I have a great deal of time for political iconoclasts, those who challenge conventional tenets on the ideological Left or Right. While some do so out of wayward eccentricity or performative narcissism, others are genuine freethinkers, pushing against the boundaries of orthodox thought. After an initial start on the far-left, the Hitchens’ brothers, Christopher and Peter, eventually fell into the nonconformist category, taking opposite sides in the liberal and conservative debate in Britain. Unfortunately the older – and arguably more adaptable – sibling strayed too far into the intellectual wilderness in the aftermath of the atrocious events of 9/11, becoming something of a Beltway hawk, albeit from his cushioned eyrie in the city of New York. His premature death robbed us of a great if latterly flawed polemicist and one can only imagine what literary barbs he would have sent flying against the current occupant of the White House.
His brother, Peter, eschewed the siren call of the United States and the added cachet of an upper-class British accent in the American media milieu. Instead he ploughed his own journalistic furrow at home, becoming a thorn in the side of the post-Thatcherite Conservative Party and the British press, with consistently traditionalist if occasionally unexpected opinions. His scathing – if ultimately accurate – interpretation of the Belfast or Good Friday Agreement of 1998 as a surrender to the Irish Republican Army won him no admirers on the domestic Left or Right (except, perhaps, in the guise of the anti-peace process Tory MP and now arch-Brexiteer minister, Michael Gove). However, in recent months neither has his hesitant advocacy of an EFTA-style solution for the United Kingdom’s current political, economic and diplomatic woes as the country stumbles out of the European Union.
The rather waspish encounter featured below between Peter Hitchens and the utterly self-regarding Breibart editor, James Delingpole, is quite interesting. Not least for the latter’s whining over his hurt feelings and apparent inability to engage in a two-way conversation without firing snarky or hectoring remarks at his interlocutor. His career in the UK’s right-wing press was obviously no accident and Hitchens displays considerable patience in dealing with the odious Fleet Street cast-off. But then again, as he himself admits, he is offered precious few public or media platforms to air his views on outside of his own newspaper column. Which is why he may be willing to sit down with yet another dissembling representative of the alt-right. Something one cannot accuse Hitchens of, however reactionary, anti-modernist or bombastic his views.
I won’t say enjoy the interview, but at least give it a fair listen. As always, it’s good to find out what passes for political thought these days in the neighbouring and increasingly wayward island to the east, even at the fringes. Though are the views of Breitbart UK now fringe or mainstream in the Nova Britannica?