James Delingpole

Back in the Delingpole fold

1 December 2012

Gosh, I can’t tell you how lucky you were not to have been brought up in the Delingpole family. There were nine of us in all — not counting the cats, iguanas, fleas, lice and one-eyed pugs — and the scene every day in the rambling Old Rectory where we lived was like the second half of Lord of the Flies only without the restraint, civility and gentle charm.

It was a dog-eat-dog world where no quarter was given and none expected. It was like Florence in the era of the Medici (only without the culture and art part: unless you count the huge mural of Judge Death my brother Dick did in his bedroom) — an era of constantly shifting alliances, betrayal, backstabbing, torture, humiliation and perpetual war. It made me the hardened street-fighter I am today….

….As I was reminded only last weekend when we held a rare full-family reunion to celebrate my baby brother Charlie’s 30th birthday. Charlie is the genius of the family, a brilliant entrepreneur, whose internet start-up Market Invoice is going to make him one of the richest and most successful players of his generation. I admire him enormously and always take his business and financial advice seriously. But no matter how well he does, not even if he becomes the next Warren Buffett, the dynamic of our relationship will never change: I’ll always expect him to look up to me as the senior child in the pecking order; and in return — even though he already outranks me in wealth, power and height — I’ll always feel protective towards him as my sweet, mewling, puking little bro whose nappies I used to change.

All big families are the same as this, I’m sure. Get them back together and, no matter how much maturity and responsibility they have achieved since their childhood years, they will revert almost instantly to type.

My poor stepsister Marianne, for example. She has done really well for herself: married a delightful, good-natured and well-off husband and now lives in a huge, envy-inducing house with five gorgeous, beautifully brought-up children. But then as soon as Dick and I come along, all those achievements vanish. Once more she is just Marianne, the stepsister we used to call Horse (because she once made the mistake of showing an interest in horses, mainly) and who once told us excitedly that she’d looked up her hair colour on a chart and that it was ‘sunset gold’. ‘No, it’s not,’ we replied. ‘It’s dogshit brown. And Emily’s [that’s Marianne’s sister] is piss yellow.’

Marianne and Emily don’t particularly like being reminded of this. They think, being mothers, successful businesswomen, stalwarts of the local Parish Parochial Council, etc, they’re beyond all that. But they’re not actually, as I strove to remind Marianne within seconds of my arrival.

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‘Hello Horse. Great to see you.’

‘Hello, James’ (affectionate but slightly testy).

‘Horse, before we do anything else, will you just do one thing for me?’ I said, holding out my hand, palm upwards. ‘Could you just stick your head over the fence and nibble at this juicy grass I’ve just picked for you?’

‘No James. I won’t.’

Later on, my bossy little sister Mary Rose made the mistake of trying to give me a telling off for calling Marianne a horse when she doesn’t like it. But I blanked her. No, more than that, I treated her to the kind of dismissive expression of unutterable lip-curling contempt you can only give a kid who didn’t even, like, exist till you’d been on the earth for 14 years, for God’s sake, so what right does she have to lecture you about anything?

A similar impulse, I’m sure, affects my attitude to our coalition government. The last time I spoke to the Prime Minister, I believe, was at one of the Spectator summer parties. ‘Dave,’ I said. ‘How come you’ve turned into such a fucking lefty?’ Which, I suppose, coming from just any old hack might be considered a mite impertinent. But when you’ve known a chap since you were 20, when you’ve sat together listening out for the flams on Supertramp’s Crime of The Century and made drunken prats of yourselves at the same cocktail parties, it’s not like you’re suddenly going to go: ‘Wow. He’s Prime Minister. Better start treating him with respect now.’

It’s the same with Nick Boles. And Michael Gove. And Boris, of course. You think: ‘Well the posts they hold can’t be that impressive, can they? Not when they’re my contemporaries and we know half the same people and I’ve seen what vulnerable adolescents they used to be — and still are underneath — before they started pretending to be grown-ups.’

If this is what it’s like now, with me only in my late forties, I can scarcely begin to imagine how sardonically aloof I’ll have grown when I hit my eighties or nineties. Crikey, you must need a good sense of humour or a refined appreciation of the absurd by the time you reach that age. You must look at the world, at the idiots governing you and making the money and making the rules, seeing them make all the mistakes that you’ve already seen being made a thousand times before, and think to yourself: ‘But this is madness. What do they know? They’re all children!’

Then, of course, you die — taking all your accumulated wisdom with you.

He has a vicious sense of humour and a refined sense of cruelty, does God. Bet he’d have got like a house on fire with the Delingpole family at the Old Rectory.

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Show comments
  • RealTory

    Ah James, you forgot to mention how, with the structure and perceived security of family pecking orders, you also get the inferiority complexes and doubts. He may be your younger brother or she the dumber sister but nagging away is the idea that they may have achieved where you wasted, may actually be smarter or more confident, or even, God help us, superior? As one of 8 children, 3 boys and a sister fiercely competitive and 4 others bemused onlookers, I can sympathise. Just because your siblings and Oxbridge contemporaries have done so well, you are still quite a good writer and soundly of the right, if not always right.

