I got my Private Eye last night, and found it most curious. Regular readers will be aware of the Cohen-Hari-Wheen-David T catfight, and I was expecting to come across some kind of follow-up. Did I? No, not a word.
I see from Johann that one of his mates has sent a letter to the Eye giving off about the Hackwatch hatchet-job. This doesn’t appear, but then again it may not have been sent in time for the current issue. [Update 31.08.07: It also appears to have been taken off Johann’s site.] Not only that, but there isn’t any sign of Decency anywhere in the mag, which leads me to worry about Francis – is he ill, or on holiday? Street of Shame contains no attacks on Hari, nor any puff pieces for Nick Cohen, Stephen Pollard or Harry’s Place. There is no Ratbiter column. There isn’t, as far as I can see, a single attack on Gorgeous George in the entire magazine. There isn’t even the ritual sniping at Douglas Hurd over Bosnia, which we normally get at least every three or four issues.
(This last is a little-remarked piece of Decent historiography, but an important one – Francis has trotted it out on several occasions, and Nick devotes a whole chapter of What’s Left? to it. The reasoning goes something like this – lots of Muslims are angry at the British government, but even though they say they’re angry about Iraq, this can’t be true because nobody could oppose the war in good faith. Therefore, whatever they think they’re angry about, they must really be angry at Hurd and Major for not bombing Serbia 15 years ago. This is usually accompanied by some bollocks about the “pro-Serbian left”.)
Anyhoo, returning to the Eye, I don’t know quite what to make of this. Will the next Eye have a Hackwatch on Nick, or even better, the ludicrous Mr Kampf? Will Ratbiter give up the MCB and the Bangladeshi Jamaat as a bad job, and start writing about, say, the sizeable nest of al-Qaeda operatives currently resident around Zenica in Bosnia? Will we start seeing articles about Ken Livingstone that don’t include the word “appeasement”?
I wouldn’t lay money on it. But I’m hoping the Eye staff are cottoning on that there isn’t much percentage in being the funny wing of Decency. And that might mean that, while you can’t stop Francis pursuing his personal hobbyhorses, cutting and pasting from Harry’s Place while shielding the Apostles of Decency from a well-deserved pisstake does not necessarily make for good reading. If the venerable Chris Booker can’t get away with devoting six pages an issue to bashing the EU, why should we get the analogue from an upstart like Francis?