Peregrine Worsthorne

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Sir Peregrine Worsthorne in 1989

Sir Peregrine Gerard Worsthorne (22 December 19234 October 2020) was a British journalist, writer, and broadcaster. He spent the largest part of his career at the Telegraph newspaper titles, eventually the editor of The Sunday Telegraph from 1986 to 1989. He left the newspaper in 1997.

Worsthorne was a conservative-leaning political journalist, who wrote columns and leaders for many years.



  • These brown British citizens are in danger. Kenya is still a largely savage country, led by a man who a few years ago was involved in atrocities of indescribable horror. There are certainly as many signs in Kenya today of the fate being prepared for the Asian minority as there were in Germany in the early 1930s of the fate being prepared for the Jews. Yet in this case the potential victims are British citizens, and instead of urging them to hurry home, which would seem to be the sensible course, the British government is ordering them to keep out.
    Why, then, so little sense of shame among the normally highly decent British people? The reason, of course is very simple. They do not see this the situation in this light at all. To them, the Asian Kenyans are no more British citizens than Ian Smith is a genuine British traitor. Just as they refuse to feel angry about Rhodesia's so called rebellion—which they regard as a legal fiction—so they refuse to feel guilty about the Kenyan Asians, who right of entry into Britain strikes them as flying in the face of common sense. ... They do not feel guilty, because they do not regard themselves as having any part in the mad world which supposes that the white Rhodesians really should hand over power to the black majority or that large-scale coloured immigration in Britain is a good idea. ... They no longer feel responsible for "lesser breeds without the law."
    • "Race: Who Should Be Ashamed?", Sunday Telegraph (3 March 1968).
    • Publication date of article sourced from Ian Sanjay Patel We're Here Because You Were There: Immigration and the End of Empire (Verso, 2021), p. 234


  • All right, a military dictatorship is ugly and repressive. But if a minority British Socialist Government ever sought, by cunning, duplicity, corruption, terror and foreign arms, to turn this country into a Communist State, I hope and pray our armed forces would intervene to prevent such a calamity as efficiently as the armed forces did in Chile.
    • Article in The Sunday Telegraph after his tour of Chile as a guest of the junta in March 1974, quoted in Andy Beckett, Pinochet's Piccadilly: Britain and Chile's Hidden Past (2002), pp. 185-186
  • Second only to peace in Northern Ireland, the most desirable political development which I should like to see in the New Year is the emergence of a healthy-looking British Communist party. This would mean that the significant Marxist minority in this country would have a vehicle of their own, instead of continuing to "back-seat" drive the Labour party. The absence of such a Communist party is really a luxury which Britain can no longer afford, since it allows us to suppose that the Marxist threat is much less serious than it really is. In France and Italy, for example, where the Communists are immeasurably powerful, nobody is in any doubt about the strength of the forces arrayed against the idea of a free society, or the need to fight them tooth and nail. The danger of a Communist takeover is overt, visible and never forgotten for long.
  • Nobody should suppose that the slightly ridiculous picture painted of the Wilson kitchen cabinet by Mr. Haines or his real Cabinet by Mr. Crossman, is the result of some particular flaw in the character of a specially contemptible Prime Minister. Wilson's character merely compounded a danger common to all Labour Governments, perhaps to all Governments in an increasing egalitarian age: that of containing too high a proportion of men and women near the seats of power who have no feel for the appearance of office, none of that effortless cohesion and mutual trust of a ruling class for long accustomed to rule, no sense of public dignity or decorum and, in some ways, no instinctive flair for excluding those likely to let the side down by telling all for money.
  • Perhaps this is special pleading, an anticipatory apologia for what may have to be done in this country if the far left ever comes to power, using the Parliamentary system to encompass what will be, in effect, a coup d'etat. In that event, the question will not be who are "the Fourth and Fifth men," since their number will, I trust, be too numerous to count. But in our case, their will be a transfer of allegiance, not to the world's bastion of oppression [the Soviet Union], but to the world's greatest buttress of freedom [the United States]. That will make all the difference.
  • Powellism is now part of the English intellectual and moral tradition; part of the nation's mythology. The man, too, is a legend in his lifetime. So in a sense his work is done. For whatever eventually happens to him his ideas have now entered the bloodstream of the British body politic, guaranteeing them a kind of immortality. Of no other living British statesman could the same be said.
    • Sunday Telegraph (10 June 1979), quoted in Simon Heffer, Like the Roman: The Life of Enoch Powell (1998), p. 823

