Peter Hitchens Interview: Politics & Poetry



hello and welcome I'm Teddy AMS's I'm joined today by Peter Hitchens who was nationally syndicated newspaper column for The Mail on Sunday he's one of the most literate and eloquent that could be found in British weekly aluminous of the least called Cambridge and the University of York he's also exceptionally well known of his books which include 1999's the abolition of Britain still in print 20 years on recently re-released and he recently most recently published the phony victory which is a book on Britain's mythological self perception of its role in the Second World War I'm delighted to have him here Peter thanks for coming so far so good venez so first of all I just wanted to talk about a couple of recent issues things in the news at the moment before we move on to a wider ideological fair I feel obligated to talk about brexit you've gone on record as disapproving of referenda but nonetheless he celebrated the result as a way for the working class votes to express itself and you said you said that the leave result was very encouraging do you think that the Conservative Party understands how much anger they're provoking by failings carry out the instructions that people you must understand and what I've was encouraged by it was the the ghostly appearance of the two real political parties which I think should exist in this country during the referendum one a generally broadly social conservative patriotic formation and the other more or less the CIL's of Polly Toynbee in Jones formation I believe in adversarial government I don't think this country should ever be permanently ruled by one faction or another but I think the existing political parties don't in any way reflect the real divisions in the country I thought what happened with the referendum was that they were reflected and something I've been saying for many years was vindicated to that extent but to say that I rejoiced over it I really real pleasure I had over it was schadenfreude or at seeing the people who had derided my view of this real state of politician in this country for 20 or so years shown to be fools which they had been and that was all the rest of it I I predicted from the moment that I realized that he was going to win there's going to be a constitutional crisis the Conservative Party also been doomed people are realizing now that it's no use ever for it's too late at the moment for getting rid of it was when I was campaigning for a tan before well before 2010 for many years before 2010 I was urging that it should that people should withdraw their support from it and help it to destroy itself so creating a vacancy for a new party but they've played paid absolutely no attention to that and I believe the opportunity has now passed its the existing party's collapsed now then I hope very much fear that something very unpleasant and trumpet will move in to take their place so it was 2010 wasn't it where you said we missed the opportunity to just release the consent yeah that was what that was that was the greatest opportunity of British history and why is it now that you think that if they were to lose a succession of elections it's no longer the position where you could replace them something better because I think there is now a resentment in this country so deep of beingness governed because of a said no not because of that those sixes exaggerate it's been very deep for a long time people are so sick of it that it's gone beyond reason people until recently voted with the vague idea that they would better themselves by voting increasingly people are voting with the aim of doing down and damaging and their opponents it's the wholly different thing and once you get a politics in which people's main aim is to do down somebody else then all hope is really lost I think all hope is really lost I said the atmosphere of this country that seems to me to be tending towards strong state journalism in the medium term okay when Iqbal was resigned if you recall when he resigned and said my party refuses to compromise which he did recently yeah I would listen what happened do you think that that is to any degree a sign of genuine ideological purity in the Conservative Party or a genuine sort of sense of wanting to change things for the better as far as I understood it was a matter of the the Conservative Party whips acting to destroy mr. poses a proposal in Parliament in a way which is not not sickle in the sense of trying to achieve a name political in sense of just trying to destroy an initiative which struck me as rather childish and I rather sympathise with Mr Bowles when it happened so I didn't cause Italy to deal with ideological there is no such thing as ideological purity in a party such the conservative party it has no ideology yeah well I'm aware do you think that to idlers think it it's a demonstrable fact well when do you think it lost its ideology I've never had one it's a Mahad it has always been as as I repeatedly say it's always been a mechanism for obtaining office for the sons of gentlemen that is just let's say that in you know it has no principles and to some extent that used to be a virtue when its opponents were equally on principle but when it came up against dogmatic appearances it increasingly has done since the middle of the 20th century it either had to develop the contrary ideology or it had to adopt the ideology of expense and it's done the latter for speaking of ideologies I wanted to ask is there a distinction between social conservatism and social intolerance and the reason I ask this is I know it might seem a rather odd question but I think there is a mass confusion where the British public needs to rediscover the notion that social conservatism is an anti poor anti-gay or anti Muslim in order to rear it rebuilds a notion of conservative well people need to rediscover an awful lot of things but the fact is that largely uneducated public swayed by in many cases by influences which are anti intellectual and unintelligent is unlikely to come to such an appreciation I'm not sitting around waiting hoping for it to happen no that's fair enough but I'm but I mean is social conservatism in government and society something can someone comes you regardless of how personally tolerant you speak to me as if I am as with I'm engaged in politics I'm not engaged in politics I've entirely given up politics I believe politics be complete waste of time I believe the country is finished there is nothing else to be said about politics I will comment about politics intelligently and knowledgeably fast but I do not believe that there is hope in politics in this country we have we have destroyed our fourth government and we have destroyed our culture and we have trashed our education system in our Academy and we're now reaping the benefits and this will continue until the country sinks giggling into the sea at some point in the not-too-distant future as I say attending did it seems to me that the nature of it because the disorder and the uncover nobility which will grow as a result of this demoralization that this will tend towards some sort of strong tale a strong state to assert arianism I think the the the inability of people to even bear the expression of contrary opinions grows by the day well I quite agree about that I do you I will in fact speaking of that you were recently talking about Joan Cox yes Twitter and blog not on Twitter I wrote about a build about the about the the horrible murder of Joe Cox in my column ah yes but people were incensed on to it so when you did suggest it so they were incensed about something I hadn't said they made themselves attempts to better things that has accused me of saying things I hadn't espousing views I had told because they are so they need to believe that the murder of Joe cross was a symptom some sort of grain wrapping extremism as part of their worldview and to have this challenged by facts was deeply distressing and uncomfortable so they grew angry and intolerant denounced me people were actually saying that that that I am my advisor should be taken to court and the fundamental view was not that they disagree with what I said but was that it was the quite different view that I should not have been allowed to have said it and should not dare to say the response was fundamentally a totalitarian one I've attempted to reason with with a lot of these people and in most cases I've got no reason back just more personal abuse and misrepresentation of what I said it's an illustration of what of what happens to public debate and uneducated demoralized society it becomes increasingly impossible to do I'm gonna carry on but I think that at the moment is closer than I thought when it's going to be more or less impossible to express a dissenting opinion in public why do you think people are so nervous about alternate points but because there is a because they they their passions are engaged their their their opinions or expressions of that of their prejudices and in many cases bigotry their motivators are they increasingly by hatred and contempt for their for their opponents rather than by a desire to improve and improve life and party tribalism and fashion tribalism is increasingly dangerous because it because it increasingly tense towards not advancing the the circumstances or ameliorating the circumstances of the fashion but in attacking the other guy it's held together by attacking