Open main menu

Wikipedia β

Peter Hitchens

Peter Jonathan Hitchens (born 28 October 1951) is an English journalist and author. He has published six books, including The Abolition of Britain, The Rage Against God, and The War We Never Fought. He is a frequent critic of political correctness, and describes himself as an Anglican Christian and Burkean conservative,[1] as well as a social democrat.[2]

Peter Hitchens
Peter Hitchens at SidneySussex.jpg
Hitchens participating in a debate (2015)
Born Peter Jonathan Hitchens
(1951-10-28) 28 October 1951 (age 66)
Sliema, Crown Colony of Malta
Nationality English
Alma mater University of York
Occupation Journalist, author
Political party International Socialists (1969-75)
Labour Party (1977-83)
Conservative Party (1997-2003)
Eve Ross (m. 1983)
Children 3
Relatives Christopher Hitchens (brother)

Hitchens writes for The Mail on Sunday and is a former foreign correspondent in Moscow and Washington. 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."[3] 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."[4]


Early life and familyEdit

Peter Hitchens was born in the Crown Colony of Malta, where his father, a career naval officer,[5] was stationed as part of the then Mediterranean Fleet of the Royal Navy. Hitchens originally hoped to become a naval officer himself, but an eye defect prevented him from doing so.[6] He was educated at the Leys School[7] and the Oxford College of Further Education[8] before being accepted at the University of York, where he studied Philosophy and Politics and was a member of Alcuin College, graduating in 1973. He later commented that he "must have been a severe disappointment" to his parents after making sure he "would never get into Oxbridge" by sabotaging his own education, through actions which included being arrested breaking into a government fall-out shelter in Cambridge.[9]

In 2010 he dismissed the "cruel revolutionary rubbish" he promoted as a member as "poison",[10] but later commented that "it was a reasonable mistake to have made. I'm glad I made it, because unlike people who've been vaccinated against a disease, I've actually had the disease and therefore I'm totally immune from it in a way that a mere vaccination couldn't possibly provide. ... It taught me how to think, in a lot of ways. So I don't regret the experience at all; I think everybody should have it."[11]

He joined the 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.[12] This also coincided with a culmination of growing personal disillusionment with the Labour movement.[13] 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."[14]

He married Eve Ross, the daughter of journalist David Ross, in 1983.[15] They have three children: a daughter and two sons.[16] Their elder son, Dan, is Deputy Editor of the Catholic Herald, a London-based Roman Catholic magazine.[17]

Relationship with his brotherEdit

Peter's only sibling was Christopher Hitchens, the notable author, columnist, essayist, orator and religious critic, who was two years older. Christopher said the main difference between the two is a belief in the existence of God.[18] 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."[19]

Hitchens became a member of the International Socialists (forerunners of the modern Socialist Workers' Party) from 1968 to 1975[10] (beginning at age 17) after Christopher introduced him to them.[11]

The brothers fell out after Peter wrote a 2001 article in The Spectator,[20] alleging Christopher had said he "didn't care if the Red Army watered its horses at Hendon"—a claim denied by Christopher.[18] After the birth of Peter's third child, the two brothers were reconciled, although Christopher stated, "There is no longer any official froideur, but there's no official—what's the word?—chaleur, either."[21]

Hitchens' review of God Is Not Great led to public argument between the brothers but to no renewed estrangement.[22] In the review, Peter claimed his brother's book made a number of incorrect assertions.

In 2007, the brothers appeared as panelists on BBC TV's Question Time, where they clashed on a number of issues.[23] In 2008, in the US, they debated the 2003 invasion of Iraq and the existence of God.[24] In 2010 at the Pew Forum, the pair debated the nature of God in civilization.[25]

Christopher Hitchens died in 2011; at a memorial service held for him in New York, Peter Hitchens read a passage from St Paul's Epistle to the Philippians which Christopher himself had read at their father's funeral.[26]


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.[12] 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 and the early years of the Russian Federation in 1990–92. He took part in reporting the UK 1992 general election, closely following Neil Kinnock.[27] He then became the Daily Express Washington correspondent.[28] Returning to Britain in 1995, he became a commentator and columnist.

In 2000, Hitchens left the Daily Express after its acquisition by Richard Desmond,[29] stated that working for him would have represented a moral conflict of interest.[30] 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 The Guardian, Prospect, and the New Statesman.

