Around 20 years ago I met Max Clifford for the first time at an industry lunch in Manchester at which he was the guest speaker. A few years before he had been responsible for bringing about the public disgrace of the British government minister David Mellor. Max Clifford had touted the story that Mellor, a well known Chelsea football fan, had asked the actress Antonia de Sancha to make love to him whilst he was dressed in his Chelsea football shirt. The story made the front page of The Sun newspaper. In my book ‘Public Relations and the Social Web’ I described our conversation when Clifford told me that the story was invention.
During lunch, I took the opportunity to ask Mr Clifford whether the story had in fact been true. He laughed and admitted it was a total fabrication. He added that he had tried the same tactic with the colourful left wing labour politician Derek Hatton, five years earlier. That time the story was “leaked” to the press entirely with the politician’s consent as a way of getting publicity in order to raise his profile in advance of a hoped for TV career . The other principal difference was that Derek Hatton was a Liverpool fan. The story didn’t make the front page but according to Clifford it did appear in The Sun. After lunch and after Clifford had given a short address, questions were thrown open to the floor and a guest asked the same question that I had. Bizzarely Clifford responded by saying that he didn’t know if the story was true “but who would you believe” he asked, spinning for Britain, “David Mellor or Antonia?”