the other guy an awful lot of modern politics is held together by the creation of an enemy who has to be hated in foreign policy and in domestic policy increasingly bu knowledge in your in your tremendous book about as nice as you like it don't go overboard well your books God I mean I really tried note if I were writing it now I'd write a different and better book but I've decided not to try because it seems to me that if I did try to write it again I would have to write a completely new book and I I want to see it I'll prepare do that it stances it will also lead dishonest of me to withdraw some of the things in it which frankly if I were writing it now I leave out well I shall quit et do we like but I rather say it's it's it's it's not it's not beyond criticism I'm it's turnes critic still tremendous I think well it's as I say it's lovely of you to say so but don't no don't don't don't move from from liking the book in tune in to sort of see fantasy towards it because it's it will stop you from thinking at some point or other you will return to it and be arrested by something which you previously had no see actually I'm not so sure about that I suppose happened to me we might get to some of that yes but don't you you do knowledge in the book or did at the time that Tony Blair's government was strongly ideological whining you've talked have knowledge knowledge would be suggesting that people were pressing me to say this I I was I was virtually alone in pointing out that this was so it was a puzzle to me to try to work out at the time with the limited knowledge that I have of the internal waves new labor it was a puzzle to me to work out exactly what the the driving dogma of it has been mr. it's occupied a great deal of my time and thought ever since to try and pin it down and I was greatly helped by recent article in The Observer by Peter Hyman a close Blaire aide who said in public something which I know said in private before which was the new labor was for instance far more revolutionary than Jeremy Corbyn and then of course there were the revelations which we get year by year of just how many members of the Blair government senior members the blog of we now know to have been unrepentant and slightly embarrassed student Marxist Leninist now not just on the vague fringe of it but members of the more or less conspiratorial organizations and to me this is fascinating because I was one of those two and this continues to influence my life but inferences is in a particular way because I have publicly engaged with and retracted in the positions that I held whereas these people have not done that and make edges they don't like talking about tool and so the whole because it's the holes but one what I think what I regardless the ground shield you're a communist trend in new labor is it seems to me to be the thing which is increasingly emerging and when I must be nice he months ago Blair himself announced in an interview with Peter Hennessy on Radio 4 which is not exactly a private place that he had been a university Trotskyist he didn't name the organization do when she belong that he said he had been one there's extraordinarily enormous piece of news passed on or not and it said that at any time while he was leader of the Opposition or prime minister can you imagine the the enormous fastened and examination I was the rushing of reporters to Oxford to try and look up the records and find out which organisation he'd belong to who his comrades were total silence I was the only person in the British press who even bothered to record it and it's astonishes me this is the the curiosity and complacency of people about the intellectual origins of new labour and also their their complacency and curiosity about the about the combined effect of this this government which which both engineered an enormous constitutional revolution bigger than anything really at least since the days of Lloyd George and I would go further back than that and also particularly with the British sizing of the civil service and also an enormous moral and cultural and social revolution and its attitude towards towards marriage and indeed towards education its abolition more or less of the even of the existence of the position of husband and father in in government documents amazing development and a foreign policy which more or less abandoned defence and national sovereignty in favour of a of an anti sovereignty interventionist liberal interventionist position again a complete revolution in thinking in action and it's still treated as if it was a sort of mildly Tory government how unobservant how in curious can people be there's a wonderful book by Nigel Williams called the Wimbledon poisoner about a fictional crime in in Wimbledon in which the Fleet Street pack come down to Wimbledon and you see them from the point of view of the participants in the in the crime and its victims and they are they've already made their minds up before they arrive what's happened and so this they sit in the pub talking totally unaware of events going on six feet away which would reveal the truth if they only look in curiosity seems to me to be these days an actual qualification to be part of the trade of journalism but you do this very funny book it sounds that I've written it down it but you do acknowledge if I can put this together that the Blair government was an extremely high George I are still clearing the word acknowledge but you you do discuss represents my the whole nature of my enquiry that it it it discovery of the idea that the new labor was would you prefer me to say pioneers but it's certainly very different from acknowledges man you pioneers the notion that new labor was extremely ideological be also talk in the book and talk today about the conservative party being for the sons gentlemen something down ideology but presumably based on what you've said about the Blair government you do acknowledge that parties can be extremely ideological and yes m—eleven labor has become ideological increasingly ideological actually since really since the middle to late fifties I wasn't properly ideological in the in the app-v period or before then there had ideologies within in DC but as a party in hazard as a coalition of Methodism of trade unionism and a number of other forces and indeed of also temperance and to some extent of of old-fashioned working-class liberalism it it operated as a as quite a conservative governing party when it came into offices between 45 and 51 in many ways though radical in others but when it did its old trade union purpose failed and when its religious basis started and when it's old working-class liberal basis is also fade away its became increasingly a metropolitan ideological party devoted very much to to social reforms which prefigured and cleared the ground for the new labor reforms so if you read Roy Jenkins's labor case I think 1959 and turn across limits the future of socialism you could see emerging within it labor as a socially reformist party rather than just as a trade union reformist or economically was always partying in a very significant way that was the first big challenge which the Tories didn't understand or or oppose and were eventually absorbed by its biggest achievement if to give an achievement it can be cold was the introduction of comprehensive education 965 hmm it's a huge revolution mode and the the Tory body neither understood it nor opposed it nor attempted to reverse it very very dogmatic egalitarian piece of piece of work which changed the country irrevocably and profoundly and still misunderstood by most people most people imagine that there was some educational discovery at some point which meant that comprehensive schools were better than selective schools no such a scare resistant thinking of a political origin but do you think then there is in fact the possibility for an ideological conservative party not now no I guess if its ideology would have some an anti ideology Edward did would it would have still really to ask you to much tourism because doctors much is bad for the government of a free country but what it would have to do to be of any use would be to understand and take on intellectually the challenge of the euro Communist to the dodgems and to under offer a civilized alternative and that's what it doesn't do what does a positive conservative act live like well one thing which you can which a properly conservative government would do for instance would be to end the enormous legal and state assaults on the institution of marriage which is that the constitution of private life and indeed the foundation private life without which there could be very few of the things which sustain free society on the contrary as we learned today the Conservative Party is entirely caved in to those who wish to make marriage even weaker than it already is and divorce even easier and people will say well this is just a matter of human kindness it simply is not as a fascinating feature of English Learner you main contract to lease a car or buy a house or you say we've saw you sign a contract with somebody who's is waiting for you and you break that contract and the law if you take them to court will come down against you as the contract break it in the case of marriage the clear contract in which both parties commit themselves to long-term lifelong clear commitments the person who breaks the contract the one who is protected and supported