In the modern political – and day-to-day – world of Cultural Marxism, ‘woke’ and mind-boggling illiberal liberalism, a middle-class white man who doesn’t care what he says can be refreshing. That’s why I’m a follower of the work of James Delingpole. Recently, I interviewed him about aspects of his career, his thoughts on Brexit, the media and how he’d like to be remembered.
James Delingpole is known to many in the UK. Depending on what side of the fence you are stood, he is disliked and ridiculed. To others he is a calm, rational voice of conservatism in modern-day Britain where anything to the right of Stalin is considered a hate crime. However, all journalists start somewhere, regardless of what they write about once established and known to the political populace.
“I’m so old, I can remember when journalism was a trade with a fairly clear path,” Delingpole tells me. “The tradition was cutting your teeth on a local paper, or if you were lucky, like I was, you’d be fast-tracked onto a Fleet Street paper, and joining ‘the diary’, which was a traditional route. The Evening Standard had one called “The Londoners’ Diary”, or The Telegraph‘s “Peterborough Diary”. They would take graduates fresh out of university, and when you’d done your time in the nursery, you would move onto the newspaper itself, whether it be the politics section or as a general news reporter”.
Having written for many mainstream papers such as the aforementioned Telegraph, the Daily Mail, Express and The Times, Delingpole took what was perhaps a gamble in 2014 by being a founder member of Breitbart’s London bureau, alongside soon-to-be UKIP guru and now US-based journalist, Raheem Kassam.
“This was in the [Steve] Bannon era. For all his faults, he’s a visionary figure. He’s someone of a great breadth of learning and experience and he had foreseen the world was in a process of turmoil. A lot of that turmoil was happening on Europe’s doorstep and the things that were starting to happen was Brexit, mass immigration as well as tensions with Islam, so he came over to the UK with a view to establishing a London branch that would cover these issues partly for an American audience and to create an entity that would cover this accurately, as you would not find that in the mainstream these days”. Given that Breitbart, despite its opposition, is a huge news organisation, I asked Delingpole if this has given him a profile or platform in the US. “I have no idea. I don’t know if I’m known in America or not.” When I remind him of his frequent visits to the CPAC conventions, he says: “That’s true, when I am at CPAC I do sometimes have people come up to me and say: “you’re James Delingpole”, so I suppose it improved my profile over there”.
Even though Kassam is no longer involved with Breitbart and with inevitable staff changes, I ask if working for the bureau is in any way similar or fun, given that, to a lay person such as myself, the bureau is a close-knit group.
“In some ways, it’s the opposite in a sense, given that most of us work from home. I suppose we are all bound by our politics. We are all conservatives, we believe in this stuff. We are all pretty unemployable elsewhere, because the mainstream doesn’t welcome conservative commentators. There are a few ‘licensed’ conservative commentators, like Charles Moore, by his distinction, has a column in The Telegraph, but generally I would say there aren’t really any that are given much space in mainstream media anymore”.
I wonder where this happened. I reference When One Door Closes, the memoirs of former BBC Newsreader, Peter Sissons, who wrote with surprising and refreshing honesty about how the corporation would frequently use left-wing papers such as The Guardian or The Independent as bases for their output of news. Does Delingpole agree that right-wing commentators are now only brought onto BBC programmes or featured in the mainstream in general as figures of ridicule?
“That’s right. That’s out only use to the mainstream media. The BBC’s always been left-wing, but more insanely left-wing in the last ten years particularly. Its policies are all about Cultural Marxist, identity politics, aren’t they? I’d say the bigger worry is how a lot of the conservative newspapers have surrendered to a lot of this left-wing agenda”.
Delingpole recently appeared on the BBC’s soon-to-be axed late-night political discussion show, This Week, fronted by Andrew Neil, in which Neil, according to the pro-Remain The New European, “rinsed” Delingpole when discussing the merits of a No Deal Brexit. Neil is, to many, the “anti-leftist” of the BBC and is a poster boy for Brexit supporters due to Neil’s tough line of questioning. However, Neil is not adored by all right-wingers. The oldest Conservative Party think-tank, The Bow Group, recently described him as one of the BBC’s “worst establishment stooges”, but Delingpole has only praise for him.
“I admire Andrew, he’s a great man. I don’t think I share his politics, and he doesn’t share mine, but he’s the closest the BBC comes to its “fair and balanced” charter remit”.
When talking to Delingpole, I am disarmed by his politeness and honesty, and my intentions of an interview somewhat take a turn towards a friendly conversation, and I start to reel off numerous times the BBC’s journalists have taken pointless aim at right-wing politicians. It’s at this point, Delingpole’s extreme dislike of the corporation becomes clear.
“The BBC is absolutely toxic. If I could do one thing to improve the state of the world, I would abolish the BBC, or rather I would strip away the license fee and let it go out on its own, unsupported by this levy. It’s an abomination. I loathe the BBC”.
Social media can be a decent gauge of public opinion, and in my own experience, I’ve observed the BBC is losing support all the time, and I wondered if Delingpole agrees with that possibility and that viewers are now seeing through the bias. “Yeah, I think they are”. Does he think the license fee will be abolished or will the BBC just become more moribund over the next decade?
