I’m on morphine, which makes it hard to write or achieve anything useful.
Since my pulmonary embolism a couple of years ago, I have become something of a connoisseur of pain. The agony — a deep ache of the purest intensity — is caused by the pressure of a blood clot on the highly sensitive membrane of the lungs. It’s so exquisite it’s almost a religious experience. Your world is pain; all you want to do is to curl into a foetal ball and allow the earth to swallow you up: anything to make it stop. Mothers who’ve experienced it tell me it’s worse than giving birth.
I never wanted to go through such pain again but this week I nearly did: completely out of the blue and for no reason I could think of. One day I was feeling a bit achy in the upper back; the next it was worse; the day after that, it hurt so much I almost wanted to cry out to my Mummy and beg her to make it go away.
Unfortunately the last coincided with my appearance at the Durham Union in a debate about Brexit. Perhaps in normal circumstances, it might have been quite dispiriting hearing Anna Soubry come on after me and announce to the audience, in that charming, winning way she has, how crap my speech was and how utterly ignorable my opinions were, given all I’d ever achieved in life (apparently) was to have ‘once been a Telegraph journalist’. But on this occasion I couldn’t have cared less — nor even if we had won or lost.
James Delingpole can’t think of a person on earth who could have done a better job interviewing Trump.
Perhaps you missed the fuss because there has been so little publicity about it. But last week, at Davos, the President of the United States was granted the extraordinary privilege of an audience with Britain’s leading interviewer, media communicator and cultural icon, the David Frost de nos jours Piers Morgan.
On Sunday night we finally saw the result and what an unbelievable masterpiece of a scoop it was. We knew this because every few minutes the show’s star kept popping up in voiceover form to tell us.
‘I knew the first international televised interview with President Trump was going to be special. But I hadn’t expected the commander-in-chief to be quite so candid,’ Piers congratulated himself at one point.
Not being cursed with any of my genetic make-up, he possesses certain special qualities that I lack
It must be about 25 years since the Rat first made an appearance in The Spectator. He started out as my girlfriend’s six-year-old boy, then became my stepson and featured here quite often over the years because, being a scaly-tailed creature of evil, he was always good for some copy. This new year, with his agreement, I upgraded him to full son status. Let me explain why in a way that I hope you’ll find charming, rather than one that makes you want to throw up.
The first reason is purely mercenary. During Christmas, while over with his wife Chloe from Hong Kong, the Rat managed to find about £10,000 down the back of my virtual sofa, in the form of seven Bitcoin Cash that I thought I’d lost forever. Then he found another half a Bitcoin (BTC) which I also thought I’d lost, bringing the total free money found to well over £15,000.
The problem with Jez Butterworth’s series for Sky Atlantic is it can never stop smirking at its own irreverence
It’s a terrible thing for a TV critic to admit but I just don’t know what to make of Britannia, the new Sky Atlantic drama set during the Roman invasion of Britain, scripted by Jez Butterworth, starring a top-notch cast including David Morrissey, Zoë Wanamaker and Mackenzie Crook, and heavily touted as the next Game of Thrones.
Is it really in the Thrones’s league? I’d say not. You remember how Thrones started, all those seasons ago: the scouting party in the creepy frozen wood; the dead child with milky-blue glowing eyes; the shockingly draconian punishment meted out by Ned Stark to the party’s sole survivor. Within the first ten minutes it was all there: the gnawing tension, the ‘anyone can die’ cruelty and horror. But perhaps most important of all was the absolute seriousness. Here was a swords-and-sorcery epic determined never to sell itself short through flippancy or self-parody.
Let’s pretend the bad stuff isn’t happening and focus on the things that really matter.
Since it’s the first week of the New Year I’m going to pretend the bad stuff isn’t happening and focus on the lovely, life–affirming things I learned (or relearned) last year. Here are some of them.
1. There is hope for the youth. Yes, I know we think they’re all grisly little Marxist snowflakes who are going to vote in Jeremy Corbyn, but this is largely a product of brainwashing and poor governance, rather than fundamental malignity. In fact, some of the kids I encountered last year have given me great hope: check out, for example, the two teenagers I interviewed for my podcast, Sebastian Shemirani and Steven Edginton. Bright, hard-working, big-hearted and able to absorb and process vast quantities of information at gobsmacking speeds, the kids are all right. They just need red-pilling.
2. The pun is mightier than the sword. Actually I hate that pun. In fact I hate puns generally. But my point stands: if you really want to kill Nazis, as the painfully earnest and increasingly aggressive left is always claiming it wants to do, the deadliest method is wit, humour and snark, not violence. This is why I know that however bad things get politically, those of us who believe in stuff such as liberty, free markets and limited government will inevitably prevail over those who don’t. We’re nicer, we’re funnier — and the left can’t do memes.
