Peter Hitchens: Never knowingly out-crazied

It must be tough for the more established Daily Mail / Mail on Sunday stable of writers to feel special now that Rightminds has opened up the Mail website to huge torrents of baffling lunacy. They must look fondly back to the good old days when they knew their own brand of rabid, ignorant ramblings were the toast of the website and equally bovine readers could flock to their comments sections to heap praise upon them. Alternatively, they just embrace the change by ramping up their own lunacy to try and stay one step ahead of the new breed of moronic babblers.

Peter Hitchens – posting his normal weekly drivel today – certainly seems up for the challenge of competing. Whilst James Delingpole started brightly today with his assertion that ‘the BBC fell for a Marxist plot to destroy civilisation from within’ simply because presenters use CE and BCE as well as AD and BC, Hitchens has fought back with this:

Mr Cameron is far closer to Mr Clegg than he is to his own voters.

He loves being manacled to him, and much prefers Coalition to governing alone.

Mr Clegg helps David Cameron ensure that the Government remains pro-EU, pro-crime, anti-education, pro-tax, politically correct and pro-immigration.

The coalition government is ‘pro-crime’ – and, worse than this the government ‘remains’ pro-crime, so that must mean New Labour were also ‘pro-crime’.

‘pro-crime’. And yet Peter Hitchens sometimes seems shocked when people point out to him that he’s more than just a bit dim, really, underneath his attempts at eloquence and his condescending manner. Wasn’t this the government that was determined to make an example of anyone involved in the riots, handing down severe sentences including a 4-year term for someone who posted messages on Facebook. That’s a real pro-crime agenda right there.

It’s a wonderful technique, employed by Peter here and used by so many of his fellow ‘Rightminds’ writers, to simply list things like this as if they are so self-evident they require no further explanation. Yes, the government is somehow ‘anti-education’. Peter doesn’t tell us why, he doesn’t need to, ironically, because fans of his work are the kind of dumbed-down ‘tell-us-what-to-think-please’ idiots that are presumably a product of the nation’s education system since way before the coalition or New Labour came to power.

23 Comments

  • Allyson says:

    Anyone taking bets on how long before Mr Hitchens post something…?

  • He might post but it must be hard typing in his brother’s shadow.

  • Claire says:

    “the Government remains pro-EU, pro-crime, anti-education, pro-tax, politically correct and pro-immigration.”

    Hahahahaha

    Although the anti-education (at least for those whose parents can’t afford Eton) might be true.

  • Peter Hitchens says:

    Ah, the slow learners are at it again. A leftist site actually finds itself defending the Tory-Liberal coalition against my attacks on it.

    Yet the person involved doesn’t see that this is at least an interesting paradox, and perhaps confirmation of my view that the current government is of the left.

    The point of the story about the little boy and the emperor’s non-existent new clothes is that most people always have, and always will be, like the crowd which believed the clothes existed, rather than like the lone child who pointed out the truth. Readers of the tale will recall that they were very angry with the boy, and called him rude names, for pointing out the truth.

    But everyone complacently thinks that they are the observant ones. Historically, this isn’t so. Most people fall for conventional wisdom and propaganda, most of the time. And most people resent anyone who doesn’t share their view.

    As for the suppsoedly ‘tough’ response to the recent disorders, has Mr ‘Nothing’ never heard of propaganda, and of actions taken to reinforce it? The point about the sentences handed down to those involved in the criminal disorders of last summer is that they are *exceptional* – and temporary.

    Those who commit such crimes individually, when the media are looking the other way, are not punished in this fashion. Over any yera, there are far more such than were arrested during these events. Personally, I’m glad to see the law being applied for once, though our prisons are not punitive, being run by the inmates, and even I think some of the sentences handed down are daft, but I don’t imagine for a moment that it’s anything other than a brief propaganda demonstration with no long-term significance.

    Many of the sentences will be reduced on appeal, on the legally sound basis that they are out of line with modern practice and guidelines.

    Those who wish to dispute my view, that modern governments are pro-crime ( (i.e. that they engender crime through their policies) need to address the fact that a) their policies are based on the belief that an expanded egalitarian welfare state will reduce crime and b) that as that welfare state has expanded, crime and disorder have increased.
    My long-held contention, that prison is full of recidivists because criminals have already become recidivists long before they are sent to prison(and not because prison makes them bad) has now been entirely borne out by official figures on the number of crimes someone needs to commit before he is put in custody – generally around 15.

