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The Cameron Delusion Paperback – 17 Mar 2010
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The Broken Compass, which has received less attention in the conservative press than it deserves, mixes Hitchens's analysis of modern British politics - and the lack of any small-c conservative party - with his own memoirs as an industrial and foreign correspondent. --Ed West, The Catholic Herald
'[Hitchens] writes with much of the verve and brio of his elder brother [Christopher Hitchens] and with a greater regard for detail and accuracy.' --Anthony Howard, New Statesman
'[Hitchens] writes with much of the verve and brio of his elder brother [Christopher Hitchens] and with a greater regard for detail and accuracy. Anthony Howard, New Statesman 'Hitchens is in general exhilaratingly good when attacking the hypocrisies and stupidities of specific individuals... The best parts of the book are the vivid (and self-ironical) scenes of foreign reporting.' --Steven Poole, The Guardian
About the Author
Peter Hitchens is a British journalist, author and broadcaster. He witnessed most of the final scenes of the Cold War, and was a resident correspondent in the Soviet capital and in Washington DC. He frequently revisits both Russia and the USA. He currently writes for the Mail on Sunday, where he is a columnist and occasional foreign correspondent, reporting most recently from Iran, North Korea, Burma, The Congo and China.
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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.
I suspect none of them were as disillusioned at the outcome as Peter Hitchens.
The title of the book is The Cameron Delusion (changed from The Broken Compass before the election in 2010 as a last ditch attempt to thwart the Tories) but actually it spends very little time on Cameron specifically. That's probably because The Conservative Party is full of Blairite politicians interchangeable with Mr Cameron and he's a symptom of the problem rather than a cause of it.
One of the things that I liked most about this book is that we get another glimpse into Peter Hitchens' personal story and how he transitioned from a Trotskyist revolutionary into a Christian conservative. Even if you disagree with his politics, isn't that in itself an interesting story? Doesn't it make you pause and think that someone who's been on such a journey might have something worth at least listening to? It did for me. As Hitchens went into a bit of his backstory, I'll allow myself to do the same briefly. Up until about 18 months I was interested in politics in a very general way. I wasn't strongly in favour of any political party, but I enjoyed the debate. My opinions were broadly 'left wing' (although the hypocrisy and tolerance-in-theory-but-intolerance-in-practice of many of the left wing people I'd come across made me sceptical), which I suspect is the default position of anybody who hasn't thought hard enough but such issues. I was watching videos on youtube one day (I think possibly of Christopher Hitchens) and one of the links that came up was for one featuring Peter Hitchens, the specific video forgotten to me now. I clicked it. Maybe I was bored. I'd seen Peter Hitchens on Question Time. His opinions were simplistic, old fashioned and nasty. As I say, the content of the video is lost to me now, but whatever it was, it must've done enough to throw my received wisdom into at least a bit of doubt. I watched another video featuring him. And then another. Every video I saw made me feel uncomfortable, but in a good way. I'm one of those (I think) rare people who likes to be challenged in my beliefs. I love that feeling of discovering a viewpoint that makes you question what you thought you already had worked out, and then the world looks different afterwards.
After 18 months of regularly reading his blog many of the arguments in the book were familiar to me, but that doesn't make them any less impactful. There were a few subjects that I'd seen him touch on before, but wasn't aware of his deeper arguments behind them, which are explored in full here. The chapter on trains, for example, sets out not only why the decisions taken about them were mistaken, but also the impact that it had on many areas of people's lives and on the country as a whole. The picture set out is beautiful and tragic at the same time.
This is also the most detail that I've seen him go into about the relationship between the media and politicians and what goes on behind the scenes. In that regard he's a bit like one of those magicians who reveals all the secrets. Except in this scenario the tricksters don't get upset because not enough people will have read or reviewed this book to make a difference. It should be us getting angry. Not angry in the sense of the left wing protestors mentioned at the beginning of this review, who think this Conservative government is too right wing and who, like me until very recently, have no real understanding of what actual conservatism is.
But we don't and won't get angry. Things won't change. The Conservative Party have just been elected with a shock majority, after all.
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P Hitchens is/was rightfully dissatisfied/insulted to find a Conservative in the guise of PM - the likes...Read more
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