BRIAN LAMB, HOST: Peter Hitchens, why a book called "The Abolition of Britain"?
Mr. PETER HITCHENS, AUTHOR, "THE ABOLITION OF BRITAIN": Because
it's important for two reasons: one, because Britain is a
fantastically important country in the history of the world and in the
history of democracy and liberty; and secondly, because here in the
United States I think people ought to be aware of the dangers to their
own culture and politics, which are apparent here but have not gone
anything like as far as they have in Britain but which can overturn in
a surprisingly short period of time what looks like an established and
settled civilization. What a lot of people don't realize is just how
unlike Britain Britain now is and how completely transformed it has
been by a cultural revolution over the past 30 and 40 years.
LAMB: In your introduction, you write, `The influence of American
culture on this country has turned out to be one of the great
paradoxes of modern history. The arsenal of conservatism and
capitalism has done more to eat away at British self-confidence and
British institutions than the Soviet Union or the Communist Party ever
Mr. HITCHENS: Well, what I mean there--and some people in Britain
have wrongly accused me of anti-Americanism, which anybody who knows
me knows is--is not the case--is that we took from America some of the
bad things and not enough of the good things. Therefore, we tended to
take the culture of a--of a very big and a very unsettled country,
particularly during the Second World War when we had a huge American
presence in our midst. And that simply wasn't s--wasn't fitted for
our much smaller, more intimate and more settled, more restrained
culture, and it hasn't worked.
And it's--it's really one of--one of the great shames, that by closer
association with an--an ally from whom we could learn a great deal,
we've actually succeeded in learning all the wrong things. And
in--instead of looking, for instance, at--at our constitution and
saying, `Well, perhaps, there are important ways in which we could
defend our liberties in the future,' we've done stupid things, like
begin to get rid of the jury system, for instance--amazing for the
country which invented it--and to reduce the powers of Parliament and
increase the powers of the lawyers. But at the same time,
from--from--from--from A--A--America we've taken cultural things which
are all to do with straightforward materialism and to do with a--a
Hollywood series of morals which don't--don't really fit in our, as I
say, much more intimate, more old-fashioned society.
LAMB: On the back of your book, this note: `Tony Blair's cool
Britain is also a site of junk culture, show-biz values, pernicious
officialdom and fifth-rate political manipulation. It simultaneously
illustrates much of the worst of elitism and the worst of populism.
Reading this honest and indignant account, I could not repress a
twinge of fraternal solidarity.'
Mr. HITCHENS: Well, that's because my brother Christopher, with whom
I disagree on practically everything, but--and I'm really touched by
this--by the--by this recommendation. I--I just put it down to the
fact that the one thing we both have, even if it has completely
different results, is independence of mind. It doesn't make you like
the same thing generally, but it certainly does make you dislike the
same things: humbug, phonies. And I think he spotted what a lot
of--a lot of other people have now begun to spot in our prime
minister, Mr. Blair, that dreadful phoniness, which is one of the
very important developments of modern politics, an--an emp...
LAMB: What do you mean by phoniness?
Mr. HITCHENS: Well, first of all, it's all baby talk and propaganda
and no substance. There--th--there is a true purpose in the new
British government but it's not that new now, it's had three years,
which is quite a serious purpose which is to absorb Britain, United
Kingdom, into the European Union and effectively end it as an
independent nation, but they never say that. They never talk about
that. They just make noisy sloganizing attacks on opposition parties
for--for sleaze as they call it. They themselves are not immune from
it. And they shout about the improvements they're going to make in
health care and schooling which they don't make. And the whole tone
of political debate is--is lowered and it's in--in--become incredibly
televisual and sound bite dominated in a way which British politics
certainly wasn't until very recently.
LAMB: When did you have your confrontation with Tony Blair?
Mr. HITCHENS: My main one, during the last election. I--I--I've had
a few, but it was a particular moment when I--I put to him that his
own manifesto was being profoundly misleading about education. He
claimed that he wanted for everybody else what he wanted for his own
children. It just so happened that what he had arranged for his own
children was, first of all, not available to most British people, and
secondly, would be less available to them under the plans that he--he
was proposing. He got very, very upset and told me to sit down and
stop being bad. He didn't take any more questions from me after that.
LAMB: Are British journalists different than American journalists?
Mr. HITCHENS: Yes.
LAMB: In what way?
Mr. HITCHENS: Well, there--there is a--there has been in the past, I
think, more separation between press and government, press and
political parties. I have to say another thing that the Blair
government has fostered has been this incredible closeness between
White House press corps and White House. And the--there is an attempt
to turn British political journalism into an adjunct of number 10
Downing Street and of the government, which is really quite startling
and to me rather creepy. And it is changing. But I think we have
been a little bit more adversarial most of the time and a little bit
more disrespectful, and we tend to think that we can be disrespectful
to our politicians because we have a monarchy and we don't need to be
respectful to them. We can--we can revere our head of state without
getting involved in politics.
LAMB: Where do you work on a full-time basis?
Mr. HITCHENS: I work for the London Daily Express newspaper as a--a
weekly columnist. And that's--that's--that's my main activity. I
also write for other British publications, The Spectator and Prospect
particularly, but that's--that's my main activity.
LAMB: How many years did you live in the United States?
Mr. HITCHENS: Only two; two very intense years which I still look
back on with enormous affection and I long to come back, but you
can't--you can only choose where--where and when you live and it's--it
made a huge impression upon me, and--as did my two and a half years in
the Soviet Union before that, and probably made the faults in my own
country much clearer to me than they would otherwise have been.
LAMB: How big is Great Britain in population?
Mr. HITCHENS: We're about just under 60 million.
LAMB: How--what state in America could Great Britain fit in?
Mr. HITCHENS: Oh, most of them, I should think. It's really quite
small. You could certainly get it easily into California and--and
easily into--into Alaska. And, in fact, California, by comparison, is
probably rather a bigger country. But I think that we have, because
of our history and because of our particular island position, we've
developed a--a separate civilization which has got very little to do
with size and a lot more to do with culture and civilization.
LAMB: What's left of the empire?
Mr. HITCHENS: Nothing. A few--a few small windswept and damp
islands, I suppose, such as the Falklands you could--you could claim
and--and I think St. Helena and Tristan da Cunha and other little
dots on--on the map, but nothing. It's gone. It's not--it no longer
exists. We got rid of it with amazing speed, and there is this thing
called the commonwealth which is really just a cloud of people who
pretend that they still have something in common but don't. It's
amazing how quickly it's vanished from sight.
