Max is the man to dish the dirt

Britain's best-known publicist is back in the news again. James Cusick reports
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Indy Politics
On his own admission he left school at 15 with "an honours degree in street-raking". Since then, Max Clifford - or as Tory MP David Mellor calls him "the sleazeball of all sleazeballs" - has gone on to become the undisputed regent of revelation.

Back in the headlines after a kiss-and-tell story on the Tory MP Jerry Hayes, 53-year-old Mr Clifford is a latter day privateer who deals not in pirate gold, but in reputations, celebrity shenanigans, image-making and destruction. Hype seems too small a word for the business of Max Clifford Associates.

Although his company does conventional PR work for such firms as Laing Homes, and the car company Seat, Mr Clifford has come to fame by a different route. Over recent years he has become the Mr Fixit of sleaze, the man who channels rivers of salacious revelations in the direction of lucrative contacts with Britain's tabloid press. Clients have included the actress Antonia de Sancha ("victim" Mr Mellor), Bienvenida Buck (Air Chief Marshal Sir Peter Harding) and Valerie Harkess and her daughters (former Tory minister Alan Clark).

As one of his competitors put it: "If Adam came back to dish the dirt on Eve, he could do worse than hire Max."

But although Mr Clifford is wealthy he avoids the lifestyle of the rich and famous. All his fees for radio and television appearances go direct to the Royal Marsden Hospital's Child Cancer Unit and Arthritis Care. The Marsden has benefited by pounds 20,000 in recent years. He says little about these activities, and insists his job has been all about exposing hypocrisy.