    Those who read the rest of what I said will note the problem I also identify, that many on the Left are far too thick to recognise their own policies when they are being implemented. They still think New Labour was ‘right wing’, for goodness’ sake. Such people are beyond my help. Of course, there’s a reason for this thickness. It is a device to protect them from reality. They are ‘Thick for Purpose’. If they did realise that their ideas, put into practice, are invariably disastrous, they would have to change their minds. And that would never do, would it?

  • Peter Hitchens says:

    Oh, and my position on education has been many times stated in my column and on my blog. There, a helpful index stretching back to February 2006 guides the reader to articles and discussions on the subject of comprehensive versus selective state schools, my main concern, but also many other connected aspects, including discipline and order in the classroom and the devaluation of examinations.

    Those interested in going more deeply into the matter (which of course Mr ‘Nothing’s’ site, mainly devoted to abuse, is not) can consult my book ‘The Cameron Delusion’, and read the chapter ‘The Fall of the Meritocracy’, for a full statement of my position combined with a well-researched history of the comprehensive school project. Any decent public library will get it for you.

    The same is true of any other subject mentioned there. Thereare many. I know of no other national newspaper commentator whose past writing is so easily accessible, or who debates with his readers to such an extent. This site’s bilious, crowd-pleasing and irrational hostility to the ‘Mail’ titles blinds its author and makes it impossible for him to acknowledge such things.

  • Rich says:

    No! No, no, no. I won’t have that.

    This site’s bilious, crowd-pleasing hostility to the Mail is *entirely* rational, sir.

  • Dara bhur gCara says:

    I reckon Peter Hitchens must google himself A LOT.

  • The trouble with people like Peter Hitchens (sort your typos out by the way), Melanie Philips et al is that they are strident propadandists, anti-evidence and consumed by bile. For example, crime is falling. FACT. However, facts are often inconvenient when they get in the way of a good rant or story. And this is just the sort of currency that the Daily Mail deals in. They are very like bankers, letting nothing get in the way shifting some product and making a fast buck. ‘Truth’ is based evidence not on who shouts the loudest.

  • Andrew Palmer says:

    Good on Mr Hitchens to reply. I’ve no idea if other national newspaper commentators debate so thoroughly as he does, and frankly don’t have the time or interest to check, so will take him on his word. But am I alone in finding the tone strange? Usually, posters would address the readers of a blog, or the blogger, but Hitchens seems to be delivering a lecture to an unknowing and absent audience. Almost as though his world consists only of him.

    His columns display bilious, crowd-pleasing and irrational hostility to everything outside the Daily Mail’s world view. Maybe that takes its toll in accepting others even exist.

  • Adam Tudor says:

    Well, I have to say that I agree on the appeal and reduced punishment issue. These largely ‘example’ sentences including the outrageous jailing of Frank Fernie are not an examples of justice being served and are merely the courts acting like a theatrical media outlet, it’s more a PR stunt than serving of any real justice. All the sentences will be reduced on appeal, and many more £ will have been wasted on the entire process.

    I would not however be as naive as to sum all this up under these blanket, sensationalist terms such as pro-crime and the rest of it, merely used to encourage an emotional response (usually outrage) by readers. It’s the simple dumbing down of issues, but then everyone is entitled to their opinion.

  • Bobinchiclana says:

    “Those who wish to dispute my view, that modern governments are pro-crime ( (i.e. that they engender crime through their policies) need to address the fact that a) their policies are based on the belief that an expanded egalitarian welfare state will reduce crime and b) that as that welfare state has expanded, crime and disorder have increased.”

    The only thing that has expanded is the yawning inequality gap as the rich elite have demonstrably got richer whilst the vast majority have AT BEST held their own. Now we have a government who are determined to maintain that gap whilst preaching that “we are all in this together.”

    Study after study have shown that unequal societies have poorer health outcomes, more crime and less harmony. This government is using the welfare state to punish the poorest whilst minimising the consequences for the rich. Don’t expect the outcome to be a better society.

  • tina says:

    i tried really hard to read what hitchens wrote, but my eyes just kept sliding off the webpage.

  • theCactus says:

    @Peter Hitchens

    I (like others) genuinely admire your willingness to engage with your critics. Please keep it up, because it is exactly the kind of thing that might ultimately lead to a better world for everyone. That’s what we all want, after all. So thanks for trying.