LAMB: You started at--well, you were born down south, Portsmouth
Mr. HITCHENS: No, I was actually born in the empire. I was born on
the island of Malta in the middle--in the middle of the Mediterranean,
which was then the--the great British naval base in--in the
Mediterranean. And now, of course, it hasn't seen a British warship
for years. It's--it's an independent country.
LAMB: But didn't you grow up in, like, South Hampton or--or--or...
Mr. HITCHENS: I grew up all--all over the place. Because--because
of my father's career in the navy, we were--we--we were in the naval
bases in--some of them in the south of England, in Portsmouth and
Plymouth, once in Scotland. And that was--that--those are my earliest
memories of these rather strange places full of great gray warships
and very serious people and often quite badly bomb damaged by what was
then a recent war.
LAMB: The reason I ask that, though, if you drove from the south of
Great Britain to the top, how long is it? How far away is it?
Mr. HITCHENS: I think it probably adds up to about 600 miles if
you--if--if you do it from--from Land's End to John o'Groat's.
I've--I've never done it quite like that, but it's--it's small. You
could do it if you really tried, I think, probably in just over a day.
But you'd see an immense variety while you were doing it.
LAMB: What's the ethnic population or the--what--you know,
the--it--what kind of diversity is there in Great Britain?
Mr. HITCHENS: Well, there are--for a start, there--there are four
different nations in the British Isles: the--the Irish, the Scots,
the Welsh and the English. And they are--they're all to be found on
the--on the--the English half of the--of--of the two islands, whereas
in--in Ireland itself, the division is--is actually more between Irish
and Scots, although people tend to forget that. And they mingle a
great deal. They mingle more probably in England than anywhere else.
Scotland is more Scottish, Welsh more Welsh, England much more of a
mixture. And then we've had successive waves of immigration. The
whole country is an immigrant country from--from its earliest years
because a lot of the--a lot of the population really comes from
the--the north German plains, anyway. But then you've had French
Huguenots and eastern European Jews and Hungarians and all kinds of
other people coming in. And then in the recent--What?--40, 50 years,
quite a large number of people from the old empire, from--either from
the West Indies or from the Indian subcontinent.
LAMB: You--Christopher Hitchens, your brother, is older or younger?
Mr. HITCHENS: He's older.
LAMB: Are your parents alive?
Mr. HITCHENS: No.
LAMB: How did two people come out of the same family with such
Mr. HITCHENS: Well, I suppose part of it must be that if there's two
of you, you--you're bound to assert your individ--individuality by
being different from one another. But apart from that, I don't--I
don't actually think that if you really looked at it, our views are
that divergent. What we both do is look critically and independently
at the world and reach different conclusions, but those conclusions do
come from--from--from a similar, I believe, regard for the truth and
for justice and for a number of other things which simply lead us to
different conclusions. You can't expect everyone to come to the same
conclusion about how an objective should be reached, but I think
it's--it's quite reasonable to assume that they have the same motives.
LAMB: What do you both think of the monarchy?
Mr. HITCHENS: Well, he hates it and wants to get rid of it. I think
it's an essential part of a balanced constitution in much the same way
that the king is an essential part of the game of chess. He doesn't
actually do very much, but by occupying his square, he prevents others
from occupying it. I think the history of most countries, not all but
most countries which haven't had monarchies or which have gotten rid
of monarchies, suggest that once they've gone and politicians start
seeking the kind of loyalty and love which monarchs enjoy, you get
very serious political problems, and often you get an end to
democracy. And I think it's--it would be extremely dangerous to get
rid of it. I think there are many criticisms that you can make of the
people who've occupied the throne. They're not perfect. They're not
supposed to be. It's--that's not the point. They--the whole point
about them it doesn't really matter who they are, provided they behave
themselves within the constitution.
LAMB: What do you both think of the Anglican Church?
Mr. HITCHENS: Well, he's a--as far as I--anything else go, a--a
pretty militant atheist. I'm a member of the Anglican Church but a
very dissident member because it's--it's modernized itself almost out
of existence, much as the Episcopal Church, its cousin, has in--in the
United States. It's simply decided that it's--it--it's going to adopt
a social gospel and to be politically and culturally--I'm sure it
would use progressive.
It's also thrown away its greatest treasure, which is its language.
The--the absolutely extraordinarily beautiful language of the King
James Bible and of Thomas Cranmer's Book of Common Prayer have been
abandoned, although they haven't got rid in--in England of the most
amazing assembly of beautiful buildings which they've inherited. You
often think that maybe if they could get the chance, they would knock
them all down and replace them with concrete shopping mall-type
cathedrals and churches because they have absolutely no apparent
respect for the--for the past and no understanding that they owe
anything to the past or that there is anything eternal and out of
normal time about religion. They seem to want to adapt it to the--to
the current times. I can't see how that can be religious.
LAMB: I don't mean to keep comparing you with your brother, but it's
an interesting way to--to see how you both come from the same place
with these different views. What do you both think of hereditary
peers in the House of Lords?
Mr. HITCHENS: Well, did you know I've never asked him about that. I
should imagine he disapproves of them in--in his 18th-century
revolutionary way. But my view is that they're--they're important in
the British constitution because they're independent or they were
independent. And when the Labor government came to replace them,
it's--it did it in the name of democracy but replaced these people
who'd inherited their titles with appointed peers who were, as it
were, appointed senators who are certainly not any more democratic
than hereditary peers and are undoubtedly a lot less independent
because they owe their appointments to the existing government.
LAMB: How many hereditary peers are there? And what is a peer?
Mr. HITCHENS: Oh, I'm--I'm sorry I'm not up on the--on--on the
details. I--there are several hundred of them. This--th...
LAMB: I remember once that there were 1,200 members of the House of
Mr. HITCHENS: Yeah, the--but quite a lot of those are--are--are life
peers who have been created by governments for their lives, although
there--there were two different kinds. There were the hereditary
peers, who simply inherited their titles, often titles which had been
granted back in--in the Middle Ages or in some cases as recently as 60
or 70 years ago, but--but they simply inherited their titles and there
was no merit in it, no selection, no control. If you--if you
inherited your title, it didn't matter who you were; if you were a bus
driver or an ex-convict, you could sit in the House of Lords as a
Then there were the life peers who were appointed by the government
for the--for the term of life who didn't hand down their titles. And
the idea was that these would--generally would balance the
conservative nature of the hereditary peers, even though the
hereditaries weren't by any means all supporters of the Conservative
Party. Many of them were cross-benchers, which is to say they were
independent politically and could vote whichever way they liked.
