The sad news of the death of Simon Hoggart, the Guardian’s superlative parliamentary sketchwriter, reminded me of my 2010 interview with the late Christopher Hitchens. During our two hour conversation at The Arch hotel in London, Hitchens mentioned that he credited Hoggart with improving his prose (Kingsley Amis, casting a critical eye over his son’s friends, called him “the one who can talk but can’t write”).
Hitchens told me: “I think it was at dinner at his house, some time in the late Seventies, I’d written a piece in the New Statesman and Hoggart said, ‘Good piece, I agree with you, you’ve made a strong case this week. But I thought it was a bit dull.’ And I bridled, ‘What do you mean, dull? I was making a strong argument for the cause of the labour movement. Dullness doesn’t come into it.’ He replied: ‘No, the thing is it’s not as amusing to read you as it is to have a conversation with you. Why don’t you try and write more as you talk?’ That insight stayed with me.”
For that, and much else, we are indebted to Hoggart.