The Socialist Myth (1971)[edit]

Cassell & Co, London, 1971; Weybright and Talley, New York, 1971
  • [T]he State, which the Labour Party is seeking to exalt...has seldom meant less to ordinary people. Its natural authority and prestige have never been so low. Paradoxically, this is to a large extent the fault of the socialists themselves. They have persistently denigrated the national institutions, derided the concepts of rank and hierarchy on which the State depends, deplored the spirit of national pride from which it draws its strength. The Tory idea of the State, rooted in history and tradition, pomp and circumstance, at least had some popular appeal. But in the language of socialism the State spells bureaucracy and bureaucracy spells all those aspects of the past which the working class find least palatable—bowler-hat-and-rolled-umbrella values, rigid hierarchy, orders from on high that have to be obeyed, impersonal authority. A socialist State in practice if not in theory, turns out to be the very last kind of State likely to appeal to the British working class.
    • The Socialist Myth (1971), pp. 13-14
  • [T]he only way for a Labour Government to bring about economic growth was through socialism, since only socialism could bring about that upsurge of working-class enthusiasm to compensate for the loss of business confidence... But...such policies are outside the range of any Labour Government, however large its majority, for the most compelling reason of all: Labour Governments lack the authority to take the international risks inherent in such a policy, to set the country against the prevailing international trends; lack the authority, that is, to summon up from the deep the forces of nationalism and put them behind socialism. The history and composition of the Labour Party precludes such risks... Yet without a leader able to spark the flame of nationalism, socialism will not work in this country.
    • pp. 21-22
  • Imagine what would have happened to the Labour Party in 1964 or 1966 if it had appealed to the country in these terms: "We appeal to you, the people of Britain, to give us your votes so that we may wind up the empire, reduce Britain to the status of a minor power, and devalue the national currency." It would have been political suicide. It might have helped the Labour candidate in Hampstead and in a handful of other constituencies where progressive intellectuals reside in large numbers. But throughout the rest of the country, particularly in working-class areas, it would have disastrously confirmed the deep-seated suspicion among all classes that in fact the Labour Party does not stand for Britain.
    • pp. 23-24
  • The liberal-progressive view, so beloved of the intellectual community, is that the most crucial battle in the world today is in the field of race, and that Britain, for reasons of morality and expediency, must throw in its lot with the coloured peoples, for all their imperfections. But one can only doubt whether any Government in fact will pay more than lip-service to this view. During its last period of office Labour was able to blur the issue in a way that gave some satisfaction to both the realists and the idealists, backing the liberal-progressive view in words but only very partially in actions. It did not sell arms to South Africa, but it carried on cynically enough with trade and defence co-operation.
    • pp. 130-131
  • [I]t is not the importance of the Cape route...that forces Britain to support a hateful white supremacist state. It is the fact of white supremacy which makes the relationship so peculiarly irresistible. Of course it would be much less embarrassing if white supremacy was exercised in a less morally obnoxious manner. But if it was not exercised at all, the relationship would lose much of its point. The harsh truth, which will become clearer and clearer as time passes, is that Britain, far from being neutral in the race struggle, let alone on the coloured side, is positively on South Africa's side, since in the crucial battle in the world today—which is not between North and South but between East and West—Britain has no alternative but to throw in its lot with the white peoples, in spite of their imperfections.
    • pp. 131-132
