Monday 19 March 2018

It's not only Brooks who faces turmoil

Stormy times are upon publicist Max Clifford and former PM Tony Blair, says Ruth Dudley Edwards

Rebekah Brooks arrives at the Old Bailey court house in London. Photo: Luke MacGregor/Reuters
Rebekah Brooks arrives at the Old Bailey court house in London. Photo: Luke MacGregor/Reuters
Ruth Dudley Edwards

Ruth Dudley Edwards

Among the names that cropped up last week during the cross-examination of Rebekah Brooks (one-time editor of the News of the World (NotW) and of the Sun, from 2009 chief executive of Rupert Murdoch's News International, and now at the Old Bailey answering charges of conspiracy to hack phones, pay officials for information and cover up evidence to pervert the course of justice) were those of two famous men who are themselves having a rather torrid time.

One is Max Clifford, a celebrity publicist known as a purveyor of kiss-and-tell stories but most famous for a concoction he has cheerfully admitted was totally invented. "Freddie Starr Ate My Hamster" was an Eighties' Sun headline that comedian Starr endorsed because it gave a huge boost to his reputation. Clifford had been paid many millions over many years for NotW stories, explained Brooks, but after a falling-out in 2005 he defected to its rivals and in 2010 he launched civil proceedings against the paper over the hacking of his phone by private investigator Glenn Mulcaire. Fearful that Mulcaire would identify NotW journalists involved, Brooks persuaded Clifford to return to the fold, drop his case and provide stories in return for £200,000 per annum and his legal costs.

Clifford had more than this revelation to worry about last week when he appeared in Southwark Crown Court facing 11 charges of indecent assault from 1966 and 1984 made by seven complainants. Allegedly he bragged of his famous contacts, promised the "starstruck" teenagers film or modelling work and bullied or manipulated them into performing luridly described sexual acts.

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