  • http://twitter.com/glebedigital TDG

    Umberto Eco once suggested that we begin life in awe of our elders; as we grow and learn, we gradually begin to realise they are all fools. Eventually, we reach an age where we are glad to shuffle off this world because we realise that the whole of mankind is an idiot-factory & we no-longer wish to be associated with it. At that point, croaking is a blessed relief. God works in mysterious ways, his wonders etc . . .

  • Pip

    “Then, of course, you die — taking all your accumulated wisdom with you.”

    Definitely one for the headstone.

    Enjoyed this article.

  • Little Black Censored

    Me me me me me. This is Rachel Johnson stuff.

    • RealTory

      James Delingpole is to Rachel Johnson as Margaret Thatcher is to David Cameron. You you you.

    • Alex

      Remind me, who forced you to read it?

  • MrVeryAngry

    In re Cameron, Gove, Boris etc, being as how they are now the Great and The Good, it’s important to realise that when you meet them, they aren’t.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Craig-King/100003741083027 Craig King

    Well spotted James. The nice thing is though, that as you get older it doesn’t matter quite so much because you figure you’ll be dead before it does matter. So you adapt.

  • MarinerAncien

    Love it. My wife always thinks I have a weird sense of humour, but I don’t care.
    Keep the scribbles going.

  • Vanitas

    James Delingpoo, denounced Sanch Panchez stil titivating at childhood windmills. Your poor sisters. Did they put your head down the toilet and flush the loo? They shOuld have. Do you get paid to write this bio-columnising piffle of etiolated rubbish?

    • anyfool

      Did you think of that last line while your head was down the toilet.

      Praying to the Great White God usually leaves you to delicate for thought.

  • valedictorian16

    I’m the baby in my family, and always kept in my rightful place, as such…
    In some ways, I never want to reach the day , at a family gathering where no one is there to say ” what would you know about it, you’re just the baby!”
    while I’m thinking and laughing inside, ” if they only knew the half of it..”
    I’m the family egghead,swot and dweeb….extraordinaire.
    Unlike James, I don’t dwell on the part of big family life he’s obsessing with, but rather the fun, laughter, games, picnics, holidays, love and help that all come with it, too.
    If you are one of nine, you get 9 times as much of all the good stuff too, even living in a vicarage!

  • Austin Barry

    “He has a vicious sense of humour and a refined sense of cruelty, does God.”

    His cruelty was refined even further when He invented Allah thinking that a deity without any discernible sense of humour or irony but a universe full of cruelty would be good for a few laughs.

    • Bored

      Yes. A god that asks a man to knife his son to death as a sacrifice and changes his mind as a cliffhanger at the last minute has a much more discerning sense of humour. Why spoil this delicious article with more of this dull religious wrangling?

    • Bored

      Yes. A god that asks a man to knife his son to death as a sacrifice and changes his mind as a cliffhanger at the last minute has a much more discerning sense of humour. Why spoil this delicious article with more of this dull religious wrangling?

  • Jingleballix

    Very good.

    A light piece now and again must relieve some of the tension of saving the planet from people who want to ‘save’ the planet.

    How did Cameron respond to the question?

    • http://twitter.com/JamesDelingpole James Delingpole

      He said something anodyne like “Yes, James, well I suppose I do have slightly more faith in the state than you do.” What he didn’t do – disappointingly – was go: “Nonsense. Cut me in half and you’ll find Tory blue running through me like a stick of rock.” Or: “How bloody dare you!” etc.

      • Nele Schindler

        If you’re getting so close to him on occasion, could you not poison his drink for us then?

  • Swiss Bob


    I thought this might interest you.

    Excess winter deaths fall, but over 24,000 still die

    Let’s take that as 25,000 (average is 27,000), that’s a quarter of a million a decade and ONE MILLION by 2050.

    Ed Miliband’s climate change act will send ONE MILLION to early graves.

    Is this what they mean when talking about climate change related deaths.

  • mikegre

    Oh Jeez…..I have tears in my eyes from laughing. Thanks…

  • valedictorian16

    I now know how we think we get to post, but they disappear – to mold conversation…. thanks for the lesson Spectator!

  • Old E10ian

    You’re in your late FORTIES? So not even youth is an excuse? Jeez…

  • SaySorryYouSelfishIdiot

    This is embarrassing and selfish. A horrendous abuse of familial consent. I have never met you and I am glad. Leave my family alone. They are better people than you will ever be and do not rely on derogatory humour towards those supposedly close to them to earn a questionable living (and potentially having a negative economic impact by mentioning Charlie’s company!). I think you should formally apologise as you have upset them for an article that is neither clever nor funny.

  • http://www.facebook.com/kattee1 Kattee Cinosa

    Great work James! I often replay your interview with that insufferable prat at ABC Melbourne, recorded earlier this year. It sure cheers me up, as does your writing! Thank you.

  • Alex

    I remember the old rectory my dad used to dress up as Santa at the Xmas party. I”ll never forget Mary-Rose took all the coins out of the Xmas pudding refused to eat any & hid under the tabel.

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