Then what happened was that the--the new Labor government decided that
it was going to get rid of all the inherited titles so that it--it
didn't matter if you were the duke of whatever; you could no longer
sit in the House of Lords. You could no--no longer play any part
in--in lawmaking. And there was a compromise in which a small number
of them were retained. It--it's one of those things that's probably
not worth going into at any length, but that compromise means there
are still a few hereditaries. But most of the--of the peers are now
people who have been appointed by past governments or, indeed,
appointed by the existing one.
LAMB: When you hear the--the name Teletubbies...
Mr. HITCHENS: Yes.
LAMB: ...what is your reaction?
Mr. HITCHENS: Oh, I d--I--I am just so distressed by the way that
people abandon their children to television, and I don't think that
the--the--I don't think television is a--is a fit child minder. I
think it destroys the imagination. It destroys the...
LAMB: What is a Teletubby, though?
Mr. HITCHENS: Well, a Teletubby--I--I th--I thought they--I thought
they'd inflicted them on you, too, but as...
LAMB: They have.
Mr. HITCHENS: ...as--as far as--as far as I've ever seen, it's a
sort of round, furry, squeaky thing which makes half-formed
human--humanlike noises and also has a television screen inserted in
its stomach on which programs are occasionally shown in the middle of
the television program in which the Teletubbies appear. And
I--that's--that's the nearest I can get to describing it. You'd have
to see it if you hadn't to believe it. But it's--the interesting
thing about it, it's the first children's television program which
actually refers to television as--as its main purpose. It's a
television program about television for children.
LAMB: You have a Chapter...
Mr. HITCHENS: Could you get much worse?
LAMB: You have a Chapter 6 called The Telescreen Triumphs, and then
you lead with a quote from T.S. Eliot: "I find only anxiety and
apprehension about the social effects of this past time and especially
about its effect upon small children." That's T.S. Eliot from 1950.
Mr. HITCHENS: Yes.
LAMB: Why'd you lead with that?
Mr. HITCHENS: Because it was a warning. At about that time,
television was a m--minority--a--a minority activity in Britain. Very
few people had television sets. Most people listened to what they
call the wireless, the radio. And there wasn't very much in the way
of programming. A lot of the time, even when the BBC was transmitting
television, a lot of time, there wasn't anything on. It was just
a--a--a test guide or a blank screen. So it--it was still in the
early stages of development, whereas in the United States, by 1950, it
was pretty well-established. And Eliot who was one of the few people
in Britain who obviously being American by birth knew and understood
the United States, had seen what was going on and was very disturbed.
And he wrote this letter to try and warn people against the
development of television in Britain. And I honestly believe that it
was--it was a--a--a warning which should have been heeded and has--was
ignored and was ignored at great cost.
The damage that television has done to people's imaginations and
individuality and the way in which it's--it acts as a conformist force
on children is really quite frightening. Adults who've already
learned to read and have a culture can cope with it. But children who
are--who are exposed to television, especially modern color
television, at an early age lose the opportunity to develop their own
in--individuality and--and can become quite alarmingly, I think,
decultured and--How should I say?--mass-produced as a result of--of
being left in front of it as the--the third parent, the constant child
LAMB: What--what's the difference between television in the United
States and television in Great Britain?
Mr. HITCHENS: Not much. In fact, a lot of children's television
that we have is imported from the United States, cartoons and--and
other programs. There's more--I think a little bit more in the way of
commercials in US television now, but not all that much. I mean, we
do have a--the non-commercial BBC channel, but it's--it--it has
several commercial rivals, so you--you'd--you'd be pretty unlikely to
escape commercials if you were watching television all the time.
LAMB: If you lived in the United States and were--and you're an
American citizen, what would--would you belong to a political party
Mr. HITCHENS: I think if you believe in democracy, you have to
choose. And in a country that has a party system, you have choose. I
think I would choose the Republican Party, not because I accept
everything that it stands for by any matter of means--I--I'd be as
critical of it as I am of the British Conservative Party--but because
I think if you--if you believe that you ought to have some influence
and you believe that democracy is the way to do it, then party
membership is--is actually a duty for anyone who's serious about the
country they live in.
LAMB: If you had to pick a party in Great Britain?
Mr. HITCHENS: Well, I would pick the Conservative Party with--with
the same reservations because it is--it's a party which has failed
in--in--to conserve a lot of things and which even now has many
policies which I deeply disapprove. But as long as there a democratic
resistance, then that's the only one there is. And again, it's--it's
a matter of duty, and it's--you can't choose a political party on--on
pure moral grounds because politics is a--is a matter of temporal
compromises. It's not--it's not like religion. It's not--it's not
something that you just--you--you just do because it's entirely good.
You make a compromise by getting involved at all, and as long as I
believe it--it will make a difference, then I have to make that
LAMB: What was the Hitchens family like when it was all together?
Mr. HITCHENS: Oh, I--you don't really know what other people's
families are like, do you, 'cause you only live in your own. It was
fairly noisy and...
LAMB: How many in the family?
Mr. HITCHENS: Oh, just the four of us, Christopher and--and I and
our parents. That was it.
LAMB: What was your--what was your mom like?
Mr. HITCHENS: What was she like? I--that--that is--that is a
question I have never been asked before. What was she like? She was
very effervescent and--and very--very--al--always--always
en--enthusiastic about--about things. And it came from
a--s--seemed--seemed to come from a--that rather almost--almost
aggressively cheerful attitude which people formed during
the--the--the--the Second World War to--to try and--to--to try and
overcome the--the gloom around. Didn't need--always said that
she--for instance, didn't--didn't need any--any gin in her gin and
tonic to--to make her feel cheerful. It was--it was unnecessary.
LAMB: When did she die?
Mr. HITCHENS: She died in 1974.
LAMB: At what age?
Mr. HITCHENS: She was 50.
LAMB: What'd she die of?
Mr. HITCHENS: She killed herself.
Mr. HITCHENS: Yeah.
Mr. HITCHENS: Yes.
LAMB: What about your dad? How long did he live?
Mr. HITCHENS: He died in 1987 when he was--no, it was '78. I have
to--I have to work these things out, so both quite a long time ago.
LAMB: Where you close to your parents?
Mr. HITCHENS: Not during my teen-age years, no. We had...
LAMB: Any reason?
Mr. HITCHENS: I was--I was a dreadful, awful teen-ager. I
LAMB: In what way?