by the law it's unique fascinating about the unique and this assault has been going on now really since the very at the very shortest since the late nineteen sixties that I think a lot of the case judgements on the awards of custody of children the awards of matrimonial property before that were tending in the same direction but the the courts of the law did not take the side of marriage and indeed Brenda Hale now that the head of the Supreme Court was one of the sharpest lawyers and I mentioned her in my book I'm rather pleased to be on sale that that I noticed both Brenda Hale undress her to dick before they were famous as people who who I didn't approve of or lightly roasting had to go a long way Brenda hell that very clearly noticed in her own writings the long ago the the the the legal existence and importance of marriage was disappearing you know in our court system which it is and that means that anybody who tries to establish your private life and tries to live a life based upon the old-fashioned principles of of lifelong marriage is a sale that every is every moment in life by the state which attacks them I'm not asking for the state to to discriminate against people who don't want to do that but I am asked the state to do is to stop squirming to stops terminating against people who do that would be a conservative policy at the moment they're all very much hemorrhage from this against those who wish to continue to have any old-fashioned private lives I came very naturally Alana I'm not asking you to agree with it you're supposed to be interviewing me not agreeing with me and I allow to really not really know that makes for very darling to do well in that case it sounds like some dreadful South African apartheid er interview mister why you say popular I'll disagree instead then and the Office of National Statistics I'm sure you familiar with this stats says that the divorce rate has now been dropping for the past couple years for roughly percent each year from Toluca the divorce rates dropping because the number of people who get married in the first place is dropping what an awful lot of marriages are our second marriages as a result of divorce but huge numbers people are never getting married in the first place so they're not going to get divorced the divorce rate was an interesting measure at the time when marriage was still the accepted the accepted institution that everybody took part in and the time when lifelong marriage was still which is remarkably recent was still considered normal but once that had passed the divorce rate ceases to become this interesting statistic the interesting statistic becomes how many people get married at all in the first place that is diminishing when you say the well okay all right but also there is a question which is which is very very hard time sort of how many marriages these days they're actually marriages of convenience for immigration citizenship purposes which it would be impossible to discover but given the importance of citizenship and the the very very rapid shortcut which marriage offers to it I think one has to be suspicious about some of the marriages that are taking place but you can't know it's impossible to make this sort of inquires into people's private lives and wouldn't be wrong to to know whether it is so but I think you have to in looking at the marriage statistics to wonder whether this is in the last couple of years the amount of marriages absolutely has risen again it was going down since the 19th has begun to rise so do you think there might be a way back from the destruction of traditional marriage no this is not an indication as well as I just said I think there could be other explanations to that I don't know what you have to look at is the number of people who remain unmarried never marry in the first place I also noticed the the legalization which will take effect before the end of this year of heterosexual civil partnerships which will mean just as the the licensing of of weddings in country houses and other grounded in picturesque locations pretty much destroyed church weddings I think the institution of this heterosexual civil partnership will mean for a lot of people who regarde married as an outdated and ideologically hostile institution will now will not take out heterosexual circle punctures some as a marriage by many many marriages are and toilets as a person has already heterosexual civil partnerships they don't really contain the elements of marriage which existed before 1969 of the intention of the lifelong exclusive relationship is the end of the traditional lifelong marriage the main culprit in British last time oh it's really cute us to look for single causes and I don't say single cause there are many men right there are many many things working in the set time when they the only the single causes that is negative there is no such thing you can't project darkness the darkness is an absence of light and and and most of the things we should happen to Britain as a result of the absence of or collapse or decay of the moral and legal system which formerly sustain us and that I repeatedly say can generally be dated in the First World War the business which was poor Tomball the French ambassador to Britain the long term regarded the the 1914-18 war as Britain's equivalent to the French Revolution it changed our society so much as a qualified outside observer I think his opinion is worth is worth listening to when you discuss your book in its new edition and it has a new introduction in such thing yes what about nine introductions that has the various reissues you talked about how they the you felt the trend could be reversed respond I read you read by Holmes I hoped it would be a manifesto for a for a catcher of the city so when you're talking soon I get I will arm abandoned as she's mustered nurses yeah no I do I acknowledge they don't think that anymore but when you're talking about negative projection and how you can't project on it's in such things you clearly did at the time feel that the trends could be reverse Missouri crushed mission could be done not just you different questions they might be well they are not I don't know you you are some whatever all you or me to answer them and I'll do that well actually you're in charge of this interview lesson until I get up and walk out what I will I talk about it'd be good for the views if you walked out that's super weird you know what I'd like to know some tension to the occasion wondering when I'm going to get up which I have I Pro I promise you quite capable of doing I believe you absolutely had to do it to some people the other day recently yeah well no they it's not what they asked me it was that they they they got an interview with me on false pretences haven't we done that not so far very good there's a second clap someone had done that to me the first time was just a fast it was that the the drunk legislation yes yeah but when you told me to book about how it could be reversed now you think the trend can be reversed so you change your position on whether it can be reversed it's just so much about you so I'm not quizzing you about that because I understand that but when you did think that the trend could be reversed does that mean that there was something concretely you felt could be done at the time I hadn't really thought about it I hadn't really because I was as I am I'm a newspaper columnist I'm not engaged in daily active parliamentary politics I don't have any belong to their think-tank I have no contact with us all so I was merely theorizing on a blackboard and then people repeatedly said to me we'll look if there you are you talk a good game but what about when it comes to action they would say the setting for as you stand on the sidelines whatever a sideline why don't you pass his bed so I thought of hard about this and I examined the possibilities of political engagement this isn't the ridiculous publicity stunt of pretty myself forward for Canada and Chelsea which people have each well they through there and people write about who is my Gallipoli the device because I regarded such a terrible humiliation to be rejected that I that I hated the Tory party I wasn't listening not true i Boris Johnson and I cooked it up as a stunt he from The Spectator me for the part for the initial publicity for the book I had no remote expectation I think a political correspondent thank you perfectly well I Abita former cabinet minister for the nomination for the safest seat in England this is a ludicrous idea that I ever would so no what happened was I thought all right then if I were to engage in actual parliamentary politics what would I do and it very quickly became clear that it would be most unlikely that any conservative association would select me in any win of the seat but even if they did which I did get some approaches actually even if they did I would be a lone person in Parliament and quite honestly a lone voice in Parliament is about the most useless thing the glories you have to be part of a whipped party in parliament to have any serious effect on the direction of process so it seems to me that for this week any point in my going into party politics I would have to bring about a situation in which a party existed which I could join not as a total support of everything that's stood for but certainly that it would regard me as tolerable and I would regard it as sort of all that I would