    However, I think you may have misunderstood something. In your comment (no. 4, above) you write:

    “Ah, the slow learners are at it again. A leftist site actually finds itself defending the Tory-Liberal coalition against my attacks on it. Yet the person involved doesn’t see that this is at least an interesting paradox, and perhaps confirmation of my view that the current government is of the left.”

    Well, you are entirely correct to say that it is an interesting paradox to see ‘a leftist site defending the Tory-Liberal coalition against [your] attacks on it.”

    So, let’s explore this paradox. The statement at issue seems to be this one, which was written by you:

    “Mr Clegg helps David Cameron ensure that the Government remains pro-EU, pro-crime, anti-education, pro-tax, politically correct and pro-immigration.”

    It seems to me fairly obvious that many readers of this site do not agree with this statement, to such an extent that you are being ridiculed for making it. I suspect that this is because readers do not agree with your characterisation of the current Government.

    My own view is that your statement would be far more accurate if it said the Government was anti-EU, anti-crime, anti-education, anti-tax, politically incorrect and anti-immigration. In my opinion you are correct ONLY to say the Government is anti-education. The rest of it strikes me as simply bizarre.

    Now, I expect you would characterise me as a ‘leftist’, in which case it should be obvious to you why I would want to criticise the government for not being ‘leftist’ enough, given my opinion as explained above.

    Your opinion is different from mine. That’s fine. The part that I find bizarre is that opinion your seems not to be based in reality. That, I think is why so many people are laughing at you.

    We ‘leftists’ are not in favour of current Government policy any more than you are. You seem to not understand that the original article is not a defence of Government policy at all. It is, first and foremost, a critique of your writing, and in particular, of your unwillingness to present evidence to support your view. You are entitled to your view, of course, but, if you fail to offer evidence to support it, it is just a random opinion, and we needn’t feel guilty about dismissing it as not worthy of attention.

    I personally am interested in what you write, for the simple reason that I find human behaviour quite fascinating. For many years now, I have been trying to understand why people take you and your fellow ‘writers’ at the Daily Mail at all seriously. I am still struggling to understand this.

    If you truly believe that the ongoing Marxist conspiracy is no myth, but a grave threat to our society, a threat which must be resisted, don’t you think it’s important enough to present some evidence which might convince us that you are right? If you don’t do this, your opinion is likely to be considered utterly ridiculous to anyone who does not (yet) share it.

    If you fail to do your utmost to convince us of the threat, then, if and when the Marxists finally crush our cherished freedoms, you will bear some of the responsibility.

    You are certainly entitled to your opinion, but the kind of thing you write in your articles serves no useful function whatsoever. It even lacks literary merit.

    Still, I must thank you again for engaging with your critics. In my opinion, you are a pompous, ignorant little man, but nevertheless, your bravery in this regard is to be applauded.

  • Peter Hitchens says:

    Of course my view strikes Mr Cactus as ‘bizarre’. He never arrived at his own opinions through a process of reason and enquiry, instead adopting the fashionable wisdom of the day, as almost everyone does.

    I used to do this myself, and then, through experience and study, found that it was impossible to sustain the left-wing world view. Some details of this experience are to be found in my book ‘The Cameron Delusion’.

    His opinions, in turn, strike me as essentially thought-free, held because everyone else holds them and they are therefore easy to hold, so long as he does not consider them, and so long as he dismisses the holders of other opinions as deranged, or disordered, a common habit of the prejudiced. If these people are themselves contemptible and unhinged, there is no need to think about what they say.

    For instance, Mr Cactus thinks, or thinks he thinks the Coalition government is ‘anti-EU, anti-crime, anti-tax, politically incorrect and anti-immigration.’

    Can he supply any evidence to support these assertions?

  • the_voice_of_reason says:

    As comment 5 appears to my eyes as nothing more than a hymn to the writer’s own brilliance, with a little free advertising for his own books, rather than any factual analysis, I do not feel it merits any response.

    In the posting from Mr Hitchens above, though, which includes the wonderfully incomprehensible “Over any yera, there are far more such than were arrested during these events” (no, sorry, not a Scooby), he makes a number of assertions about crime and imprisonment which appear somewhat at odds with the known facts.

    Perhaps Mr Hitchens would like to explain, based upon personal knowledge and observation, or upon Inspectorate reports, his assertion that prisons (presumably he means every single prison in the UK, as he does not apply any qualifier such as “most” or “many”) are “not punitive”, and “run by inmates”. I have to concede that I have only personally set foot in around thirty-five prisons in the UK, none of which fitted that description. Nor do reports I have personally received from several other prisons support this view. My experiences may be unrepresentative, although they are supported by many Governors past and present. It would of course be helpful to see the opposing view presented in the form of evidence.