Mr. HITCHENS: Oh, stupid rows over clothes and hair and appearance
and--and ev--everything you can imagine, total 1960s teen-ager vs.
LAMB: What was it like for you growing up with The Beatles?
Mr. HITCHENS: I--do you know the thing that I remember much more
than The Beatles was The Rolling Stones, who I think had--had more of
an impact, particularly when there was a case when Mick Jagger was
accused of drug possession. And there was an enormous row about this
in--in Britain when I was in school in, I think, 1967. And after a
great deal of fuss, the charges were withdrawn, the conviction
quashed, and he was released. And I think the signal that an awful
lot of people of my age took was that authority lost its nerve in
dealing with--in dealing with the rock generation, that they'd
actually decided that--that they were going to give in. And
that--that made a huge impact. The Beatles, I didn't really care
about, never have, still don't--still don't.
LAMB: How old are you today?
Mr. HITCHENS: I'm 49.
LAMB: And the difference between you and Christopher again is how...
Mr. HITCHENS: Two and a half.
LAMB: Two and a half years. What impact d--if you don't mind me
asking, did your mom's suicide have on you?
Mr. HITCHENS: I--it--it's--it's a terrible thing. You can't...
LAMB: Was it a surprise?
Mr. HITCHENS: It was to me, yes. And I--the--the--being un--unhappy
episodes in the months beforehand. And sh--she--she had--she had left
my father. But I had no idea that--that this was going to happen. It
was a complete surprise.
LAMB: How old were you at the time?
Mr. HITCHENS: Wait a minute. I--I--again, I--I would have been, I
think, twen--22 or 23. I'm sorry. It's--it's--I--I--I honestly can't
remember, but it's either 22 or 23.
LAMB: Have you married?
Mr. HITCHENS: Yes.
Mr. HITCHENS: Yes.
LAMB: How old are they?
Mr. HITCHENS: Seventeen, 11 and 18 months.
LAMB: What do they think of all this? I mean, what's--what's their
attitude about Great Britain?
Mr. HITCHENS: Well, your children always laugh at you, and mine are
no exception. And they tease me about it. And--but
I--I--that's--that's their privilege. They--they know me better than
anybody else. They know exactly what I'm like. They're not fooled.
And I don't--I don't try to fool them. I--I hope--look, they--they
didn't grow up when I did. They didn't see the end of what I thought
was a valued civilization. A lot of what I say is--is always going to
be hearsay to them. They can't conceivably take it as seriously as I
can. What I do know, though, is that--that at least they've--I--I--I
leave behind in this book some sort of clue to them as to why I--I--I
think as I do and behave as I do.
LAMB: What would you do--what do you want back?
Mr. HITCHENS: What do I want back? Mainly civility and mainly
the--the--the--the--the strength of the--the married family, which I
think has been--has been thrown away. I'd also quite like back some
sort of rigor in--in education available to everybody. At the moment
in Great Britain, you can buy a good education in two ways. One, you
can pay school fees. The other is you can live in an area where the
public school provision is reasonably good. Otherwise, if you're
poor, it's hopeless. And that system is really quite recent--was
introduced oddly enough by a socialist government supposedly
campaigning for the less privileged. They destroyed the schools which
were open to everybody if they could pass an examination and replaced
them with comprehensive high schools which everybody can go to but the
trouble is they are--they select simply on--on catchment area and if
you live in the wrong area, then you get a really rotten education.
Those are some of the things I'd bring back. I'd bring back a serious
criminal justice system. I'd restore the death penalty,
which--without which it seems to me that no criminal justice system
can work, because if you don't discriminate between life and property,
then you've lost a vital part of any criminal justice system.
LAMB: Do you--do you have the death penalty anywhere in Great
Mr. HITCHENS: Technically, I think it still exists for--for--for
treason, but it's not--it's--it's--it's a dead letter. It--it was
abolished in 1965, and there is currently no chance of it being
restored. The results of being--of abolishing it has been--has been
quite interesting in that one of--one of the things people used to
marvel at about Britain was that we have an unarmed police force. The
reason they could go about unarmed was because if you killed a
policeman, then the chances were very strong that you would be hanged
by the neck until dead. Since abolition, the amount of armed crime in
Britain has grown quite considerably, and the police are
gradually--without any public debate or--or act of parliament,
gradually becoming an armed force. In fact, it's--one of the last
sights I saw on--on--when I began my journey from Oxford to here was
two policemen standing outside a courthouse in Oxford with submachine
guns slung around their--slung around their necks. That's a sight
that you would never see in my--in--in my childhood or even my teens.
It's a very big change, and it's coming gradually, and as I say,
without debate and without--without a change in the law, but as a
direct result, I think, of this--of this abolition of the death
LAMB: Are there handguns in Great Britain?
Mr. HITCHENS: There are growing numbers of them. And, of course,
they're associated, as they almost always are, with drug dealing.
It's--it's said to be possible to buy them quite cheaply, illegally.
There are elaborate legal control on guns, but as I think everybody
knows that the only people who are affected by legal controls on guns
are law-abiding people. Criminals ignore them.
LAMB: Wh--what do you say when you look at this country and you hear
the political debates that have been going on for the last two years
about things like universal health care? Will it work?
Mr. HITCHENS: Well, I hope that people will look at our experiment
and see that it hasn't worked. It's become a--a tremendous sacred cow
in Britain that you can't criticize the--the national health service
now without being accused of wanting to destroy it. There are obvious
things that it's good for, dealing with catastrophic illness and the
long-term--long-term care of--of people who are old; the sort of
people who insurance companies dump need some kind of backup
provision. But the problem is that there is no--there--there is no
consideration in Britain of how on Earth you're--you're going to deal
with all the other problems which are actually much better dealt with,
particularly in continental Europe, by private insurance for--for
other things. And it--it--it's a sensible mix of the two seems to me
to be--to be the only way of actually ensuring that everybody gets
I personally think this obsession with--with health care is a very
peculiar political thing. It oughtn't really to be at the center of
politics. Everybody's going to die in the end. And to some extent,
their--their health ought to be their own responsibility, not--not
that of government. But what I'm concerned about is that if people,
particularly the old or children and the helpless, are left without
any--with--without any means of support when they're--when they're
ill, that somebody will step in and help them.
LAMB: On average--I'm trying to remember the statistics--something
like 60-some percent of the American high school graduates go to
college, and something like 45 percent graduate from college. What's
that statistic in Great Britain? Do you have any idea?
