OPINION: Max and Shilpa - spat's showbusiness

What a glorious punch up between spinmeister Max Clifford and Big Brother race-row victim Shilpa Shetty over who ended the relationship. An ethnic speciality agency will now take over the Bollywood actress's UK publicity.

Monk: ‘Max knows Shetty won’t be able to keep her foot in the door long enough to stop it slamming shut behind her’
Monk: ‘Max knows Shetty won’t be able to keep her foot in the door long enough to stop it slamming shut behind her’

She was wasting my time and her money and there was no point in continuing, Max was reported as saying in the national press. It’s not true he dumped me, shrills Shilpa – it was a mutual parting of the ways. And to be fair to Max, he never actually said that he had dumped her, but that her contract was up.

Just as the two principals hit the high notes with their claims, another still more discordant note is sounded by the tabloid chorus. ‘How Shilpa Wrecked My Marriage’ is the thrust of raucous Sunday newspaper spreads featuring the claims of the estranged wife of one of Shetty’s business partners.

The timing of their publication coincides, oh miracle of miracles, with announcements about the change of PR arrangements for the girl whose sole claim to fame in the UK is having outed Jade Goody as a racist in a more or less fabricated Big Brother row. Deliciously, the story appears across three pages of the News of the World just as Shetty’s new publicists pledge solemnly to eschew the tabloids to ‘position her correctly’ and to ‘do more intelligent stuff’.

It is beyond parody. Will Shetty rush back to Max begging him to handle her crisis management? Or, at the very least, to make sure that if the tabloids are going to write horrid things about her, they plug her new fragrance?

Or will her new publicists, tin hats firmly on heads, persist in their dogged pursuit of an intelligent media focus? Maybe Shetty’s mea culpa or her protestations of purity will appear in The Economist or on the Today Programme.

Why does the woman who shot to fame on the back of a near-universal wave of sympathy for the racist abuse she was portrayed as having suffered turn to ‘ethnic specialists’ to burnish her image? Is her frustration with her previous PR svengali not born of the fact that her 15 minutes of manufactured BB fame is up?

Already another gaggle of publicity-crazed housemates is being spawned by BB8. Canny Max may well be sizing them up, planning well-rehearsed tabloid routines to net them their fast buck before they hit the exit door of fleeting fame.

It is not an exit which appeals to Shetty. And I suspect Max, the old tabloid master, knows she will not be able to keep her elegant foot in it long enough to prevent it slamming behind her. The last act will be riveting.

Ian Monk is founder of Ian Monk Associates and was formerly a senior newspaper executive at the Daily Mail and The Sun

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