    Recent Home Office figures state that crime and homicide rates are falling in England and Wales. In Scotland, crime rates were reported in September to be the lowest for 35 years. The number of cases reported to the Procurator Fiscal for consideration of prosecution has dropped in virtually every Sheriff Court District. Despite this, the prison population has increased markedly in the past decade, and is still showing no sign of decreasing. I find these difficult to square with “as that welfare state has expanded, crime and disorder have increased”.

    Instead of addressing these issues, Mr Hitchens deliovers a hectoring rant, categorising his opponents as “slow learners” and the “thick”. I could produce details of numerous University professors whose views are at odds with Mr Hitchens, but no doubt he would regard their views as evidence of a Leftist dumbing down of education, rather than as evidence that the debate is rather more nuanced than he perceives.

  • James O says:

    “They still think New Labour was ‘right wing’, for goodness’ sake.”

    Yes, a government which was enthusiastically militarist and imperialist, which oversaw a massive widening of the gap between rich and poor, which began the attacks on the welfare state (e.g. ESA) which the Condems are continuing, which introduced fees for higher education, which further introduced overt and covert selection into schools (e.g. faith schools, academies), which privatised and part-privatised public services, which continued the build-up of nuclear weapons, which attacked civil liberties, which maintained the Thatcher-era legislation on trade unions, which threw more and more inmates into prison despite falling crime . . . how could anyone have possibly throught New Labour was anything but the cabal of revolutionary socialists P. Hitchens told us it was.

  • theCactus says:

    @Peter Hitchens

    First, thanks again for engaging; I find your responses quite fascinating. Do please keep it up so that we may solve all of the world’s problems by writing about them.

    It is interesting that you say (of me) that:

    “His opinions, in turn, strike me as essentially thought-free, held because everyone else holds them and they are therefore easy to hold, so long as he does not consider them, and so long as he dismisses the holders of other opinions as deranged, or disordered, a common habit of the prejudiced. If these people are themselves contemptible and unhinged, there is no need to think about what they say.”

    I can accept that this is how my opinions ‘strike you’. However, it’s pretty obvious that I did NOT dismiss ‘the holders of other opinions as deranged, or disordered”. That’s just a lie. (I did, however, say that I think you are ‘a pompous, ignorant little man’. I believe this to be a reasonable opinion – but perhaps you have evidence that would tend to contradict it? I am always willing to listen.)

    Of course, it’s very difficult for either of us to provide evidence of how and why I might have formed whatever opinions I have, but your approach to this discussion reveals, once again, that you are unable, or perhaps unwilling, to distinguish between fact and opinion.

    I note that you are the one who is considered a ‘professional journalist’, not me. It is therefore far more important for you to provide evidence to support your view than it is for me to do so. The only evidence you have mentioned is a book written by yourself. This approach to evidence cannot be taken seriously.

    Now, in my earlier comment, I wrote:

    “My own view is that your statement would be far more accurate if it said the Government was anti-EU, anti-crime, anti-education, anti-tax, politically incorrect and anti-immigration. In my opinion you are correct ONLY to say the Government is anti-education. The rest of it strikes me as simply bizarre.”

    You ask for evidence to support my view, which is an entirely reasonable request.

    So, here’s a start; I found these articles with a simple web search. The web search is a very useful tool for writers of all kinds; I recommend the website http://www.google.co.uk. It’s ever-so-modern. Perhaps you have not yet heard of it?

    If you take a look at the following articles, you will see that my statement is not as crazy as you seem to think.

    This article describes an ongoing row between the British Govt and the EU over whether EU citizens living in the UK should qualify for benefits:

    http://news.sky.com/home/politics/article/16081322

    This one mentions Teresa May’s desire to replace the European Court of Human Rights with a British Bill of Rights;

    http://www.thefirstpost.co.uk/85333,news-comment,news-politics,the-mole-david-camerons-cunning-plan-to-undermine-european-court-of-human-rights

    All three of these discuss Cameron’s wish to reduce taxes:

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1173042/Cameron-finally-claims-WOULD-scrap-50p-tax-rate–lowering-NI-poor.html

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/election/article-1264923/Conservative-leader-David-Cameron-vows-tax-breaks-married-couples.html

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-486138/Tax-cuts-haul-votes-Cameron.html

    This one discusses remarks by Cameron which were widely perceived as sexist:

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/david-cameron/8803017/Conservative-Party-Conference-2011-David-Cameron-should-calm-down.html

    Please note that these articles are not sourced exclusively from ‘left-wing’ publications. Note also that I do not necessary agree with what I read in these articles. They do not constitute proof of anything at all, and indeed, do not cover all the bases. Still, they do tend to support the statement I made.