  • What is becoming clear is that apartheid is not at the heart of the racial issue. At the heart of it is the fact of Western superiority, resentment of which would remain even if revolution came to South Africa. This is what the liberal-progressive ideology so dangerously overlooks... The struggle for racial equality will be seen as a power struggle and because of this intimately bound up with all those revolutionary forces, both within these shores and outside them, aimed at weakening the West. The West in short can never hope to win the hearts of the Third World except by ceasing to be the West, since in reality it is its virtues, quite as much as its vices, that cause the hostility. It is in this sense that the liberal-progressive obsession with Britain's being on the right side of the race war is so unrealistic. It inculcates a Western inclination to self-abasement that plays into Soviet hands.
    • p. 133
  • The truth will get harder and harder to burke: racial equality will never be achieved by raising the Third World up; it can only be achieved by casting the Western world down. The Soviet Union knows this full well, which is why it supports the coloured cause.
    • p. 133
  • Just as the British in India and Africa sought to create oases in those continents where they could live according to their own mores and values, so will the Africans, West Indians and Asians seek to do the same in Britain. I see no reason to suppose that the coloured immigrants in these islands now will be more prepared to become British than the British emigrants to their own continents then were prepared to become Indian or African. The fact has to be faced that large-scale coloured immigration has taken place at a time when the African and Indian races are rediscovering pride in their own ancestries; when the impulse to demonstrate the quality of their own cultures is growing stronger all the time. Indeed the dynamism of cultural pride, even of colour consciousness, is much more marked today among the black and brown races, who feel that their glories lie ahead, than among the whites—at least the European whites—who feel that their glories lie in the past.
    • pp. 134-135
  • It [Britain] is faced by a different kind of colour problem: that the centre of many of our major cities should become civilized communal oases of men and women who are proud of not being British—foreign oases with their own culture, their own language, political leaders and separate destinies. It is faced, in short, by a form of coloured power which will not (one hopes) be mad or violent or evil, but which will be all the more significant precisely because of being perfectly respectable and legitimate. But foreign... For what will emerge as the result of their and our best efforts is a much more intractable problem than that faced in America—coloured foreign communities, in key areas of the country, who are economically and administratively integrated into the country, essential parts of its physical life, but emotionally, culturally and mentally still belonging to other lands.
    • p. 136
  • Yes, settlers. This is what they are, and it is contemptuous to see them as anything else. They do not want to be dissolved into the great pool of British life. In time it must be assumed that political leaders will emerge who will articulate this sense of separateness and that this in turn will lead to tensions which are much more serious than street rioting and ghetto violence, since they will be the result not of economic grievance, or of social deprivation—although these can be expected to play some part—but of straight communal rivalry: that most fateful canker in the body politic. I am paying the immigrants the courtesy of seeing them as they ought to be seen, not as they are now, weak, vulnerable and in need of protection, but as they will become—strong, purposeful and potentially disruptive. With the benefit of hindsight it is now clear that British emigrants should never have been financially encouraged to settle in Africa, that they should long ago have been encouraged financially to come home. To urge that this lesson by applied to the problem of coloured immigrants in this country is the opposite of racialism. It is a tribute to their future strength.
    • p. 137
  • Can there really be any doubt that on any issue where Third World interests clash with those of the West, the immigrant population will side with the Third World? This is not a criticism. It is perfectly natural that they should. But it would be wholly unrealistic not to conclude that problems of race are going to be at the centre of British politics for many years to come, and that they will not easily be resolvable in a fashion acceptable to liberal-progressive ideology.
    • pp. 137-138

