Dear Judge James Harkness

Mark Lawson
Tuesday 31 May 1994 23:02

You have hired Max Clifford, the PR agent, to help you in your pursuit of Alan Clark. Unfortunately, Max Clifford is unlikely, for understandable reasons, ever to give someone in your position the single most important piece of PR advice: don't, whatever you do, hire Max Clifford.

You see, the problem is that the position you originally adopted, when news emerged of Mr Clark's triple infidelities on your doorstep, was that of the old-fashioned English gentleman. You talked like one - 'If I'd known, I'd have horsewhipped him' - and you intimated that it was not gentlemanly of Mr Clark to a) sleep with three women in the same family and b) to publish diaries mentioning his conquests.

I am afraid, though, that your invocation of old social proprieties has now been hopelessly undermined. For a gentleman - even a cuckolded one - does not sign a contract with a PR agent. This, in England, is the behaviour of starlets and soccer players.

And I wonder whether you are aware how hard it will be for you to achieve a PR triumph. For, as I see it, you face four problems.

The first is that society is not kind to the cuckold. Most recent British sexual scandals have involved a husband (Cecil Parkinson, David Mellor, Tim Yeo) betraying his wife (Ann, Judith, Diane) with a mistress (Sara Keays, Antonia de Sancha, Julia Stent). In each case, public sympathies have followed the same pattern: criticism of the husband, sadness for the wife, prurient interest in the mistress. In the only example of a wife betraying her husband - that of Bienvenida, Lady Buck - the wronged husband, Sir Antony Buck, was widely depicted as a pathetic creature who had been unable to satisfy his wife. I am afraid that many people will think Mr Clark has something you do not, and they do not mean his money.

Second, the morality of your complaint is rather complex. For a father to condemn the cad who seduced his daughters is a recognisable paternal reflex, but, once the man's wife is involved as well, the judgements become confused. In effect, you are accusing Mr Clark of being unfaithful to the woman who was already being unfaithful to you. I fear that the effect of this unusual 'family-pack adultery' is to swell Clark's reputation as a stud, while making you, as a kind of triple cuckold, seem even more wretched.

Because - your third problem - Mr Clark is a well-liked fellow. This is odd, because the vices with which he has been associated - snobbery, ostentatious wealth, Thatcherism, adultery, upholding the right of politicians to be economical with the actualit - are generally frowned upon. However, for some reason, people seem to treat Clark as a lovable fictional character: an upper-class Alf Garnett. Knocking off your womenfolk is seen as a delicious new plot-twist.

Fourth, you are a judge. Judges, in England, are essentially comic figures: fusty, out of touch, ridiculous. This image you have merely confirmed for them, and Max Clifford, you will discover, is just another thong on the horsewhip.

(Photograph omitted)

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