Reflections on a Conversation with Peter Hitchens

I recently had a series of interactions with Peter Hitchens, the noted conservative journalist and commentator, via Twitter. I agree with most of what Mr Hitchens had to say; indeed, he remains one of the few reasons I would even turn on the BBC to watch one of its shows. Mr Hitchens maintained the position he has held for many years: Britain is a failed state and is beyond saving. His only advice to young people who wanted it was to leave while they still can.

I took exception to this, and in the ensuing discussion, Mr Hitchens was quite clear about his objections towards me, how I had characterised him, and his expectations for the future. I will try to discuss these points with some tact, as I don’t intend to misinterpret him.

Mr Hitchens’ practical advice for young people is to leave Britain for pastures new as the country is in an unrecoverable state. He does not advise people on where to go, simply that they should go. In this, he is not wrong: the Britain of his youth certainly is gone and is not coming back. 

Though I never experienced it, enough of the old Britain remained by the time of my youth that I could understand there was something ancient, mystical, and important which progressive modernity was in the process of unthinkingly annihilating. It’s not that our elites want to do evil, it's that they do not understand that evil is what they do

I shall not take the time to list it, but the evidence of this is everywhere. Keir Starmer most recently has made the further destruction of Britain his manifesto. Everything that could be considered a sentimental bond or duty drawn from moral obligation is either under attack, has been sundered, or has been damned long after it was buried. The Britain we inhabit now is not concerned with traditional duties to others; it is more preoccupied with social rights for minorities.

As Mr Hitchens ably put it in 2013, before I had taken any time at all to reflect on politics, it was clear that the midwit class of British politicians, raised and educated in schools that sought equality of mediocrity, had proliferated a left-wing view of the world without even realising it. These people had usurped any potential future Britain might have enjoyed long before many of us were born. The ultimate irony of his 2013 Question Time appearance was a smirk from Liz Truss, shaking her head at the mention of her and her peers’ incompetence, nine years before her infamous 44-day premiership.

The social contract, a concept which began in Britain and caused chaos around the world, has returned in a mutated form to finish the job. The slow drip of materialism into our thoughts and habits has destroyed a country built on sacred vows of loyalty and the duties derived thereof. Britain was not a social contract society and had never been; instead, it was a long-settled land of compromises, in which overlaid on the material properties of this island was an incredibly complex web of moral relations, sentimental attachments, and respectable stations in life. When Mr Hitchens advised I give a public and private apology to Jess Phillips, a Labour MP I once infamously offended, this was the standard of decency to which he was appealing. 

The important thing to note about a compromise is that it presumes that each party has a duty to the other. We are obligated to give consideration to the other when a dispute arises because their claim is valid and we ought to respect it. Our claim is also valid and should be respected, and so an appropriate compromise between our two positions should be reached with which both parties are satisfied. Not only does this resolve the difficulty, but it also bonds us as particular named individuals together in an agreement, in a time and place, that we both feel obligated by which to abide. 

Over the centuries, these obligations accumulated and combined to form the psychic overlay across the landscape. This is the metaphysical presence of the hand of history that lies so heavily upon this country, embodied in our ancient buildings, highways, and hedgerows. We still inhabit towns and cities founded thousands of years ago, and this ‘magic’ is present in every winding alleyway and organic arrangement of its buildings. 

It is the product of a long history which was inherited and evolved to suit the needs of the people in it for the times in which they lived. This turned England, and then Britain, into a country underpinned by what Mr Hitchens himself called a “deep magic.” He is again correct; there is a magic that runs this country and causes it to organise and order itself in a particular way in line with historic tradition. It connects the very bottom with the very top, and infuses every station in every part of this land; it informs how we understand the world around us and what we should expect moving into the future. We all live within the deep magic, and its presence is what makes us feel at home in our own country and gives sense to the reliability of daily life. 