Mr. HITCHENS: No. I--statistics, unless I've been--been prepping
like a presidential candidate, are not my strong points. But the--the
numbers of--of people going to university, which is not--or certainly
wasn't until recently the--the--the equivalent of college, have been
rising very sharply in Britain, and the government wants them to rise
to 50 percent. And I think in the end, we'd probably like everybody
to do it. I think the cynical reason is both parties have expanded
higher education, because it mops up youth unemployment and keeps it
out of--out of the figures and also because it employs more people in
the public sector to--to teach them. The result has been a very
serious drop in--in quality, but that's--that's already been--been
begun by the--the poorer quality of teaching in the school.
LAMB: One of the things in your book, you have as a subtitle, "From
Winston Churchill to Princess Di"--or Princess Diana. Why did you
bracket this book between Wi--Winston Churchill's death and Princess
Mr. HITCHENS: The two--the--the crucial chapter and--and really
the--the point around which the whole book revolves is the one which
compares the two funerals of Winston Churchill in 1965 and--and
Princess Diana. And the difference between them seems to me to sum up
very eloquently the way in which the country has changed, the--the
difference in the--the self-discipline of the people and their
attitudes, the way in which the--the way in which the two things were
…..It's obviously two very different kinds of
people, but here were two funerals in London of revered and much-loved
figures. And they were utterly different, as if they'd taken place in
different countries, and, in fact, they had taken place in different
countries. The Britain of Princess Diana was an utterly foreign place
to the Britain of Winston Churchill. And it seemed to me to be a good
This actually came to me during the bizarre weeks after Princess
Diana's death, when voicing any kind of criticism of the hysteria was
pretty much taboo. And I--I did a sort of--the--the sort of thing
that Chinese dissidents used to do in the days of Mao Tse-tung. If
they wanted to write about a political controversy, they'd actually
write about one that had taken place in some dynasty 3,000 or 4,000
years before which they felt paralleled it. And I wrote about Winston
Churchill's funeral to--to make the points that--that--that it had
been so different. And everybody got the message.
LAMB: What were the differences?
Mr. HITCHENS: The differences are in--first of all, in--in the--the
open showing of emotion. Now some people might say let it all hang
out, show exactly what you feel. The trouble is that, in--in the case
of British people, if they let it all hang out, quite a lot of what
they let hang out isn't very nice. We are a pretty bloodthirsty and
violent lot, especially when we get outside out own borders and start
misbehaving. And we need to restrain ourselves. And one of the
reasons we've been so peaceful for so long is that we have. That was
very much in evidence at the Churchill funeral and very much less in
evidence at the Diana funeral when people applauded, for heaven's
sake, at a funeral, which is--which is completely un-English, whereas
in--in Churchill's time, people--people queueing up to file past his
coffin might occasionally dash a tear away from an eye and consider
that to be slightly embarrassing. That's--that's one difference.
And the other--the other differences were really in--in--in--in the
whole shape and face of the country. Britain in--in 1965 was still a
serious country, still scarred by what was seen by most people as a
recent war, still very much a country living in the--in--in the
afterglow of--of imperial greatness, also quite a lot poorer and, in
some ways, the better for it in that the--the self-indulgence which
comes with affluence hadn't really begun to take hold. And this--this
whole feeling of a country self-disciplined for a serious purpose as
opposed to a frivolous country weeping and wailing about a--a princess
who was really a glorified film star with a--with a--with a crown on
LAMB: When you sit over in Great Britain and look back to this
country--and, of course, you spent a couple years here--at--and you
find yourself in conversation with people about the United States, if
that ever happens, what do people say when we're not around listening?
Mr. HITCHENS: Well, people are often very stupid about the United
States and Britain. There's still a tendency to be snobbish and to
say, `Well, it--it's--it's a Hicksville. Nobody--there's no culture.
There's no--there's--there's no history. There's--there's--there's
nothing but violence and crime.' They take it com--completely naively
of what's fed to them through--through television and the movies about
what America is like. Now I'm constantly faced with the task of
saying, `Look, actually where I lived in the United States in
Bethesda, Maryland, was far more peaceful and less crime-ridden than
the--the--than the city of Oxford, where I--I live in Britain, that
Americans are not uncultured, that this is--is a country with a--with
a culture and a history, and also that, in--in many ways, it retains
aspects of Britain which we've thrown away.'
The idea, as I think I said earlier, that--that we, the--the country
which invented jury trials, should now be getting rid of it. The--the
ridiculous way in which we're--we're abandoning quite important parts
of our culture to--and, indeed, our--our politics, to the European
Union is really quite startling to me. There's a--there's a--there's
a strange way of illustrating this, which I think may strike a chord
with--with some Americans. We are now being forced in Britain to
adopt the metric system of--of measurements. And--and when I say
`forced,' I mean that shopkeepers are actually being taken to court
for continuing to sell vegetables in pounds and ounces. I--I think,
first of all, the idea of someone being taken to court for that and
that being turned into a criminal offense is--is absurd in the
English-British-American tradition of liberty.
Secondly, there's something interesting about this, that the--the
imperial weights and measures, the pounds, the ounces, the--the miles,
the feet, have developed, like the English common law, out of hundreds
of years of use and tradition. They're familiar. They have a human
scale. They're known and understood. The metric system was invented
by some scientists who actually got the circumference of the Earth
wrong and then based everything else on that and was imposed from
outside. None of its measurements have any bearing on any kind of
human scale. They don't--they--they're simply imposed from above,
just like continental ideas, where you--you always check to see
whether an idea works in theory bef--long before you check to see
whether it works in practice.
And we're taking that direction, whereas in the United States still, I
think, people take the pragmatic English-British view that if it works
in practice and it's rooted in history and the past and people are
familiar with it, you keep it. And in--in a lot of ways, I find
America, when I come here, more British than Britain.
LAMB: What about other issues, like, you know, foreign policy?
What's this country look like from Great Britain?
Mr. HITCHENS: Well, I'm distressed, because at the end of the Cold
War, people seemed to lose a certain purpose. And a lot of things
were protected by the Cold War which were good. And the problem was
that when the Cold War ended, they--they were then questioned. Two of
them strike me. One is that as long as Britain was the principal ally
of the United States against the Soviet Union, the idea that the
United States should intervene on the side of the Irish Republican
Army in Ireland was taboo, wasn't mentioned, wasn't thought of. Now
what's called the peace process in Northern Ireland, which has been a
series of concessions, in--in--in my view, to criminal terror has been
largely driven by American political pressure.