be in its mainstream that the possibility of ministerial office would not be would not be non-existent because it would be if I was some kind of lone Tory now so I thought well how to do this and the more I thought about the more I thought the the Tory party was under for I didn't belong to the Tory party at one point I even obtained which is incredibly difficult a copy of its constitution which generally people are charged large sums of money for I managed to get one by by by hook or by crook I'm not doing that I was clearing from it that the individual member has absolutely no from some development policy at all and the the the power lay elsewhere in places which I couldn't reach I watched the Cameron takeover and the extraordinary Michael had put against Iain Duncan Smith with fascination and real it was really the push against he and Donna Smith and I have no briefly enough Smith he was a terrible leader of the Conservative Party and he deserves to be got rid of because he was bad leader but that's not the point the point was that political forces were arrayed to remove him well in many cases outside because party and I would put BBC journalism as pretty high among the those forces which we used to remove it just for instance and it was obvious to me the Conservative Party was very much in the hands of the same liberal elite which I described in the ambition Britain that it was it was part of it and it was also clear to me that it was unreformed walls so I thought is it destroying London I came for pushing that was a struggle which it was in 2010 it had it lost the election properly which it very nearly did then it would have collapsed and split people would have stocking money to it people would have stopped blowing – it was already his membership was already in ruins it's real memberships far lower than a midget still is it doesn't have many members and it's voted to collapse and therefore the would be a vacancy and I thought this was perfectly possible and I got up and I said this over and over and over and over and over and over and over again week after week after week after week after week I wrote letters to people who've played I had email exchanges I dressed public meetings and I could get absolutely nowhere at all I addressed a meeting of the brugge group at the Tory conference I think it must be – 2009 in which I said listen on that occasion I came to believe in global cooling the temperature of the room and I suggested that people should boycott the Conservative Party drops by about 20 degrees Fahrenheit with the contempt and rage which I brought about many of the people who were present at me have since written to me and said how completely wrong they were and how the guy'll they had been by David Cameron and absurd was it but it was too late they had decided to support the Cameron campaign and to get him into Downing Street and they engineered the destruction of their own course by doing so and then these same idiots thought that they could obtain a shortcut to their objections to a referendum and we are to this day suffering the catastrophic consequences of that stupid Harry Potter politics when you wave a wand and bang suddenly without any of the processes and focus without any other necessary persuasion thought negotiation pre-planning policy discussion that without any of that you son totally changed the nature of the country overnight with a majority barely over 50% give me strength and I saw politics it makes a children's playground look reflective and no wonder we're in this mess if you if the Conservative Party had got exactly the same amount of votes and seats as it did in 2010 but the coalition have been between labor and the Lib Dems do you think it would I don't know it's possible it's possible but I think that the that they needed to get fewer seats the thing was that they wish they needed to do a little bit more badly for I mean the ideal result would have been I couldn't say it certainly cuz people have accused me of backing the Labour Party the ideal result would be a narrow narrow victory that would have done for them for good but I can age you can't in my position staff called for a Labour victory and I wouldn't have done so but actually that would have been for the country a Labour victory of trying to tank making out cold friend because there's a limit and tribalism is very strong there's a limit to how far you can go you can carry people quite a lot of argument but but to ask them actually to support the election of the government of the other tribe is going too far so I wouldn't do it I wouldn't know I say you can desire things without without being able to call for them a lot of people do it all the time particularly politicians oh yes I mean the the for instance the the darlings of by-election which was won almost by accident by but by Labour in 1982 it was a tragedy for the for the Labour right-wing you had to push against Michael foot all prepared for the men when they were lost the dark version and then as one labour Shadow Cabinet remember certainly including including a world I worked on us and then we bleeping well won it and they were furious that they wanted but they couldn't get so public we want to lose this by-election it wouldn't be a Dennis Keene he wouldn't become leader of the Labour Party in the whole history of the country would change well a lot of Labour MPs wanted Jeremy Cole far bigger loss in 20 they did and they didn't get it did they did you told what they were almost so fit about it rent them they behaved all the time as if there's as if they had no desire for victory he talks about how alone and bat venture doesn't have much influence on young primary reason for not wanting well I think this to what would be the point I have I would have far more influences economist or national newspaper than I was alone back there Tory MP and it's it's so obvious it doesn't really require Stacy but there are groups like the ERG no more phone they're more fun certainly there are groups like the ERG that have created their own kind of influence on the government despite not being really part of it there aren't any members people there groovy sure I wouldn't want belong to the ERG not the ERG specifically I can't think I know they were looking around the chamber of the house comments I can't see anybody who I would particularly welcome as an ally alright I suppose that's a different thing and alright well thanks for that you said that Britain is finished Electress never seen a more finished Kendrick you've you've often given the advice and that's widely coyote to run off the cliff with his legs whizzing around before he realizes that the forces of groves you still in operation it's no crime other my legs are still whirling around we haven't realized it still held up by by our fantasy of our own importance and our fantasy learned non-existing well though we are the sixth largest economy in the world we'll only if you count debt we are but when you have a talks in the past you said the British you should go elsewhere and that that's been I just say people ask me what to do I should get out while you can not by the way if I were if I were your age I would do so I would get but I'm not I've come to me to convince you I probably was too difficult I won't ask where we should go because I know you've often said that there's no point asking that there's worse than no point I will insult you if you do I narrowly avoid it as your dad but does a political shift to the left really mean that Britain is finished for its ordinary young citizenry the the kind that aren't interesting because what because because in country to country which is increasingly lords which we are coming a country would universe education system doesn't function a country whose government barely function a country whose economy is so deep in debt public and private that you can never get out of it and can only pass through it seems to me but I've added something close to hyperinflation which must come to balance the bill and I just don't see what else could happen which is visibly around this morning Debenhams went into administration this morning wasn't it doesn't think I do mr. McCain closing at the not a week goes by when some high streets or doesn't close or when some business doesn't relocate to Southeast Asia or winter or when some factories at Swindon where I was a reporter for some years we the the Honda factory is closing closing I had thousands of lives permanently devastated what will replace that even the the big luxury supermarket in London next to my office famous for its high prices is announcing its cutting its prices and all these all these signs importance of an economy is driving it we constantly go to the Chancellor said and and what Prime Minister said with no economy is healthy we've got over the recession I don't see it and so you combine that with all the other things and with the the lack of moral restraint the the criminal justice system which was made entirely of cardboard in which people increasingly grasp is made of cardboard where are we all going to be what is it going to be like to live here especially if you're poor in the next 20 years I know you can you can't predict the exact timing of these things that's beyond me but the it's very easy see given that the material forces at work on this country that's bad things can happen it's the tech gonna bring about a further shift towards France keys