I feel sorry for Ed Miliband. I have only met him a couple of times but on those occasions he stood out for his palpable niceness and decency.
The media’s inability to forgive him for eating a bacon sandwich with sufficient elegance and the constant carping over his adenoidal awkwardness strike a blow in the wrong direction for me and turn my sympathy valve on. Far more damning is the lack of purpose. Here is someone who looks likely to be Prime Minister next year yet appears to have no grand plan or strategy, still relying on the proven disaster Ed Balls to set his economic policy. Indeed when I see Ed seated on the front bench between Balls and wife Yvette Cooper I sometimes wonder if the Ballses are holding a member of Miliband’s family hostage back at home.
It wouldn’t be his brother, of course. And there is the real human problem for Ed. He tore his family apart, caused his sibling to leave public life and seek employment on another continent — and for what? Had there been some grand overarching vision, some urgent political necessity that required this Cain-like act of villainy then we might have believed the damage to his family to have been worthwhile. But for this?
Life does yield up some strange stories. I have one relating to Bob Lambert. The former head of the Metropolitan Police’s “Muslim Contact Unit” spent recent years acting as a sort of non-Muslim Islamist, engaging in apologetics for the behaviour of Islamists and attacking those (including Muslims) who criticised them. For some years he performed this role at the University of Exeter’s sinister and unsavoury “European Muslim Research Centre” (now disbanded).
Then, two years ago, a quite different problem emerged regarding this odd figure. It transpired that during his 26 years as a Special Branch officer Lambert had posed as a Green activist and had, with a network of colleagues, infiltrated that and other political movements. It further emerged that during this undercover work in the 1980s he had fathered a child with an animal rights activist in order to deepen his cover within the movement. The Green Party MP Caroline Lucas went on the parliamentary record to claim he was also involved in a fire bombing at a department store. Although he denied that charge, Lambert did tell the Guardian that during this period: “It was necessary to create the false impression that I was a committed animal rights extremist to gain intelligence so as to disrupt serious criminal conspiracies.” The gaggle of clowns and shady people around Lambert began to drift away.
Now Lambert’s old employer has had to pay compensation to the woman with whom he fathered the child. And perhaps the time has come to raise a less salacious but equally worrying question about this apparent agent provocateur.
For some years Lambert has been saying some very disobliging things about me and a number of other critics of Islamic extremism. Indeed, he has turned this into a kind of travelling show. At mosques and other locations Lambert used to give a presentation in which he presented a small number of people, including me, as Cold War-style enemies of Islam. His presentation included a slide-show of photographs identifying the culprits. A contact who attended one such presentation told me there was a clear and dangerous undertone to the whole presentation. On at least one occasion a member of the largely Muslim audience was inspired to declare that now was “the time for actions, not words”.
I had always thought that Lambert could only be one of two things: a dupe or a plant. Given his previous history it now seems more likely that he was the latter. And since this is question season for him and his former employers I wonder if the Metropolitan Police could explain exactly what he was doing from 2005 onwards. On whose authority? And to what ends? In particular I would like to know if Lambert’s efforts to stir up Muslim audiences against me and others constituted some kind of effort to smoke out radicals by using people like me as bait. Lambert, and the Metropolitan Police, still have some serious questions to answer.
On a brief speaking visit to Florida I spot one remaining copy of Mark Steyn’s new book, The Undocumented Mark Steyn (Regnery, £19.99), in a shop. I am reminded of his story of a reader being told in a Canadian bookshop that there was “no call” for one of his books while someone at the end of the very same counter was being told the same thing about the same book. Accordingly I buy the last copy and check with the nice lady at the till that she’ll be reordering. “Sure!” she replies. A bookshop seeking profits and not trying to push Noam Chomsky onto me? Truly America remains the land of the free.