Simon James Heffer (born 18 July 1960) is an English historian, journalist, author and political commentator.
Heffer worked for The Daily Telegraph until 1995. He worked as a columnist for the Daily Mail from 1995 to 2005. He rejoined the Telegraph in October 2005 as a columnist and associate editor. Martin Newland, the Daily Telegraph editor at the time, described the newspaper as Heffer's "natural journalistic home". He left the Telegraph in May 2011 to "pursue a role in journalism and broadcasting" and "complete a major literary project". It had been speculated that his departure had been prompted by his constant attacks on David Cameron's government, of which the Telegraph had been generally supportive.
Heffer has written biographies of the historian and essayist Thomas Carlyle, the composer Ralph Vaughan Williams and of the British politician Enoch Powell (Like the Roman), which was described by the New Statesman as "a lucid and majestic tribute" to the politician.
In September 2010, Heffer published Strictly English: the Correct Way to Write... and Why it Matters, a guide to English grammar and usage. The book met with some negative reception. Writing in the New Statesman, Professor David Crystal observed that although it contains valid points about ambiguity, honesty and importance of clarity, inconsistencies permeate the book. In a review for Times Higher Education, Geoffrey Pullum described Heffer's claims about grammar as "staggeringly erroneous" and his approach as "intellectual abdication", concluding that "Heffer should be ashamed of himself, and Random House should be ashamed of this book".
Heffer later rejoined the Daily Mail to edit a new online comment section, called RightMinds, of the paper's online edition. Introducing the new site, the Mail announced that "MailOnline's new web community for politics, current affairs and controversy" would allow readers to "have your say on all of the opinions expressed on the site. Every article and blog invites your comment".
He returned to the Daily Telegraph in June 2015.
The extreme reaction to Mr Bigley's murder is fed by the fact that he was a Liverpudlian. Liverpool is a handsome city with a tribal sense of community. ... An excessive predilection for welfarism have created a peculiar, and deeply unattractive, psyche among many Liverpudlians. They see themselves whenever possible as victims, and resent their victim status; yet at the same time they wallow in it. ... They cannot accept that they might have made any contribution to their misfortunes, but seek rather to blame someone else for it, thereby deepening their sense of shared tribal grievance against the rest of society. The deaths of more than 50 Liverpool football supporters at Hillsborough in 1989 was undeniably a greater tragedy than the single death, however horrible, of Mr Bigley; but that is no excuse for Liverpool's failure to acknowledge, even to this day, the part played in the disaster by drunken fans at the back of the crowd who mindlessly tried to fight their way into the ground that Saturday afternoon. The police became a convenient scapegoat, and The Sun newspaper a whipping-boy for daring, albeit in a tasteless fashion, to hint at the wider causes of the incident.
These comments (incorrectly attributed to the then-editor of the Spectator, Boris Johnson) were widely circulated following the April 2016 verdict by the Hillsborough inquest's second hearing proving unlawful killing of the 96 dead at Hillsborough, although Johnson apologised at the time of the publication, saying "That was a lie that unfortunately and very, very regrettably got picked up in a leader in the Spectator in 2004, which I was then editing." Nevertheless, Johnson approved the piece for publication.
Heffer had a brief flirtation with the hard left in his teenage years, but had abandoned his views by the time he went to university, although he admits he still has a lingering respect and affection for several past figures of the left, such as Michael Foot and Tony Benn. When Benn's wife Caroline Benn died in November 2000, Heffer wrote a tribute to Benn in the Daily Mail. He now is very critical of both the European Union and New Labour.
Heffer is a social and constitutional conservative. He supported the retention of Section 28, opposed the equalisation of the age of consent and the liberalisation of laws on abortion and divorce. He opposed the removal of hereditary peers from the House of Lords in 1999, and has also written about the decline of tie-wearing among British men. In August 2002, Heffer blamed "liberal society" for the murders of Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman.
In July 1995, he threatened to resign from the Daily Mail if it supported John Major in the leadership contest. Like many right-wing Conservative MPs, Heffer backed John Redwood, though he preferred Michael Portillo to be party leader. In late 1999, Heffer financially contributed to Neil Hamilton's unsuccessful libel action against Mohammed Al-Fayed.
When the Home Office appointed Heffer to its Law and Order Task Force, left-wing politicians were concerned about the direction that criminal law reform might take, with human rights lawyer Baroness Kennedy saying that the government "had not just lost the plot but was handing the plotting over to their most feared critics".
Heffer has written sympathetically about and backed the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) and Nigel Farage. He has joined calls from fellow journalist Peter Hitchens for the Conservative Party to be defeated or abolished. He has spoken widely, and on 8 February 2006, he was guest-of-honour at the Traditional Britain Group's Annual Dinner at Simpsons-in-the-Strand.
In 2008, Heffer called for the United Nations to be strengthened: "If the UN ceases to be regarded by the larger powers as an institution to secure the peace of the world and justice therein, then that holds out all sorts of potential dangers." On 27 May 2009, Heffer threatened to stand as an independent against Sir Alan Haselhurst, his local Conservative MP and a deputy speaker, unless Haselhurst paid back the £12,000 he claimed for work on his garden, as revealed in the Parliamentary expenses scandal. He is an opponent of Boris Johnson, ex-Prime Minister David Cameron and modernising elements within the Conservative Party.
Heffer supported the UK's withdrawal from the EU in the Brexit referendum. In an article in the Daily Telegraph, Heffer suggested those who supported Britain remaining in the European Union were members of the Bilderberg Group and attendees of the World Economic Forum at Davos.