Published:

40 comments

James Delingpole

James Delingpole performs a brilliant one-man show of the contradictions and paradoxes which pervade modern conservatism. In the course of this interview, the celebrated blogger cheerfully announced he is a member of both UKIP and the Conservative Party.

Delingpole (seen here in a picture by Donna Laframboise) was considered “too mad” to become a UKIP candidate, but regards himself as the conscience of both parties. He believes in hierarchy, but loathes the Establishment. He adores British traditions, and operates from a beautiful farmhouse in a park laid out by Capability Brown in Northamptonshire, but has just left the Daily Telegraph and joined Breitbart.com, a ferocious American website. At Oxford, he was one of the few people to be a friend of those two generally incompatible personalities, David Cameron and Boris Johnson.

During this interview he described Harold Macmillan as “a soft fascist” and Oliver Letwin as “the devil incarnate”. Yet Delingpole said that when people meet him, they exclaim, “Gosh, you’re so much nicer in real life!”

And this is true. In real life, one sees the irresistible urge cross Delingpole’s face to say something outrageous. A sort of innocent joy wells up inside him as he thinks of a new insult with which to affront a pious liberal. He derives great pleasure from speaking what he believes to be the pure, unvarnished truth. Where others would pause for second thoughts, and perhaps become more measured and less sincere, Delingpole has already launched an all-out attack.

We talked at his kitchen table. Delingpole made two mugs of coffee and offered me a piece of cake. Daisy, a frisky young spaniel with whom he is besotted, was prevailed upon to lie down by the Raeburn.

Our conversation began with Delingpole giving a passionate account of the joys of staghunting, which I have moved to the end of this account, as it would hold things up a bit. We then got on to UKIP, and he described how despite giving a wildly successful speech, he was turned down as one of its candidates: “The official reason given to me was that I failed the psychometric tests, so I was considered too mad for UKIP.”

ConHome: “You’re still a member of UKIP?”

Delingpole: “I am.”

ConHome: “UKIP will disappoint you in some way or other, won’t it.”

Delingpole: “UKIP will disappoint me, the Conservatives will disappoint me. I like to think of myself as the conscience of both parties. And to be honest, I don’t care whether it’s UKIP making the running or Conservatives making the running, as long as there are people I like doing the right thing. So for example Douglas Carswell, Owen Paterson (interviewed here on ConHome), Michael Gove, Steve Baker (interviewed here), I think these are all great men, doing the right thing. So I would never sever my ties with the party. I’m actually a member of the Conservative Party as well.”

ConHome: “You’re a bigamist.”

Delingpole: “Yuh, I’m a bigamist.”

ConHome: “In America we’ve got the Right divided. You did a good piece for the Spectator about that. Isn’t there the same danger here?”

Delingpole: “Yes. And I’m torn on this one. I think what we ultimately want to hope for is a situation like what happened in Canada where the soft Right was destroyed. Because I get on better with socialists than I do with Conservatives, because I think socialists have a certain integrity. They’re wrong.”

ConHome: “So Cameron would be a member of the soft Right? What do you think of Cameron?”

Delingpole: “I think the same as I’ve thought of Cameron pretty much since he became leader of the party. When there was that campaign for the party leadership I went to hear Cameron speak at a small event in the Guildhall and I wrote a piece saying Cameron could save the country if only we’d let him. Then he went and disappointed me ever after that point. Cameron is the opposite of me. Cameron and I as you know were friends at Oxford and I think we’ve got the wrong man as Prime Minister. Really I’d do so much better a job than he would.”

ConHome: “Well he is the voice of the British Establishment and will always do what the Establishment thinks is prudent. And he’s bloody good at it.”

Delingpole: “And the Establishment stinks. I mean I really do, I loathe the Establishment.”

ConHome: “You had no idea Cameron was going to come through like this at Oxford? What impression did he make on you at Oxford?”

Delingpole: “Cameron was hail-fellow-well-met. You were always glad to see Dave when he turned up. But there was always that shard of ice that I think is very much there today. He could cut you dead for not being quite the thing. He belongs to that old school, there, there dear boy, just leave the governing of Britain to people like me, because we’ll sort things out for you, don’t you little people worry about it.”

ConHome: “And then Boris at Oxford, how did he strike you?”

Delingpole: “I’m probably one of the very small number of people who was friends with Boris and Dave.”

ConHome: “Yes, they’re not the same kind of people at all.”

Delingpole: “They did not move in the same circles. I went to Christ Church, which is the grandest college, but I never quite fitted in. I got sort of rejected by my friends in my first year. Again probably for being not quite the thing. I started seeking my friendships outside college, and one of my best friends was a guy called James Fergusson, who was Cameron’s friend from Eton. So I became friendly with Dave via James. And with Boris I remember weirdly, I found myself in Balliol one night and I found myself being adopted by these Balliol people, they had a very interesting set of people, Lloyd Evans for example, a wonderful man, and Justin Rushbrooke, and Micalef the grungy poet was there, and that’s how I got to know Boris, I suddenly became friends with this odd Balliol crowd, and so Boris used to invite me along to debating evenings of the Arnold and Brackenbury Debating Society. So I knew them both.”

