|Born||Peter Jonathan Hitchens
28 October 1951
Sliema, British Malta
|Alma mater||University of York|
|Notable work(s)||The Abolition of Britain
The Broken Compass: How British Politics Lost its Way
A Brief History of Crime
The Rage Against God
The War We Never Fought: The British Establishment's Surrender to Drugs
|Relative(s)||Christopher Hitchens (brother)|
Peter Jonathan Hitchens (born 28 October 1951) is an English foreign correspondent and author. He has published six books, including The Abolition of Britain, A Brief History of Crime, The Broken Compass, The Rage Against God and The War We Never Fought: The British Establishment's Surrender to Drugs.
Hitchens writes for Britain's The Mail on Sunday newspaper, and describes himself as a Burkean conservative. A former foreign correspondent based in Moscow and later Washington, Hitchens continues to work as an occasional foreign reporter, and appears frequently in the British broadcast media. He is the younger brother of the late writer Christopher Hitchens.
Peter Hitchens was born in 1951 in Malta, where his father, a career naval officer, was stationed with the Royal Navy. He was educated at The Leys School and the Oxford College of Further Education before being accepted at the University of York, where he studied Philosophy and Politics.
Hitchens began on the far left of the political spectrum before moving to the right. Hitchens studied politics at York University from 1970 to 1973. He was a member of the Trotskyist International Socialists from 1969 to 1975 (in 2010 he dismissed the "cruel revolutionary rubbish" he promoted as a Trotskyist as "poison"). While at university he is said to have replied "I was too busy starting a revolution" when asked why he was late for a lecture. Hitchens has repeatedly denied this story, pointing out that he never attended any lectures and that its source never shared any tutorial or seminar group with him.
He joined the British Labour Party in 1977, but left it in 1983 when he became a political reporter at the Daily Express, thinking it wrong to carry a party card when directly reporting politics. This also coincided with a culmination of growing personal disillusionment with the Labour movement. In 2009, Hitchens wrote of this period, "Against the Labour Party, which I knew to be penetrated by all manner of Marxists, and soaked in the ideas of the revolutionaries, it was increasingly necessary to support the Tories. This was partly because of the strikers' lies, but much more because of Poland and Czechoslovakia. On the Cold War, I knew she [Thatcher] was right and the Left were wrong".
Hitchens worked for the Daily Express between 1977 and 2000, initially as a reporter specialising in education and industrial and labour affairs, then as a political reporter, and subsequently as deputy political editor. Leaving parliamentary journalism to cover defence and diplomatic affairs, he reported on the decline and collapse of communist regimes in several Warsaw Pact countries, which culminated in a stint as Moscow correspondent and reporting on the final months of the Soviet Union in 1990–91. He then became the Daily Express Washington correspondent. Returning to London in 1995, he became a commentator and columnist. Hitchens continued to espouse a conservative viewpoint, despite the publication's move towards the political centre in the mid-90s and its decision before the 1997 general election to support the Labour Party under Tony Blair. In 2000, Hitchens left the Daily Express after its acquisition by Richard Desmond; Hitchens stated that working for Desmond would have represented a moral conflict of interest. Hitchens joined The Mail on Sunday, where he has a weekly column and weblog in which he debates directly with readers. Hitchens has also written for The Spectator and The American Conservative magazines, and occasionally for more left-leaning publications such as The Guardian, Prospect, and the New Statesman. In 2010, Hitchens was described by Edward Lucas in The Economist as "a forceful, tenacious, eloquent and brave journalist. He lambasts woolly thinking and crooked behaviour at home and abroad".
After being shortlisted in 2007 and 2009, Hitchens won the Orwell Prize in political journalism in 2010. Peter Keller, one of the Orwell Prize judges, described Hitchens's writing as being "as firm, polished and potentially lethal as a Guardsman's boot."
Hitchens first became a roving foreign reporter in the early 1990s while working for the Daily Express, when he reported from South Africa during the last days of apartheid, and from Somalia at the time of the US-led military intervention in the country. He continued his foreign reporting after joining The Mail on Sunday, for which he has written several foreign reports from all over the globe, including Russia, Ukraine (described by Edward Lucas as a "dismaying lapse"), Gaza, a visit to Iraq in the wake of the 2003 invasion, an undercover report from Iran, (described by Iain Dale as "quite brilliant") China, and North Korea.
British broadcast media
A regular on British radio and television, he has been described as "a formidable interview subject, with a hostility simmering just beneath the surface – perhaps because, in his words, he is used to having to "hit hard" whenever he is given the chance to air his unfashionable views".