After being shortlisted in 2007[31] and 2009,[32] Hitchens won the Orwell Prize in political journalism in 2010.[33] Peter Kellner, one of the Orwell Prize judges, described Hitchens's writing as being "as firm, polished and potentially lethal as a Guardsman's boot."[34]

Foreign reportingEdit

Hitchens first worked as a foreign reporter in the 1980s, mainly reporting from the Eastern Bloc (his first such assignment was to Poland during the Solidarity crisis in November 1980) though he had travelled to Japan and Germany during his time as an industrial reporter, and had also reported from several other countries, including the USA, Japan and South Korea) as part of the group of reporters accompanying Margaret Thatcher. After witnessing the Revolutions of 1989 and the collapse of the Communist regimes in Czechoslovakia[35][36] and Romania,[37] he became the Daily Express resident Moscow Correspondent in June 1990. He left Moscow (via the Bering Strait) in October 1992, and was briefly based in London during which time he reported from South Africa during the last days of apartheid, and from Somalia[38] at the time of the US-led military intervention in the country. In September 1993 he became the 'Daily Express' resident Washington correspondent, and during the next two years he reported from many of the 50 states, as well as from Canada, Haiti and Cuba. He continued his foreign reporting after joining The Mail on Sunday, for which he has written reports from all over the globe, including Russia, Ukraine (described by Edward Lucas as a "dismaying lapse"[3]), Turkey,[39] Gaza, a visit to Iraq in the wake of the 2003 invasion, an undercover report from Iran (described by Iain Dale as "quite brilliant"[40]), China, and North Korea.[41]

In 2009, Hitchens was shortlisted for Foreign Reporter of the Year in the British Press Awards, and in 2010, in recognition of his foreign reporting, he was awarded the Orwell Prize.[33]

British broadcast mediaEdit

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."[42]

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.[43] 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."[44] Hitchens is also heard on Any Questions?,[45] This Week,[46] The Daily Politics[47] and The Big Questions.[48]

Hitchens has authored and presented several documentaries on Channel 4, including critical examinations of Nelson Mandela[49] and David Cameron.[50] In the late 1990s, Hitchens co-presented a programme on Talk Radio UK with Derek Draper and Austin Mitchell.[51]

Public imageEdit

Hitchens in December 2006

In The Guardian, James Silver described Hitchens as "the Mail on Sunday's fulminator-in-chief"[12] and his columns as "molten Old Testament fury shot through with visceral wit."[12] 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."[52]

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."[12]

Political viewsEdit

Hitchens joined the Conservative Party in 1997, but left in 2003. He challenged Michael Portillo for the Conservative nomination in the Kensington and Chelsea seat in 1999, accusing Portillo of "washy moderation".[53] However, he says that he had "no interest in securing the nomination", his real reasons having been to gain book publicity and "to draw attention to Michael Portillo's non-conservative politics".[54] In 2012, Hitchens announced he was once more considering standing as a Member of Parliament.[55]

Hitchens mainly comments on political and religious issues, and generally espouses a social conservative viewpoint. He is deeply pessimistic about recent, present and future Britain and sees himself as Britain’s obituarist, writing about what he sees as the death of Britain for future historians to look back on.[56] 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".[57]


Morality and religionEdit

While Peter Hitchens used to be an atheist like his late older brother Christopher Hitchens,[58] he became a Christian later in his life. He became a member of the Church of England. He argues Christianity has been systematically undermined by social liberals and cultural Marxists. "The left's real interests are moral, cultural, sexual and social. They lead to a powerful state. This is not because they actively set out to achieve one," Hitchens writes.[59] "It is because the left's ideas – by their nature – undermine conscience, self-restraint, deferred gratification, lifelong marriage and strong, indivisible families headed by authoritative fathers."[59] He also believes that the First World War is the cause of the demise of Christianity in Europe.[60]

Politics of the United KingdomEdit

Hitchens has been consistently dismissive of the modern Conservative Party, believing it is a "left-wing party" akin to the Socialist Workers' Party,[11] and expressed support for a more socially conservative alternative to the Conservatives to occur post-Brexit.[61] Despite this, he did not vote to leave in the Brexit referendum, believing referenda to be "fundamentally unconstitutional, and I don't think we should have them".[62] He has also described Brexit as a "constitutional crisis" due to the pro-EU makeup of Parliament, and has stated that he believes it would take 10 years for Britain to fully leave the European Union.[62] He has endorsed the Flexcit model proposed by Richard North and Christopher Booker as the most sensible and moderate way to leave the EU while remaining in the European Economic Area to preserve the economic benefits of EU membership.[63]