Compare the average British city to the average American city, with its grid-line planning and equally-sized blocks, or the straight borders of an American state to the natural borders of an English shire. These are the product of the universalist liberal view that society itself should be rationally planned, including our duties and obligations to one another. No longer is British society an organic one that relies on how we feel about each other; instead, we are increasingly subject to a rationally constructed social contract in which we are told a priori what our rights and duties are and how they must be enforced. The entire aspect of this civilisation is one that lives outside of time and space, creating an environment for itself which could be the product of any mind and one that any mind could inhabit. No longer is the civilisation of the people who constructed it through their deep magic; the social contract society is a society for anyone who wants it, which means it is a society for nobody in particular. 

One can see the full power of Britain’s deep magic on full display in the spectacle of the great procession and organisation of Elizabeth II’s funeral proceedings. I am not ashamed to say I watched every minute of its nine-hour coverage with rapt fascination and occasional tears as it dawned on me what I was actually looking at. The organising principle of this country had awoken from its slumber and was willing to act, and everyone took notice. It is likely that the Queen’s funeral was the most watched event ever in the entire history of the world. 

If that isn’t a demonstration of the power of the deep magic of Britain, what is? 

This magic, however, seems to have lain dormant for decades as what Mr Hitchens called the “Eurocommunist Cultural Revolution” took hold of our governing elites and suffocated our ability to express our love for these traditions. Now, the conquest of the world by theory has returned in force to Britain; those ideas have ideologically captured our dunderheaded ruling class, due to the power of them being simple enough for even an idiot to understand and put into action. 

The Britain that Mr Hitchens appeals to is one rooted, at base, not in reason, consent, and equality, but instead in morality, tradition, and aesthetics. In The Abolition of Britain, Mr Hitchens makes a compelling case that it is the reliance on the United States of America which has undermined and gradually replaced the moral foundations of this country, and it seems time has proven him correct. 

The problem wasn’t that the Americans were hostile, but that they were friendly. They brought their culture to us and, in our moment of weakness and insecurity, we failed to put up a moral defence against the seductive promises of their then-successful social contract society. Rather than respecting the customs bequeathed to us by tradition, we, as Mr Hitchens put it, have taken a chainsaw to the long growth of the forest that is British constitutionalism and allowed modern politicians to begin replacing it, root and branch, with an imitation of American year-zero constitutionalism. Naturally, this is fundamentally changing the United Kingdom, so much so that even the term “kingdom” seems ridiculous and inappropriate to the dim occupants of political office whom we call our “elites.” Latent republicans though they may be, refuse the honours of monarchy they do not. This contradiction is showcased starkly in the person of Sir Keir Starmer, a proponent of a social contract society, which is in direct contradiction to his status as a knight. 

The issue Mr Hitchens raises is that our political class is simply not clever enough to understand what they themselves are and what it is they have been programmed to do. Every policy proposed by a Labour and Conservative politician is entirely foreseeable because it is extrapolated directly from their rationalistic programming—understand the code, and you understand the politician and all the outputs they are capable of producing.

What Mr Hitchens is trying to convey is an understanding of a sophisticated method of life that cannot be captured in a doctrine; the quality of being British is not simply having a passport, but authentically living a particular way of life and inhering a sentimental web of attachments and moral bonds. To understand and educate his peers about the instinctive rhythms of life in this country, which are the product of centuries of history, is not an easy task—especially for those who lack the mental faculties to begin with. However, programming them with a set of simple instructions on how to facilitate the Eurocommunist Cultural Revolution is much easier and provides them with the arrogance required to overcome the humility that underpins their positions.

The programming of our political class, as one part of the gradual erosion of our country's traditional and Christian nature, was complete by the time I became a teenager in the 1990s. So much so, that by the 2010s, the notion that they had been programmed seemed like a ludicrous joke to the metropolitan elite. It is no wonder then that Mr Hitchens found himself a lone voice of reason in a wilderness of cackling madmen, drunk on the self-proclaimed cleverness of understanding a simple set of instructions that promised to solve all of life's problems. Anyone with a modicum of historical or philosophical understanding, as well as contemporary knowledge, can see the flaws of the social contract society manifesting already; however, none of them have the wherewithal to begin to challenge the only ideas they know. 