In 2011, Hitchens was booed by the audience for a Question Time programme, on which he appears regularly, when he said that the expansion of sex education had been followed by increased numbers of teenage pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases. During the same programme, chairman David Dimbleby quoted to Hitchens comments made by John Bercow that The Mail on Sunday was "a bigoted, sexist, homophobic comic strip". After his appearance, Hitchens wrote "Is there any point in public debate in a society where hardly anyone has been taught how to think, while millions have been taught what to think?" Hitchens is also heard on Any Questions?, This Week, The Daily Politics and The Big Questions.
Hitchens has authored and presented several documentaries on Channel 4, including critical examinations of Nelson Mandela and David Cameron. In the late 1990s, Hitchens co-presented a programme on Talk Radio UK with Derek Draper and Austin Mitchell.
In The Guardian, James Silver described Hitchens as "the Mail on Sunday's fulminator-in-chief" and his columns as "molten Old Testament fury shot through with visceral wit". In The Daily Telegraph, Ed West wrote of Hitchens, "I’m a great admirer of Peter, a decent, kind and deeply compassionate man with the air of a prophet about him; and like all prophets, doomed to be scorned by so many. I think a lot of people affect to despise his archaic value system while suspecting that there's something in it, and would say so if only more influential people would stick their head above the parapet".
Hitchens has said of his reputation: "I know a lot of people consider me to be disreputable or foaming at the mouth, but you have to learn not to care, or at least not to mind. I don't like being called 'bonkers' and I think to some extent it demeans people who use phrases like that. But I take comfort from the fact that most totalitarian regimes tend to classify their opponents as mentally disordered."
Hitchens joined the Conservative Party in 1997, but left in 2003. He challenged Michael Portillo for the Conservative Party nomination in the Kensington and Chelsea seat in 1999, accusing Portillo of "washy moderation".
Hitchens believes that no party he could support will be created until the Conservative Party disintegrates, an event he first began calling for in 2006. From 2008, he claimed that what would facilitate such a collapse would be for the Conservative Party to lose the 2010 general election. In 2012, Hitchens announced he was once more considering standing as a member of parliament and called for British citizens to form "small exploratory committees in existing constituencies, under the 'Justice and Liberty' motto".
Hitchens mainly commentates on political and religious issues, and generally espouses a social conservative viewpoint. In 2010 Michael Gove, writing in The Times, asserted that, for Hitchens, what is more important than the split between the Left and the Right is "the deeper gulf between the restless progressive and the Christian pessimist", and in 2010 Hitchens himself wrote "in all my experience in life, I have seldom seen a more powerful argument for the fallen nature of man, and his inability to achieve perfection, than those countries in which man sets himself up to replace God with the State".
In 2009, Anthony Howard wrote of Hitchens, "the old revolutionary socialist has lost nothing of his passion and indignation as the years have passed us all by. It is merely the convictions that have changed, not the fervour and fanaticism with which they continue to be held".
Morality and religion
Hitchens, a former atheist, is a member of the Church of England and an advocate of moral virtues founded on Christian faith and institutions such as marriage, unlike his late brother Christopher, which he argues have since the 1960s been undermined by social liberals and cultural Marxists.[a] Hitchens defends the use of the Church of England's 1662 Book of Common Prayer and King James Bible. Of the latter, he has written "it is not simply a translation, but a poetic translation, written to be read out loud... to lodge in the mind and to disturb the temporal with the haunting sound of the eternal".
Labour and Conservative parties
Hitchens contends the modern Labour Party was formed by struggles in the 1980s and a programme of "social liberalism, egalitarian education and the sexual revolution" envisaged in the 1950s by figures such as Anthony Crosland and Roy Jenkins. Hitchens criticised New Labour for "attacks on the constitution", and described its Prime Minister Tony Blair's constitutional reforms as a "slow-motion coup d'état". Hitchens believes the most significant changes introduced by New Labour concentrated power in the hands of the executive, with Blair effectively chief executive, and Orders in Council installing Alastair Campbell and Jonathan Powell in Whitehall. Hitchens described Blair's successor, Gordon Brown, as a "dismal Marxoid", but criticised what he saw as "prejudiced, shallow" attempts by the media to destroy Brown after he became Prime Minister in 2007, and praised Brown for, in his words, "saving the pound".
Hitchens is dismissive of the modern British Conservative Party, frequently deriding the party's leadership as the "useless Tories". He has also expressed ambivalence towards conservative icon Margaret Thatcher.
Liberty, security, crime, and drugs
Hitchens advocates a society governed by conscience and the rule of law, which he sees as the best guarantee of liberty. He believes that capital punishment is a key element of a strong justice system, and he was the only British journalist to attend and write about the execution of Nicholas Ingram in America in 1995.
