Of course I remember when Ian Hislop was a Eurosceptic

‘The Slopper’, as he’s known to not any of his friends

You haven’t lived if there’s not been a single moment in your life when this thought has occured to you: what does Ian Hislop think about this?

It’s a funny one: he doesn’t keep his opinions to himself. Through both his main platforms, one as Private Eye editor and as loudmouth on Have I Got News For You, he says what he thinks, stabs in the back and the front, tells it to their bloody faces — shut up Boris Johnson, he’d probably say wouldn’t he, or sod off Tom Watson, you can imagine it can’t you — and shoots with both barrels. You can get triple barrel shotguns now, he’d probably get one of them wouldn’t he.

But you never really know much about his party politics. Maybe he hasn’t got any. He’s on relatively recent record as saying that in his time he’s voted for all the major political parties including the Greens. Though in 1996 he told the Guardian he hadn’t voted either Labour or Conservative before.

Does he appear to have changed in that time? Not to my recollection. He tells them all off. Shut up Ann Widdecombe, he’d probably say wouldn’t he, or sod off Alastair Campbell, you love that bloody Tony Blair don’t you, sod off, you can imagine it can’t you. Same with contemporary politicians. Shut up David Davis, he’d probably say wouldn’t he, or sod off Clive Lewis, you can imagine it can’t you.

Ian Hislop at Oxford University, 1980

Some think he’s on the political Right. Here’s some comments from readers of Tom Pride’s blog:

I’ve always though Hyslop two steps right of centre. Private Eye appears to have lost it’s bite since 2010 too.
I’ve always thought Hislop was orientated to the right. Even his predecessor, Richard Ingrams, was a small “c” conservative. The Eye is the house journal for the Oxbridge establishment, in that sense, it has become the very thing that it eclipsed: Punch. Remember Punch?
Ian Hislop is a Tory and a fan of the Royals, what do you expect?
Hislop has no time for the Left and probably sits somewhere between UKIP and the Tories. Hislop secretly loves the Pinko Liberal ideology but knows it to be unfashionable to say so.. […] Ian Hislop has moved to the right, along with the vast majority of British middle and upper class journalists and political commentators. […] Because people like Ian Hislop think the Con-Dems are doing the right thing by Britain. […] Hislop is a small state Englishman who secretly mistrusts Jonny foreigner like so many middle class Tory and UKIP voters. [This is just one comment. This guy thinks Hislop is all of these things].

But then some people have also felt that because he seamlessly attacks Labour and Conservative governments that maybe he’s some sort of Far Leftist.

Dennis Pennis, from when that was a thing:

I wonder how you describe, do you describe yourself as an anarchist, anti-Monarchist, Socialist, as sort of an urban terrorist, what kind of -rist-job are you? [To which Hislop replies…] I’m none of those things, a Satirist, an ancient English profession.

I get it, I get it. A Satirist has a duty to shoot with all three barrels, he’s not supposed to appear favourable to one or t’other. He might be a political something, but that’s an aside and kept up in a round secret ball in his heart. For all intents and purposes he is not political something, his duty is to something bigger.

From Eurosceptic to Remoaner

But here’s something to reflect on: Hislop has always said exactly where he stands on the European Union. Recently I heard him being interviewed by Jolyon Rubinstein for the News Roast podcast where Hislop said he was a “Remoaner”.

He’s said it before as well:

The editor of Private Eye said he was going to keep on arguing the case for the UK staying within the European Union (EU) and would not not be forced to keep quiet.
Asked on The Andrew Marr Show whether he was a “Remoaner”, the ‘Have I Got News for You’ team captain replied “yes”.
Host Eddie Mair, who was filling in for Andrew Marr, asked: “Do you think you should go on moaning about it, or should you get over it?”
Mr Hislop responded: “And suck it up? And what bit of it don’t I get? You lost. Loser. Failing. Sad. Hashtag ‘go home’.
“I know the arguments but I’m afraid no, I’m going on. As I keep trying to explain to people who are very, very upset about this, democracy works by people continuing to argue about the issues involved.
“When someone wins an election, the opposition doesn’t say that’s it, thank you very much, we’re going home for the next five years.
“You continue with the argument because it is in everyone’s interests for you to present those points of view.”

