Auberon Waugh

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Auberon Waugh was an English journalist, and eldest son of the famous novelist Evelyn Waugh. His friends called him Bron.

He was educated in Catholic Schools and then at Oxford, and with his family background he quickly got a job as a social/gossip columnist for The Daily Telegraph. He married into the nobility (Lady Teresa); lived at their manor house; had four children; and carefully crafted an image for himself in print, radio and TV of a "half Tory grandee and half cheeky rebel". This was very similar to the anarchist/conservative image his friend Bernard Levin also cultivated, but Levin was coming from a more humble Jewish background. They jointly developed a style of ping-pong commentary on radio and TV that was part intellectual and part raconteur amusement.

Waugh also wrote political columns for the The Spectator, New Statesman, British Medicine and various newspapers (including the Daily Mirror, Daily Mail, Evening Standard, The Independent) and from 1981 to 1990 he wrote a leader-page column for The Sunday Telegraph.

Waugh cemented his reputation as an anarchistic rebel by writing for Private Eye from the early 1970s until 1985. He openly described this as "specifically dedicated to telling lies", so he fitted in well with the image of the educated upper-class anti-intellectual with a dislike of the Labour government of the 1970s

The Spectator fired him in 1970, but with the support of Bernard Levin and other prominent friends, he won damages for unfair dismissal in a subsequent action. [1] In 1996 he rejoined The Sunday Telegraph, where he remained a weekly columnist until shortly before his death.

Anti-political persona

Waugh stood as a candidate at the 1979 election trying to oust Liberal Party (UK) Leader Jeremy Thorpe who was then being charged over a scandal that Waugh had helped expose. He stood against Thorpe as the representative of the Dog Lovers' Party which maintained his carefully confected image.[2]

Waugh's anti-progressive, small-c conservatism, meant that he was opposed to "do-gooders" and social progressives. He supported Margaret Thatcher in her first years as prime minister, but by 1983 he became disillusioned by her economic and social policy, and ended up a staunch opponent. Thatcher's most obvious media ally, who Waugh also despised, was the The Sunday Times (UK) editor Andrew Neil and this confirmed his Anti-Thatcher view. In 1990 he returned to The Daily Telegraph as the successor of Michael Wharton (better known as "Peter Simple"), writing the paper's long-running Way of the World column three times a week until December 2000 shortly before he died.

How much of his expressed attitudes -- such as his popular anti-Americanism -- was simply public posturing, is difficult to tell since he visited the USA whenever he could; he holidayed in New England (when not at his holiday home in France) and spent a lot of time on US speaking tours.[3] He had obviously suffered through being the son of a famous father who was himself a maverick. But neither did he seem to conform to reactionary stereotypes: for instance in his antipathy towards the police force in general -- and particularly when they ran campaigns against drink-driving. Waugh maintained that this was not as serious a problem, and referred to the campaigns as the "police terror" which appealed to his readers.

Waugh expressed an opinion on many and various topics. In his later years he was highly critical of Labour attempts to ban fox hunting, and he viciously attacked the views of the prominent magician and sceptic, James Randi who had dismissed the supposed art of dowsing or 'water-divining' as a con-trick. Waught's attack seems to have been based only on the fact that he lived in a house which had a well sunk through 21 metres of rock on the advice of a dowser.

He opposed anti-tobacco smoking legislation despite a heart condition which was ultimately to kill him. He ridiculed the anti-smoking activists by maintaint that, while the dangers of smoking (especially passive smoking) and drinking were exaggerated, the dangers of hamburger eating were seriously under-reported. This endeared him to the global tobacco industry, and he and Bernard Levin (who expressed similar sentiments) were quickly enlisted in the ARISE scam run by Professor David M Warburton through Reading University in the UK, but operating globally.

ARISE was a phantom science association known as the Associates for Research into the Science of Enjoyment. Philip Morris and British-American Tobacco (plus allies in food and confectionary industries) funded ARISE members to conduct media tours to exotic locations and hold conferences praising drinking, smoking, eating chocolate, using sugar and drinking Coca Cola -- stressing that enjoyment was an antidote to anxiety, which they said was even more of a health problem than indulgence. The main focus of ARISE was to garner media coverage through celebrity interviews during which they promoted a message aimed at boosting public attitudes which were anti-regulation (attacking the "Nanny State"), anti-welfare (hedonistic), anti-rational (Live life, and damn the consequences), and expressly anti-science ("Don't believe what you read about the dangers of smoking -- scientists can't be trusted.")

Waugh's favourite line was to maintain that "hamburger gases" were probably a serious form of atmospheric pollution and he made references to the dangers of "passive hamburger eating". He also advised that computer games "produce all the symptoms and most known causes of cancer". The Tobacco Advisory Council of the UK organised for a pro-smoking book to be ghosted for either Bernard Levin or Auberon Waugh.[4] 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.[5]


  2. Wheatcroft, Geoffrey (18 January 2001). "Auberon Waugh", London: The Guardian. Retrieved on 20 January 2013. 
  3. Waugh, Auberon (10 May 1993). Way of the world a terrible curse. University of California. Retrieved on 27 March 2010.
  4. Legacy Tobacco Documents Library: Letter from Jeremy Greenwood to Clive Turner. Retrieved on 5 February 2012.
  5. Legacy Tobacco Documents Library: N403 (qeo47d00). Retrieved on 5 February 2012.