    Actually, it might be that I am wrong, and you are right, and the Marxist takeover of the world is almost complete. If you can convince me that the conspiracy exists, I will happily join you in the fight to defend our freedoms, which include your right to spew your venom at anyone who dares to observe that you are, in fact, just some bloke talking.

  • Peter Hitchens says:

    The modestly self-baptised ‘Voice of Reason’ dismisses my references to my books as ‘free advertising’. Does it occur to him that I might want people to read them, having written them, and that my motive for this might not be mercenary?

    If he doesn’t understand what I meant in the quoted phrase, I’ll try again. ( I apologise for typos, but am pressed for time and, like most writers, am bad at spotting my own typing errors. Amusingly one person who tells me to sort out my typos has spelt Melanie Phillips’s name incorrectly, and left a word out of his posting. I sympathise, but he should have been more careful.

    This is the point he or she seemed to have trouble with:

    The so-called ‘riots’ were just a concentrated version of the casual violence, disorder and theft that are commonplace in the tougher areas of our cities all the time, unmentioned by the media and unrestrained by the police or the justice system.
    Mr or Ms ‘Reason’ asks:
    ‘Perhaps Mr Hitchens would like to explain, based upon personal knowledge and observation, or upon Inspectorate reports, his assertion that prisons (presumably he means every single prison in the UK, as he does not apply any qualifier such as “most” or “many”) are “not punitive”, and “run by inmates”.’
    With pleasure. Mr or Ms ‘Reason’ seems to have some official connection with the prison service, as evidenced by his or her revelation that he or she ahs set foot in 35 prisons in this country.

    He says none of them fitted my description. In one respect that is most curious, since the oft-stated official policy of the prison authorities is that the deprivation of liberty itself is the punishment, and that the regime inside the establishments is not intended to be punitive. Nor is it. Prisoners are not ( as they used to be) set to hard forced labour, nor subjected to austere living conditions nor provided with no more than basic if nutritious diets. If he or she could read the relevant section in my book (any decent library will get it for him or her, and if he really hates the thought of contributing the few pence I might get from PLR, I will promise to donate it to a charity of his choice), he or she would know how much such things have changed in the last 50 years.

    He or she would also know that I base my view of British prisons largely on a visit to Wormwood Scrubs which I made some years ago for the Mail on Sunday. The time and place of the visit were chosen for me by the authorities, and I have to take what access I can get. The account of this visit which was published in the newspaper- which alluded to the abandonment of authority by the staff, and the prevalence of what is rather misleadingly called ‘bullying’ of the weaker inmates by the stronger (intimidation would be a better word) brought me confirmatory letters and phone calls from serving staff and former inmates of that prison. I have subsequently had many contacts with former and serving prison officers who have similarly confirmed my view.

    Mr or Ms ‘Reason’ may not have observed these things. My experience is that people can often conceal from themselves things which they do not wish to acknowledge. Perhaps he or she wasn’t looking. But for hard specific evidence of the breakdown of control in HM Prisons, the astonishing events at HMP Wymott some years ago (look it up), and the events at HMP Ford a few months ago (it was on fire) are instances of things getting so bad that the public became aware of them. But read HMI reports with any care and you will find plenty of continuing references to ‘bullying’ (usually in the sense that a new regime is complimented for having reduced it, rather than in the sense that intimidation is openly acknowledged as a present feature of prison life. But that is the way in which the truth emerges in official documents).

    I have no doubt that Mr or Ms ‘Reason is highly sceptical of official reports on other subjects,. I recommend the same attitude here. If I am wrong, then why are illegal drugs so prevalent in HM prisons (a truth denied by nobody), not to mention illegal mobile phones? And how is it that violent attacks can be made on prisoners such as Ian Huntley by other inmates. Staff can hardly have been unaware of this danger. Yet another prisoner was able to slash Huntley’s throat in a supposedly high security prison. The judge in this case, Mr Justice Coulson, is reported to have ‘expressed concern about the attacks within high-security prisons, especially in the light of another death of a prisoner at Frankland in recent days.’
    The judge added: ‘While everyone is acutely aware of the costs of monitoring vulnerable and high-risk prisoners, from what I have seen in this case it appears that the management systems currently in place require urgent review.’

