Simon Heffer

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Simon James Heffer (born 18 July 1960) is a British journalist, author and political commentator.


Heffer was born in Chelmsford and was educated at King Edward VI Grammar School before going to read English at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge (MA), later receiving a PhD in History.[1]


Heffer worked for The Daily Telegraph until 1995. He worked as a columnist for the Daily Mail from 1995 to 2005. He rejoined the Telegraph in October 2005 as a columnist and associate editor. Martin Newland, the Daily Telegraph's editor at the time, described the newspaper as Heffer's "natural journalistic home".[2] He left the Telegraph in May 2011 to "pursue a role in journalism and broadcasting" and "complete a major literary project".[3] It had been speculated that his departure had been prompted by his constant attacks on David Cameron's government, of which the Telegraph is generally supportive.[4]

Heffer has written biographies of the historian and essayist Thomas Carlyle, the composer Ralph Vaughan Williams and of the politician Enoch Powell (Like the Roman), which was described by the New Statesman as "a lucid and majestic tribute" to the politician.[5][6]

In September 2010, Heffer published Strictly English: the Correct Way to Write... and Why it Matters, a guide to English grammar and usage. The book met with some negative reception. Writing in the New Statesman, Professor David Crystal observed that although it contains valid points about ambiguity, honesty and importance of clarity, inconsistencies permeate the book.[7] In a review for Times Higher Education, Geoffrey Pullum described Heffer's claims about grammar as "staggeringly erroneous" and his approach as "intellectual abdication", concluding that "Heffer should be ashamed of himself, and Random House should be ashamed of this book".[8]

Heffer has since rejoined the Daily Mail and edits a new online comment section, called RightMinds,[9] of the paper's online edition. Introducing the new site, the Mail announced that "MailOnline's new web community for politics, current affairs and controversy" would allow readers to "have your say on all of the opinions expressed on the site. Every article and blog invites your comment".[10][11]

Hillsborough comments[edit]

Heffer admitted in 2012 that he wrote the first draft of a Spectator editorial regarding the death of Kenneth Bigley,[12] which said in part:

The extreme reaction to Mr Bigley's murder is fed by the fact that he was a Liverpudlian. Liverpool is a handsome city with a tribal sense of community. ... An excessive predilection for welfarism have created a peculiar, and deeply unattractive, psyche among many Liverpudlians. They see themselves whenever possible as victims, and resent their victim status; yet at the same time they wallow in it. ... They cannot accept that they might have made any contribution to their misfortunes, but seek rather to blame someone else for it, thereby deepening their sense of shared tribal grievance against the rest of society. The deaths of more than 50 Liverpool football supporters at Hillsborough in 1989 was undeniably a greater tragedy than the single death, however horrible, of Mr Bigley; but that is no excuse for Liverpool's failure to acknowledge, even to this day, the part played in the disaster by drunken fans at the back of the crowd who mindlessly tried to fight their way into the ground that Saturday afternoon. The police became a convenient scapegoat, and the Sun newspaper a whipping-boy for daring, albeit in a tasteless fashion, to hint at the wider causes of the incident.[13]

These comments (incorrectly attributed to the then-editor of the Spectator, Boris Johnson) were widely circulated following the April 2016 verdict by the Hillsborough inquest's second hearing proving unlawful killing of the 96 dead at Hillsborough,[14] although Johnson apologised at the time of the publication, saying "That was a lie that unfortunately and very, very regrettably got picked up in a leader in the Spectator in 2004, which I was then editing."[15] Nevertheless, Johnson approved the piece for publication.


Heffer had a brief flirtation with the hard left in his teenage years, but had abandoned his views by the time he went to university, although he admits he still has a lingering affection for several past figures of the left, such as Michael Foot or Tony Benn. When Benn's wife Caroline Benn died in November 2000, Heffer wrote a tribute to Benn in the Daily Mail.[16] He now is very critical of both the European Union and New Labour.

Heffer is a social and constitutional conservative. He supported the retention of Section 28, opposed the equalisation of the age of consent and the liberalisation of laws on abortion and divorce.[17] He opposed the removal of hereditary peers from the House of Lords in 1999,[18] and has also written about the decline of tie-wearing among British men. In August 2002, Heffer blamed "liberal society" for the murders of Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman.

In July 1995, he threatened to resign from the Daily Mail if it supported John Major in the leadership contest. Like many right-wing Conservative MPs, Heffer backed John Redwood, though he preferred Michael Portillo to be party leader. In late 1999, Heffer financially contributed to Neil Hamilton's unsuccessful libel action against Mohammed Al-Fayed.

Heffer believes that Christianity should have a strong role in shaping both the moral foundation of society and public policy, but he is personally an atheist.[19]

When the Home Office appointed Heffer to its Law and Order Task Force, left-wing politicians were concerned about the direction that criminal law reform might take, with human rights lawyer Baroness Kennedy saying that the government "had not just lost the plot but was handing the plotting over to their most feared critics".[20]

Heffer has written sympathetically about and backed the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) and Nigel Farage.[21] He has joined calls from fellow journalist Peter Hitchens for the Conservative Party to be defeated or abolished. He has spoken widely, and on 8 February 2006, he was guest-of-honour at the Traditional Britain Group's Annual Dinner at Simpsons-in-the-Strand.[22]

In 2008, Heffer condemned Russian-Ossetian conductor Valery Gergiev as a "fool" for playing a benefit concert for those made homeless in the South Ossetian War, calling this a "monstrous act".[23]