Then there's a--there's a similar but not the same comparison with
what's going on in the Middle East. As long as Israel was the vital
ally of the West in the Middle East and the--the Arab foes of Israel
were the clients of the Soviet Union, there was no question in--in the
United States about support for Israel. Now ever since the end of the
Cold War, the--the Dennis Ross policy of seeking wh--what I call
appeasement and what everyone else calls land for peace, some kind of
compromise and accommodation, has been pursued. And it's--in both
cases, I have to say, these--these peace processes have led to
probably more slaughter and mayhem and more instability than before.
In some ways, I yearn for the Cold War because it made these things
simpler. And I--I--I wish that the United States still had that--that
clear-cut understanding of who are its friends and who are its
enemies. There now seems to be an attempt to withdraw and to leave
behind, much as the British did, actually, when they--when they dumped
their empire--to leave behind structures which give--give cover during
a decent interval, which everybody probably knows will collapse once
the--once--once they're out of the way.
LAMB: Can you remember when you first got interested in being a
writer or a polemicist or whatever you want to call yourself?
Mr. HITCHENS: Well, I think I--I used to--I used to churn out daily
newspapers on a typewriter in the--in the attic when I was about 10 or
11. Ever since then, I suppose.
LAMB: Where did that come from?
Mr. HITCHENS: I'm not quite sure. I--I just remember possibly
I--I--I liked doing it at school, and then I found out I liked doing
it at home. I--I--I--I just--I just loved the business of--of reading
newspapers and--and the i--the idea of producing them. And it's
LAMB: Had your brother done the same thing ahead of you?
Mr. HITCHENS: I don't think he did that. I think he was--he was--he
was always more of a--of a--of a writer. Journalism and writing
shouldn't be confused, especially in Britain. Journalism in Britain
is--is reporting. It's just getting to a telephone and telling people
what's happened very quickly. It's--it's--it's often rather inelegant
and perhaps, from the--from the writerly point of view, lack--lacking
in thought, though it does impose a certain discipline on you in terms
of choosing brief, punchy, effective words. Christopher's always
been--been more of a--of--of a writer, and I don't think it's--I mean,
he's done reporting, but I think he's approached it from a
different--a different direction in life.
LAMB: Did you two get along when you were growing up?
Mr. HITCHENS: Not particularly well, no.
LAMB: Do you get along now?
Mr. HITCHENS: Well, when we--when we run across each other, we do,
but we don't run across each other all that often.
LAMB: You don't have much of a relationship?
Mr. HITCHENS: Well, we see each other from time to time. I mean,
you know, we're--we're--we--the moment we meet, we have a huge amount
of--of things in common and knowledge in common, which makes it easy
to have a conversation. You sink into it, as you sink into an old
armchair, without any difficulty. But we don't--we're very different
people with different tastes in practically anything you'd care to
name. And we--we--we probably wouldn't seek each other's company if
we weren't brothers. So I--it'd be a bit much to be constantly
badgering each other for--for dinner dates if--just because we are.
LAMB: I asked you earlier about your mother. What was your father
Mr. HITCHENS: What was my father like? My father was--again,
the--the war, I think, looms very heavy in all this. By the time--by
the time we were born--by the time Christopher was born, my--my father
was almost 40 and, again, by--by the time I--I was born, two and a
half years older than that, which is late. And his whole life had
been, as so many other people--had been interrupted by this six years
of--of really quite frightening and unpleasant events. And he was--he
hadn't grown up--he hadn't grown up in an able family. His--his
father was a--was a schoolteacher and a school headmaster. His father
had been one of the people who'd built Portsmouth Dockyard. He'd been
an agricultural laborer who'd--who'd walked a couple hundred miles to
go and build it. We didn't--don't come from any kind of even upper
middle-class origins. So he was the first of his--his generation.
And the--the navy was a very--was one of the--one of those mechanisms,
as--as, I think, the--the armed services operate here, in which it, in
some way, takes over from your family and--and--and--and becomes a
family of itself. So we saw him. I have first memories of him coming
home in--in British naval uniform, which is a pretty startling thing
to see. He was very--very quiet, very restrained, kept--kept his
temper under almost all--all provocation, very, I think, I s--I, first
of all, sensed and later on discovered I'd been right to sense, a
great discontent felt by most of his generation about the world for
which they'd gone to war gradually crumbling around them.
LAMB: And--and this book, "The Abolition of Britain," when did you
first think about doing it and under what circumstances?
Mr. HITCHENS: I first thought about doing it during a--a--a long
drive around New Hampshire following Newt Gingrich as--as he went
hunting for moose in--it would have been the early--early summer of
1995, I think, if I have that right. And I was with a--a British
friend who--who's also a correspondent here and who was thinking of
writing about his experiences. We had a long conversation, and it
came to me during that. But both he and I have totally
different--reached totally different conclusions about our time here,
and we should think about writing a book. But I was reluctant to do
it. Books steal an enormous part of your life. You have to devote a
great deal of time to them, and I wasn't sure whether, with--with then
two young children, I was ever going to be able to do it. So it took
some time. It also was very difficult, once I decided to do it, to
get anybody to publish it, because the British publishing industry
is--is wholly dominated by the cultural left and wasn't very
sympathetic, to put it mildly, to--to my ideas.
LAMB: Who ended up publishing it in Great Britain?
Mr. HITCHENS: A company called Quartet.
LAMB: Under what circumstances? How'd you get them to do it?
Mr. HITCHENS: Well, I--I--I--I didn't get them to do it in the end.
The fir--what happened was that the first agent I approached to ask
him to see if he could find me a publisher, because I knew nothing of
this, of the whole area of publishing, simply refused to handle the
book, because he disagreed with it. I said, `I don't care whether you
disagree with it or not. Why can't you actually find me a publisher?'
He said, `I--I will not. I think--I think the book is wrong.' So then
eventually I found another agent who went from publisher to publisher
to publisher, having initially said, `Oh, I'll find you somebody in no
time at all.' He went from publisher to publisher, and--and there was
rejection after rejection, some of them on openly political grounds,
until eventually he found Quartet, which is a small firm but which was
willing to actually take the risk.
LAMB: And this was published when in Great Britain?
Mr. HITCHENS: It was first published in October of 19--I'm sorry,
August of 1999 and then--and then went into--went into--into soft
covers in April of this year.
LAMB: How did it do?
Mr. HITCHENS: It did pretty well, given that it was up against,
first of all, a publishing industry that didn't want it, published by
a small publisher, and who--who couldn't really afford to do much in
the way of promotion. I--it--it s--it's sold--by now, it's sold more
than 20,000 in Britain, which in the British book market is pretty
LAMB: And how did Encounter Books, the Peter Collier operation here
in this country, get ahold of it?