He’s influenced people who refuse to sit on their hands and accept the Referendum result, too. Here is Louise from the LSE Blog’s comments thread underneath an article on accepting Brexit:

Actually I think a lot of remain campaigners are saying loud and clear that — if this has to happen, IF — we would certainly want it to be as close to what you outline above as possible. But I’d say this is best achieved by contnuing to ensure the government is left in no doubt about the huge strength of feeling among the 48%. As ian Hislop pointed out on Question Time we are entitled, in the spirit of opposition, to keep on making the agrument that we are unhappy about this general ‘let’s-leave-but-we-don’t-know-quite-how’ debacle and still value what the EU has to.

Of course I remember when Ian Hislop was a Eurosceptic. In 1996 journalist Joanna Coles interviewed him for the Guardian in which he described himself as a Eurosceptic. Eight years later he was very cross that Tony Blair refused to hold a referendum on whether Britain should sign up to the European Union’s new constitution. Hislop was one of a number of celebrities, including Joanna Lumley and Tony Parsons, to endorse a campaign called Vote 2004 to get Blair to commit to a referendum.

A year earlier in 2003 he discussed the European Constitution on Have I Got News For You which was being proposed by the European Convention Working Group. He said, among other things, that Article 14 of the Constitution included a part on Loyalty, and that for his comments he could go to prison.

He said:

The idea of being told about a Constitution of Europe by [Giscard] d’Estaing [former French President and the chap that drafted the Treaty establishing a Constitution for Europe which was about as popular outside of his own clan as kicking your own face in forever. He was corrupt. From Wikipedia: “Giscard was reported by the Canard Enchaîné to have accepted diamonds as personal gifts from (Jean-Bédel) Bokassa — who fled to France with looted millions from the Central African Republic’s treasury (he’d been its Dictator from 1966–1976, and from then until 1979 as self-proclaimed Emporer) but was still given asylum in France”] is absolutely ludicrous… sorry I do sound a bit like the Daily Mail but just occasionally they’re right. We’re meant to have a referendum on this but Blair doesn’t want a referendum, perfectly good reason, he’d lose. So we’re not having a referendum, we have a referendum on local council elections, whether you want a Monkey in Hartlepool, really important issues, but on the fact do you want to be ruled by a group of people in Brussels, it’s not important.

Some people at the time were not happy about Hislop’s public euroscepticism. The Samizdata blog (made up of a varied group of of social individualists, classical liberals, whigs, libertarians, extropians, futurists, ‘Porcupines’, Karl Popper fetishists, recovering neo-conservatives, crazed Ayn Rand worshipers, over-caffeinated Virginia Postrel devotees, witty Frédéric Bastiat wannabes, cypherpunks, minarchists, kritarchists and wild-eyed anarcho-capitalists from Britain, North America, Australia and Europe) said at the time:

To Americans who may doubt the significance of all this, Hislop is a much loved figure in Britain. For years now, he and Paul Merton have been swapping gags and banter on HIGNFY, and whenever Hislop has been on the receiving end, he has taken it like a good sport. As editor of Private Eye, Hislop has been involved in savaging many dishonest and unpopular public figures — Jeffrey Archer being only one of many, and unlike politicians, he is considered honest. Whether this is true is beside the point I’m making; the point is, he’s a considerable British personality. So when he lays into the EU as a racket run by racketeers in a manner fit to bust, that has got to count for something, public-opinion-wise.
You had the feeling that Hislop has been waiting for the right moment to throw all his chips onto the table and make his anti-EU pitch, and if that’s right then it is very interesting that he reckons now to be the moment.

He’s making the point that Hislop was responsible for public ill-feeling towards the EU. I bet that’ll stick in Hislop’s new Remoaner craw.

With his self-described Remoaner hat on, Hislop says “democracy works by people continuing to argue about the issues involved”. Totally agreed. It was this dogged determinism that achieved the recent EU Referendum in the first place, something, albeit on a different scale, denied Britons in 2004 despite the efforts of people like Hislop.

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