ConHome: “And Boris was a big Oxford figure.”

Delingpole: “Yes, there was no question that Boris was going to be huge, because Boris was a bit like Churchill, Boris had already decided who he was and wanted to be. Most of us were unformed. The Etonians were always much more formed than any of the rest of us. And the Westminster kids were even more formed. They were just almost too cool for school. So Boris had made up his mind who he wanted to be. Dave would turn up in his tennis kit.”

ConHome: “He didn’t do any politics at Oxford, did he, or any Union stuff.”

Delingpole: “And who can blame him. I mean it was rather vulgar.”

ConHome: “You’ve been recruited by Breitbart as its executive editor in London.”

Delingpole: “I knew about Andrew Breitbart. We were friends on Twitter. And it was inevitable I thought that on my next trip to the US I would meet Andrew and hang out with him. Very much a kindred spirit, a happy warrior, which is what I am. And I think what Andrew Breitbart was doing in the US is what I’ve been doing in the UK, which is fighting the culture wars. The real enemy is cultural Marxism. And I think not enough is known about this. And once you understand the culture wars you have a grand universal theory of everything, which is to say that the resurgent feminist movement makes sense in terms of that, the whole multiculturalism, the whole environmentalism thing, these are all manifestations of the same problem, it is the war of the intellectual Left to dismantle western civilisation, to reject all the things we’ve learned from Judaeo-Christian classical civilisation, and teach us to distrust our judgment, distrust common sense, distrust authority, hierarchy, all the things that actually we need, because despite being a kind of libertarian and a radical I do believe in structures.”

ConHome: “You just think the Establishment stinks.”

Delingpole: “Yup.  So then of course Andrew dies unexpectedly of a heart attack, and anyway, a few years later this opportunity arises for me to go and join Breitbart. And I was very wary at first. I was wary for two reasons. One, I love America and I love Americans, but the whole American business thing frightens me slightly. I had to sign a contract. That scared me. And I thought, what if they want me to be something I’m not? Because I won’t do it, I won’t. I would rather die in a ditch than do anything I don’t want to do. It’s just who I am. And, um, for better or worse, I think that’s why I’m a kind of attractive commodity in the media and as a journalist, because I tell it like it is, and I’m not frightened of…”

ConHome: “Going over the top.”

Delingpole: “Yeah but I don’t think I do go over the top. I really don’t. Occasionally I might write a piece where I think ‘Oh, did that one quite work’, but generally I think my pieces are pretty accurate. When I dish it to people I tend to dish it to people who’ve got it coming to them. Lefty f***ers, who are trying to destroy the country I would like my children to inherit. George Macdonald Fraser wrote this very good essay where he said his wartime generation had more freedom of speech than our generation does. And I don’t think enough people are fighting for that. I don’t think people realise quite how high the stakes are. Breitbart is keen to establish itself, obviously it’s mainly American at the moment, but it’s expanding, and I think the reason they want to set up a London branch is because they see us as the bellwether of the kind of s**t that’s coming their way. Islamism, for example, and also they’re interested in the fortunes of UKIP as a kind of Tea Party, and they’re interested in the increasingly totalitarian instincts of the European Union.”

ConHome: “So at the moment are you writing mainly for American readers in fact?”

Delingpole: “Little things crop up, like do I spell sceptic with a k or a c. Because if I’m writing for the UK site I would like to spell it with a c. But sometimes there will be pieces I write for one of the American verticals, where I need to change my spelling for the Americans. We decided early on that we wanted British spelling on the British website, because after all we got to the language first, before they did, so it would seem quite wrong to capitulate, and I think British readers would generally feel that.”

ConHome: “So what is the British readership at the moment?”

Delingpole: “I imagine the British readership is quite small and I imagine most of them would be people who know my stuff. Definitely at the moment it’s mostly reporting on European things for an American audience.”

ConHome: “Who are your heroes?”

Delingpole: “Cobbett, Wilkes, Orwell, Orwell is god, the Milton of Areopagitica, Barry Goldwater, Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher, Churchill, oh and I think probably Enoch Powell as well. On the immigration issue there are divergent libertarian positions. There’s the hard-core, left-leaning one, which is that we must have uncontrolled immigration full stop. And I would counter that there’s a libertarian counter-argument which says that if you are having unlimited immigration you are actually denying the liberties of the people who are already here. Where I think we’ve gone wrong on immigration, and I hope Roy Jenkins is burning in hell for this, is multiculturalism. I believe in social cohesion and I absolutely believe that it doesn’t matter what somebody’s race or skin colour or whatever is. As far as I’m concerned they’re British, but the deal is that if you’re British you subscribe to our values, you do not have sharia law, you do not have sharia courts, you do not have no-go ghettoes where the police can’t go, you do learn the language, I don’t buy this bollocks about ‘well we didn’t learn the language’. Well actually we did.”

ConHome: “What is your estimate of Nigel Farage?”

