The secret behind the real 'faked' photos

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I had to go to London the other day to meet one of those people who think it's unlucky to leave London, and on the way there who should I bump into but my old friend Adrian Wardour-Street.

"Hello, Adrian!" I cried.

He heard nothing, as he had earphones clamped on his head. I got out a notebook, scribbled on it: "Hello, Adrian!", ran round in front of him and showed him the message. He looked at it, got out a pen, wrote: "Hello there - sorry, must dash" on the same sheet, and was about to walk off when I removed his earphones and made him talk to me.

"Adrian!" I said. "When two grown men actually have to write notes to each other in the street, this is taking texting too far!"

"You're quite right," he said. "Gt tm 4a coffee?"

I said I had, and we went into a place which, the last time I had been there, had had nice old brown armchairs. Now it had metal stools with seats so small your bottom hung over both sides.

"Yes," said Adrian, "they found people sat around all day, and enjoyed the place, and they couldn't have that, so they changed it back to a place you wouldn't want to linger in. It's turnover that counts.

"How's things?" I said.

"Great," he said. "Why shouldn't they be?"

Adrian is the king of PR. Max Clifford may be the court jester, but Adrian, at his own valuation, is the king. He is the only person I have known to have put the Pope on hold while he talked to David Beckham on the other line.

"What are you up to?"

"You've probably been reading about it in the papers," said Adrian. "John Scarlett and all that."

"He's one of your clients?" I said, amazed.

"No," said Adrian. "He is my nomination. I helped choose him."

"They got YOU to help choose the new head of MI6?"

Adrian looked round and leant closer to me.

"Can you keep a secret?"

I nodded. I can't actually, but I have always found it best to nod and say I could.

"John Scarlett is not the new head of MI6."


"Oh, he is announced as such, but he's only a decoy. Ever since MI6 went public, they've had a lot of trouble trying to keep the head of MI6 out of the headlines, and now they've devised the perfect solution - to announce that one person is the boss, so they can appear in public, while a different person runs the outfit."

"So Scarlett is not actually..."

"No. His job is just to take the flak for being appointed to the job. That was my idea, actually. Put one of Tony's cronies in, I said, and all hell may be let loose, but at least we can fire him when the real man makes a cock-up. Like when MI6 gets caught out spreading fake pictures of torture of Iraqi prisoners."

"Fake? Those pictures were really fake, then?"

"Oh, sure. They were faked long before the war started. We kept them in readiness."

"Readiness for what?"

"Ready for leaking to the press. The idea is the press prints fake photos. Then we expose them as fake. So we get the credit for not torturing people."

"But it hasn't worked out like that, has it?"

"No", admitted Adrian. "Unfortunately, they seem to have got mixed up with another lot of photos which we don't know about. We don't know where they have come from, or who has faked them. Of course, they might not be fake. They might be genuine, though that's hardly playing the game is it? Incidentally, not a word of any of this in your column, please."

I was about to swear by my mother's shades that it would go no further, when Adrian's phone rang.

"Osama!" he said. "How are you doing, old sport? What's that? Look, you're breaking up a bit. Could you move out of the cave into the open so I can hear you properly...?"

I could see it was going to be a long chat. I left him to it.