    Mr Reason also writes, rather touchingly, that ‘recent Home Office figures state that crime and homicide rates are falling in England and Wales.’

    That must be accurate, then. It’s official. The police and the government wish crime to fall. And lo, crime is falling. The naivety of some people never ceases to amaze me.

    He adds: ‘In Scotland, crime rates were reported in September to be the lowest for 35 years. The number of cases reported to the Procurator Fiscal for consideration of prosecution has dropped in virtually every Sheriff Court District.’

    Examine this statement with care. The number of crimes *reported* may conceivably not be the same as the number which have taken place. This may explain his subsequent statement, otherwise a puzzling nonsequitur, that ‘despite this, the prison population has increased markedly in the past decade, and is still showing no sign of decreasing.’

    Yes, isn’t that amazing? Official crime figures are down; the authorities scramble for every opportunity to release existing prisoners early, or to avoid sending them to prison at all, yet the prison population rises even so. Why might that be?
    I was careful, in describing my opponents as thick, to say that they were ‘thick for purpose’. Let me restate this point. A perfectly intelligent person may, for reasons of dogma, make himself stupid by concealing the truth from himself. Many do.

  • Peter Hitchens says:

    I don’t think the responses of Mr ‘Cactus’ in any way back up his assertions. Mrs May’s posturing on the Human Rights Act is aimed to please the gullible crowd at the Tory conference, has no legal force and will come to nothing. Mr Cameron has repeatedly grovelled to Mrs Dorries and other victims of his alleged ‘sexism’ and believes (see the A-list and the ministerial list) in affirmative action appointments of women to his government and their preferential selection as Parliamentary candidates. His government continues to pursue the policies of ‘equality and diversity’ mandated by the EU directive on the subject and enshrined in the British version of that directive, the Labour government’s Equalities Act. This fact doubly emphasises the government’s subservience both to the EU and to political correctness.

    Marxists(and having been one for many years I am quite good at this) are rightly taught to penetrate the disguises in which history advances itself, and not to mistake the packaging for the content.

    Quarrels with the EU about the precise administration of EU law in this country are not evidence of opposition to the EU. That would be evidenced by plans to leave it, plans which don’t exist. Such quarrels, like budget rows and staged confrontations at EU summits are in fact evidence of British accommodation to EU dominance.

    I do love it when left-wingers,who are used to treating conservatives with contempt and personal hostility,shudder with maidenly hurt when they get any of their own medicine back.

  • Peter Hitchens says:

    As for ‘James O’, I do not think the Blair government could be described as ‘imperialist’. Liberal intervention is specifically not aimed at conquest and permanent occupation. Its main target is the destruction of the concept of national sovereignty, long viewed by revolutionaries as an obstacle to utopia.

    Otherwise, I am not sure why the features of that government which he mentions would be troubling to an intelligent left-winger. Nationalisation long ago ceased to be a feature of mainstream socialism. Regulation is far more effective at achieving the same effect without its difficulties. Nor are left-wing regimes round the world noted for their love of civil liberties (Eg Cuba, Vietnam, China, all still governed by Communist Parties) . As for student fees, Stalin’s USSR charged fees for secondary schools. There’s no principled reason why the left can’t charge fees for education, especially if the poor are helped to pay them. He’s mistaking peripheral issues for the central ones (long ago identified by the new left of the 1950s and 1960s) of power through cultural hegemony, and change through educational, social, sexual and cultural revolution. See my book ‘The Abolition of Britain’.

  • theCactus says:

    @Peter Hitchens

    Again, thanks for continuing to respond to your critics. This can only be a good thing.

    This time, you do not come across as ‘a pompous ignorant little man’. (I’ve been thinking about it, and I’ve decided that was a cheap shot – how could anyone possibly defend themselves against such a charge? I therefore apologise.)

    Your latest responses on this website are more considered, more thoughtful, and more nuanced, than some of your previous ones. They are worthy of attention, whether I agree with them or not.

    In fact, I do agree with several of the points you make. For example, you write (comment 19):

    “Mrs May’s posturing on the Human Rights Act is aimed to please the gullible crowd at the Tory conference, has no legal force and will come to nothing.”

    I think this is correct.