and she thinks because people are so desperate and private I trust you their sailors whose trustees mr. far too sophisticated people as Trotskyism as a scissors as a student and pseudo-intellectual occupation thank you trust Gizem Services is far too abstruse now it's gonna bring much more and much less a unintellectual for politics problems but left politics hmm we talk to you till recently about worrying that a Donald Trump would devastate their the UK well no not Donald Trump may Donald Trump hey I'm saying I only got equivalent of a British crew who lost it because Britain is different from United States be different from Donald Trump but it is some some dough fish Yahoo of that kind comes into being of us then I can easily see him or obtaining the same sort of problems those in the parliamentary system is different for a presidential system but I think that something of the kind is likely happened remember how much of the Trump appeal was based on this let's do down the other side look hurrah do you think if there is such a candidate already in public view perhaps that we might be I haven't identified this sir all right but you wouldn't would you who would have guessed ten years before the donald trump as a TV show Hearst would be president united states in chief magistrate earth's largest nuclear power in the world who was thought it people have stairs laughable and it happens many things loudly making a laugh of what people think lots of it as a laughable and then they happen if you live long enough you see everything well a different question then about identity for identifying and categorizing MPs I know you've you've often refused to endorse any specific MP also lend that kind of credence to things but is there any current member of parliament you feel to genuinely be conservative or this Morrissey I don't know I mean maybe but they're there if they belong to the Conservatives or labor or there were there little green parties they wouldn't be able to express it if Sir would prevent them from from being and therefore they would be prevented from thinking it's interesting you say this because you claimed once on Twitter about two years ago that Jacob Riis mark lived oddly in his private life but there was no evidence of it in his voting record yeah and I i we had a conversation it was reasonable some were you well is it because he has consistently voted against gay rights seven to zero against gay marriage six to zero voted against all state welfare policies over seventy votes not a single exception is this not a genuinely conservative record I know not by itself I'd be interested to know how you how he voted for instance on the recent the recent legislation imposing I haven't looked imposing politically correct indoctrination on schools but there's a huge amount of legislation small small incremental pieces of legislation which impose the the the modern world on society which you couldn't a fewer conservative MP opposed all the time you might do the occasional symbolic one but you there's so much of it it's it's so accessible I mean how did Jacob Riis enormous opportunities among in Parliament for the for the 2010 Equality Act yeah did he vote for him he very against it okay well I reckon he would've voted for it if there's been a government bill I knew with the the cooperation between the opposition government for adventures over the river was actually quite strong me but the symbolic vote which you're allowed to do but how did the Conservative Party been in office at the time it would have had to because it was a European Union directive I see well it still seems to me that the record is quite concerned well you can you can do you're welcome to it if you want I don't I don't really care I'm not I have no interest in identifying allies or the fight I'm not taking part in all right I just I just I've given it up it only made me unhappy entertaining these fantasies that something might be done nothing after they need our Christmas it's it's over countries come to an end we used to sing evening him the de la gave his Lord his idea the darkness falls in my past the morning hymns sending our prayers should sanctify the rest it was a line in it like Earth's a throne shall never like earth sprout empires pass away and this used to vary save me as a young seminary here old imperialism British Empire's possibly me passing away and now I realized it's absolutely true that's brother pies do pass away as its passing away temporal all temporal Authority all temporal achievement all comes to dust and we're witnessing in this case DS any one thing permanent in the universe and it's not do you think that a lot of the British self flattery rhetoric is a result of colonial guilt I've no idea not suffering much from colonial guilt myself I can't know other people may have an arrangement and might be a vampire as that man says you're either in wine or you have one and there's no doubt in my mind which is the preferable arrangement for us yes well what what do you think is the most vital element then I promise this will be the last the last vaguely political question what is the most vital element of conservatism that's missing that needs a spokesperson I'm not suggesting you want to be it or would be it well there's a number of things it doesn't it doesn't even mind my own views the particular kind of conservatism which has which existed in the popular mind in this country and infused our institutions our laws was it was a form of Protestant Christianity best summed up in the 1660 super contraire but that's maintained okay I'd like to talk about the abolition of Britain a little bit if you don't mind well no I mean I have written another book you some more didn't know I know I yes I know I'm sure your father's alma mater by now it's your first book deeply I miss storage to find I I that my publisher has it had a rage I I just looked for the Oxford literary festival last week I was astonished if I thought that I would be talking about my new book who was astonished to find my posters with book me as we talk about a book I've written 20 years before but I thought okay one has to go through with this I was can you told me about it was quite far back as it was quite fun actually having a debate with David idea who was suitably adversarial made it much more interesting than otherwise me but the idea of going over the whole thing again without an adversary was pretty unappealing I can be adversarial if you'd like but since you bring up David Aitken will join you I was I've tried we didn't we agree on too much and but you must your fault no Maya I hope that I'm sure I'll be entranced kiss my I'm your age I'm going the opposite direction I talk to you about recent debate David Erica during which he made the point I'm sorry you made the point about Oxford lowering state standards well he still rocks would not look yes and a member of the audience who seemed to me to be a person in a position to know a senior member of the university said no you're wrong what he was telling you I thought I did it was me okay in May night asked implodes David okay well remember everything no well he called you absolutely wrong I corrected the record at the time is he right Leah thank you thank you remember but he was wrong anyway he was wrong because she is wrong what consequence do you think that a concerted effort to diminish the standards of Oxford and Cambridge for the sake of diversity will have there's no part of the general consequence of the the sacrifice of education to a guy's heroism which as I said began 95 going on I've said we decided we would prefer to have a country with equality of outcome rather than a country in which the education system was designed to educate the people who benefited from most of the highest low and we've suffered trauma our sins do you think that the debate was bound eventually it has for some time was bound eventually actually to affect the universities to which interesting Lee Gordon Brown was actively hostile when he was charged with accession and the amazing attack which he made on Austin because a young woman from her state school was rejected by Muslim college I think I remember that name he I could think of no other country in which a senior in the current would openly attack the the best educational institutions in that country and yet in Britain it was deemed to be a politically wise and indeed haven't a Jewish thing to do is a reason for the continuous assaults on both Oxford and Cambridge that they are alone in not having in having made some effort not to give into educational Marxism or is this just paranoid I don't know what educational masters knows exactly but they know I think the the dose and carriage of take a little depth have been reducing the standards for a very long time before there's and the the educational status is continually falling for far longer the past few years and most fundamentally as I said 1965 the beginning of the abolition of the crown schools very sure the officers I don't have the dates to hand but I think it pretty it fetches up in the early 1970s the General Certificate of Education olá all the standard basic examination of secondary schools has to be severely watered down because the comprehensive schools can no longer prepare candidates effectively for it shortly after that the air level is itself abolished completely unimpressed with the GCSE which is not even recognizably as similar