In 2008, Heffer called for the United Nations to be strengthened: "If the UN ceases to be regarded by the larger powers as a institution to secure the peace of the world and justice therein, then that holds out all sorts of potential dangers."[24] On 27 May 2009, Heffer threatened to stand as an independent against Sir Alan Haselhurst,[25] his local Conservative MP and a deputy speaker, unless Haselhurst paid back the £12,000 he claimed for work on his garden, as revealed in the Parliamentary expenses scandal.[26] He is an opponent of Boris Johnson,[12] ex- Prime Minister David Cameron and modernising elements within the Conservative Party.[27][28]

Heffer supported the UK's withdrawal from the European Union in the United Kingdom European Union membership referendum, 2016. In an article in the Daily Telegraph, Heffer suggested those who supported Britain remaining in the European Union were members of the Bilderberg Group and attendees of the World Economic Forum at Davos.[29]


  • Heffer, Simon, & Charles Moore (editors), A Tory Seer: The Selected Journalism of T.E. Utley, London, 1989, ISBN 0-241-12728-9
  • Heffer, Simon, Moral Desperado: A Life of Thomas Carlyle, London, 1995.
  • Heffer, Simon, Power and Place: The Political Consequences of King Edward VII, London, 1998.
  • Heffer, Simon, Like the Roman: The Life of Enoch Powell, London, 1998. ISBN 0-297-84286-2
  • Heffer, Simon, Nor Shall My Sword: The Reinvention of England, London, 1999.
  • Heffer, Simon, Vaughan Williams, London, 2000. ISBN 0-297-64398-3
  • Heffer, Simon: Strictly English: The correct way to write... and why it matters, London : Rh Books, 2010, ISBN 978-1-84794-630-0
  • Heffer, Simon (2013). High minds : the Victorians and the birth of modern Britain. London: RH Books. 

Critical studies, reviews and biography[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Brook, Stephen (1 December 2009). "Simon Heffer to take sabbatical from Daily Telegraph". The Guardian. Retrieved 14 March 2016. 
  2. ^ "Columnist Simon Heffer to join the Daily Telegraph". Daily Telegraph. London. Retrieved 5 November 2006. 
  3. ^ Robinson, James (2011-05-11). "Simon Heffer to leave Daily Telegraph". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 2001-05-12. 
  4. ^
  5. ^ Ian Aitken (11 December 1998). "The long road to oblivion. Ian Aitken on Simon Heffer's lucid and majestic tribute to the controversial genius of Enoch Powell". New Statesman. Retrieved 15 March 2011. 
  6. ^
  7. ^ David Crystal (14 October 2010). "Strictly English: The Correct Way to Write...and Why it Matters By Simon Heffer". New Statesman. Retrieved 15 March 2011. 
  8. ^ These ‘rules’ are already broken
  9. ^ Daily Mail. London  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  10. ^ Halliday, Josh (13 September 2011). "Simon Heffer launches MailOnline comment website RightMinds". The Guardian. London. 
  11. ^
  12. ^ a b Heffer, Simon (27 July 2012). "Profoundly flawed, but that won't stop Teflon Boris's bid for Dave's job". Mail Online. Retrieved 29 April 2016. 
  13. ^ "Bigley's fate". The Spectator. London: Press Holdings. 16 October 2004. Retrieved 27 April 2016. 
  14. ^ Doré, Louis (26 April 2016). "The truth about that awful Boris Johnson 'quote' on Hillsborough". indy100. Retrieved 29 April 2016. 
  15. ^ "Hillsborough: Boris Johnson apologises for slurs in 2004 Spectator article". Liverpool Echo. 13 September 2012. Retrieved 27 April 2016. 
  16. ^ The Daily Mail – 24 November 2000
  17. ^ "Simon Heffer on Saturday", Heffer, Simon (2006), The Daily Telegraph, 7 January 2006, London.
  18. ^ The last thing the House of Lords needs is a mass of elected members, 18 January 2011
  19. ^ Heffer, Simon (21 December 2005). "Stop apologising for being Christian". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 21 December 2005. 
  20. ^ Helena Kennedy, "Just Law"
  21. ^ Heffer, Simon (8 April 2006). "Simon Heffer on Saturday". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 14 March 2016. 
  22. ^ The Daily Telegraph, 9 February 2006, p.22.
  23. ^ Daily Telegraph, 23 August 2008
  24. ^ Heffer, Simon (12 January 2008). "UK foreign interventions as a middling power". The Daily Telegraph. London. Retrieved 23 May 2010. 
  25. ^ Simon Heffer "MPs' expenses: do the right thing, Sir Alan Haselhurst, or I will stand against you", Daily Telegraph, 27 May 2009.
  26. ^ Stephen Brook "Daily Telegraph writer Simon Heffer threatens to stand against his Tory MP", The Guardian, 27 May 2009.
  27. ^ Simon Heffer: "Only a Tory without principles would demonise the Right" Daily Telegraph: 18.05.10:
  28. ^ Simon Heffer: "Dave will rue the day he betrayed the Conservatives" Daily Telegraph: 21.05.10:
  29. ^ The EU Empire is going to fail. On Thursday, we can protect Britain from the chaos of its death throes, by Simon Heffer, in the Daily Telegraph, published June 19 2016; retrieved April 2, 2017

External links[edit]

Media offices
Preceded by
Trevor Grove and Veronica Wadley
Deputy Editor of the Daily Telegraph
with Veronica Wadley

Succeeded by
Sarah Sands