014 in London Fields, Hackney

music
Arts and Entertainment
Finnish punk band PKN hope to enter Eurovision 2015 and raise awareness for Down's Syndrome

eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
William Shakespeare on the cover of John Gerard's The Herball or Generall Historie of Plantes

books
Arts and Entertainment

Game of Thrones review
Arts and Entertainment
Grayson Perry dedicates his Essex home to Julie

Potter's attempt to create an Essex Taj Mahal was a lovely treat

tv
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the original Swedish version of the sci-fi TV drama ‘Real Humans’
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Hugh Keays-Byrne plays Immortan Joe, the terrifying gang leader, in the new film
filmActor who played Toecutter returns - but as a different villain in reboot
Arts and Entertainment
Charlize Theron as Imperator Furiosa in Mad Max: Fury Road
film
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

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

    Fifa corruption: The 161-page dossier that exposes the organisation's dark heart

    The 161-page dossier that exposes Fifa's dark heart

    How did a group of corrupt officials turn football’s governing body into what was, in essence, a criminal enterprise? Chris Green and David Connett reveal all
    Mediterranean migrant crisis: 'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves,' says Tripoli PM

    Exclusive interview with Tripoli PM Khalifa al-Ghweil

    'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves'
    Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles: How the author foretold the Californian water crisis

    Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles

    How the author foretold the Californian water crisis
    Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison as authorities crackdown on dissent in the arts

    Art attack

    Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison
    Marc Jacobs is putting Cher in the limelight as the face of his latest campaign

    Cher is the new face of Marc Jacobs

    Alexander Fury explains why designers are turning to august stars to front their lines
    Parents of six-year-old who beat leukaemia plan to climb Ben Nevis for cancer charity

    'I'm climbing Ben Nevis for my daughter'

    Karen Attwood's young daughter Yasmin beat cancer. Now her family is about to take on a new challenge - scaling Ben Nevis to help other children
    10 best wedding gift ideas

    It's that time of year again... 10 best wedding gift ideas

    Forget that fancy toaster, we've gone off-list to find memorable gifts that will last a lifetime
    Paul Scholes column: With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards

    Paul Scholes column

    With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards
    Heysel disaster 30th anniversary: Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget fateful day in Belgium

    Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget Heysel

    Thirty years ago, 39 fans waiting to watch a European Cup final died as a result of a fatal cocktail of circumstances. Ian Herbert looks at how a club dealt with this tragedy
    Amir Khan vs Chris Algieri: Khan’s audition for Floyd Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation, says Frank Warren

    Khan’s audition for Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation

    The Bolton fighter could be damned if he dazzles and damned if he doesn’t against Algieri, the man last seen being decked six times by Pacquiao, says Frank Warren
    Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

    Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

    For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
    Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

    Fifa corruption arrests

    All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
    Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

    The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

    In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
    How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

    How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

    Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
    Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

    How Stephen Mangan got his range

    Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor