It was a fine goodbye to one of the New Statesman’s finest. Christopher Hitchens discovered himself as a journalist on the New Statesman in the 1970s. His comrades-in-writing of that amazing galère of talent the NS forged from the 1968 Oxbridge generation of intellectual-writing-activists were in New York last week to say goodbye. Martin Amis, James Fenton, Ian McEwan, Salman Rushdie, Henry Porter, as well as stellar foreign correspondents like Martin Walker and Patrick Cockburn came to pay tribute to the Englishman who had more impact on America in the last two decades than any other apart from Tony Blair.
The most effective tribute came from his brother, Peter, He read one of St Paul’s letters to the Corinthians. There was a moment of shock at the seeming impertinence until Peter said they were the words Christropher chose to speak at the funeral of their father. As the cadences of the St James's Bible rolled out, the hundreds who came to the memorial service realized where so much of the tone and style of the world’s greatest atheist came from.
It was a Vanity Fair celeb list. So the leftie Christopher who went with me to Portugal and Poland to watch the unfolding of the democratic peaceful revolutions of the era and who always supported every workers’ movement in the world was absent. His denunciation of the braggadocio boot-lickers of autocracy from Kissinger to Galloway was there but Martin Amis hinted at the pain of keeping company with the Bushie neo-cons as the price of toppling his life-long enemy, Saddam Hussein. England’s loss was America’s gain as no London newspaper wanted to give Hitch a slot after his New Statesman years.
The honeyed Rowan Williams voice was there on screen as Christopher could tell a story sometimes better than he could write one. He deserves a tribute in London as England made him one of the finest journalists and public intellectuals of his generation.
Denis MacShane is a writer and Labour politician.