Private Eye, last with the news


You’ll probably recall that episode of The Simpsons where Bart comes in with his new copy of Mad magazine. “Boy,” says Bart, “they’re really having a go at Spiro Agnew this issue!”

I sort of feel that way when Private Eye comes through the letterbox. Will Wheen be getting stuck into Douglas Hurd yet again? Or will he be even more up-to-the-minute with a mildly amusing anecdote about Marcia Falkender?

Actually, there are a couple of slightly interesting snippets in the latest Eye. Hackwatch is rather good on Roger Alton, though there’s still no sign of Oliver Kamm getting a going over. I would do that gratis if Francis doesn’t feel capable.

On the letters page, there is an altercation between Ken Livingstone and occasional columnist “Ratbiter” (who, if he’s not Nick Cohen, reads like Nick’s evil twin) about Ken’s hosting of top Muslim theologian Yusuf al-Qaradawi. This, you will remember, was the subject of a Ratbiter column several weeks ago throwing around words like “appeasement” and grousing about Qaradawi’s anti-gay stances. Ken points out, quite reasonably, that his shaking hands with Qaradawi doesn’t imply that he buys Qaradawi’s entire bill of goods, and furthermore religious leaders of any faith who are openly pro-gay are a bit thin on the ground. Cue some huffing and puffing from our columnist.

There is also a short report on the Respect split. This is pretty thin stuff, mostly it seems cut and pasted from various blogs and the Weekly Worker. A couple of things do leap out, though. The tone is much less harsh towards the SWP than Galloway, and there is the requisite reference to “Asian small businessmen”. You will also notice the reference to Abjol Miah, who our writer points out was “fingered” by Ed Husain as a young hothead at the East London Mosque in the early 1990s. This is the third or fourth reference to Miah in almost identical terms in recent months.

I have no particular axe to grind on behalf of Abjol Miah – I’ve never met the guy, and have no knowledge of what political or religious views he held 15 years ago. His recent record doesn’t suggest that he’s a mad fundamentalist, so there is a question of what the Eye is doing being so relentless on Husain’s account, barring the Decent desire to give a plug to Husain. This also flags up the issue of what Husain’s book can actually tell us about political Islam in Britain today. I mean by that, the guy hasn’t been involved in Islamist politics in Britain for at least a dozen years, and has spent most of the meantime in the Middle East. He can certainly give us a snapshot of what the scene was like in the early 1990s, but that was then and this is now. Back then, Ed was in Hizb-ut-Tahrir, whose British section was then in an aberrant period under the leadership of Omar Bakri, with whom Ed had a particularly intense infatuation. But the Hizb kicked out Bakri years ago, and has calmed down a lot since, explicitly condemning both 9/11 and 7/7. Political Islam in Britain in that period was characterised by blowhards like Hassan Butt and, er, Ed Husain shouting about jihad but not actually doing anything about it. The home-grown suicide bomber wasn’t even on the horizon.

(There were, of course, some British mujahideen who went abroad to kill the infidels. But they mostly went to Bosnia or Chechnya, which you won’t read about in Private Eye.)

The Eye being the Eye, of course, this will run and run. I imagine that in thirty years’ time we will be picking up our Private Eye and reading about Abjol Miah’s exploits at the East London Mosque in the early 1990s. I wonder if you’ve heard this story about Anthony Eden and his yellow socks…


  1. Renegade Eye said,

    November 8, 2007 at 7:12 pm

    All of the UK bloggers on the decent and indecent left, seem to know each other. That is what it seems like from abroad.

    How does someone like Oliver Kamm get lefty credentials? Left is too broad a category.

  2. ejh said,

    November 8, 2007 at 7:26 pm

    Does Booker still write for the Eye? I was just wondering, after seeing his latest “climate change doesn’t exist” piece, how he gets on with Wheen…

  3. splinteredsunrise said,

    November 9, 2007 at 8:34 am

    AFAIK he still does, but he tends to concentrate on the EU stuff these days.

  4. ejh said,

    November 10, 2007 at 8:53 am

    occasional columnist “Ratbiter” (who, if he’s not Nick Cohen, reads like Nick’s evil twin)

    Surely he’s Wheen? Look for instance at “May contain nuts…” in In The back, which is very much Wheen territory.

  5. splinteredsunrise said,

    November 10, 2007 at 11:26 am

    It’s hard to tell the difference between Francis and Nick these days. See for instance all these articles about the litigious Saudi sheikh – you really can’t tell who’s feeding who. Could Wheen count as Nick’s evil twin?

  6. ejh said,

    November 10, 2007 at 11:44 am

    Vice versa, I’d have said.

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