Mr. HITCHENS: Well, do you know, I've never been--we just got a call
from out of the blue saying they'd heard it--heard of--heard about it
and could they publish it. And we were absolutely delighted. I had
always treasured a hope that it would--that it would be published
here, because I think there are a large number of--of American
conservative Anglophiles who hold in their heads an--an idea of
Britain and would be disturbed and alarmed to see what had happened to
the country which they--which they quite liked and in some cases
rather admired and looked on as a--as a--first of all, as a--as the
origin of a lot of very good American ideas and also as a reliable
ally. I think, in both cases, it's--it's--it is trampling on its
origins and it's becoming a less reliable ally. And they'd be
interested to know in detail how this has happened.
LAMB: `One of my main contentions,' you write, `is that Thatcherism
was a miserable failure on its own terms and actually speeded up the
triumph of the state.'
Mr. HITCHENS: Yes. I think she was terribly diverted during her
time by two things--one, her battle against--against trade union
power, and the other by the Cold War--and didn't see the enormous
importance of culture and education and history and morality. And
also, I think that she was so concerned with unleashing the
market--now the market's a perfectly good thing in the right
circumstances--that she forgot that market force without any kind of
restraint is not necessarily a conservative thing and can actually be
thoroughly radical in--in the destruction of institutions and
communities, which it did. And I think it's essential for anyone
who's serious about conservativism to recognize that Margaret Thatcher
was not, by any means, perfect. She did a lot of good things, but
many of the left's criticisms of her hold water.
And part of the purpose of the book was also to appeal to those on the
political and cultural left in Britain to recognize that they, too,
had made mistakes. And I thought you can't ask other people to
recognize that they've made mistakes unless you're prepared to say
that your side has done so, too.
LAMB: What would you say at this stage, as you look around Great
Britain, her biggest impact was on things?
Mr. HITCHENS: Her biggest impact was on the economy and on releasing
it. Britain is now immensely healthier economically than it was when
she took over. And that's a...
LAMB: How much more private is it?
Mr. HITCHENS: Not much, because the--the state sector simply
shifted. It used to be a matter of coal mines and steel industry and
telephones and monopolies like that. Now it's the enormous National
Health Service, which used to be the biggest employer in Europe after
the Red Army. And now the Red Army has been seriously downsized. The
National Health Service--the British National Health Service is--is
bigger than the Red Army ever was.
LAMB: Who owns British Airlines?
Mr. HITCHENS: It's private.
LAMB: Who owns the--the train?
Mr. HITCHENS: They're private.
LAMB: Who owns power?
Mr. HITCHENS: It's private.
Mr. HITCHENS: Private.
LAMB: Now--What?--20 years ago, that's all owned by the state.
Mr. HITCHENS: Yeah, but these are--actually, in those days, the
state owns things which made things, and at least you could actually
measure whether it was doing it well or not. Now what the state owns
is an enormous--enormous health-care sector, which is in--increasingly
inefficient at delivering the goods, and a vast army of local
government and what we call--what we call quango organizations, which
are government agencies which employ people and regulate things,
which--which actually dominate public employment and--and--and cost an
enormous amount of--of tax and don't make anything. So we've swapped
a productive and efficient nationalized sector for an unproductive and
inefficient nationalized sector. But the state is still enormous in
our economy. And the amount of--the amount of money which is taken
out of people's pockets to pay for it is huge.
LAMB: Let me dip into the middle of your book just for one--one thing
I just wanted to ask you about. You say, `One unbelievable evening,
the queen herself appeared incognita in the "Beyond the Fringe"
audience accompanied by that future butt of satire, the then Lord
Home.' Or is it--is that Lord Home? Is that...
Mr. HITCHENS: Yeah, that's fine.
LAMB: ...the way you pronounce it? It's H-O-M-E.
Mr. HITCHENS: I know. Well, that's--that's--that's--that's Britain
for you. If we can pronounce it differently from the way it's written
down, we will.
LAMB: What's that story?
Mr. HITCHENS: Well, the story is about this--this satirical revue,
"Beyond the Fringe," which attacks all the assumptions and indeed a
lot of the--a lot of the--the household gods of postwar Britain,
particularly, I have to say, the--the--the semi-religion which we've
made of the Second World War in the battle of Britain, by laughing at
it and began a process of mockery of--of establishment figures and
institutions, which has now become almost universal and which
undermined their authority, because authority doesn't--doesn't rest on
the power to thump somebody over the head. It does rest, to some
extent, on--on respect and on a little bit of reverence. And people
thought it was funny and easy and cost-free to get rid of these
things, even--even to the extent of--of--of--of attacking the
monarchy, which, as I said, I think is--is valuable for--for
preventing the degeneration of democracy quite possibly into
dictatorship, not, I think, realizing what they were doing.
The interesting thing about that evening was that the establishment
which was being attacked also didn't realize how important the attack
was and thought that it was quite reasonable to go along and laugh at
the attack being made upon itself. Now there's a way in which this is
rather good. Here is a society where the--the pinnacle of--of--of--of
the state, the pinnacle of respectability goes to a performance where
she and everything she stands for are laughed at. How very democratic
and--and open. But there's also a certain amount of feebleness about
it, a certain amount of saying, `Oh, well, perhaps we are funny after
all,' a loss of confidence, which is very symptomatic of the whole of
After the bankruptcy which followed the Second World War, after our
failure at Suez to hold on to our influence in the Middle East, after
the collapse of our empire, an awful lot of our political governing
class have lost their nerve, simply no longer believed in anything.
And that's one of the reasons why the--the collapse has happened so
LAMB: Go--go back to that evening. How did--how did they find out
that she was--I mean, what did she do when she was sitting in the
crowd that you couldn't recognize her?
Mr. HITCHENS: Well, she--she--she ju--she ju--she just went along as
a--as a private citizen, having--having, you know, arranged to have a
ticket, and--and sat there.
LAMB: Did people know she was there?
Mr. HITCHENS: They--very quickly. Once the lights went up, she was
recognized. But there was no--there was no grand entrance. Normally,
if--if royalty goes to a--to a play or a--or a film premiere, they
arrive amid flashbulbs and ceremony. They're escorted by--by--by
equerries in naval uniform and lanyards, and there's a big fuss. They
do try quite a lot to do things privately, to live the lives of normal
people, to just to--so that they can keep their feet on the ground,
but if they're doing it in a public place, it's difficult, because as
soon as you're recognized, everybody starts looking and pointing. Of
course, that's what happens on this occasion.