examination it's a sort of Scout bad and of course the General Certificate of Education a level lowers its standards we have the word of the of the engineering council and of the dharam universities researchers that the it's it's a materially objectively demonstrable that the the standards of a levels have reduced in any university teacher knows perfectly well that the newly arriving undergraduate often has to be taught large elements of things 10 or 20 years ago they would have known as a result of their school education and so the universities have to lower their standards and if also by by nineteen by that by the late 1960s the universities will surround a huge pressure to expand you walk around this city and you can see a kind of archeology of it as there is a message Powell and Moya or whoever it happens to be hired by by colleges to build more and more more and more student undergraduate accommodation for the larger and larger colleges well as Kingsley Amis and the others so this time more will mean worse if you want to have any universities they have to have very restricted entry entry and they although they can never be big enough to satisfy the demand for them they're far bigger than they used to be and they take people far lower standards at least that's just a fact and this will become increasingly evident Jacob Riis mark said that the solution to inequalities in education is that state school should be more like Eton do you think that that's feasible well it's it's it's perfectly feasible in the sons state schools could could need outdo in Manchester ground school was a direct grant school taking large numbers of state pupils during the 11 plus I just think matches a crowd a school could have given eating a run for its money in educational quality very easily and several of the other threat graph rather than other schools could have done at the time and indeed they were doing so as I said at the this refreshable effectiveness I say all the time the the Franks reporting towards the university chassis an accelerating increase in the number of state school entrance to Oxford during the late 40s 50s and early 1960s from grammar schools and director announcements and they had they displaced private school candidates Eaton has itself undergone a revolution in the past 30 years is far far more academically Selectric than ever used to be it used to be more or less a comprehensive to rich people that's very it's quite tough to get into you can't just get in just put the dank down a perception is used to be able to do Winchester's the New Eden well I don't know not even sure about that either again it's the the the problem with the with the big feed charging schools is that they have become increasingly dependent upon rich parents and as a result they inevitably their academic standards suffer I think which is very different schools with what it was 30 or 40 years good so where's the best education in the world now if not I know I wouldn't like to say I mean III know quite a bit about the education system in my own country I know a little about the education systems of Germany in France and a little bit about that of the former Soviet Union but the United States but not enough just to make a pronouncement of that kind what is extreme increasingly rare in any country because of the disappearance of adult Authority in general without which serious teaching is incredibly difficult is the sort of discipline passing on of serious knowledge from one generation to another which ought to take place at schools and almost all societies have being effective but I would think possibly you you could probably still get very high status of Education in countries such as Japan where there's still a certain amount of respect for general intergenerational respective the cow just got here but I don't know I have seen no research or isn't enough to say they're asking me things I cannot it must have them it must have been a lot easier they also serve program a high-performing education system when there was a more traditional family unit of course the fact the the Alliance billeted two things which which any good school will invariably rely on one it's a complete unflinching alliance between parents and school and the other is is selection refer entry and any school which doesn't have those things will fail the there are on the other hand the increasingly schools which which select after entry by exclusion of people they wish there hadn't taken in and they're all kinds of other tricks by which selection is achieved some very elaborate but open a knowledge meant of selection on the grounds of academic ability is is more or less illegal most of Europe we're okay um you recently promoted a petition to examine the effects of marijuana use on mental illness and violence yeah are you in case it'll burn yep so I this was a load of pushback as you know people seem terrified of a of a scientific evidential study into this of even calling for well they rightly terrified because if one we're in favor if they very very large and well financed Lobby which is in favor of legalizing marijuana is sees one major obstacle to its success which is the growing understanding in several Western countries that the there is a strong correlation to marijuana and mental illness which is a big commercial no no it really isn't if you're planning to make the best powers-that-be product and it could conceivably get in their way so you can see why they would want to silence what I say and prevent me from getting it it and wider circulation yeah is that why the police won't enforce the law police won't enforce the law because the police won't enforce laws that the courts weren't punished it's not worth their while the the police are more or less led by by results if they're if the courts don't bother if they go to all the lengths it's incredibly difficult business back to arrests and persuade the CPS to prosecute somebody why waste your time arresting people through the CPS went prosecuted the courts weren't punished the police quite naturally went and what the police were faced with and there's a simple practical problem is that they they were often in a position where they were confiscating marijuana from people and they had a big legal problem about about the disposal of it and and what was the purpose of this they can easily be accused of retaining inferences they didn't go through long and bureaucratic procedures they just chucked it in the bin or threw it in the river or something they could be in trouble but if they if they pursued an arrest in the prosecution they would waste weeks of their time and usually if in the result the origin of all this is in is in Nordhausen speech to the most Association October 1973 when he told them to stop sending people to prison for marijuana possession after which the the courts more or less used to do so and the khandaan slowly to this the other thing process to the police has been politically revolutionized like every other institution and the police force is now full of people who ideologically believe that the drug abuse is not a serious crime and who regarded as something to be treated rather than punished so these things combined to the point where it's not quite obvious even to the dimmest person what I said in my book the woman over thought in 2012 seven years ago for which I was derived it is true that the British state no longer makes any serious effort to to punish or prosecute the possession of marijuana and there is no war on drugs do you think will be legalized it not if I can help it and I may all be able to save the country but I think this policy of legalization is so mad that even in our current almost demented state people may wake up to the fact that it's a mistake and I don't there is also a kind of realization beginning in the United States that it's mistaken there is now actually a a book published which is making some headway pointing this out so it's not a totally lost cause a politician is a fantastic be ignorant about it and the meta name a case has been brainwashed by the legalizes with that now and the number of science people living there as an outcome totally regurgitating briefing papers from from legalizing organization to check and recognized word for word is enormous but they're still afraid of their verses and if their voters increasing it you make it clear that they don't want to legalize a drug that makes their children mad and then they may not be able to get away with it but the de facto decriminalization which we have at the moment that's a much harder not to crack legalization is really just about people making money out of it yeah do you think it sets any precedent when someone like David Cameron comes out and says I have experimented with marijuana well if he says experimented I would did he take notes it's just such a Steven isn't it I wish would say people people do these accessibility it's what they say about it then if he then says this is one of the stupidest things I ever did I shouldn't have done it I would advise anyone against it and I regret it deeply that's one thing though well it was just a normal youthful experience perfectly no now you worry about as a results I wouldn't be interested in enforcing the law against it now and that's another thing it's not that he did it it's what he chooses to make a bit that's important lovely change direction towards the end if you don't mind one of