“Bell-Ringer Extraordinaire” – Peter Hitchens – ‘FAQ’ Interview



Peter Hitchens FAQs

Here, elsewhere and on Twitter I am frequently asked several questions which I weary of answering.

A reader suggested I might create a ‘Frequently Asked Questions’ page to which I could direct such questions in future.

Here it is.

Any further suggestions will be gratefully received

Q.Why do you call yourself ClarkeMicah on Twitter?

A.You’ll have to work out why I cannot use my own name. I had wanted to call myself ‘MicahClarke’, the name of a favourite historical novel by Arthur Conan Doyle, about the Monmouth Rebellion and the Battle of Sedgemoor. But this was taken. So I reversed it. And now I am stuck with it. By the way ‘Micah ‘ for those unfamiliar with either the Bible, Protestant England or literature, is pronounced to rhyme with ‘Leica’, not with ‘bleaker’
Q.You are a Tory, why do you support renationalisation of the railways, oppose foreign wars and defend Jeremy Corbyn?

A.I am not a Tory. I loathe the Tory party, which has embraced modern left-wing ideas without understanding them, in an attempt to survive. I hope for its collapse. I am a social, moral and political conservative. I judge policies by asking if they are good for the country. I disagree with much that Corbyn thinks, says and does but feel he should be given a fair hearing. The British political media (see my book ‘the Cameron Delusion’ ) are much too close to power and much too unanimous. I refuse to go along with this

Q.Why don’t you support UKIP?

A.I think it is a Dad’s Army party, a mixture of cravat-wearing retired colonels, wide boys and Thatcherite nostalgists. Its leader (most of the time), Nigel Farage, is not a moral conservative and favours relaxing the drug laws. Were I to endorse *any* party, I would have it dangling round my neck like an albatross, and be made responsible for every stupid thing it then did. I think this would be a mistake. One day, a new party may emerge from the wreckage of the Tory Party which I feel I can support. But I see no signs of any such thing

Q.You are very much against legalising cannabis. Have you ever taken drugs?
A. To my lasting and continuing shame and regret ,yes, when I was in my mid-teens I did do this stupid, wrong thing in the period , 50 years ago, when prosecutions of leading rock stars for drug offences were overturned, thanks to the actions of establishment figures, and I (correctly) saw that the law and the state were no longer serious about the issue. I had no idea of the dangers I was courting, and was far too selfish to consider the horrible possible consequences for my parents. I despise politicians who confess past drug use without any serious regret, or who refuse to say. That is why I make this full statement

Q.What about alcohol?

A.I drink very moderately, seldom more than a single glass of wine or pint of beer. I believe that, if alcohol were being introduced into our society now, and was illegal, it would be folly to legalise it. But I also believe that drugs which have been legal *and in mass use* for centuries, cannot realistically be banned. Present-day Iran is proof of this. I do however support the return of the alcohol licensing laws which existed in this country between 1915 and 1985. Under which pubs were closed for much of the day and alcohol was in general harder to find and more expensive to buy.

I believe this prevented much misery, domestic abuse and other crime.  At the time the Thatcher government was destroying the alcohol laws, I had no platform from which to criticise them, though I was aware of what was going on and much distressed by false government claims that longer drinking hours would not lead to greater disorder. New Labour did make this worse, but the policy was bipartisan, and this should never be forgotten.

Q.What are your religious beliefs

A.I am a broad-church Anglican, Catholic and Reformed, opposed to religious factionalism and sectarianism and uninterested in telling anyone else what to believe. In return , I ask not to be told what to believe by other people. I am bored by theological disputes, and take an inclusivist view of other faiths. My own religious opinions are best summed up in the Church of England’s 1662 Book of Common Prayer, especially the Collects. I am not a Bible literalist and believe its many differing books must be read with discrimination and understanding. Some are poetry, some prophecy, some political tract, some legal manuals, some history and some exhortation. It would be absurd to treat them all the same.

Q.Did you have a conversion experience? I have read something about a picture you saw that made you believe in God.
A. Absolutely not. My belief in God was a rational choice based on many ordinary material experiences, on reason and on hope; My detailed religious affiliations even more so. The picture, a Last Judgement by Rogier van der Weyden, in Beaune, just scared the pants off me. But I remained an atheist for some time after I saw it.