Delingpole: “I love him as a person and I admire his courage. He considers himself the true heir to Thatcher and I think he’s right. I think one of the things that people don’t really understand is that Thatcher was an aberration in the Conservative tradition. You look at Harold Macmillan and you look at Ted Heath. She was a radical. It’s the dreadful One Nation conservatism which I can’t abide.”

ConHome: “You’re looking for enemies. Who are the worst examples of this One Nation conservatism?”

Delingpole: “Who’s the worst thing on earth? Well one of them would definitely be Oliver Wetwin.”

ConHome: “I’m very pro Oliver.”

Delingpole: “Oliver I just think is like the devil incarnate.”

ConHome: “No, no, no. Have you met him? He’s a sweet, dear man.”

Delingpole: “Yeah, but ‘Smooth, easy, inoffensive, down to Hell,’  as Milton said. He’s appalling. I don’t care what people’s intentions are. I don’t care how honourable they are. I care about what they actually do. He’s been a blight on the Conservative Party and I would say he’s one of the worst things that has happened to them. Definitely. Yup. Particularly on green issues. So in that category I would put people like Greg Barker, Kenneth Clarke obviously, I mean it’s obvious which ones I would hate, isn’t it?”

ConHome: “I didn’t realise you’d be quite so down on dear Oliver.”

Delingpole: “Yes, very much.”

ConHome: “He did work for Thatcher. What about Macmillan?”

Delingpole: “I think he was a soft fascist.”

ConHome: “It’s interesting to see these things welling up inside you. Any time you think there’s any danger of Delingpole himself going a bit soft, it’s immediately headed off by a fresh epithet.”

Delingpole: “Maybe I’m never going to get what I want.”

ConHome: “Well you’d be very disappointed if you did. What you want is enemies in fact.”

Delingpole: “Well, you know, the thing that people always say about me is ‘Gosh, you’re so much nicer in real life.’ I’m very, very clear in every article I write that I’m coming from a position of liberty. Liberty is very important. It’s what people have fought and died for since the Battle of Salamis. And at the Battle of Salamis western civilisation hung in the balance. In other words, it might never have happened. It was a democratic experiment. The Athenian states could so easily have been crushed. And I don’t like seeing that legacy pissed away. I think that sometimes my strain of conservatism plays better in America than it does in the UK. If it was the War of Independence I’d be a Minuteman, not a Redcoat.”

ConHome: “Is there anyone else you’d like to insult? We’ve got Roy Jenkins, Oliver Letwin, Harold Macmillan. I think we’ve got plenty of insults actually. Oh, just tell me briefly why Orwell is god.”

Delingpole: “You only have to read The Lion and the Unicorn. He understood what it means to be English, to be British. He didn’t choose the easy path, and I feel that I haven’t chosen the easy path. If I am considered extreme, it’s not because I’m extreme, it’s because other people are so dishonest.”

ConHome: “How does this square with your work as a blogger for a cutting-edge American site, this love of England and of tradition?”

Delingpole: “I think that I am a radical in the tradition of William Cobbett, who started out as a proper Tory, and realising that the  whole system stinks, and I genuinely do believe, it makes me angry that no party at the moment, for example sticks up for the working man or woman. If you look at Labour, it’s become the party of the quangocrat and the public sector worker. The Tories have become the party of the corporatist, banker stitch-up. The Lib Dems are the party that will say anything to get a few more votes in the south-west or whatever. So I’m motivated I think by a quite strong loathing of the political class generally. I do believe in so many British institutions: the armed forces, the 1662 Prayer Book, King James Bible, and literature, poetry, the countryside, which I think is just matchless, foxhunting, which I think is the greatest thing ever invented. Imagine inventing a sport which takes place on a pitch of possibly 50 square miles of undulating terrain, using a fox as your football as it were, and trailing this pack of hounds, and wearing this kit – how cool is that? I went staghunting for the first time, weirdly enough, this was about 15 years ago, in a party hosted by Rachel Whetstone and Steve Hilton [close supporters of David Cameron who are now married to each other]. This was with the Devon and Somerset Staghounds, and Steve Hilton loved staghunting. He was very keen and a very enthusiastic rider. I remember him being unwilling, in a nice way, he didn’t want to stay behind and look after me, I was a novice, because he wanted to be at the front with the hunt.”

ConHome: “So did he gallop off in front of you?”

Delingpole: “Yes.”

ConHome: “Fantastic.”

Delingpole: “When I went staghunting, the thing that it reminded me of most were my youthful drug experiences. The intensity was like that of an acid trip. The randomness and the unexpectedness of everything. The pure experience being hurled at you. The camerarderie reminded me of the early raves of about 1987. There are few occasions when you get such intense camerarderie as at the beginning of a hunt, at the meet. Some people vomit with fear. There’s so much pent-up adrenalin. That’s why you have to drink so much. It’s the only sport apart from darts which you have to be drunk to do successfully.”

After the interview we went for a walk in the park.  The day was bright, cold, blustery. Daisy rushed about from side to side, but did not worry the ewes with their lambs. Delingpole strode along with urgent energy and continued to rhapsodise about hunting.

40 comments for: Interview: Andrew Gimson meets James Delingpole, a conservative who thinks the British Establishment stinks

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.