Peregrine Worsthorne

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Sir Peregrine Worsthorne
Born (1923-12-22) 22 December 1923 (age 90)
Nationality British
Education Stowe School
Peterhouse, Cambridge
Magdalen College, Oxford
Occupation Journalist, writer, broadcaster
Title Sir

Sir Peregrine Gerard Worsthorne (born 22 December 1923) is a British journalist, writer and broadcaster. He was educated at Stowe School, Peterhouse, Cambridge and Magdalen College, Oxford. Worsthorne spent the largest part of his career at the Telegraph newspaper titles, eventually becoming editor of The Sunday Telegraph. He left the newspaper in 1997 but remains an active contributor to various publications.

Early life, school, and military service[edit]

Worsthorne was born the younger son of Alexander Koch de Gooreynd,[1] the son of a Belgian banker, and Priscilla Reyntiens, an English Roman Catholic and the granddaughter of the 12th Earl of Abingdon. The family name was anglicised following the birth of Worsthorne's older brother Simon Towneley, who from 1976 to 1996 was the Lord Lieutenant of Lancashire.[2] The two boys were baptized Roman Catholic, but did not attend Catholic denominational school.

Worsthorne's mother divorced his father when he was five years old and she would soon marry Sir Montagu Norman, then the Governor of the Bank of England.[1] As a consequence of the split, the family butler effectively raised the two brothers for several years. "Unhappy as some of my formative experiences were, all in all, it was pretty good soil for someone wanting to go into public life", he would later recall, commenting on the tradition of public duty and service so prevalent in his family and his family's social circle.[3] Worsthorne's biological father reverted his name to Koch de Gooreynd in 1937[2] and lived in Rhodesia for several years; Worsthorne discovered in the early 1960s that a half-brother was born during this period.

He wrote that while at Stowe he was once seduced on the art room chaise-longue by George Melly, a fellow pupil who was later a jazz singer and writer,[4] an accusation that Melly always denied. One other pupil, Colin Welch, did though become a lifelong friend. Welch also had a career in journalism, and persuaded Worsthorne to apply to Peterhouse, Cambridge.[5] He began his studies at the college in 1942, having won an exhibition to read History. The master of Peterhouse at that time was the Conservative academic Herbert Butterfield. As was normal practice Worsthorne was called up for war service after three terms; he was rusticated during the last term. However, in army training with the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry he injured his shoulder and after being admitted to a hospital in Oxford was able to persuade Magdalen College to admit him for a term.

He saw active service in Phantom during the Italian campaign with the philosopher Michael Oakeshott,[6] and was part of the occupying force in Hamburg for three months in 1945. Worsthorne returned to Peterhouse and took his degree a year early, gaining a Second.

Early career in journalism[edit]

Worsthorne entered the newspaper industry as a sub-editor on the Glasgow Herald in 1946, on a two-year training program for Oxbridge graduates. He then worked for The Times from 1948 on the Foreign Desk, again as a sub-editor in his first year there. During this time at one point he was called into the office of the newspaper's editor William Casey, who then told him: "Dear Boy, The Times is a stable of hacks and a thoroughbred like you will never be at home here".[7]

He became a correspondent in Washington (1950–52), where his admiration for Senator Joe McCarthy's pursuit of communist subversion in the United States government eventually led to a split with the more circumspect Times, and, in 1953, he joined the Daily Telegraph. Despite moving to a newspaper more suited to his politics, Worsthorne nevertheless left The Times with some regret, feeling that working for any other title in Fleet Street could only be anti-climactic, and that working conditions at The Telegraph were inferior to those at The Times, then based at Printing House Square. At this time he also contributed articles to the magazine Encounter (then covertly funded by the CIA).

In a November 1954 article discussing McCarthyism titled "America: Conscience or Shield?", he wrote that America's flaws were something the British would have to accept for their own benefit, because: "legend created an American god. The god has failed. But unlike the Communist god which, on closer examination, turned out to be a devil, the American god has just become human".[8] More recently he favourably compared a post-war America which "put its faith in the [intellectual elites]" over a Britain dedicated to the "masses".[9]

At The Sunday Telegraph[edit]

In 1961 Worsthorne was appointed as the first deputy editor of The Sunday Telegraph; a job with fewer responsibilities than its title implies, and in his autobiography Worsthorne expresses some regret that he rejected an offer to become editor of The Yorkshire Post. In due course though, he became a leading columnist on his newspaper, taking a conservative High-Tory stance.