Although initially a supporter of Thatcherism, Hitchens has criticised the Conservative Party for its free-market economic policies, and once clashed with Iain Duncan Smith on Question Time over the privatisation of railways.[64] On this issue, Hitchens has written "I have always believed that the electric power grid should be nationalised. I think it should be renationalised as a prelude to an enormous programme of nuclear power station building, without which we face an appalling energy crisis within 20 years."[64]

Views on cannabis and libertyEdit

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 an element of a strong justice system,[65][66] and he was the only British journalist to attend and write about the execution of Nicholas Ingram in America in 1995.[67]

Hitchens was critical of the New Labour government, viewing a number of policies proposed by that government as attacks on liberty and as facets of a constitutional revolution.[68]

Hitchens advocates harsh penalties properly enforced for the illegal use of cannabis,[69] including calling the substance "one of the most dangerous drugs known to man",[70] and is opposed to the decriminalisation of recreational drugs in general.[71] In 2012, Hitchens gave evidence to the Parliamentary Home Affairs Select Committee as part of its inquiry into drugs policy,[72] and called for the British government to introduce a more hardline policy on drugs.[73]

International relations and national sovereigntyEdit

Hitchens opposed the Kosovo and 2003 Iraq War, on the grounds that neither was in the interests of either Britain or the United States,[74] and opposes the war in Afghanistan.[75]


Hitchens is the author of The Abolition of Britain (1999) and A Brief History of Crime (2003), both critical of changes in British society since the 1960s. A compendium of his Daily Express columns was published as Monday Morning Blues in 2000. A Brief History of Crime was reissued as The Abolition of Liberty in April 2004, with an additional chapter on identity cards, and with two chapters – on capital punishment and gun control ('Out of the Barrel of a Gun') – removed. Hitchens wrote he had removed the chapters "in the vain hope that the book would then get the attention it deserved. A silly delusion. I now wish I hadn't".[76]

The Broken Compass: How British Politics Lost its Way was published in May 2009, and The Rage Against God was published in Britain in March 2010, and in the US in May.

Hitchens's book The War We Never Fought: The British Establishment's Surrender to Drugs, about what he sees as the non-existence of the war on drugs, was published by Bloomsbury in the autumn of 2012.[77]

In June 2014 he published his first e-book, Short Breaks in Mordor, a compendium of foreign reports.[78]

The Phoney Victory: The World War II Illusion was published in August 2018.[79] It deals with 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.


