KEITH NEWBERY: A lesson for all those who can dish it out

IF 2012 can be said to have had a prevailing theme, it would probably be that of watching the biter getting bitten.

There have been several prime examples, but none more obvious than the fate which befell publicist, Max Clifford.

The man, who has made millions from impaling people on the skewer of bad publicity, was seen blinking dolefully into the cameras as he began the struggle to rescue his own reputation.

Clifford has always defended his lucrative activities with the po-faced assertion that he was motivated mostly by exposing the hypocrisy of the rich and famous.

In doing so, he became rich and famous himself, and we will discover the extent of any personal hypocrisy (if there is any) when the Operation Yewtree team has finished its inquiries.

Officers arrested Clifford on suspicion of committing sexual offences in 1977 – an accusation he has always vigorously denied.

Of course, he may well be completely innocent of all charges, but he would do well to remember that some of those whose reputations he conspired to trash over the years were not guilty of any criminal offence either.

Another to feel the full force of karma, when it comes to having their personal integrity publicly questioned, has been Clifford’s friend, Rebekah Brooks.

Mrs Brooks, who is alleged to have been up to her titian tresses in the phone hacking scandal, also faces trial in nine months’ time on charges of making illegal payments to public officials.

She approaches her date with destiny with a substantial cushion of £10.8m, which she received from News International as compensation for ‘loss of office’ when she resigned as its top officer.

However, guilty or not, she’s the latest to discover that no amount of money can compensate for a shredded reputation.

The other public figure whose hopes of further advancement gurgled down the tubes – to no obvious sign of widespread public distress – was Ed Balls.

His ham-fisted response to George Osborne’s budget statement was bad enough. But he lost further credibility by then trying to blame his abject performance on a childhood stammer.

As David Cameron said, he can dish it out but he can’t take it – a phrase which may also resonate with the likes of Clifford and Brooks.

Any smoke without fire, Mr Mitchell?

TORY vice-chairman, Michael Fabricant, may appear to be wearing that wig for a bet – but an astute observation occasionally emerges from beneath that unlikely thatch.

Commenting on the latest developments in the Plebgate row, he said: “The problem Andrew Mitchell has is that if Michael Gove had been accused it would be hard to believe, because he is invariably polite and courteous.”

The implication is clear – and it begs an obvious question for David Cameron as he ponders his next move.

If police officers did try to stitch up his former Chief Whip (and this has yet to be proved) why did they pick on him? It’s the motive as much as the action, he should be concerned about.