Worsthorne mourned the loss of the British Empire; he once argued that the public's acceptance of decolonisation was paralleled by their acquiescence to socialism.[10] Of the Six-Day War in 1967 he wrote an article titled "Triumph of the Civilised":

last week a tiny Western community, surrounded by immensely superior numbers of the underdeveloped peoples, has shown itself able to impose its will on the Arabs today almost as effortlessly as the first whites were able to do on the Afro-Asian native in the imperial heyday".[11]

The following year, after Enoch Powell's speech in April 1968 on the perceived threat of non-white immigration, he argued that voluntary repatriation was the "only honest course".[12]

In common with his friend, the journalist Paul Johnson, he has advocated the recolonisation of former colonies. In September 1991, he advocated a "a new form of imperialism directed against the countries of the Third World" intended to create an "anti-barbarian alliance" to control the use of weapons by "primitive peoples." In his view nothing could be done about famines "without the advanced countries re-exerting political control - i.e., a return to colonialism."[13] In 1965 he defended the declaration of UDI by the white minority government of Ian Smith. Worsthorne, in an article on the Sunday following the declaration, wrote:

Just as in the light of history Lord North has been judged wrong for refusing to give independence to the white slave owners in America, so will Mr Harold Wilson be for refusing to give it to the white supremacists of Southern Africa.[14]

Worsthorne initially accepted Britain's entry into the European Economic Community (now the European Union). After the publication of the Heath Government's 1971 White Paper, he wrote in a Daily Telegraph column that the "Europeans" deserved to win in the battle over British entry. "The sceptics have failed to produce an alternative faith", he argued.[15] By the time of the imminent Single European Act of 1992, however, he wrote in The Sunday Telegraph of 4 August 1992 that: "Twenty years ago, when the process began, […] there was no question of losing sovereignty. That was a lie, or at any rate, a dishonest obfuscation",[16] in contradiction of the Treaty of Rome's commitment (1957) to an "ever closer union".

On the BBC's Nationwide programme[17] in March 1973, he was the second person on the nation's television to say "fuck", when asked if the general public were concerned that a Conservative Government minister Lord Lambton (his future father-in-law) had shared a bed with two call girls.[18] Improbably, Worsthorne was preceded by Kenneth Tynan (in 1965) and followed by the Sex Pistols (in December 1976) in breaking this particular taboo. Worsthorne said in 2013: "There’s a possibility it wasn’t spontaneous. Apparently I took advice about it before in El Vino’s. I don’t remember. To the best of my knowledge, it was the mot juste."[19]

The use of the swear word on television cost him the opportunity to edit the Daily Telegraph, as its then owner Lord Hartwell strongly objected to Worsthorne's comment[1] and was persuaded to bar him from appearing on television for six months. Worsthorne was, nevertheless, promoted to Associate Editor in 1976.

Worsthorne argued in 1978 that the possible advance of "socialism" created an "urgent need ... for the state to regain control over 'the people', to re-exert its authority..."[20] in the context of Britain "being allowed to spin into chaos".[20] He was critical of Mrs Thatcher's connection of domestic socialism with the form in the Eastern bloc as he did not perceive this as being in line with the experiences of most of the population[20] (the "untalented majority").[20] He saw "the needs and values of the strong" as something which "should obsess the popular imagination" of "all healthy societies".[20] He defended the conduct of Pinochet's forces in the 1973 Chilean coup, and wrote that he hoped the British army would launch a coup in Britain if a radical minority socialist government should ever enter power.[21]