    You continue:

    “Mr Cameron has repeatedly grovelled to Mrs Dorries and other victims of his alleged ‘sexism’ and believes (see the A-list and the ministerial list) in affirmative action appointments of women to his government and their preferential selection as Parliamentary candidates.”

    Yes; personally, I think his remarks certainly were ill-advised, for the simple reason that they permitted the ‘left’ to label him a sexist. I am strongly in favour of gender-equality, but this struck me as cheap political opportunism. Cameron made a stupid joke, because he’s an idiot. But is he a sexist? I don’t know; perhaps. But Government policy on gender-equality is a far more important subject of debate than some off-hand, unfunny remarks. We do like to chatter about nothing, don’t we?

    Then you write:

    “His government continues to pursue the policies of ‘equality and diversity’ mandated by the EU directive on the subject and enshrined in the British version of that directive, the Labour government’s Equalities Act. This fact doubly emphasises the government’s subservience both to the EU and to political correctness.”

    Well, I don’t know. Our Government is bound by the law, and I’m not sure it’s fair to label them as ‘subservient’ simply for following it. My own view is that the EU should have more influence over the UK, not less, and that ‘equality and diversity’ policies are broadly a good thing. I’m guessing you would take the opposite view. That’s fine by me. I’m not sure I would agree with your reasoning, but I don’t feel I have anything to add to the debate that hasn’t been said a thousand times already.

    Also, you give us this gem (not sarcasm) in comment 18:

    “A perfectly intelligent person may, for reasons of dogma, make himself stupid by concealing the truth from himself.”

    This is one hundred percent correct; whether we are talking about the ‘right’ or the ‘left’, there is always a tendency for us to pick and choose the evidence in a biased manner, and to dismiss as ‘ridiculous’ any evidence, argument, or opinion which is contrary to our own, without even bothering to consider it.

    This seems to be something we humans do almost subconsciously; I am not immune to the temptation myself – nobody is. That is why it’s so important that we at least attempt to provide evidence to support our opinions; it allows others to look at that evidence, and to come to their own view.

    My main criticism of many of the articles in the Daily Mail, by you and by others, is that they fail to do this (or, worse, they purport to do so, but only in a highly biased manner). Of course, the same charge could be levelled at any other newspaper – the Guardian, for example, generally considered leftist – although it usually takes a little more effort to notice it. Most newspapers tend to pander to their readers’ preconceptions, which strikes me as an utterly pointless thing to do.

    Personally, I lean towards the view that the EU, Human Rights, relatively relaxed immigration controls, and a solid and forgiving welfare state, are all good things; unrestrained capitalism, I think, is a bad thing. This is why I would probably be characterised as a leftist. My opinions are slightly more nuanced than you have guessed in some of your comments, but I remain unconvinced that the current Government is ‘of the left’. Certainly, it is far to the right of where I stand on most issues. I guess it must be to the left of where you stand. (And similarly for the Blair and Brown regimes.)

    I think the main threat to our freedom comes from unrestrained, pure capitalism. Wait. No – actually, what we have is socialism for the rich only (we bailed out the banks, and now we’re cutting social spending to pay for it). That’s not Marxism as I understand it. But what would I know? I’m not a Marxist.

    I think we need to recognise that the terms ‘left’ and ‘right’ are very vague, and tend to obscure more than they illuminate. That’s why it’s so important that the true subtleties of the arguments, both for and against whatever-it-is, be brought out by an honest discussion of the issues, and of the evidence.

    So, thanks, Peter, for taking the time to respond sensibly. It does you great credit.

  • James O says:

    ‘I am not sure why the features of that government which he mentions would be troubling to an intelligent left-winger.’

    Of course not; it’s much easier to ignore the arguments of your opponents and replace them with a straw man of your own construction. And equally, if you define aggressive war, privatisation, tuiton fees, attacks on civil liberties as ‘left-wing’, then it’s very easy to pretend a government as far to the right as Tony Blair’s was ‘left-wing’.

  • James O says:

    ‘Liberal intervention is specifically not aimed at conquest and permanent occupation.’

    No, it’s designed to destroy or intimidate potential or real opponents to the current neo-liberal order of which the USA (with the UK as its junior partner) and leave compliant ruling elites designed to serve as allies of, and dependencies on, the west. This approach is consistant with the imperial adventures of the USA(and also the UK post-decolonisation) after 1945.

    ‘Its main target is the destruction of the concept of national sovereignty, long viewed by revolutionaries as an obstacle to utopia.’

