Spin doctor pays call to ailing LCC

Max Clifford discussed reputation with college head after row over resignation. David Matthews writes

February 23, 2012

Credit: Alamy
Good on papers: Clifford has finessed clients' difficult media profiles

Many high-profile figures turn to PR guru Max Clifford to handle the glare of publicity: O.J. Simpson, the Big Brother contestant who was romantically linked to Manchester United player Ryan Giggs, and now the under-fire head of the London College of Communications.

Sandra Kemp met with Mr Clifford last December after it emerged that she had been criticised in a resignation letter by the LCC's departing head of communications, Gillian Radcliffe.

Ms Radcliffe said that two hours after sending the letter - which objected to Professor Kemp's "irrational criticism" of her - she was escorted from the LCC premises and told not to return.

A few weeks earlier, the college's finance manager, Steve Chaplin, left after just two months in the job and was also said to have been escorted from the premises.

It is thought to be the first time that Mr Clifford - the man who stage-managed tabloid headlines such as "Freddie Starr Ate My Hamster" and "Mellor Made Love in Chelsea Strip" - has advised a figure from the higher education sector.

A spokeswoman for the University of the Arts, London, of which the LCC is part, confirmed that Professor Kemp and Karin Askham, dean of the School of Media, met Mr Clifford in December.

"The meeting with him was an informal one to discuss the college's reputation and Sandra's as head of college," the spokeswoman said in a statement.

She added that Mr Clifford "has an ongoing association with the college through its public relations courses and has previously visited to speak to students and staff as part of its PR Futures lecture series.

"Neither the university nor LCC has a business relationship with Mr Clifford and has not paid him for any advice."

On 22 November last year, Ms Radcliffe wrote to Professor Kemp that "it has become clear that you no longer count me as a loyal or valued member of your senior team and now view me in the same negative light as you do countless other decent and dedicated colleagues".

Following a story in Times Higher Education on 15 December, a university spokeswoman said that the institution was "saddened by the tone and content" of the letter.

The University and College Union, GMB and Unison unions called on Professor Kemp to resign in January after it was announced that the LCC would close 16 courses.

Gary Horne, chairman of the UCU branch at the institution, said he had called for an independent investigation into the LCC course closures at the most recent meeting of the governors of the University of the Arts, London.


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