It’s at least as well acted, suspenseful and sexy as The Night Manager.
My third most fervent New Year wish — just after Litecoin goes to £20,000 and Jacob Rees-Mogg becomes PM — is for the BBC to retire to its study with its service pistol and a bottle of whisky and finally do the decent thing.
After all, as lots of people are beginning to notice, when you spend 40 per cent of your viewing time watching your £79-a-year Amazon Prime, and another 40 per cent on £96-a-year Netflix, your compulsory £145.50 licence fee starts to look like a lot of money to pay for the remaining 20 per cent’s worth of diversity outreach, anti-Brexit whining and green propaganda.
That’s why I was so very disappointed by the BBC’s first big New Year offering. McMafia (Tuesdays) is so brilliant that it almost disproves my point. It’s at least as well acted, suspenseful and sexy to look at as The Night Manager was. So far, it doesn’t look remotely PC. And, unlike its similarly classy, high-budget predecessor, it has the massive bonus of not being burdened by John le Carré’s weird, cartoonish, out-of-date geopolitics.
Ignore the PC nonsense – this telly Western is well acted, gritty, dusty, uber-violent and clandestinely old-fashioned.
Boy came to me the other night in a state of dismay. ‘Dad, I just turned on Match of the Day to watch England vs Kazakhstan and guess what: they never mentioned this, but it’s the women’s game.’
What bothered him was not so much being forced to watch a slower, less athletic, duller version of real football — though obviously that too — as that the BBC was being so utterly disingenuous about it. This policy of pretending there’s absolutely no difference between men’s and women’s international sporting fixtures has, I know, been operational for some time. But for those of us living outside the PC metropolitan bubble — i.e. most of the BBC’s actual audience — it still feels insulting, hectoring and dishonest.
But you can’t escape it. Even really good drama series that you might actually want to watch have been infected. The new Netflix cowboy drama Godless, for example.
The Trump and Brexit phenomena are the same: the revolt of the masses against the elite.
How do you defend Donald Trump without coming across like a rabid lunatic? This was my challenge as the only ‘out’ Trumpophile on a panel at the Dublin Festival of Politics last weekend. What made me especially trepidatious is that Ireland is even more painfully right-on than we are these days. It has ditched most of that Roman Catholicism and Cúchulainn and Yeats malarkey and become just another compliant satrapy of the ahistorical, cultureless, communitarian Brussels empire.
Happily there are still one or two Irish who feel just as strongly as I do about what has been done to their wonderful country. There were about a dozen of them in the audience. Some sported red Make America Great Again baseball caps — an act which would probably have got them lynched in more sophisticated parts of town, such as that trendy hotel, the Clarence, that is part- owned by U2.
Why the Detectorists is the most subversive sitcom on the BBC.
It’s a weird sensation getting your child back for an extended period when for the previous decade you’ve been packing him off every few weeks back to boarding school. Obviously, it’s quite pleasant, amusing and enlightening to study at close hand and at length this alien thing that you’ve bred. At the same time, though, they don’t half become a discombobulatingly overbearing presence.
For example, in the old days I would definitely have reviewed Howards End, even though I can’t stand E.M. Forster or the ghastly pinko Schlegel sisters. But now that the Fawn and I no longer have the house to ourselves, we have to fall in with Boy’s viewing schedule, which is largely comprised of quiz shows.
Any quiz show, pretty much. His tastes extend from the most intellectual of intellectual — the painfully abstruse Only Connect, with its horned vipers and twisted sheaves and Victoria Coren with her Sphinx-like smile — to the veritably brainless (but horribly addictive) Tipping Point, where the skill owes less to general knowledge than to judging when to release the disc that pushes all the other discs over the edge, as in that cascade game they have in penny arcades.
I reflect bitterly on how much richer I’d be if only I’d had the courage of my convictions.
Every time I write about Bitcoin you can probably take it as a major sell signal. The last time I did so was in January 2014, at which point Bitcoin was trading around the $935 mark. Had you been inspired by my golden words and invested immediately in BTC (as we aficionados call it), here’s what would have happened: within a few months their value would have more than halved. ‘Bloody hell!’ you might have said. ‘This is an idiot’s game. Clearly there is no future in this stupid crypto-currency malarkey.’
But investment’s all about timing, isn’t it? Had you hung on a bit, watched it drift to its 2015 lows of around $216 dollars and at that point splurged your pension savings on, say, 200, you would now be a millionaire. I shan’t try to quote the current price. Perhaps, as you read this, it will have soared above last week’s record high of $7,879. Perhaps it will have continued the subsequent correction when its value fell by nearly 25 per cent in a day. What’s certain is that if you want to make or lose money very quickly, there’s nowhere more exciting than the ludicrously volatile cryptocurrency market.