the things I've always found very appealing about your work avoiding sake of fancy is it your use of poetry and how you use it to create sort of a cultural reference that I suppose is more lacking in contemporary publications often these days particularly your work is replete with Larkin you wrote very good a card for mail on Sunday about him church-going last reducer and the wits and weddings also that was my sermon you're certain that the I delivered a sermon excuse a few years ago only come with my whistle so I had to both part of my point being that Larkin is a great religious PO for that matter I I have always thought of Larkin is a secretly religious poet do you agree with those structures I'll wipe the mark but secretly I mean either the key would he would if you had him here you'd say no absolutely not he didn't he never intended to be secret it's my it's my report to the to the Phillip Fulmer I'd somebody else like that milton was of the devil's party with that man you see it's because of Paradise Lost he's obviously much more sympathetic segment or anybody else but it's that's its logins particularly church-going and Eileen days and not so much high windows as the Arnold tombs the there is a it seems to me to be very strong tag and of course the trees accountings leaf like something was being said it's very strong tacking knows there's something more to this but he will always slip in the world almost because he's not prepared to confront it vast moth-eaten musical brocade created to pretend we don't have very easily modified the vast moth-eaten musical Brigade courage to proclaim we never die that's the first draft no but I think if you look at the history the history of how I came to write church-going he didn't like he piece was in Ireland that he saw a ruin church and he didn't like it it disturbed him he suddenly realized how little he would like it if he if he came across similar ruins in England yeah a place so he didn't yeah he didn't although he himself was was was irreligious and hostile to its a religion as such he recognized that there was something again in what is that poem called going going he refers to guilt guilt halls and carved choirs not just guilt halls he has to put the car deposit and where do you find choirs any one place what is it about Larkin is it that you're both pessimists or is it the relationship that's my life is like a new city just on occasion he is just at the the the the thrill of poetry is the the ability to express something far beyond words it's kinda see use of words as music in bypasses the the literal part of the brain as architecture dance and a poetry is not the same as the writing of prose at all its you're using the same instruments and tools and it it might look similar on the pleasure it's a wholly different thing it's the whole point about poetry is the thing you don't understand how it gets you you you will read a passage of poetry and be in tears and you won't know why just that you are you said you don't really read serious fiction anymore I never read serious fiction i I'm completely unlit really I've tried so many times to read Middlemarch and I and I got a return and just just console it from the foothills of there T I can't bear it I'm not a serious person I'm not an intellectual I'm not a literary person I've absolutely none of these things that my job is good with very very fractured and patchy education anytime the amazing thing about modern Britain and I should be really grateful to and he crossed under my without you this is there's so many other people and were sadly kept at the man that I look as if I wanted to go hmm but I'm not and I'm acutely conscious of it nonetheless I'm very usually caught up by anybody who is no danger here and well that's up to you I know just telling I make no absolutely no claims you talk brilliantly though on question time about the beauty of memorized poetry that's easy isn't it I mean it's not it's it's a platitude and a statement it is beautiful then obviously and if you've learnt it and again my stock of poetry by heart is quite small but if you've learnt it then what happens is that it becomes part of your own your own mind and therefore everything you say is influenced by it so I had a suburban heart educated person I have asked some access in my mind through memory to glory but the glory is in mind it's somebody else does anybody can do it that's why people should do it that's duty but I think there has there has been I mean I wasn't alive before before the current educational system but it does seem to me that there's a been a great decrease in that kind of decrease or a decrease didn't in my time and the learning of poetry my heart the the reading of scripture was still just about part of my education but I was in Jordan really old fashioned school and an awful lot of my Cohibas would have heard nothing of the kind and I didn't have anything like as hot and strong as anybody would have had it ten years before I was it's good why do you call yourself Sammy educated released from Cambridge I left the new school carriage after two year two years yeah and I'm happy to do so okay and who have something Larkin do you read regular poetry break if you didn't read poetry regularly read on impulse did I do some Sun suddenly I want to reach it but reading poetry just sit and read a book of poems if you reading a novel or or a volley of history or a biography you have to be in a particular state of mind I suspect there well you could just pull down all that about a verse and just read it like I but then good for you and it's not something I could do or would do it's repulsive we go months without reading but could you read as much you read Larkin say I like greatly going to unpretentious before Shakespeare plays not the comedies that's the tragedies in histories yeah and I've taken – it's a taking a copy of the Pleiades having fun I need you I'm doing it so I can read as I listen because I think it's extraordinary and she's one of them one of the things about living in Oxford there's so much it was particularly wonderful very simple small class King Lear and the courtyard of the Bodley in about four or five years ago which was done by the Globe Theatre Company as their that were which was stunning particularly because of course the architecture of that courtyard is exactly the contemporary Shakespeare look perfect for it just an ordinary that there wouldn't stage no fuss just the word beautiful not just beautiful but things but thought inducing that boom where rising and risers became really famous again in the eighties with people like Marcin Amos and Salman Rushdie and such people has ended and so has that kind of mass public engagement with thoughtful educational programs like c-span what do you when you hear that that such-and-such a book was won the Booker Prize do you rush out and buy it expecting the fact you get a good read ya know well the reason why is that the literary industry is so up itself as I believe it's very scarce that it is longer cease to be interested in actually providing the pleasure which people miss fundamentally what pleasure and storytelling which but people miss fundamentally one from writing so that is some of these people were quite good I I greatly enjoy the the Noles of William Boyd foresters not so much the others like that name it's not terribly no that's thought I thought the Rachel papers is pretty funny when I first really but I must admit I haven't great sense you should try the pregnant widow I have tried the premium it's it's on your side as if it left me cold but identify didn't get much beyond page forty which is usually the point at which if I'm not going to get any further than wave tremendous but you think it is Fred you can't lead recommending books is a big danger I really can say you can say to people why you like them but you can't say it is good unless you have access to some for judgment that I don't know that but when when good is an entirely subjective they always it almost become something you can use again doesn't it because if there is no objective good then it's all writers use it because you can say if it's subjective you say I think it is okay I think it's tremendous yeah thank you but the the move away from stuff like c-span that you were on seventy times and the the culture where writers were safely famous and where the literary establishment was still open and so sort of promoting I go house go Serena called what are you working on this is necessarily you could provoke one no I only have two questions to do that well they put a bit quick okay do you think that that is maybe something that's also responsible for the shift away from education rather than just educational policy no nothing whatever to do with it fantastic and really recite his poem what we resize his poem no okay thank you very much for joining us thanks it was marvelous it's been a real thrill to have you here the new book the phony victory is out and it is in reputable bookstores despite what you say it wasn't song it's in some it's in the black whales in Oxford between Blackwell's in Oxford but there's a very good reason for that and which it's not difficult to divine but you try and find anywhere else if you've enjoyed please do subscribe for similar content that this has been unique I cannot replicate this I'm telling entities Peter Hitchens stay moral and thoughtful goodbye for now thanks a lot yeah

