Top PR man tries to get a grip: Tabloids leave voluntary control body as PR adviser says Princess will not be 'too upset' and advertisers carry on regardless: Will Bennett visits the fitness club where the princess was pictured to hear the defence case

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The Independent Online
MAX CLIFFORD, public relations adviser to the famous, the would-be famous and now the infamous, was putting it 'all in perspective' yesterday at the gymnasium where the Princess of Wales was photographed secretly.

The tone adopted by Mr Clifford, master manipulator of the media, was apologetic but firm. He did not personally approve of his client, Bryce Taylor, owner of the gym, having installed a secret camera and thought that he owed the Princess an apology.

Indeed, as fitness enthusiasts pumped iron and cycled endlessly on the spot around him at the LA Fitness Club, in Isleworth, west London, he even admitted that Mr Taylor had invaded the princess's privacy. But, he argued: 'They are beautiful photos, they are not anything that Princess Diana would be ashamed of. Trust has been betrayed, but I don't think that Princess Diana will be too upset by pictures of her looking stunning in a national newspaper.

'My understanding of her is that she is someone who enjoys being photographed looking wonderful. If the photographs had been taken in the showers, or in the loo or with her head down throwing up that would be different.' Mr Clifford, who has advised such diverse talents as Derek Hatton, former deputy leader of Liverpool Council, and Antonia de Sancha, the actress who achieved notoriety through her affair with David Mellor, said he was engaged by Mr Taylor on Sunday.

It was not the first time that the two men had spoken about the matter. About six months ago Mr Taylor, 39, telephoned Mr Clifford and asked for his advice on how to handle selling his story.

Mr Clifford said: 'He was picking my brains. I said timing is vital. If you have got a major story about Boris Becker you want to run it just before Wimbledon.'

On Sunday, as the furore over the publication of the photographs grew, Mr Taylor phoned Mr Clifford again and asked him to take on the case for the defence. Yesterday, even the smooth-tongued public relations man was not finding it easy. About half an hour previously he had spoken to Mr Taylor, who is in hiding and who stands to make several hundred thousand pounds from syndication of the pictures. He had to admit that the club owner was 'not having any regrets'.

By contrast Mr Taylor's business manager and former partner, Marie Cameron, is not happy. Mr Clifford purred: 'She feels, like I do, that it was wrong. But she thinks a lot of him, she was involved with him for 10 years so I suppose she must do.'

The club has received a few angry phone calls from its 1,000 members, who pay pounds 475 a year each and there are rumours of resignations. But Mr Clifford claimed yesterday that 20 new membership applications were received over the weekend.

Those stoically working out amid the cameras yesterday were saying nothing. They watched endless pop and fitness videos as they pedalled, stared into space as they heaved and glared at the press as they sweated.

(Photograph omitted)