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22 January 2010

Would you have Rod Liddle in your house?

The Independent was once the most high-minded of papers

By Peter Wilby

Would you have Rod Liddle, the ubiquitous columnist and former editor of Radio 4’s Today, in your house? Would you leave him alone with your daughters? We may have to address such questions if, as predicted, Alexander Lebedev, owner of the London Evening Standard, buys the Independent and appoints Liddle as editor.

The Independent was once the most high-minded of papers, notorious for its lack of much in the way of laughs. With Liddle, it’s laughter all the way. “The overwhelming majority of street crime, knife crime, gun crime, robbery and crimes of sexual violence in London is carried out by young men from the African-Caribbean community,” he wrote on his Spectator blog last month.

“Islamophobia? Count me in,” he stated on another occasion. Dawn Primarolo is “a shovel-faced termagant”, Caroline Flint is “as fit as a butcher’s dog”, and he once asked if you would, er, do it with Harriet Harman (“after a few beers obviously, not while you were sober”). This is cutting-edge satire and you are no doubt splitting your sides. Oh, and when Liddle married the mother of his two children, he scarpered in the middle of the honeymoon for an assignation with a bird he’d met in the office. Which was very witty indeed.

But recently in the Sunday Times, he argued in a boring, liberal way that Anjem Choudary, whose Islam4UK faces a ban, is entitled to free speech. I hope that, as the responsibilities of office beckon, he isn’t losing his sense of fun.

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