LAMB: You're talking about the cultural left. If you're a British
citizen, can you get conservative thought?
Mr. HITCHENS: It's quite hard to get it on the electronic media.
The BBC is, in my view, almost entirely dominated by the left. The
rest of the channels, where they bother with current affairs and
politics at all, tend to take what I believe to be some lazy left-wing
attitudes on both domestic and international politics and cultural
issues. In terms of--in...
LAMB: What about the uni--what about the universities?
Mr. HITCHENS: The universities, pa--particularly since expansion,
have been very much dominated by the left.
LAMB: What about theater? I mean, you discuss in here...
Mr. HITCHENS: Yeah, I mean, it is. It is, the theater. Even--even
the--the Royal Shakespeare Company is--is full of people who believe
in reinterpreting the bard of Avon in--in--in politically progressive
ways. Most--most London theater, where it is political, is theater of
the left. There isn't much conservative drama about.
LAMB: You know, if you're my age, you remember "That Was the Week
Mr. HITCHENS: Yes. Well, that was a--that--that was very much
linked to "Beyond the Fringe," the revue we were discussing earlier.
It was from the same strain. And that was--that was--that was--that
was radical and of the cultural left.
LAMB: You say that--by the way, what was "That Was the Week That
Mr. HITCHENS: It was a--it was a weekly television program on
Saturday nights which, again, ruthlessly and cruelly mocks in--in--in
personal terms, conservative government ministers, members of the
establishment, religion, all the--all the features of--of the
conservative British establishment, as it was then known, which were,
even as this program was--was being transmitted, fading away and
losing their grip. And it was--it was really quite savage. And there
were--there were fears among the ministers in the then conservative
government that it was doing them serious damage, but they didn't dare
protest, because it would have made them look stupid. Only
dictatorships can take satire seriously. Democratic governments are
utterly vulnerable to it, because the moment they start taking it
seriously, they--they--they look like dictators.
LAMB: Our audience will understand this when I read, `Crucial to this
success was the strange and novel character of David Frost...
Mr. HITCHENS: Yes.
LAMB: ...who would become a member of the new post-satire
establishment.' Explain David Frost to us from your vantage point.
Mr. HITCHENS: Well, remember that when--when this program was being
transmitted, the standard British broadcasting voice was something
which I think I can probably still just about do. People talked like
this in a very clipped and almost military accent, and they spoke
as--as if they came from a--from a--an--an elite class. David Frost
didn't have any of that. He spoke with an accent I won't try to
imitate. He was completely from without the--the class system. And
also his attitude towards such people was disrespectful, mocking and,
in a--in a quite serious way, revolutionary. And the fact that he was
one of the main linchpins, anchormen, if you like, with this program,
was considered to be very significant. Because in--in Britain, voice
is code. Accent is code. It's been said that no Englishman can open
his mouth without offending another Englishman, and that's perfectly
true. All these things have--have an immense coded impact. And
talking as he did was, in itself, an affront to the old establishment.
LAMB: Now if--if you were British and you heard your accent, heard
you talking, what would--what would be the kind of things people would
Mr. HITCHENS: Oh, people would say, quite rightly, that I had what
we call a public school education, which is a private school
education. And they would--they would recognize that I--that I came
from a--an area of what you might call the lower upper-middle class.
It--they could pin it down within inches as to what part of the social
scale I came from without any difficulty at all.
LAMB: Can you hear yourself saying those kind of things?
Mr. HITCHENS: Oh, yes.
LAMB: Well, give us an example of what, you know, language or--or
pronunciation that--that reflects that.
Mr. HITCHENS: Well, I--I--I don't because I can't--I--I can't do
imitations. I--all I can tell you is that the voice that I have is
not the voice that I would have had with this upbringing 30 or 40
years ago. I've--I've actually toned it down. You could actually get
mocked in public places for speaking as I do, and--and I do.
It's--it's one of--you know, one of the things you get in England.
LAMB: By--by who?
Mr. HITCHENS: Well, anybody. You'll be in a--in a--in a movie
theater, and you'll be asking for a ticket, and you'll hear someone
making a--making a mock of your la-de-da voice in--in the background.
It's happened. And it--it's just--it's just a feature of England.
Everybody spots, in a--in a--in a voice like mine, a particular set of
attitudes and a particular type of upbringing, which a lot of people
don't like. We're still a very class-ridden society. It goes back to
the Norman conquest.
LAMB: When you were growing up, where'd you spend most of your life
before you got to Oxford?
Mr. HITCHENS: Well, I didn't go to Oxford.
LAMB: I mean, you live there now, you said.
Mr. HITCHENS: Oh, I live there now. That's where I live. I didn't
go to--oh, you mean where--where did I live in the beginning.
LAMB: Yeah, where'd you grow up? Where'd you get your education?
Mr. HITCHENS: I got my education in boarding schools, one on--on--on
the edge of Dartmoor, a beautiful part of southern England which
readers of Sherlock Holmes will be familiar from from "The Hound of
the Baskervilles," and then for a short while in a school in
Cambridge, then in the--in the north of England in Yorkshire, and then
mainly in London, before going abroad. So quite a lot of different
places, more--more than most British people get. Most British people
are still pretty wedded to a--to a place.
LAMB: Are you going to write another book?
Mr. HITCHENS: Possibly. I'm thinking of writing a thriller,
actually, which would be the fictional version of this. It--it's
based on a--based on a--a revelation. When all the details of the
Soviet espionage operation against Britain were coming out, it was
revealed there hadn't just been a Cambridge group, the famous
traitors, Philby, Burgess and MacLean, who--who sold all our
secrets--gave all our secrets to the Russians for ideological reasons;
there also apparently had been an Oxford group who'd been instructed
not to spy but to become generals, government ministers, bishops,
newspaper editors and to destroy the country from within. I don't
actually believe this happened, but I have to say that if a lot of
these people hadn't been working for the Soviet Union, they couldn't
have made much better a job of--of--of sabotaging the country from
within than the people who did get those jobs.
LAMB: This is the cover of the book we've been talking about, "The
Abolition of Britain: From Winston Churchill to Princess Diana." Our
guest has been Peter Hitchens. And we thank you very much.
Mr. HITCHENS: Thank you very much.
Copyright National Cable Satellite Corporation 2004. Personal, noncommercial use of this transcript is permitted. No commercial, political or other use may be made of this transcript without the express permission of National Cable Satellite Corporation.