"Too Much Freedom" (1978)[edit]

in Maurice Cowling (ed.), Conservative Essays Cassell, London, 1978
  • It is not "socialism" that Britain is suffering from; nor syndicalism, nor corporatism, nor any other form of coherent organisation. What Britain is suffering from is "riotous disorder" and to argue, as Mrs Thatcher does, that "setting the people free" will cure it is as senseless as trying to smooth raging waters with a stick of dynamite or to quieten hubbub with a brass band. The urgent need today is for the State to regain control over "the people", to re-exert its authority, and it is useless to imagine that this will be helped by some libertarian mish-mash drawn from the writings of Adam Smith, John Stuart Mill, and the warmed-up milk of nineteenth-century liberalism.
    • p. 149
  • If one thing is certain about the next Tory government, it is that it will need, sooner or later, to impose its will on large groups of rebellious workers to an extent which Socialist governments have proved unable to do.
    • p. 149
  • Social discipline—that surely is a more fruitful and warding theme for contemporary conservatism than individual freedom. Libertarian arguments forged at a time when there were still slaves and serfs to be freed from monarchical despotism, peasants from domineering landlords, or proletarians from brutal bosses, simply do not apply plausibly to the kind of social problems facing Britain in the last quarter of the twentieth century. Britain is not the Soviet Union, and when Mrs Thatcher bends her knee to Solzenytsin, she is worshipping at the wrong shrine and going wrong where George Orwell went so wrong with his nightmare predictions of 1984. The spectre haunting most ordinary people in Britain is neither of a totalitarian State nor of Big Brother, but of other ordinary people being allowed to run wild. What they are worried about is crime, violence, disorder in the schools, promiscuity, idleness, pornography, football hooliganism, vandalism and urban terrorism. The film Clockwork Orange, with its terrible portrait of a gang of juvenile thugs bereft of all moral restraint, terrorising the old and the weak without mercy, is what most people fear today.
    • p. 150


  • I went to an English boarding school where homosexuality, perhaps faute de mieux, was very much a practice and it was touch-and-go, I think, with a number of people whether they continued to be homosexual or ceased, and this could be very much affected by a glamourous master, by particular teaching. I do think that you can be affected in this way.
  • I supported the legalisation of homosexuality between consenting adults in '67 and still do so. I think that anything which would increase… I regard homosexuality as being a great misfortune. I see it as something the less frequent it is in any society, the better for that society. All I am saying is that at schools, and I do think one has to emphasise at schools, I think that it shouldn't be something which anybody should be allowed to encourage or promote, certainly not any schools which are funded by the local authorities and where people have to go to by law.
  • I think a good deal more discretion on the part of homosexuals and a good deal more understanding that the majority of the country does worry about homosexuality and does fear that their children might become homosexuals, the old-fashioned traditional attitude to homosexuality is being undesirable. I think that the majority of homosexuals ought to understand this and oughtn't to push their luck.


  • Ever since Hiroshima, the mushroom cloud had been a nightmarish possibility hanging over all our imaginations, and now, quite suddenly, it was threatening to materialise. Oddly enough, fear did not come into it, so there was no need to keep a stiff upper lip; no need to ‘eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die’. For if everybody was going to die, then nobody was going to die, since dying involves leaving loved ones behind and this time there were going to be no loved ones left behind. No need, therefore, for tears or sadness. It was more a question of intense excitement; of being in on not the creation but the destruction of the world; in on, that is, the drama to end all dramas.
    From the moment of announcing the exclusion zone, President Kennedy and his small team of advisers had gone into purdah in the White House, making no appearances and issuing no statements. This unprecedented hush lasted for several days during which there was nothing much to do except wait and pray and hope for the best. I think we all knew by then that if anybody was going to flinch from this eyeball-to-eyeball confrontation, it would not be President Kennedy. How we knew that I do not know, but we did, and somehow or other the total public silence from the White House had succeeded in communicating determination more effectively than any number of official communiqués.
  • Sir, In considering whether a racist should be allowed a seat on Question Time, it is chastening to remember that most of my octogenarian generation of British, high as well as low, believed in white superiority, which in no way meant that they were necessarily fascists. Indeed, most of us had fought in the war against Nazism.
    As it happens, I am no longer a racist, but the arguments that made me one in the relatively recent past still do not seem to me to be so abhorrent as to be out of order in civilised debate.
    Unquestionably, the leader of the BNP — an unsavoury character — is not the right man to do such arguments justice, but that is because of his bigotry rather than the views themselves.
    Sir Peregrine Worsthorne
    Hedgerley, Bucks