“I think the latter. I think the BBC will get worse and worse, and people will do what I now do, which is not watch the BBC, except under very special circumstances. They will become increasingly irrelevant, but the license fee won’t go away, unless you had a particularly radical Conservative government. And it would only be a Conservative government, but I can’t see how they’d have the courage, because they’re basically cowards”.
I find a recurring theme in our conversation is a skewed perception of conservatism to a lot of people. After losing his seat amidst the rise of New Labour, former Conservative minister-turned-railway-enthusiast, Michael Portillo, said that he felt that the Tories needed to move to the centre-ground in order to win back power, something that to many, they are still doing even when in power, but with the rise of the Trump presidency and other politicians in Europe, I ask Delingpole if he feels real conservatism may make a comeback.
“Part of the problem is structural. Trump is President because their systems allows a maverick like him to transcend. Also, Trump succeeded despite the Republican Party, not because of it. I am not sure if that’s possible for a potential future conservative Prime Minister”. Does he think it can happen?
“I’m an optimist, so yes”.
In 2007, Delingpole described himself “as a member of probably the most discriminated-against subsection in the whole of British society—the white, middle-aged, public-school-and-Oxbridge educated middle-class male”. Surely in the current woke generation, he must feel even more discriminated-against?
“Yeah. When I said it at the time, it was true, but it was a provocation, nowadays it’s a statement of the obvious.” Does he not find it strange that someone like him is perhaps viewed by some liberals as an ‘extremist’? “I am. I find it utterly bizarre that nowadays I’m routinely described by the left as “far-right,” or “extreme right”. There’s nothing extreme about me at all. I just believe in limited government, personal responsibility, in liberty, low taxes, fiscal responsibility, I’m anti-war, anti-neocon. I’m trying to think of any of my positions are extreme”.
One belief that Delingpole holds is that of scepticism to climate change, which makes me curious about his opinions on the Green New Deal (roundly rejected 57-0 in the Senate since this interview took place), headed-up by Democrat, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
“I think it’s brilliant, because what it does is guarantee Trump a second term in 2020, and I think it exposes the ‘new left’ as the lunatic, socialistic body that it has become. It’s lost touch with reality, so it’s a good thing”.
Another old quote of Delingpole’s I bring-up to him is his one from 2013 – “I’ve held dual political nationality: my heart with UKIP, my head with the Tories”. Given that, after some disastrous short-term leaderships, Gerard Batten has firmly entered UKIP into a post-Nigel Farage era, I wonder if, despite my recent op-ed in which I state my observation that Batten lacks Farage’s charisma, may he, or someone else in his legacy (Batten’s term comes to an end soon and there is no confirmation as to whether he will decide to stand again or not), take UKIP to an electoral success of any description?
“I like Gerard Batten. I think he’s a decent, principled chap and in terms of class and background, he’s probably in-tune with the UKIP base is than even Farage was. He’s a sort of Norman Tebbitt figure, isn’t he? Lower-middle-class, honest, hard-working – the values that made Britain great. I wouldn’t agree with UKIP on all their policies. They’re not economically liberal enough for me, by which I mean I’d want a party run on Hayekian principles. I want flat tax. Without that Hayek/Von Mises approach to economics, they are really not so appealing to me any more, but they are good on a lot of the pressing issues of our time”. I ask if they may ever become a party with a cohesive set of policies, given they’ve attracted members from Labour and the Tories. “No, I don’t. In my brief flirtation with standing for UKIP, I was very struck at meetings by the divergence of political opinions, and not in a healthy way. Some people were pro-fox-hunting, some were against it. Farage famously said that’s like herding cats in UKIP”. What does Delingpole make of Farage, and his place in history?
“His place in history is already assured because of what he did towards the Brexit vote. I think his finest hour was the 24th of June, 2016, when we all woke-up and discovered we’d voted to leave the European Union against the establishment’s. It was like we’d bunked-off school, and teacher hadn’t stopped us. But teacher is now telling us ‘you can’t do that!'”.
Given that Article 50 has been extended, does he, as an optimist, believe Brexit will happen, and if so, when?
“I haven’t a clue, but I think it’s going to happen in the end. I think it’s what the people want and it’s what the times require. History moves in waves and we’re currently in the midst of a populist wave. It’s interesting that there are these hold-outs, these exceptions. Look at Canada, look at Australia, look at Ireland. These are countries enthralled with the SJW, liberal establishment, but generally across the world, the story’s been about populism. Trump, Bolsonaro, Orban, Salvini”. Given that we’ve had countries previously who have had to vote again until the result is the one the European Union wants, I wondered if Delingpole wonders that, given Parliament also voted to reject a second referendum on the issue, the UK is a strong country to hold-out for what it wants?
“We’re having a bit of a hiccup at the moment, but it’s too difficult to make sense of what’s going on, but to have to trust the wisdom of crowds”.
One question I intend to ask anyone whom I am fortunate enough to interview is the final one I ask:
How would James Delingpole like James Delingpole to be remembered?
“As somebody who did the right thing even if it was unpopular.”
James Delingpole is a columnist for Breitbart London and author. Follow him on Twitter – @JamesDelingpole
Jack Oliver Smith is the Editor-in-Chief of Type News