For all the mockery Hoggart has heaped upon him, one would understand if Michael Fabricant wanted to strangle his journalistic antagonist. Initially, Hoggart says, this was indeed the case, saying that Fabricant “got very, very upset.” Yet over time, Fabricant began to mellow. Hoggart likes to think this attitudinal change was owed to the popularity of his sketches amongst Fabricant’s constituents; not long after he began writing about Fabricant’s hair, Hoggart says, people in Lichfield began sending him photos depicting the wild variations in their MP’s locks. After Fabricant came close to losing his seat in the 1997 general election, Hoggart tells me he wrote a piece boasting that “my readers had voted for him because they didn’t want me to stop writing about him.” In the decade since, Fabricant has been a recurring feature in Hoggart’s sketches, appearing more often than any other member of Parliament, save perhaps Brown and David Cameron, the leader of the Conservative Party. “I feel that I invented Michael Fabricant, and it is his duty to me to be as silly as his hair-type substance still is,” Hoggart explained in a December 2007 sketch. In turn, Fabricant has given Hoggart the greatest gift a public official can bestow upon an author: he blurbed the latest collection of his columns. “Simon Hoggart has the unique gift of making me laugh out loud when I read his sketches,” declares the MP on the back cover of Hoggart’s The Hands of History. “Even when they’re about me.”

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James Kirchick is a contributing editor for The New Republic and a fellow with the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.