19 April 2017

Free Exchange: CapX meets Peter Oborne


Peter Oborne is one of Britain’s most important political commentators – the man who diagnosed the malaise of the political class and the rise of post-truth politics years before they became accepted wisdom within Westminster. Yet he’s also a controversial figure, whose views on the West’s policy towards the Islamic world often put him squarely at odds with accepted opinion.

In the second episode of CapX’s new podcast, Free Exchange, I talked to him about the state of politics and the media, why he’s not worried about Donald Trump, and why a journalist’s mission is to afflict the comfortable.

Full episode

Peter Oborne on… political lying (2 mins)

“The idea that Trump is part of a new thing – Blair did it, and Clinton did, and George W Bush. But 10 years ago the liberal media would collaborate with these lies, in particular over the Iraq war. The destruction of the truth ethic was not done by Trump and his appalling creatures. It happened years ago.”

Peter Oborne on… the political class (4 mins 30)

“It was obvious that the media was part of the political class. They were courtiers to the political establishment. They had created their own forms of dress, their own forms of language – and in fact the two main political parties had become identical. They were the same party, they had the same doctrines.”

Peter Oborne on… Brexit (10 mins)

“The European political idea had disenfranchised the vast majority of voters across Europe, not just in Britain. In fact it’s worse in Europe. That was the main overriding reason why I voted the way i did. Because Europe was an undemocratic organisation, arguably an anti-democratic organisation. But if you look at Trump, and the rise of racism, I’m scared by that.”

Peter Oborne on… the Middle East (13 mins)

“I spent two weeks making a film on the West Bank about Tony Blair and his ill-gotten gains after leaving office. Every morning our Christian fixer would come in and say there has been an awful incident – the settlers have come down from the hill and burnt the olive groves or poisoned the wells… here you have an ancient village with a family who farm the land for a long time, and there’s this illegal bunch of people who turned up 10 years earlier and now they’re coming down the hill and terrorising them, with the effective support of the Israeli state.”

Peter Oborne on… Islamic extremism (23 mins)

“Curiously enough, there is a remarkable similarity of vision between the neo-conservatives and Al-Qaeda. Both of them interpret Islam as a violent religion, both of them are hostile to the rule of law, both of them are contemptuous to people who are moderate and both of them believe in a clash of civilisations. I rather feel that’s the wrong way to go about things.”

Peter Oborne on… religion (30 mins)

“I’m an Anglican. Anglicans don’t believe in God too much, do they? It doesn’t ask for windows into people’s souls. It’s about courtesy and tradition – it’s like conservatism, in a way. Courtesy, tradition, respect for others, tolerance. It also has an idea of nation about it, and the monarchy. One of the reasons I’m very hostile to neo-conservatism is its hostility to institutions, and the rule of law. Those are the things that have made Britain work for 500 years.”

Peter Oborne on… what he’s been wrong about (42 mins)

“I was wrong about John Major. The whole lobby was into making poor John Major an idiot, a liar, a sleazebag, an incompetent. And I wasn’t nearly courageous enough about Iraq. There was such a powerful consensus – I never wrote in favour, but I never had the guts to write against it.”

We hope you enjoy the interview – and if you want to hear more like it, please subscribe via iTunes.

Our guest next week will be Baroness Stroud, the new head of the Legatum Institute. And if you missed it, here’s last week’s interview with Lord Lawson.

Robert Colvile is Editor of CapX. His book 'The Great Acceleration: How the World is Getting Faster, Faster' is out now in paperback from Bloomsbury