Hitchens is critical of the British government's desire for identity cards, its attempts to abolish jury trial, and its creation of the national law enforcement body the Serious Organised Crime Agency. Hitchens views these developments both as an attack on Liberty and facets of a constitutional revolution.
Hitchens is opposed to the decriminalisation of recreational drugs. He argues that the legal prohibition of drug use is an essential counterweight to "pro-drug propaganda". He has stated that attempts to combat drug use by restricting supply and prosecuting drug dealers are futile, unless possession and use are also punished. In 2012, Hitchens gave evidence to the Parliamentary Home Affairs Select Committee as part of its inquiry into drugs policy, and called for the British government to introduce a more hardline policy on drugs.
Foreign wars and Europe
Hitchens opposed the Kosovo and 2003 Iraq Wars, on the grounds that neither was in the interests of either Britain or the United States, and opposes the British military presence in Afghanistan, arguing that it has no achievable aim.
On Europe, Hitchens argues that the United Kingdom should negotiate an amicable departure from the European Union, whose laws and traditions he regards as incompatible with the laws and liberties of England, and with the national independence of the United Kingdom as a whole.
Hitchens views comprehensive education, the Plowden reforms, and modern child-centred teaching methods as misguided egalitarian political projects that have diluted educational standards and decreased social mobility. To address these issues, Hitchens advocates a return to academically selective grammar schools. He devotes Chapter 11 of his book The Broken Compass to these developments and themes. Hitchens opposes sex education in schools, which he argues has led to increased sexual activity among the young and a rise in teenage pregnancies and abortions.
Peter's elder brother was the writer and atheist Christopher Hitchens. Christopher said that the main difference between the two is a belief in the existence of God. Peter has stated "We're different people, we have different lives, we have entirely different pleasures, we live in different continents. If we weren't brothers we wouldn't know each other."
The brothers fell out after Peter wrote an article in 2001 in The Spectator alleging Christopher had said he "didn't care if the Red Army watered its horses at Hendon"—a claim denied by Christopher. After the birth of Peter's third child, the two brothers reconciled, although Christopher stated, "There is no longer any official froideur, but there's no official—what's the word?—chaleur, either." Peter's review of God Is Not Great led to public argument between the brothers but to no renewed estrangement. In the review, Peter claimed his brother's book made a number of incorrect assertions.
In 2007, the brothers appeared as panellists on BBC TV's Question Time, where they clashed on a number of issues. In 2008, in the US, they debated the invasion of Iraq and the existence of God. Peter stated it would be the last time he would debate with his brother in public; however, in 2010 at the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, the pair debated the nature of God in civilisation.
Hitchens is the author of The Abolition of Britain, 1999, ISBN 978-0-7043-8140-7 and A Brief History of Crime, 2003, ISBN 978-1-84354-148-6, both critical of changes in British society since the 1960s. A compendium of his Daily Express columns was published under the title Monday Morning Blues, 2000.
An updated edition of A Brief History of Crime, 2003, ISBN 978-1-84354-148-6, re-titled The Abolition of Liberty: The Decline of Order and Justice in England, ISBN 978-1-84354-149-3 and featuring a new chapter on identity cards, was published in April 2004. The Broken Compass: How British Politics Lost its Way, Continuum, ISBN 978-1-84706-405-9, was published in May 2009, and The Rage Against God, Continuum, ISBN 978-1-4411-0572-1, was published in Britain in March 2010, and in the US (Zondervan, ISBN 978-0-310-32031-9) in May.
Hitchens' latest book, The War We Never Fought, about what he sees as the non-existent war on drugs, was published by Bloomsbury in the autumn of 2012 Writing on his blog in 2013, he expressed his desire to write a book on what he sees as the national myth of the Second World War, which he believes did long-term damage to Britain and its position in the world.
- Hitchens, Peter (1999). The Abolition of Britain. Quartet. ISBN 978-0-7043-8140-7.
- ——— (2000). Monday Morning Blues. Quartet. ISBN 978-0-7043-8156-8.
- ——— (2003). A Brief History of Crime. Atlantic. ISBN 978-1-84354-148-6.
- ——— (Apr 2004), The Abolition of Liberty: The Decline of Order and Justice in England, ISBN 978-1-84354-149-3
- ——— (May 2009). The Broken Compass: How British Politics Lost its Way. Continuum. ISBN 978-1-84706-405-9.
- ——— (2010). The Cameron Delusion. Bloomsbury. ISBN 978-1-4411-3505-6.
- ——— (2010). The Rage Against God. Continuum. ISBN 978-1-4411-0572-1.
- ——— (2012). The War We Never Fought. Bloomsbury. ISBN 978-1-4411-7331-7.
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