See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "Five Minutes With Peter Hitchens". The BBC. 10 August 2012. Retrieved 11 August 2012. 
  2. ^ Rentoul, John (20 November 2013). "Peter Hitchens: One-way tweets". The Independent. Retrieved 28 December 2016. 
  3. ^ a b Lucas, Edward (29 September 2010). "Foggy at the bottom". The Economist. Retrieved 30 September 2010. 
  4. ^ Howard, Anthony (21 May 2009). "The Broken Compass: How British Politics Lost Its Way by Peter Hitchens". New Statesman. Retrieved 2 May 2012. 
  5. ^ Hitchens, Peter (19 July 2010). "The House I Grew Up In". BBC Radio 4. Retrieved 28 April 2012. 
  6. ^ "The Boy Can't Help It". The NY Mag. 26 April 1999. Retrieved 23 April 2012. 
  7. ^ Hitchens 2010, p. 8.
  8. ^ "Toffs at the top". Press Gazette. 16 June 2006. Archived from the original on 16 June 2011. Retrieved 2 May 2012. 
  9. ^ "Peter Hitchens | Nigel Farndale". Retrieved 7 October 2015. 
  10. ^ a b Hitchens 2010, p. 10.
  11. ^ a b c Owen Jones meets Peter Hitchens - full length via the YouTube channel of Owen Jones.
  12. ^ a b c d e Silver, James (14 November 2005). "Look forward in anger". The Guardian. Retrieved 2 April 2007. 
  13. ^ Hitchens 2009, p. 79.
  14. ^ Hitchens 2009, p. 84.
  15. ^
  16. ^ At 1:20:49 in this video interview, which is dated to October 2000 (see [1]), Hitchens is asked about his children, and states that their ages are "17, 11, and 18 months."
  17. ^ The trouble with Catholic politicians Published by Catholic Herald, 12 July, 2018, retrieved 18 August, 2018
  18. ^ a b Katz, Ian (31 May 2005). "When Christopher met Peter". The Guardian. 
  19. ^ Hannah Pool (14 May 2009). "Question time: Peter Hitchens on the trouble with modern politics, his move from left to right, and the enduring rivalry with his brother Christopher". The Guardian. Retrieved 15 December 2010. 
  20. ^ "O Brother, Where Art Thou?". The Spectator Archive. Retrieved 5 January 2018. 
  21. ^ Katz, Ian (28 October 2006). "War of Words". The Guardian. 
  22. ^ James Macintyre, The Hitchens brothers: Anatomy of a row Archived 29 August 2008 at the Wayback Machine., The Independent, 11 June 2007. Retrieved 11 June 2007.
  23. ^ Hitchens, Peter (26 June 2007). "Question Time and fraternal relations". Retrieved 1 May 2012. 
  24. ^ "Hitchens vs Hitchens Debate – On God, War, Politics, and Culture". Retrieved 3 May 2012. 
  25. ^ Eric Marrapodi (13 October 2010). "Hitchens brothers debate if civilization can survive without God". CNN. Retrieved 14 October 2010. 
  26. ^ "Christopher Hitchens remembered at memorial service in NYC". The Washington Post. 20 April 2012. Retrieved 28 April 2012. 
  27. ^ "UKPressOnline". UKPressOnline Newspaper Archives. Retrieved 13 April 2017. 
  28. ^ Silver, James (14 November 2005). "Look forward in anger". The Guardian. 
  29. ^ Hodgson, Jessica (7 December 2000). "Hitchens quits Express". The Guardian. Retrieved 28 April 2012. 
  30. ^ "Veteran columnist quits Express" (report). BBC News. 9 December 2000. Retrieved 2 November 2006. 
  31. ^ Martin Moore for the Frontline Club. 1 May 2007 The Orwell Prize 2007. Quote: "...judge Francis Wheen congratulated a strong field that included ...Peter Hitchens – more for his delightfully frank foreign dispatches than his ‘fire and brimstone’ Mail columns (read, for example, his article on ‘Iran – a nation of nose jobs, not nuclear war’)."
  32. ^ Amos, Owen (26 March 2009). "Shortlists announced for Orwell Prize for political writing". Press Gazette. UK. Archived from the original on 28 April 2011. .
  33. ^ a b Trilling, Daniel (20 May 2010). "Peter Hitchens wins the Orwell Prize". New Statesman. Retrieved 25 May 2010. 
  34. ^ Goligher, Kate (25 May 2010). "University of York graduate Peter Hitchens wins Orwell prize for foreign correspondence". Nouse. Retrieved 28 April 2012. 
  35. ^ "UKPressOnline". UKPressOnline Newspaper Archives. Retrieved 13 April 2017. 
  36. ^ "UKPressOnline". UKPressOnline Newspaper Archives. Retrieved 13 April 2017. 
  37. ^ "UKPressOnline". UKPressOnline Newspaper Archives. Retrieved 13 April 2017. 
  38. ^ Hitchens, Peter (15 March 2010). "In the Soviet suburbs of Hell and the blasted avenues of Mogadishu, I saw what our society could become". The Mail on Sunday. Retrieved 28 April 2012. 
  39. ^ "The disturbing picture of growing repression at the heart of 'Eurabia' - Mail Online - Peter Hitchens blog". Retrieved 26 May 2016. 