In 1978 Worsthorne did not see the potential for elements of his views (the end of socialism as an alternative in Britain) to be reflected in the forthcoming change of government (in what the political scientist Andrew Gamble came to call "the free economy and the strong state"), possibly because Perry's core sensibilities pre-dated the development of capitalism. In the year before Thatcher's election he wrote that her government "is not going to make all that much difference... Her proposals amount in effect to very little: a controlled experiment in using market methods to improve the workings of social democracy".[22]

Worsthorne came to criticise the legacy of Margaret Thatcher's government; during the 1980s, his ambivalence to what he saw as her "bourgeois triumphalism" resulted in Worsthorne and the Telegraph being out of favour at 10 Downing Street for some time.[23] In 2005 he argued that Thatcher's "utterly un-Tory ideological excesses left such a bad taste in the mouth of the English people as to make Conservatism henceforth unpalatable, except as a last resort in the absence of a less dire alternative".[24] He added: "For many of our people, life in the late 20th and in the 21st Century will be repulsive, brutal, and short as well."[24]

After Conrad Black's holding company gained 80% of the company stock in 1986, Worsthorne was finally able to become editor of The Sunday Telegraph, though in the end only for three years. In 1989 the Telegraph titles briefly became a seven-day operation under Max Hastings, with the bulk of the Sunday Telegraph edited by Trevor Grove. Worsthorne's responsibilities were reduced to the three comment pages by the editor-in-Chief Andrew Knight. The lofty ethos of the comment pages, with contributors including Bruce Anderson, was captured in their nickname, 'Worsthorne College'. This arrangement continued until September 1991 when Worsthorne's commitments were reduced to his weekly column.

Despite his own experience at his public school, Worsthorne long criticised homosexual activity, castigating Roy Jenkins in particular in an 1982 editorial, for his tolerance of "queers".[25] At the time of the debate over Section 28 in January 1988 he appeared on BBC Radio Three's Third Ear programme and persistently referred to gay men as "them", which caused the other interviewee, Ian McKellen to come out by saying, "I'm one of them myself".[26][27] Worsthorne also said on the programme that not being gay was "a close-run thing" for some of his contemporaries.[28] He later accepted the possibility of same sex marriages, believing they allow gay people to form "stable relationships"[29] and even argued that Conservatives should embrace political correctness as a form of modern courtesy.[30]

In 1990 Worsthorne was the defendant in a libel case brought by Andrew Neil and The Sunday Times, over an editorial in The Sunday Telegraph which claimed that as a result of Neil's involvement with Pamella Bordes, "playboys" should not be editors. Neil won the defamation case, but with relatively derisory damages of £1,000,[31] and his paper won 60p, its then cover price.

Later life and career[edit]

Worsthorne's column in the Sunday Telegraph was discontinued in 1997 during the editorship of Dominic Lawson. From that point, Worsthorne became critical of Black for his newspapers' unsparing defence of Israel and the foreign policies of the United States.

In a speech at the Athenaeum Club on 19 June 2006[32] (published as Liberalism failed to set us free. Indeed, it enslaved us) he asserted that: "The liberal argument for the importance of a free press was that it gave voters the necessary information on which they could vote intelligently. Of all British newspapers today, only The Guardian even tries to do that." The previous year Worsthorne complained that the Telegraph was becoming a "a cloned new version of the Daily Mail which represents English conservatism at its very nastiest".[33]

On the changing Britain, he has said that, "this is not a country I recognise or am particularly fond of any more",[34] and that he no longer views himself as a nationalist.[35] Worsthorne has embraced the Euro federalist option for Britain's future.[36]

He has also changed his view of the acceptability of the nuclear deterrence: "would some historian emerging centuries later from the post thermonuclear war Dark Ages have judged (pressing the button) morally justified, or so evil as to dwarf even the most monstrous inequities of Hitler, Stalin and Mao?... How could we have believed anything so preposterous?".[37]

Although on the political right, Worsthorne regularly contributes book reviews to the New Statesman. In his 2005 In Defence of Aristocracy, he commented that, "a commitment to goodwill is what is missing today in all walks of life, public and private." He goes on to say that this commitment should take the place of aspirational objectives that may be excuses for mere greed, and that "there will be no revival of the Tory cause until once again it can be associated with noble ideals in all walks of life, high as well as low".[38]

In his Athenaeum Club speech in 2006 he noted that the emergence of David Cameron in a positive light, seeing in him "the return of the English gentleman." By December 2013, having met Cameron only once, he was more sceptical: "Cameron fits into that gentlemanly tradition but he’s very embarrassed and awkward about it."[19] His criticism of modern liberalism mirrors some of the concerns of a younger generation of conservative journalists such as Peter Hitchens and Melanie Phillips, but his affinity for The Guardian[33] and Cameron is not shared by them.

