A reasonable man

<strong>How to be Right: the essential guide to making left liberals history</strong>

James Deling

James Delingpole is a man who loves the truth. So much so that he wrote a thinly disguised autobiography and called it Thinly Disguised Autobiography. So convinced is he that his views are Right and True that he's written a new book, this time proving once and for all that Britain is run by a pinko conspiracy designed to make white middle-class men like him suffer for all eternity.

It's hard not to make a connection between Delingpole's self-satisfied, well-cushioned bluster and the fact that he seems never to have been on the sharp end of anything in his life. (Perhaps that's the reason, suggests Dr Freud, why his favoured analogy for being oppressed by the lefty-liberal state is invariably to do with "getting it up the bum".)

"After a decade's stealth taxes from Gordon Brown, a lot of us are skint," he writes on the subject of people who don't mind contributing a proportion of their salary towards, among other things, a health service that is free at the point of use. I'd love to find out precisely what his definition of "skint" means, but I doubt it involves sofa-surfing, earning the minimum wage or subsisting on a diet of tinned tomatoes livened up with bacon scraps.

His very lack of misfortune must explain why Delingpole is so keen on war. He believes that peace makes milquetoasts of us all, which must be why he gets in such a flap about Britain's post-imperial turpitude. This extends, incredibly, to his approval of at least some aspects of the Nazi regime: "You can't deny that for all its faults the Third Reich did cut a pretty impressive figure on the world stage." For that alone he should be sent on a tour of active duty. Whether he lasts longer than five minutes is another matter.

Delingpole gives health and safety a kicking, but then I doubt he's ever had to put himself at physical risk simply to feed his family. It doesn't suit to dwell on the millions of people who've died at work, a tally that includes my great-grandad - a Welsh pitman who had half a coal seam fall on his chest, killing him at the age of 31 and leaving his wife and four young daughters penniless. (There was no "compo" culture in those days, James. You would have loved it.)

But that was his own flaming fault, of course. He should have had the sense to look after himself, shouldn't he? Don't make me laugh (oh, it didn't). On this subject and a dozen others, Delingpole is the kind of gung-ho idiot who slices through the branch he's sitting on while trying to prove he's a master of tree surgery, then refuses to get in the ambulance because it's an NHS one and it'll have "germs".

It is interesting how the writer spends so much time accusing the liberal middle classes of hating themselves when he so clearly hates himself. The only difference is that the former wish they were proletarian, while he wishes he'd been born into the gentry. Like the poshest people, for whom nothing truly matters, he tries to be an anarchist - sorry, a "libertarian" - in a Barbour jacket. But really he's a status-panicked bourgeois in hock to the bullying aristocrats who so awed him at Oxford. The term "Stockholm syndrome" has been rather over-used in recent months, but Delingpole has it in excelsis.

With all that said, he gets a couple of things right on target. He demolishes Robert Fisk's licence to write - an apparent conviction that seeing blown-off limbs in person makes you more of a moral being than someone who has seen the same thing on television - with a neat parody of the reporter's Independent column set in war-torn Appleby-in-Westmorland. In so doing, he reveals that Fisk is basically a highbrow Fergal Keane.

He also shows that efforts to tamper with the official lexicon, however well-intentioned, are often counter-productive. We rarely do as we're told with our language. I share his distaste for the use of the word "passionate" to describe things like town councils and jobs on the fish counter. Then again, just when you think the battle to civilise our use of English is over, along comes some Tory spanner who thinks army officers shouldn't object to being called "black bastards". The liberals have won? You could have fooled me.

On the whole, though, this country needs Delingpole like it needs another Thatcher. If Britain really is as bad as he says, then I'd happily pay him to go and live in America, where he'd be about as controversial as a Liberal Democrat. This silly man needs to alert himself to what constitutes real hardship, as opposed to imagined grievance. Right now.

This article first appeared in the 19 March 2007 issue of the New Statesman, Trident: Why Brown went to war with Labour