  40. ^ "Peter Hitchens & Iran". Iain Dale's Diary. Retrieved 30 January 2010. 
  41. ^ Hitchens, Peter (19 November 2007). "Prisoners in Camp Kim". The American Conservative. Retrieved 2 May 2012. 
  42. ^ "In Confidence". The Daily Telegraph. TV and Radio. UK. 15 April 2011. Retrieved 28 April 2012.  |contribution= ignored (help)
  43. ^ "Peter Hitchens: Sex education causes teenage pregnancy". Question Time. UK: The BBC. 10 June 2011. Retrieved 13 June 2011. 
  44. ^ "Question Time". The BBC. 9 June 2011. Retrieved 13 June 2011. 
  45. ^ "Any Questions?". York, ENG, UK: York press. 13 August 2011. Retrieved 3 May 2012.  |contribution= ignored (help)
  46. ^ "Peter Hitchens". This Week. News. The BBC. 6 October 2006. Retrieved 3 May 2012. 
  47. ^ "David Aaronovitch and Peter Hitchens on Tony Blair". News. The BBC. 29 January 2010. Retrieved 3 May 2012. 
  48. ^ "The Big Questions". One. UK: The BBC. 4 (5). 6 February 2011. Retrieved 3 May 2012. 
  49. ^ Sampson, Anthony (15 May 2004). "Mandela is not a saint, but he could teach Blair and Bush about peace-making". The Independent. UK. Retrieved 1 May 2012. 
  50. ^ "Last night's TV: Dispatches: Cameron - Toff at the Top". The Guardian. 27 March 2007. Retrieved 1 August 2018. 
  51. ^ "Hear me roar". The Guardian. 3 April 2000. Retrieved 17 March 2008. 
  52. ^ West, Ed (30 August 2012). "Libertarians and conservatives – an odd couple". The Telegraph. Retrieved 5 September 2012. 
  53. ^ Ward, Lucy (17 September 1999). "Byelection contender denounces 'liberal' Portillo". The Guardian. UK. Retrieved 2 May 2012. 
  54. ^ Hitchens, Peter. "Victorian Virtues, and another thing". The Mail on Sunday. 29 October 2009. Retrieved 31 March 2014.
  55. ^ Feeney, Matthew (9 April 2012). "Peter Hitchens, a Possible Member of Parliament?". The American Conservative. Retrieved 2 May 2012. 
  56. ^ "Peter Hitchens: Socrates in the City - Oxford". The Eric Metaxas Show. 30 March 2016. Retrieved 6 August 2017. 
  57. ^ Gove, Michael (5 May 2009). "Dazzling divisions of the Hitchens brothers". The Times. UK. Retrieved 30 March 2010. (Subscription required (help)). 
  58. ^ Hitchens 2010, p. ix.
  59. ^ a b White, JT. "Why I respect Peter Hitchens" Spectre|27 December 2014.
  60. ^ "The Foul Tornado". The American Spectator. Retrieved 26 May 2016. 
  61. ^ Perrins, Laura (28 June 2016). "The Laura Perrins interview: Brexit is a chance for a new socially conservative party, says Hitchens". The Conservative Woman. 
  62. ^ a b Politics UK (9 November 2016). Peter Hitchens "I didn't vote for Brexit!". 
  63. ^ "Peter Hitchens: I have got 'a lot of pleasure' out of Corbyn's success". 
  64. ^ a b White, JT. "Why I respect Peter Hitchens". Spectre 27 December 2014
  65. ^ "Amnesty TV: Peter Hitchens and the death penalty". The Guardian. 5 October 2011. Retrieved 28 April 2012. 
  66. ^ Says, Sharon (19 May 2011). "Hitchens on the death penalty". Oxford student. Retrieved 28 April 2012. 
  67. ^ Hitchens 2000, p. 2.
  68. ^ Keith Sutherland (2000). The Rape of the Constitution?. Imprint Academic. p. 93. ISBN 978-0-907845-70-6. 
  69. ^ Jack Staples-Butler 27 June 2013 (27 June 2013). "The Yorker Meets... Peter Hitchen". Archived from the original on 10 July 2014. Retrieved 7 June 2014. 
  70. ^ Bowman, Sam (29 August 2012). "Even drug prohibitionists should be embarrassed by Peter Hitchens". Adam Smith Institute. Retrieved 2 July 2018. 
  71. ^ Hitchens, Peter. "Drug Culture". IAI. Retrieved 3 January 2014. 
  72. ^ "Home Affairs Select Committee – Drugs". Parliament live TV. 24 April 2012. Retrieved 28 April 2012. 
  73. ^ "Hitchens urges tough drugs policy". The BBC. 24 April 2012. Retrieved 28 April 2012. 
  74. ^ "Hitchens on Iraq: 'slow decline'". News. Channel 4. Retrieved 28 April 2012. 
  75. ^ "Afghan war effort 'has failed'". BBC News. 25 June 2010. Retrieved 25 June 2018. 
  76. ^ Hitchens, Peter (25 July 2012). "Cowardice, Words, Drugs, Guns and Reason". Retrieved 26 July 2012. 
  77. ^ Hitchens, Peter (31 January 2011). "The Feminine Mystique and the Unattainable Dream of Sex Equality, plus some more controversial matters". The Mail on Sunday. Retrieved 3 February 2011. 
  78. ^ Aspinall, John (24 July 2014). "A Misunderstood Man: Short Breaks in Mordor by Peter Hitchens". The Telegraph. Archived from the original on 4 March 2016. 
  79. ^ Hitchens, Peter (29 November 2018). "The Phoney Victory: The World War II Delusion". I.B. Tauris & Co Ltd. ISBN 9781788313292 – via Amazon. 

External linksEdit