Top critical review
Good expose on the Westminster bubble for both left and right, but with some topics perhaps better suited to another book...
on 18 November 2015
Hitchens is an interesting fellow, although after reading this mostly enjoyable book I am only left with the feeling that there is something slippery about him that eludes explanation.
Anyway, the main point made in this book is that the political process has become focussed upon a narrow band in the centre ground - so politics as we have known it, built upon intelligent debate between parties with bad blood running between them, is now dead, and an unquestioning narrative has replaced it.
Peter Hitchens is maverick enough to challenge this narrative. He comes across as particularly credible in the earlier chapters, particularly when discussing the Westminster world, the BBC, the fall of communism, foreign policy, railway privatisation and immigration.
The chapters lumping the left with feminism and treating it as some kind of monolithic movement made him look less wise in my opinion. 'The fall of meritocracy' was a chapter I was looking forward to - the excellent point is made that since grammar school abolition, good state schools have created a rise in house prices in their catchment area so that poor people are excluded from them. This chapter dragged though, and I found it turgidly detailed for the one point it was actually making - the top 10% of working class kids need access to what the public school kids are getting and they don't anymore. The massive remaining 90% don't feature in the discussion much.
He is accurate in his understanding of how the left and right, in both the UK and US often overlap over issues such as Islamic fundamentalism, and explains particularly well how the left - which he admits has achieved some great things, got ( and still gets ) Islam completely wrong - and uses the term 'extremism' to maintain its multicultural position whilst exonerating itself of any blame for the outcomes of the religion in question. I'd have preferred it if the chapter hadn't been focussed around lengthy repeated quotes by one or two journalists though, which seems a bit petty.
Overall I like Peter Hitchens, even though the society off which he laments the passing was no doubt great.......for him! It wasn't for everyone and I can see why some things needed to change (eg 'The left mistrust the police' writes Peter disparagingly - clearly he has limited experience of how the ''good old bobbies might have behaved towards someone that they perceived as not being in the 'dominant identity' ). However he is bang on with most of the points he makes, even though I still can't quite make my mind up about his agenda.
Favourite quote: 'Idealism and dogma are easier to maintain in University Campus than anywhere else....surrounded by arrogant and self righteous people in their late teens who think they have discovered sex and idealism for the first time in the history of the human race'.
In summary, this book, when it sticks to the political arena the title suggests, is a good read for those of you interested in some of the events that have shaped Europe over the last 50 years or so and led us to the political system he describes us as having now in the UK.