    You’re very eager to take the propaganda of the Blair government at face value, but unless you were foolish enough to believe their claims about democracy and human rights, its apparent that the Blair/Bush/Cameron/Obama attack on national sovereignity was restricted to those weaker nations (Haiti, Serbia, Iraq, Afghanistan) which had defied the Imperial powers. The National sovereignity of the Western powers, or their satellites was never threatened or challenged, as the impunity of the US to continue Guantanamo, or Israel to attack Gaza and the Lebanon free of international censure demonstrated. These arguments have been repeatedly made by the Left over the previous decade, and are being made now in relation to Libya. Pretending the bout of post cold-war Imperial adventres is a product of socialism is only possible by being totally ignorant of everything the Left has said and done over the past 15 years. Either that or you’re consciously dishonest.

    Nationalisation long ago ceased to be a feature of mainstream socialism. Regulation is far more effective at achieving the same effect without its difficulties.

    If only the Miners who were beaten to a pulp by Thatcher’s goons had known that privatisation, mass redundancy and the transformation of their communities into wastelands was ‘far more effective’ than decent jobs, wages and conditions. If only a wealthy journalist who doesn’t have to work for a living had explained it to them.
    More seriously, despite posing as some kind of expert, you actually show very little understanding of what socialism and marxism believe in and stand for, as shown in this sentence. Neither Labour not the one-nation Tory governments could be described as socialist by any definition, yet they adopted nationalisation during the long boom of the 50/60s, and abandoned it as the centre of political gravity shifted rightwards during the eighties. However, the Left has continued to support nationalisation as the best alternative to the market, advocating it for instance, as an alternative to the closure of the Rover plant, and opposing the continuing privatisation of public services, their part-privatisation through PFI and the selling-off of council housing. In every instance, the Blair government ignored the Left. As with Blair’s wars, its only possible to pretend privatisation is conistent with the principles of the Left by ignoring everything the Left has argued, fought and campaigned for over the previous decades.

    “Nor are left-wing regimes round the world noted for their love of civil liberties (Eg Cuba, Vietnam, China, all still governed by Communist Parties).”

    An indication that none of those regimes qualify as left-wing in a principled or political sense, although I doubt anyone pretends China or Vietnam are still communist states, even by the Cold-war definition. It’s also a fairly easy game to play to try and taint a position by association – I could mention Uribe’s Colombia, or the ongoing crimes committed by Israel as examples of right-wing human rights abuse. However, the Left again campaigned against the Blair/Brown attacks on civil liberties for the same reason it campaigned against Major’s criminal justice bill or Thatcher’s police powers act.

    “As for student fees, Stalin’s USSR charged fees for secondary schools.”

    That’s a desperately weak response, and its revealing that you had to head back to Stalin’s Russia to find any kind of precedent. It’s also one more reason why the Stalin regime bore no relationship to socialism of any kind.

    “There’s no principled reason why the left can’t charge fees for education, especially if the poor are helped to pay them.”

    The arguments about why fees restrict access to education for working-class students and why paying through income tax is far fairer have been made repeatedly and continually both during the Blair government and the more recent fees rise by Cameron. Feigning ignorance about this issue isn’t convincing given the protests of 10 months ago. It’s also another example of how your own world-view and that of the New Labour clique (that Imperialism, free markets and privatisation can be claimed as left-wing) are in agreement.

    “He’s mistaking peripheral issues for the central ones”

    No, the central issues for the Left have been and remain challenging the sources of political and economic power, rather than the sub-Breivik prattle you believe in. The world must be a baffling place when reality refuses to confirm to your pet theories.
    Incidentally, given the claim that i’ve ignored the ‘central issues’, this post responds to around 4 of the points I made earlier. The right-wing nature of the Blair government also rested on:

    *undermining the comprehensive school system by further introducing overt and covert selection, while not a single grammar school was closed.
    * Following a tabloid-driven law and order agenda which saw huge numbers of new offenses introduced and the prison population rise at a time of falling crime.
    *Being an enthusiastic Zionist, patron of the JNF who refused to call for a ceasefire during Israel’s 2006 attack on Lebanon (a fact which puts Cameron to the Left of Blair on this issue).
    * maintaining the Thatcher-era legislation restricting trade unions.
    * acting as an advocate of neo-liberal economics who adapted Britain’s foreign policy to force this system on Third World countries.

    “See my book ‘The Abolition of Britain’.”

    No thanks, i’ve wasted quite enough time already.