The BBC is presently reporting developments in the Max Clifford trial. I dare say other news agencies are doing the same, but (rightly or wrongly) the BBC is my first choice for hard news and information, and I am therefore denying myself the opportunity of seeing what his former media 'customers' now have to say about him in print. How ironic that a peddler of salacious human-interest stories to the highest bidder should now be a salacious story himself.
Can one say 'poor Max Clifford'? Well, guilty or innocent of the charges against him - and I can offer no opinion - it can't be pleasant to be accused of sexual crimes, with all the speculation and mud-slinging that generates. Some would say that the stress of this very public examination will be a salutory lesson to a person who made a very good living from being a 'publicist' - the man you would go to if you had a sensational story to sell for as much money as possible. Max Clifford handled negotiations on your behalf, for a fee. He provided a service. A good many people will have been disdainful of what Mr Clifford did for a living, but it was not illegal and he had a talent for it.
I always took the view that any story likely to be snatched at by the competing media empires would easily sell itself, and no bribery - sexual or otherwise - was necessary to promote it. It simply needed a tough middle man (like Mr Clifford) to control the game. And if such a man did secure the best cash offer, then of course he earned his fee.
Was it 'casting couch' territory? If I had ever gone to Mr Clifford myself, as Lucy Melford the Wronged Woman who was Forced to Debase Herself in ways Sunday Readers would wish to salivate over, then I would be expecting a strictly businesslike meeting with a professional, and no hanky-panky to confuse the deal. My focus would be on the sales potential of my story, and what cash I could make from it. And only that. Indeed, I would have my solicitor with me.
But it's still easy to see Mr Clifford's vulnerability to an accusation against his character. Now and then he must have refused to handle a story, or made less from it than the client expected, and the client would then feel aggrieved and inclined to punish him. Perhaps Hell hath no fury like a disappointed client?