Bruce Anderson observed observed of Worsthorne, "my dear friend and master", on his 90th birthday in December 2013: "Throughout his career, Perry defended conventions, while also defying them."[1]

Private life[edit]

Worsthorne married Claudie Bertrande Baynham (née Colame) in 1950, with whom he had a daughter (Dominique) and stepson (David Anthony Lloyd Baynham). Claudie died in 1990.[39] In 1991 he received a knighthood and married the architectural writer Lucinda Lambton.[40] As of 2013, the couple live in Buckinghamshire. His daughter, Dominique, is married to the potter Jim Keeling and they have five children and two grandchildren. His stepson, David, is married to Patricia Woods Baynham and they have two children and two grandchildren.

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d Bruce Anderson "Peregrine Worsthorne at 90: still colourful and indiscreet", telegraph.co.uk, 22 December 2013
  2. ^ a b Adrian Room Dictionary of Pseudonyms: 13,000 Assumed Names and Their Origins, Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Company, p.514, citing an article in Punch, 26 October-1 November 1996 by Nigel Dempster
  3. ^ Peregrine Worsthorne (2004) In Defence of Aristocracy, Harper Collin.
  4. ^ Worsthorne (1977) p.90-91
  5. ^ Richard West Obituary: Colin Welch, The Independent, 29 January 1997
  6. ^ Michael Oakeshott's Second World War Service
  7. ^ Worsthorne (1999) p.117
  8. ^ Quoted in Saunders (1999 [2000] p.204, also summarised in Worsthorne (1993) pp.161-62
  9. ^ Adamson, John (2004-05-11). "The Daily Telegraph". London. Retrieved 2010-05-22. 
  10. ^ Grouchy’s Liberaltopia
  11. ^ "Deccan Herald". 
  12. ^ Quoted in Greenslade (2003 [2004]) p.234
  13. ^ "hack canada". 
  14. ^ Quoted in Worsthorne (1993) p.236
  15. ^ Greenslade (2003 [2004]) p.293
  16. ^ William F. Jasper "EU Official: Pooling Sovereignty, Once 'Unthinkable,' Now 'the Model'", The New American, 12 July 2013
  17. ^ Christopher Howse "A four-letter word on teatime television", Telegraph website, 13 November 2008
  18. ^ Worsthorne, Peregrine (2004-02-05). "It seemed the mot juste". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 2010-05-22. 
  19. ^ a b Harry Mount "'The pure pleasure of annoying people' - Peregrine Worsthorne at 90", The Spectator, 14 December 2013
  20. ^ a b c d e Peregrine Worsthorne "Too Much Freedom", in Maurice Cowling Conservative Essays, London: Cassell, 1978, pp.140-54, 149, 148, 147, 140, 154
  21. ^ Quoted in Beckett (2002) p.185-86 and the passage is online here.
  22. ^ Quoted in Greenslade (2003 [2004]) p.362
  23. ^ Worsthorne (1993), p.256
  24. ^ a b Peregrine Worsthorne "Trouble in the ranks", New Statesman, 28 March 2005
  25. ^ Obituary: Professor Peter Campbell, telegraph.co.uk, 15 June 2005
  26. ^ Brown, Mick (2003-12-08). "Casting a spell". The Daily Telegraph (London). Retrieved 2010-05-22. 
  27. ^ http://myweb.lsbu.ac.uk/~stafflag/ianmckellen.html
  28. ^ "Third Ear: Section 28", BBC Radio 3, 27 January 1988, BBC Archive website
  29. ^ http://bcn.bi.org/issue23/biwatch.html
  30. ^ Stop frisking crippled nuns
  31. ^ Ben Summerskill "Paper tiger", The Observer, 28 July 2002
  32. ^ Worsthorne, Peregrine (2006-06-21). "Liberalism failed to set us free. Indeed, it enslaved us". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 2010-05-22. 
  33. ^ a b Peregrine Worsthorne "The 'Daily Telegraph': No other British institution has been so badly degraded", The Independent, 21 November 2005
  34. ^ Minette Marrin: No wonder the Queen feels desolate
  35. ^ Peregrine Worsthorne "Why I'm no longer a nationalist", New Statesman, 16 August 1999
  36. ^ Peregrine Worsthorne "As I Was Saying: Only a federal Europe can stop the abolition of Britain", The Spectator, 3 September 1999
  37. ^ cited by Jakob von Uexkull "Our World Needs aDifferent Human Story", International Peace Foundation (Bangkok), 14–25 March 2004
  38. ^ "Daily Telegraph letters". The Daily Telegraph (London). 2005-06-09. Retrieved 2010-05-22. 
  39. ^ Tanya Gold "'I might well have been gay, but there was such pressure to be non-gay'", London Evening Standard, 6 October 2011
  40. ^ Hester Lacey "Lucinda Lambton and Peregrine Worsthorne: How We Met", The Independent, 29 January 1995