Q.What thinkers have influenced me?

A.None especially, though Edmund Burke is a useful corrective to the tendency among 18th century writers to see the French Revolution as a good thing, which it wasn’t. As an ex-Marxist and Trotskyist, I have a better idea than most conservatives of what I am opposing. I am a jobbing scribbler, not an intellectual. My beliefs have been formed by almost 40 years on Fleet Street, which I sometimes describe as ‘The University of Fleet Street’. This, together with more than three years spent on evening papers in Swindon and Coventry (originally as an indentured apprentice) has given me a great deal of direct historical and practical knowledge about politics, foreign affairs and the application of ideas in practice. During this time I have been an education reporter, an industrial and labour reporter, a political reporter, a defence and diplomatic correspondent and resident correspondent in both Moscow (1990-92) and Washington DC (1993-95).  I have seen (without intending to) open conflict in Romania in 1989, Lithuania in 1991, Somalia in 1992. I have, on my last counted, visited 57 countries.  I write from time to time about books which I have liked and from which I have gained  (usually light novels and heavy histories, I struggle with ‘serious’ literature, and literary criticism makes me feel numb all over). These can be found indexed under ‘culture’ on my blog.  I urge everyone to read George Orwell’s essay ‘Politics and the English Language’. Everyone.

Q.Why are you so concerned about the abuse allegations against the late Bishop Bell? 

A. First because, having helped make a BBC Radio 4 ‘Great Lives’ programme in which I praised several of his actions, I felt it my personal duty to defend that judgment when he was attacked. But also for two other reasons. 1. Bell’s reputation is hugely important because of his lonely, near-solitary principled opposition to the deliberate British bombing of German civilians during World War Two (this was our policy, though few now realise it). 2. The way in which the Church of England failed to protect that reputation, and abandoned the most basic rules of justice in handling the accusation against him. Please see


Q.Have you written any books?

A.Several: ‘The Abolition of Britain’ is a description of the cultural revolution which transformed this country during the late 20th century. ‘The Abolition of Liberty’ (originally ‘A Brief History of Crime’) argues that a free country is also one which severely deters crime, and that the two are in fact interdependent. It was sparked off by George Orwell’s remark in ‘The Lion and the Unicorn’ about the hanging judge who is stupid but also incorruptible. ‘The Cameron Delusion’ (originally ‘The Broken Compass’) examines the collapse of traditional Labour vs Tory politics, the misleading nature of most British political journalism and some of my reasons for abandoning the left. ‘The Rage Against God’ is a response to my brother’s book ‘God is not Great’, an examination of the strong links between revolutionary politics and atheism, and an attack on the certainties (and intolerance and  illiberalism) of the new atheists.‘The War We Never Fought – The British Establishment’s Surrender to Drugs’ is exactly what it sounds  like. All are available as e-books or audiobooks. Any library will get them for you, on inter-library loan if they don’t have them.

My latest book ‘Short Breaks in Mordor’ is a compilation of foreign despatches from all over the world, including China, Russia, Iraq, Egypt,  Ukraine, North Korea, Bhutan and India. It is only available as an e-book.  A compendium of ‘Daily Express’ columns, ‘Monday Morning Blues’ can still be found in obscure second-hand bookshops if anyone really wants it. I was feeling my way as a columnist at the time (the early Blair era) and regard it as a curiosity.

I am currently contracted to write a further book ‘The Phoney Victory’ about the terrible price we pay for the prevailing myth about World War Two, that it was an uncomplicated good war between good and evil, in which good triumphed., and for the connected myth that ‘We, the British won the war’. I am only just digging the foundations of this.

Q.You go on about grammar schools? Did you go to one?

A. No. I was privately educated to the age of 15, then attended a College of Further Education, then went to University ( at York). I don’t discuss my private life but am prepared to say that, where and when I have been able to, I have educated my children privately. Had I lived in an area where grammar schools were available, I would have hoped they would have been able to attend such schools. But I do not.



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