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In truth, he was never much of a rebel. After minor public school (Ardingly) and Oxford he walked straight into a job at Private Eye having interviewed the then editor, Richard Ingrams, for a university magazine. Ingrams groomed him as his successor and Hislop succceeded much earlier than anyone had anticipated, when he was still only 26. Ingrams must be as surprised as anyone that the affable Hislop is still holding down the job 32 years later, and showing no sign of moving on or promoting his own successor.

Why should he? By most standards he has done a fine job: the Eye’s circulation stands at a near-record 240,000 a fortnight, and with minimal production costs (the paper it is printed on remains just one up from lavatory-roll quality) it is a cash cow for its motley crew of owners. And thanks to the greatly relaxed libel laws, the Eye no longer has to set aside a sizeable proportion of its income to fight the legal actions which were once a constant threat to its existence.

It retains some excellent features: Craig Brown’s mock Diary (although you can read him elsewhere too), D.J. Taylor’s literary parodies, the irreplaceable Pseuds Corner, and Michael Gillard’s consistently excellent “Slicker” column exposing City wrongdoing. Gavin Stamp’s recent death put an end to his long-running “Nooks and Corners” column exposing the worst horrors of modern architecture and town planning. It seems unlikely he can be replaced, unless Prince Charles wants the job.

Much of the rest of the magazine seems stale and repetitive. The recent death of Mary Wilson aged 102 was a reminder of the brilliance of “Mrs Wilson’s Diary”, lampooning her husband Harold’s administrations, equalled only by “Dear Bill” in the Thatcher era, and by little since in the way of prime ministerial satire.

BBC TV’s dramatisation of the Jeremy Thorpe scandal recalled the waspish genius of the late Auberon Waugh, who first broke the story in the Eye with a typically mischievous item on the shooting of Norman Scott’s Great Dane, Rinka, which ended with the words: “My only hope is that sorrow over his friend’s dog will not cause Mr Thorpe’s premature retirement from public life.” Prophetic indeed, and the sort of tone now sadly missing from the magazine. Page after page on the iniquities of local government or private finance initiatives don’t have quite the same sparkle.

The Eye’s reaction to the Brexit vote was symptomatic of its identity these days. The issue after the referendum poured scorn on the winners, and the resulting cascade of letters criticising that stance clearly came as something of a surprise to its editor and his staff. Since then, normal pro-Remain service has been resumed, along with its other familiar obsessions, among them the privatised industries, Rupert Murdoch, the Daily Mail and Israel (against all of them). As a representative of the metropolitan elite, it resembles nothing so much as the Guardian with the addition of a few lame jokes. Still, as he bounces from one lucrative establishment gig to another, Ian Hislop, now 57, must be very pleased with life. Surely a knighthood is the least he deserves from a grateful nation.
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Trevor
July 12th, 2018
12:07 PM
OK, but what is the point Robert Low is trying to make? Does he expect Ian Hislop to change the way our country is governed by means of a mere satirical yet still popular magazine? Or is this a thinly veiled attempt to hide his jealousy that this so-called 'overrated' editor is more successful than he could ever hope to be? I say 'live and let live' Robert. I judge Ian Hislop by the circulation of private eye which is currently 246,628 and in my eyes that suggests that even if you think he is 'overrated' the 246,628 don't and that's what counts at the end of the day. Your 'opinion' is just an opinion but the 'fact' is Ian Hislop is still popular and the high sales of Private eye stand as conclusive proof.

Observer of the Scene
July 11th, 2018
9:07 AM
Hear, hear! Private Eye reflects its editor: smug, right-on and completely unfunny. One might wish Richard Ingrams back at the helm, if it were not for Ingrams' toxic antisemitism.

Anonymous
June 30th, 2018
11:06 PM
Much as I agree with the article it should never be forgotten that Hislop gave us "A Room of My Own by Bobby Sands"

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