Terence Blacker: Why do they all fawn over Saint Max?

Related Topics

It has been a good few weeks for Max Clifford, Britain's new face of morality. With the quiet, caring authority of a bishop, he has presided over the difficult case of Alfie, the 13-year-old boy who may or may not have fathered a baby. At the other end of the life's spectrum, he has, as he puts it, been "looking after" Jade Goody as she prepares to die.

When not busy doing good works, Max has been talking to the press. In these pages, he was this week described as functioning in the "the wasteland between public merit and clandestine vice". In one warmly affectionate newspaper profile, the writer confessed, "Damn it, you can't help liking him."

Of course not. One of the many illusions which surround Max Clifford is that he is reviled in liberal media circles. In fact, he is adored, although it has become traditional for those interviewing him to express surprise, as the man from the New Statesman did, at what a "nice chap" he is, and how "committed to public service".

Here is a genuine oddity. We live in an age of cynicism, particularly about PR, yet Clifford's flattering presentation of himself is accepted without question. His career is a testament to the serious money to be made out of titillating the public. In the past, sex was his most profitable product – the bonking nanny, the innocent Page 3 girl seduced by a married footballer. Recently our voyeurism has taken a more tearful, moralistic turn. David Mellor has been replaced by Gary Glitter, Antonia de Sancha by Jade Goody.

Creepily, Clifford has managed throughout his career to portray himself as a humble yet saintly Robin Hood figure. Those were not sex stories he was selling: he merely believed in standing up for the underdog. His motivation was never money but a sincere belief that those in public life should be held to account. No interview with Clifford is complete without reference to his support for the Labour Party or to his good works on behalf of charity. Once asked whether he could have been a politician, he modestly replied that he was not ruthless or corrupt enough.

He is, in fact, the perfect, living embodiment of contemporary hypocrisy. The world in which he operates in revolves around manipulation. He knows a lot about people in the public eye. When it comes to celebrity sin, he is the witchfinder-general in the "court of public opinion", a concept shamefully endorsed by Harriet Harman this week, always taking care to be on the populist side.

Sometimes, he says, he can persuade a newspaper to drop one a story in exchange for another. He will help with journalists' careers, in return for favours: "I'll find them a job or I'll come up with something that means they won't lose their job." Clifford moulds the news to the shape which suits his interests, and then presents himself as the champion of common sense and morality.

A dab hand at ingratiating himself to the media with fake modesty and apparent candour – journalists are famously vulnerable to flattery from those with power in the media – he emerges from every story, however grubby and seedy, looking as immaculate and unstained as ever.

Clifford has made a good living out of human weakness down the years and is clearly proficient at his job, but there is one of his much-spun stories which should be resisted at all costs – that of Max Clifford, the decent public servant.

Satire is alive and well – on Twitter

Satire can be such a complex business that sometimes one needs a codebook to differentiate between the acceptably barbed and the merely silly. The veteran humorist John O'Farrell has haughtily rebuked a woman called Lisa Valentine for impersonating David Tennant on the Twitter social network. Satire "needs to be aimed at the powerful and pompous," O'Farrell said.

Valentine's joke was, in fact, an excellent one. Sending out Twitter messages under the name of THE David Tennant, she had the actor, ridiculing his Doctor Who successor, being close friends with Paul Daniels and writing a book called "David Tennant, Bigger on the Inside".

Satire? Of course. Even when told it was a trick, Tennant's fans twittered on. Some actually wanted Lisa Valentine's autograph; being an impersonator had made her semi-famous herself. O'Farrell is quite wrong. This excellent Twitter joke (possibly the only Twitter joke) is not at the expense of Tennant but of his celebrity-struck fans – and of powerful, pompous satirists.

Get ready for a fine period piece...

For a man, the fascination that women have for their bodies is one of life's little mysteries. Who would have thought that a series of musings about vaginas would turn into a theatrical event as universal and loved in its own way as An Inspector Calls or Run For Your Wife?

Those who enjoyed The Vagina Monologues, right, are in for another treat. Just published in America, My Little Red Book is a collection of reminiscences by women about their first period, collected by Rachel Kauder Nalebuff when she was 18.

Here, surely, is one of this year's literary successes. A website has been established for readers to contribute their own period pieces. A stage adaptation must be on its way.

React Now

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

Ashdown Group: Practice Accountant - Bournemouth - £38,000

£32000 - £38000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful accountancy practice in...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped commission: SThree: Does earning a 6 figu...

Recruitment Genius: SEO Executive

£18000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: New Lift Sales Executive - Lift and Elevators

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A challenging opportunity for a...

Day In a Page

Read Next

For all his faults, Russell Brand is utterly sincere, something politicians should emulate

Janet Street-Porter

Never underestimate the power of the National Trust

Boyd Tonkin
The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

The saffron censorship that governs India

Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

How did fandom get so dark?

Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

Disney's mega money-making formula

'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
Lobster has gone mainstream with supermarket bargains for £10 or less - but is it any good?

Lobster has gone mainstream

Anthea Gerrie, raised on meaty specimens from the waters around Maine, reveals how to cook up an affordable feast
Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

14 best Easter decorations

Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
Paul Scholes column: Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season

Paul Scholes column

Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season
Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

The future of GM

The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

Britain's mild winters could be numbered

Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

Cowslips vs honeysuckle

It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss