Peter Hitchens: Britain turns out to be the great nation of the gormless.
JS: Moving on slightly, you’ve been against the lockdown measures this government has taken from the start. What do you think the long-lasting effects will be for England?
PH: I think it will be the same as for all parts of the United Kingdom, they all took the same, more or less, route; believing that the strangling of society and the economy would save us from Covid. Well it certainly didn’t save us from Covid but it did strangle the economy and society, and you pay for that; you cannot rack up bills on this scale and expect the payment not to be demanded. The only thing which is in doubt, is how the payment will be demanded and how we will pay it; myself, I think serious inflation and punitive taxation for many, many years, possibly, in the years to come.
JS: And that’s obviously the economic element, but culturally and politically how do you think it’s going to affect us?
PH: As a country gets poorer it becomes culturally less enriched, doesn’t it? Culture is one of those superstructure things which only well-off countries can afford, and architecturally, for instance, the resort of government to building development as a way of keeping the economy going, which seems to be something we’ve been doing really since the days of George Osborne. This sort of concreting over effect, in which you end up with the whole country looking like Istanbul, that’s a cultural loss. I think English cathedrals are beautiful and ought to be preserved but I also quite like the English suburb, the space and the greenness of it is a cultural achievement and it enables people to live at a higher level than if they lived in some sort of concrete, unending treeless desert, which is the alternative. But what happens is, if we wipe out those old civilised suburbs, and we brick over large parts of the countryside in which we refresh ourselves, that would be a cultural loss. There may be many others but that is a cultural loss which everybody can see, which would result from the greater poverty which the country will face in times to come. There are all sorts of other things, such as the effect on our political system of being ruled by decree without any sort of opposition, this catastrophe is already going on in our criminal justice system, which is vital to liberty, which has been accelerated and worsened by the effects of the past fifteen months as well. There are many, many blows which have been struck that will continue to reverberate for a long time to come; I couldn’t predict exactly how that will be, I’m just pretty certain that everything will be worse.
JS: And there will be a long term effect on our political system, but politico-culturally speaking, people seem to be quite in favour of this government by decree.
PH: Yes they are, aren’t they? I thought this was a country of sparky, freedom-loving people who didn’t like to be pushed around, and it turns out to be the great nation of the gormless.
JS: This must be terrifying?
PH: It’s not terrifying, it’s dispiriting; terror comes in slightly more alarming forms, it’s dispiriting, you thought you lived in a place where people respected and valued the liberties which their parents and grandparents had gone to such efforts to preserve, from foreign destruction. But it turns out they don’t actually care about them at all! They like being bossed about and told to wear masks and told to stay indoors. We should have been warned by the huge popularity of Fifty Shades of Grey, that submissive bondage was a thing that everybody loved more than we thought.
JS: We’ve turned into a nation of sado-masochists, have we?
PH: Well I wouldn’t go quite that far, it’s probably not even as interesting as that, we seem to be a nation largely composed of submissive people who like being told what to do.