34 thoughts on “Peter Hitchens Interview: Politics & Poetry

  1. Come on Peter, there's being direct and brutally honest and then there's just being deliberately humourless and, as others on here have put it, plain old cantankerous.

  2. Interviewer does amazingly well with a notoriously cantankerous interviewee. Peter's worldview has unsurprisingly become more fickle

  3. I have gone off Hitchens, he said he was against the EU for years, now when the public votes for Brexit, he doesn't like that either. What is the point of him anymore?

  4. Don't worry Peter: 'blessed are those whom hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled'. Not long now methinks.

  5. No country is finished unless it's population goes away. They can rebuild. But if they keep importing the 3rd world, then it will be forever done.

  6. Great interviewer! Very well researched and composed. A breath of fresh air.

  7. Understand the agenda of the sabatean frankists. Ethno Nationalism for all people's of the world, protected by all people's. No more wars. Multiculturalism is white genocide

  8. Straightforward to the extreme. Setting the record straight in crystal clarity. I wish I could fault his logic and conclusions.

  9. When you see what is being elected ,, and who is actually making the front bench !! My god he is right ,, come on all you Abbott supporters what qualifications / qualities has this woman got ,, Amber Rudd is only slightly better , she has the qualifications but has absolutely no qualities ? And that can be said about most of them ,, Blair started all this,, UKIP for me!! guys like this can't get elected but Abbott , Rudd, can !! we are all doomed

  10. I normally appreciate Peter's self-deprecating and forthright style as an interviewee, but he comes across as charmless and unnecessarily curt here. I'm not sure if there were any mitigating factors, but this was far from one of his more enjoyable offerings. Nevertheless, I admire that you didn't get flustered and you did manage to provoke some interesting comments eventually.

  11. Hitchens possibly interviewed by his younger self? Lord, i hope that young man doesnt grow up so bitter and miserable.

  12. Peter Hitchens, and this interview, are a fine example of how being upper class can make being a complete wanker look civil and refined.

  13. interviewer is too nice, not a bad thing, but you could tell Hitchins was hankering for a verbal scrap

  14. I like this channel. Some free advice: Get more discussions like these. Also, wear a tie.

  15. Why did Hitchens refuse to say which countries young people should go to? I didn't quite understand why he said he would take offense to being asked that? Can someone explain?

  16. 42:24 I love how you exposed his bullshit over Rees-Mogg. Hitchens talks a big conservative game, but refuses to support one in reality. He just loves the sound of his own voice and selling books.

  17. Peter is always miserable whether you agree or disagree with him, he is a defeated man.

  18. I think Peter becomes more prickly when he actually deep down likes the interviewer and wants to push them around a bit so to learn a little from the experience. Great interview & very glad to subscribe.

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