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He’s anything but Mad Max

When I bumped into Max Clifford the other night at the finals of Celebrity Big Brother, where Britain’s foremost PR guru was keeping an eye on his new ward, Shilpa Shetty, I was genuinely glad to see him.

“She will be the third Asian woman you will be involved with,” I said by way of greeting.

“I was not representing Pamella Bordes,” he pointed out.

He is right, of course, though on his office wall he has a framed a front page picture of the former Miss India and also that of Faria Alam, the Bangladeshi secretary whom he did represent.

When the latter, famous for her one-night fling with Sven-Goran Eriksson, then the England coach, got into trouble with the Football Association in 2005, she turned to Max for help. He agreed to take on Faria as a client.

“For me, it was injustice. This woman was being thrown to the wolves by her bosses. She was having an affair; they were single men; that’s up to her. She was a single woman. But then for the FA to go to a newspaper, and say, ‘If we deliver this, if we give you all her private emails, will you leave our top executive alone'’ That’s not right,” he had explained in a quiet but determined manner.

Max got her £300,000 for exclusive newspaper and television interviews. Faria was picked for Celebrity Big Brother last year but was one of the first to be evicted and has since slipped into obscurity.

With Pamella Bordes back in 1989, he put the press on to her as a £500 a night prostitute because he says he wanted to deflect attention away from the Madame for whom the former Indian beauty queen, Pamela (with one ‘’) Singh, had worked.

“I had never met Pamella Bordes,” recalled Max, who has a reputation of being loyal to his friends. “But I broke the story. Her Madame was a friend of mine.”

Max, who is 63, has written a ghosted autobiography, My Story, giving an account of the many “kiss and tell” tales he has placed in the tabloids and hinting at other clients whose names he has kept out of newspapers.

I suggested to him then that he should bring out an Indian edition but call it A Social History of Britain: From Pamela to Faria.

Now that Shilpa’s mother, Sunanda Shetty, has taken him on as her daughter’s representative — and Max, who takes a 20 per cent cut of fees, does not come cheap — he has legitimate professional reasons for visiting India. A few people are complaining that Shilpa is ignoring her Indian constituency but Max is merely maximising her earning potential.

But for an Indian edition, his book should now be titled A Social History of Britain: From Pamela to Shilpa via Faria.

Whisky galore

Lest I be misunderstood for supporting Vijay Mallya, chairman of United Breweries, let me stress there can be no one more pro-Scottish than myself, a legacy from my first, happy days in Fleet Street working for The Glasgow Herald. The paper spoilt me rotten, which explains why I won’t hear a word against the Scots. Despite the propaganda against them by the English, they are just about the most generous people on earth.

But I do think the Scottish Whisky Association has been unfair to Mallya. He wants to sell his whisky, made from molasses, in the European Union as “Indian whisky” but the SWA won’t let him on the grounds whisky apparently has to be brewed only from barley.

But, ironically, Britain is on the defensive over vodka which the Poles and the Scandinavian say can be labelled as such only if made from potatoes and grain. UK producers, who use molasses in their preparation, have fought off a challenge requiring them to use special labelling for their vodka.

No doubt the SWA would say I would see things their way if only I imbibed a bottle of Scotch followed by another of Indian whisky. However, on the face of it, it looks as though there is one set of rules for British vodka, another for Indian whisky.

Should Mallya succeed in buying the Glasgow-based whisky company, Whyte & MacKay, as is his ambition, he may well have an interest in protecting the value of his brand.

PEACE TALK: Rami Ranger

Metal men

Well, I got it 50 per cent right and 50 per cent wrong. When Lakshmi Mittal arrived in London from Indonesia in 1995, I did a story on him expressing a personal opinion that he was stalking British Steel. Instead, he went for Arcelor. But British Steel, now called Corus after its merger with Dutch firm Hoogovens, has ended up in Indian hands but Ratan Tata’s rather than Mittal’s.

No one should be surprised if before long the combined Tata-Corus entity becomes Tata-Corus-CSN in an effort to catch up with Mittal.

In the steel industry, as Mittal likes to point out, consolidation is the name of the game.

Father’s son

It is easy to see why Rami Ranger, 59, an Indian businessman in London, has made it his life’s ambition to try and bring India and Pakistan closer. This Thursday he launches his “Pakistan India Friendship Forum UK” in the House of Commons.

At the time of partition, Rami’s father, Nanak Singh, then 43, was assassinated by fanatics while trying to offer protection to 600 schoolchildren in Multan who had taken out a procession protesting against the break-up of India.

Last month in Amritsar, Rami was present when a statue of Shaheed Nanak Singh was unveiled in the street which bears his name.

Rami, who was born in Gujranwala on July 3, 1947, and gets very emotional when remembering his father’s martyrdom, tells me: “India and Pakistan are two sovereign nations and there is no reason why they should not follow the example of Britain and Germany and work for the uplift of their people by promoting peace.”

Flintoff’s fall

At 14, I made my school’s cricket first eleven in England alongside 18-year-olds, not because I was particularly good but because almost everyone else was so mediocre — certainly compared with my peers at St Xavier’s in Patna who were so much better than me. But at least cricket had not been practically banished from so many schools in England.

Freddie Flintoff is a lovely, talented man but one should not blame him for England’s decline when cricket is now dismissed as a toff’s game in so many schools in what I still cherish, rather naively, as this “green and pleasant land”.

Tittle tattle

To Anglo-Saxon readers of the Daily Mirror, one balding Indian man looks much like another. But to the tabloid’s eagle-eyed Indian readers, the photograph of Shilpa’s “proud father Surendra” looked suspiciously like that of film director Mahesh Bhatt. The next day, the paper published a photograph of Shilpa’s real father.

Perhaps this was correcting a genuine mistake but my suspicion is that the Mirror was taking revenge on Mahesh Bhatt, who has been quoted by the BBC as being a bit of a sour puss over Shilpa’s success. Don’t forget Shilpa is now the Daily Mirror’s favourite “Bollywood babe”.

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