So what can be done? From Mr Hitchens’ perspective, nothing. He is right to suggest that the best course of action is to get out while you still can. It doesn’t really matter where you go, even if there is nowhere to go. What is happening to Britain is that the old oak is dying, and eventually it will collapse and be subsumed into the earth from which it sprang. 

He was careful however to note that this was practical advice and not political advice. It is what you, as an individual, should do in the here and now to benefit your personal interests, not what we should collectively do as a society to save what little we might have left or change our country's fortunes for the better. The time for that, Mr Hitchens believes, is long gone.

The objection that Mr Hitchens took with my response was that I had derived the political consequences of his practical advice and found them unacceptable, even though the situation is hopeless. He is correct in observing that there is no struggle for the soul of Britain; the battle is over and the war is lost. We may remain as isolated pockets of dissidents holding out in the hinterlands, but the fighting is over. 

As I have already said, I agree with him that Britain as a conceptual and political entity is a zombie state that is in the process of decomposing. The imposition of the social contract, the annihilation of traditional values, and the devolution of political power to radical separatist parliaments are many of the factors contributing to the rot that decays the old tree. 

However, I cannot abide by his desire for us to flee. Probably due to our generational differences, I am not as attached to Britain, the imperial state, as I am to England, the nation and land. I don’t feel as if I belong anywhere else, and I don’t want to live anywhere else. I don’t remember the Empire, and I don’t lament its passing. I suppose I am, at heart, a Little Englander who simply wants to live a pleasant life in the land of my forefathers. 

I don’t seek a restoration of Britain as much as for us to move beyond it. I would like a political class that isn’t struggling to reclaim lost glories and feign grand influence in foreign affairs; I understand that with this comes certain sacrifices, and I am willing to pay them. I am confident that the English are, even now, perfectly capable of diligence and industry that will see them through the challenges of the future. I don't want a political class that puts more value on foreign and minority interests than on native and majority interests, classifying them together under the rubric of the imperial term ‘British’, rather than speaking to the actual constituent nations of these islands. 

The problem I see is that England itself is a colonised country, under the yoke of a failed imperial power that does not have the grace to admit that its time is over. The persistence of midwit politicians echoing empty claims that “Britain’s best days are ahead” only prolongs the agony of the English in gaining self-determination from the empire they created. 

In my blind optimism, I can’t help but think that things might be allowed to get better if only we were to reorient the direction of interest towards the old nation and cast off the imperial shroud. England is in a sorry state because the old imperial bureaucracy and culture still persists. There was no replacement of institutions and people for those who would consider themselves stewards of England, instead of pining for the empire and recreating it on the remaining ground they still control. The denizens of the former imperial colonies don’t have to live here; they have been blessed with their independence and now should embrace that destiny with confidence in their newfound freedom.

The conceptual separation of England from Britain is difficult to imagine, given how much of Britain was formed by and resides within England. However, they are not one in the same. There is a much older country that underpins the world-spanning imperium, and it could breathe freely again, unconstrained by the chains it has accrued over the centuries. 

I’m not saying that I am too optimistic, and I lay no claim to being anything more than a daydreamer who would like to see the prevailing winds change. But without even the thought that a different future could happen with our feet rooted on the ground we wish to inhabit, such a thing is necessarily ruled out as a possibility, instead of being politically inviable. 

Perhaps, if enough people say it, a consciousness will arise in the English that, in fact, our country is being occupied by a state that doesn't care about us and sees our land as just another territory on a map. Perhaps, if enough people say it, it will come to be understood that what is happening to us now is immoral and ought not to be done. Perhaps, if enough people say it, we might be able to persuade each other to choose more appropriate politicians, and slowly but surely steer our civilisation in a different direction. 


The wisdom I am seeking from Mr Hitchens is a deeper insight into what prevented his victory. It does not matter what the scope of the things he believes were lacking turns out to be; as an energetic optimist, I’m prepared to begin the long work of building them. We have no choice; we have nowhere else to go. We are not leaving; we are going to rebuild. It does not matter how long this takes. This is the mission.