I’m a regular reader of both Christopher Snowdon and James Delingpole. Snowdon usually writes sceptically about public health. And Delingpole usually writes sceptically about global warming/climate change. With a few slight reservations, I have a high opinion of both of them. But, apart from knowing that both of them are/were smokers, I seldom associate them together.
So I was intrigued a couple of days ago to find a podcast in which they were talking to each other, person to person, for something like an hour, on a wide variety of topics. The result was something I found both illuminating of both of them, and also thought-provoking. So much so that, after listening to it once, I went back and listened to it again. And even transcribed several passages from it.
Their conversation began (5:00 mins) with a discussion of their political views and history. Chris Snowdon described himself as a free market liberal, but had once passed through a left wing phase, when he’d been interested in “the idea of equality”, which JD promptly translated to mean “fairness.” JD had not passed through any such phase, and cheerfully described himself as “heartless”. At 9:40 CS was describing his deepening disillusionment with New Labour and Tony Blair:
CS: For me the big thing that turned it was the smoking ban which to this day I think was one of the most awful pieces of legislation.
JD:: It was illiberal, wasn’t it?
CS: Unbelievable illiberal!
JD: That even in private clubs, where people have paid their money, and they can consent to a particular arrangement, they were denied that freedom.
CS: Even if you want to set up a cigar bar, and you’re going to put on your door ‘This is for smokers only’, and you’re only going to employ smokers – or even if it’s just you running the show, and you haven’t even got any employees – that’s still illegal. Because it’s not about passive smoking. The science about passive smoking is mostly junk anyway. It wasn’t ever about that. Obviously, it was about stopping people smoking. And you can see that now because they’re talking about outdoor bans….
That was quite a powerful condemnation of the smoking ban by CS, and one with which JD concurred. Although I thought afterwards that I would have gone much further, and said that I had burned with rage against the ban on 1 July 2007, the day it came into force in the UK, and had been burning with rage ever since against what had to be one of the most socially, economically, and politically destructive pieces of legislation in recorded human history – if only because it was being imposed almost everywhere all over the world. But neither CS nor JD seemed to feel quite as strongly as I did.
Their conversation then ran on into John Stuart Mill’s harm principle, and government-funded antismoking organisations like ASH, with CS remarking (22:20), “As soon as you take away the money, you drain the swamp,” and JD making a passing mention of “my reluctant speciality, climate change.”
And then (24:45) they got round to discussing Donald Trump’s election.
JD: We have four years of LOLZ ahead of us, do we not? The miseries of the left is going to give us ecstacies for years to come.
CS:: I’m not by any means a fan of Trump. I think he’s a terrible candidate. And I think it was awful that Americans have to pick between the two people they were given. So I wouldn’t be happy at all if I was in the USA at the moment, but we’re not in the USA and so we can just enjoy the banter as far as I’m concerned, and all these people moaning and crying in this country need to remember that they don’t live in America. It’s really not going to have much an effect on us. It might actually have a positive effect, quite possibly.
JD: I’m much more positive than you, by the way. I think it’s going to be really good. I also think that Trump was a very necessary thing. I was genuinely getting scared in the run-up to this election, I was thinking the social justice warriors have become so dominant in our culture – even though they are a minority – that they seem to be dictating the terms of the debate all the time. And I was also worried about the fact that democracy was bust, basically, because once you get a situation where over 50% of the economy is the public sector, you have a whole client class which are going to vote for whichever regime promises them more money. I thought this was really the last chance to save democracy. Trump, for all his faults, is a lot better than Hillary Clinton, I thibk you’d agree on that.
CS: Well, I don’t know if I would. Possibly…
JD: Gay leftie!
CS: I’m in favour of shaking things up. I’m happy because it’s going to very funny for 4 years and it doesn’t really affect my life at all. But the guy is a transparent charlatan and a liar, and he’s selling people…
JD: So was Hillary, for goodness sake. And she was a crook.
JD: Let’s talk about what we can agree on, which is this is a crushing… Would you not say that the left actually invited this defeat on themselves. The left created Donald Trump.
CS: Yes. I think that’s right to some extent. I think there’s complete incomprehension even now about why this happened. I was listening to the radio a lot the day after the election results… and they had all the people ringing in, there were some in tears, there was a guy who blamed the Daily Mail….
JD: Just like Brexit.
CS: Identical to Brexit.
I was a bit surprised at CS’s dismissal of Trump as a “charlatan and a liar,” perhaps because I don’t think he’s either. But I was also a bit surprised at JD’s expectation that Trump was going to be “really good.” And I was even more surprised at them both seeing it as something to laugh about. I also thought CS was just plain wrong in believing that it would have no effect in the UK.
But then, I tend to see US presidents as not very much different from Roman emperors of the entire Western World: you ignore them at your peril. And I don’t know whether Trump is going to be a Constantine or a Caligula. I think, if nothing else, he’s going to be Something Completely Different, as well as something almost exactly the same.
I think the Trump presidency is going to be a great storm, with one lightning bolt after another, and peals of thunder, in rapid succession, from day one onwards. If nothing else I’ve been wondering if, having tweeted about “lying Ted”, “low energy Jeb”, and “crooked Hillary” during the campaign, he’s going to extend the practice to world leaders in general, and we’ll be hearing about “Tubby Kim” (Jong Un) and “Sleepy Jean”(-Claude Juncker). Newt Gingrich was upbraiding Trump for his 3 am tweets, but it doesn’t seem to have had any effect. Diplomacy will never be the same.
Anyway, the net result of this conversation was to bring both Chris Snowdon and James Delingpole into sharper focus as individual people with their own opinions. I think such people are much more interesting when operating outside their usual operational theatres. I thoroughly recommend listening.