“I will defend anybody about anything,” Max Clifford remarked some years ago, “but not someone who interferes with kids”.
The ultimate position if you needed a cover story? This seems doubtful. In 1999, the PR supremo gained possession of photos showing Gary Glitter in compromising positions with children, and took them immediately to the media. That would be a ludicrously dangerous strategy for a man with his own guilty secrets to hide.
Only a fortnight ago, I had dealings with Clifford’s office, asking for support in relation to The Slog’s campaign designed to put pressure on Lord McAlpine to support Children in Need with his BBC libel award. The publicist’s office expressed support for the idea.
The two charges against Clifford are specifically about his alleged sexual behaviour in the past: they are not to do with perverting the course of justice in relation to a paedophile client. But we don’t know whether he is being accused of under-age sex with someone aged, say, 15 – or being involved in organised abuse of pre-pubescent children. The charges relate to events that took place 35 years ago….when Clifford was 34.
“After Hackgate, the cops are concerned to show they will investigate crime at the very highest levels,” a senior media figure told me yesterday morning, before the Clifford story broke. “They are out to repair their image of having cuddled up to the rich and powerful”.
They don’t come much more powerful than Max Clifford, but I am becoming increasingly concerned that the mainstream perpetrators and their victims are being ignored at best (or swept back into a dark corner at worst) in the continuing cultural obsession with celebrity.
I suspect the Met is focusing on celebrity for its own ends, and I know that the media are – unwittingly or otherwise – complicit in this process. This is what Plod has tended to do for some time now: cooperate with the press (a la Coulson and Hayman) on high-profile operations against terrorists, homophobia and other political priorities.
Distracting attention away from systemic abuse of children in care-homes, schools and local government generally has become a political priority of late…very few people who are awake doubt it. And alongside this – beyond the McAlpine legal actions being considered – I have been receiving, over the last ten days, a steady stream of requests to delete links to bloggers who clearly are beginning to get flappy-bottomed about Government Party plans to adopt the McAlpine strategy when it comes to informed accusation against senior political figures.
It is extraordinary (albeit pathetically predictable) that the alleged 1970s gropes of Dave Lee-Travis, Freddie Starr, Max Clifford or any other showbizz figure are taking police and media priority over contemporary evidence of organised paedophile rings among social workers, care home managers, local Labour politicians, teachers, taxi drivers and those working in the Secret Family Courts.
The accusations stretch from Rotherham to Liverpool, and from Stafford to Plymouth. From Exeter to Bristol, and Humberside to Wrexham. Many of them suggest collusion on the part of police, judiciary, car system inspectors, psychiatrists and local politicians. None of them are at present open files being actively investigated.
Leveson has come and gone. It has made recommendations about political control of the media. It did not tackle police and political complicity with those media. It has given a clean bill of health nobody else was prepared to give to some of the senior people involved. It will not help the innocent and anonymous victims of sex abuse: but Leveson, the McAlpine actions, and the Met’s Operation Yewtree most certainly are helping mainstream sexual predators to remain anonymous.
No company has nurtured and promoted the cult of celebrity, now hindering paedophile enquiries, more than Newscorp. Leveson was created largely because of the actions of Newscorp. But Newscorp is still there, pissing in the British cultural puddle.