Sources[edit]

  • Andy Beckett (2002) Pinochet in Piccadilly: Britain and Chile's Hidden History , Faber
  • David Cannadine (1998 [2000(3)]) Class in Britain, Yale University Press [Penguin]
  • Roy Greenslade (2003 [2004]) Press Gang: How Newspapers Male Profits from Propaganda, Pan
  • Ted Honderich (1990 [1991]) Conservatism, Hamish Hamilton [Penguin]
  • Frances Stonor Saunders (1999 [2000]) Who Paid the Piper: The CIA and the Cultural Cold War, Granta (US edition: The Cultural Cold War: The CIA and the World of Arts and Letters, 2000 The New Press)
  • Peregrine Worsthorne (1977) "Boy Made Man", in George MacDonald Fraser (ed) The World Of the Public School (pp. 79–96), London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson /St Martins Press (US edition)
  • Peregrine Worsthorne (1978) "Too Much Freedom", in Maurice Cowling (ed) Conservative Essays, Cassell
  • Peregrine Worsthorne (1993) Tricks of Memory: An Autobiography, Weidenfeld & Nicolson
  • Peregrine Worsthorne (1999) "Dumbing Up" in Stephen Glover (ed), Secrets of the Press: Journalists on Journalism Allen Lane pp. 115–24 [published in paperback as The Penguin Book of Journalism: Secrets of the Press Penguin 2000]

Other writings[edit]

  • Mary Wilson (et al.) (1977) The Queen, Penguin [contributor]
  • Peregrine Worsthorne (1958) Dare democracy disengage?, Conservative Political Centre [pamphlet]
  • Peregrine Worsthorne (1971) The Socialist Myth, Cassell
  • Peregrine Worsthorne (1973) Edwina Sandys, Crane Kalman Gallery [exhibition catalogue introduction]
  • Peregrine Worsthorne (1980) Peregrinations: Selected pieces by Peregrine Worsthorne, Weidenfeld & Nicolson
  • Peregrine Worsthorne (1987) By the Right, Brophy Educational [selections from his Sunday Telegraph columns]
  • Peregrine Worsthorne (1988) The politics of manners and the uses of inequality: Autumn address, Centre for Policy Studies [pamphlet]
  • Peregrine Worsthorne (2004) In Defence of Aristocracy Harper Collins [published in paperback as Democracy Needs Aristocracy Perennial 2005]

External links[edit]

  • KPIX-TV 1962 San Francisco interview of Worsthorne about U.S. political conventions.
Media offices
Preceded by
New position
Deputy Editor of The Sunday Telegraph
1961–1976
Succeeded by
Gordon Brook-Shepherd
Preceded by
John Thompson
Editor of The Sunday Telegraph
1986 - 1989
Succeeded by
Trevor Grove