Auberon Waugh - Waugh's Views

Waugh's Views

Waugh broadly supported Margaret Thatcher in her first years as prime minister, but by 1983 he became disillusioned by the government's economic policy, which he felt used the destructive economics and cultural ideas of the New Right. When Thatcher became a strong public opponent of his friend and Sunday Telegraph editor Peregrine Worsthorne, Waugh became a staunch opponent. Her closeness to Andrew Neil, then editor of The Sunday Times, whom Waugh despised, further confirmed his view.

Waugh tended to be identified with a defiantly anti-progressive, small-c conservatism, opposed to "do-gooders" and social progressives. Three days after his death at age 61 from heart disease, journalist Polly Toynbee in The Guardian attacked him for these views. He has been called a nostalgist and a romantic, with a strong tendency towards snobbery, although his anarchistic streak ensured that he retained the admiration of a surprising number of people whom he would have considered horribly "progressive" or "leftish", including Francis Wheen who vociferously disagreed with the comments made by Polly Toynbee following his death.

To a traditional Tory, these were some of the most deplorable aspects of the Thatcher years. However there was a certain amount of public posturing in his popular anti-Americanism; he visited the USA whenever he could, and spent a lot of time holidaying in New England and on US speaking tours.

He had a house in France and, despite his conservatism, was a fervent supporter of European integration and the single currency, which he saw as a means of de-Americanising the UK. He said that his ideal government would be a "junta of Belgian ticket inspectors". Neither did he conform to reactionary stereotypes in his strong opposition to the death penalty, or in his antipathy towards the police force in general (especially when they sought to prevent drink-driving; Waugh believed strongly that this was not as serious a problem as it is widely believed to be, and referred to the anti-drink-driving campaign as the "police terror"). He opposed anti-tobacco smoking legislation (despite a heart condition which was ultimately to kill him prematurely) and in his later years he was highly critical of Labour attempts to ban fox hunting. In 1995 he fervently opposed attempts by the then Home Secretary Michael Howard to introduce a national identity card, a policy which at the time was (ironically, considering later developments) opposed by the Labour opposition.

Waugh held, or affected to hold that while the dangers of smoking (especially passive smoking) and drinking were exaggerated, the dangers of hamburger eating were seriously under-reported; he frequently referred to "hamburger gases" as a serious form of atmospheric pollution and even made references to the dangers of "passive hamburger eating". He even said that computer games "produce all the symptoms and most known causes of cancer", though his tongue was probably in his cheek when he made those comments. The Tobacco Advisory Council of the UK organised for a pro-smoking book to be ghosted for either Bernard Levin or Auberon Waugh. Neither columnist agreed to put their name to it, but Waugh wrote a foreword endorsing the book and hitting out at the anti-smoking lobby: "Let us hope this book strikes a blow against the new control terrorists," he said. He also posed for photos, with a cigarette prominently in his hand. He would later die of smoking-related heart disease.

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