Quotes about Sir Peregrine Worsthorne[edit]

In alphabetical order by author or source.
  • The problem with his ridiculous and often hateful opinions – on Suez, on Vietnam, on McCarthyism and on apartheid – is not their moral and political obtuseness. It is Worsthorne’s habit of conflating them with two other claims he makes for himself – the claim of being or having been "against the stream" and the claim of being a gentleman.
    In upholding McCarthyism while he was in Washington, for example, he may well have had to meet objections from his superiors at the Times, but he can hardly be said to have occupied a position of signal isolation or courage. Yet he writes as if his prejudice took nerve.
  • Actually, Worsthorne is much more convincing when he portrays himself as a cad. He wrecks the property of an elderly retired couple who had found him plausible as a tenant; he turns away a wounded German officer who finds him in bed with his wife, herself suborned by Worsthorne’s access to forbidden food rations. He is as much Harry Flashman as Fielding Gray when the odds are in his favour, which he is good enough to confess they mostly have been.
    • Christopher Hitchens "Diary: On Peregrine Worsthorne" London Review of Books (Vol. 15, No. 21, 4 November 1993)
    • Article is effectively a review of Worsthorn's autobiography Tricks of Memory (1993) and contains anecdotes about Hitchens encounters of the older man.
  • Sir Peregrine Worsthorne, former editor of the Sunday Telegraph, received respectful obituaries on his death last year. These made no reference to his book In Defence of Aristocracy, published in 2004, where he lauded the Vichy regime as "a blessing in disguise", for it purportedly healed the divisions of the French Revolution. There are, believe me, French conservatives who hold the same view.
  • [H]ere is a man fully conscious of the dignities and duties of his class, fearlessly and shamelessly expounding views appropriate to that class in a style appropriate to the views. But it is a nineteenth-century rather than an eighteenth-century mind, this, Tory rather than Whig; moved by Shaftesbury, touched by Young England, aware of Coleridge and even of Cobbett, a bit reminiscent of the earnest young Gladstone at Oxford; feeling no contempt for the poor and humble, but rather sympathy or even a certain affinity, respectful even of their errors and prejudices.
    • Colin Welch, "The Aristocrats and the Socialists", The Daily Telegraph (19 April 1971), quoted in Colin Welch, The Odd Thing About the Colonel & Other Pieces, eds. Craig Brown and Frances Welch (1997), p. 268
    • A review of Worsthorne's The Socialist Myth
  • What socialism needs for success is, in his view, this: a ruling class, secure in tenure, able and accustomed to command a deferential working class accustomed to obey; the pushers and the pushed around, all arranged in a hierarchical society. Socialism further needs, according to him, stable and respected institutions through which commands can flow from top to bottom; a vigorous patriotism and sense of national purpose. It needs discipline, subordination, a well-defined class structure, leadership, even tradition and continuity.
    What socialism needs for success, in other words, is to become Tory, to strive to preserve or recreate a distinctively Tory society. Is this ludicrous? Not really at all. In Imperial Germany, so much admired by our early bureaucratic Fabians, something like what he advocates actually existed; nor is our own history by any means devoid of Tory socialists and socialist Tories, united alike by concern for the poor and contempt for free market liberalism.
    • Colin Welch, "The Aristocrats and the Socialists", The Daily Telegraph (19 April 1971), quoted in Colin Welch, The Odd Thing About the Colonel & Other Pieces, eds. Craig Brown and Frances Welch (1997), pp. 268-269

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