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Sexual predator, liar, hypocrite, and filthy prisoner. To write this anecdotally charged blog about Max Clifford, the celebrity publicist and convicted sexual predator who died yesterday, is to contravene two conventions that he would have little time for himself. The first, brilliantly parodied by Private Eye in their "The [insert famous name] I knew" and "Farewell, then [insert famous name]" skits, is that treating someone's death as an opportunity to parade your own dealings with them is the very height of vanity.
The second is that we do not speak ill of the dead. Alas that second convention is often motivated by the desire among bad people to protect their legacy, and in fact we should speak of the dead as we speak of the living: As for the first, well, it is always a privilege to be of interest to Private Eye. Max Clifford was an ambassador for a vanished era who used his journalistic nous, courage, and sheer malice to become a giant of post-war British culture.
Not bad, you might argue, for the son of a Surrey electrician addicted to gambling and alcohol, and a mother - described by her son as "fat, jolly and flatulent"- who on occasion pawned her wedding rings so that the family might be fed. For all that tough upbringing, and for all the work he did for charities and indeed his reportedly exemplary raising of his daughter Louise, who had a disability, at its core Clifford's dealings were, like Iago's, driven by one thing - filth.
He was appealing against all of his convictions, and told all who asked that he was confident of clearing his name. This point has been widely reported, as has the fact that much of the trial centred on the length of his penis, and his boasts thereof. Less widely reported is a point made by the presiding judge, who said that had the offences taken place after , when the law changed, he would have been tried for rape.
As a reporter many years ago, I called him on several occasions to corroborate stories. I never, as far as I can remember, dealt with him as an Editor. It is a curious fact that every single one of the perhaps dozen conversations we had on the phone proceeded by the same trajectory. Clifford would be in his house in Surrey.