Watching the Max Clifford documentary last night, I was struck by similarities that had never previously occurred to me between the late, disgraced celebrity publicist with whom I had endless dealings, and the professor of journalism who was once my boss on The Sun. As a rookie eighties columnist on the super-soaraway organ where I began my Fleet Street career, I was terrified of its brash, mouthy editor Kelvin MacKenzie; a little less so of arrogant and supercilious Greenslade, his deputy, whose insistence on coming round to my Islington flat once a week to help me with the final draft of my column copy should have struck me as sinister and loaded, but never did. Whether he had more in mind than the compression of sentences and the puckering of points never occurred to me. I was punchy enough, even as a stripling. He was kept at arm's length, not least because his halitosis was blackout-inducing. I used to wonder how on earth his wife Noreen could bring herself to get close enough to kiss him.
Roy's suicidal revelations, published in The Sunday Times last weekend - that he has been, for the duration of his own illustrious career in journalism, an IRA sympathiser - has provoked a tsunami of criticism, including a denunciation by the Prime Minister. Greenslade's excuse for having taken the shilling of major national newspapers that rightly exposed the very terrorists he supported in secret was, he declared audaciously, because he had a mortgage to pay.
Greenslade and Clifford both hid in plain sight. Both lived disgraceful lies. When Gary Glitter was exposed as a paedophile, it was Max's vociferous outpourings about 'vile child abusers' that prompted outrage in women he himself had abused. Those women found the courage to come forward at last, having lived blighted, miserable lives for many years. They outed him as the sex offender he was. He protested his innocence all the way to prison, where he died under lock and key. Max lived his lie until the bitter end. His disabled daughter Louise was so convinced of her father's blamelessness that she appealed both before his death and beyond it to salvage his reputation. Fat chance.
Roy has outed himself, and we have to ask why. Was he about to be exposed, and therefore jumped before he was pushed? Did somebody try to blackmail him? Had he grown sick of decades of dishonesty and subterfuge, and needed to confront his demons on the brink of his own old age? Whatever his motivation for coming clean so disastrously, he knows to his cost that this is no clean break. The Troubles, for Greenslade, have only just begun.