Television

James Delingpole: Is the fight against environmentalism the new Cold War?

Dominic Sandbrook's maddeningly brilliant Cold War Britain showed it's tricky when your enemy is not in plain sight

16 November 2013

9:00 AM

16 November 2013

9:00 AM

Gosh it isn’t half irksome when someone who went to the same school as you but is considerably younger than you ends up doing dramatically better than you. But hats off to Dominic Sandbrook: his new series Cold War Britain (BBC2, Tuesday) is an absolute delight.

Sandbrook has that rare gift of making things you thought you knew pretty well already seem startling and fresh. Take Churchill’s Fulton, Missouri speech. ‘Ah,’ I said expertly to the Fawn, a good five minutes before the programme reproduced the famous recording, ‘From Stettin in the Baltic…’ But what Sandbrook does is both put it in context and give it a human dimension that brings the whole business alive.

So we start on a train journey with Churchill knocking back the whiskies and gambling with a mystery companion who turns out to be Harry S. Truman. Churchill is elderly and played out, past his political prime — with a socialist running the country — and the Nazi threat that he made his name beating is now ancient history. But the wily and prescient politician has one final trump card up his sleeve and he’s about to play it at a deceptively innocuous honorary degree ceremony at a minor university — Westminster College — in a town with a population of 7,000…

What Churchill is about to do is to say the previously unsayable. Up until this point, everyone has been politely pretending that the Soviets are pretty decent fellows on the whole, what with their having sacrificed 10 million or so citizens in the great struggle against Herr Hitler. Churchill isn’t having this nonsense — and, despite assurances to Attlee that he’s not going to say anything too controversial, out he comes with his declaration of a new war, this time against the Red peril.


This is the beginning of the ‘Cold War’ —  a term invented (shamefully I didn’t know this) by George Orwell, with Churchill the other great hero of the moment. While the Old Harrovian set out the geopolitical terms of the conflict, the Old Etonian established its spiritual and moral dimensions by clarifying in the public imagination the nature of the new totalitarian threat — shortly before his death — in Nineteen Eighty-Four.

And by crikey did this need doing, what with fellow travellers like Hewlett Johnson — the Red Dean — spewing pro-Soviet propaganda from his pulpit at Canterbury Cathedral. You can see why people might have warmed to Johnson: the craggy Old Testament/High Victorian mien; his evident concern for the plight of the poor. But what a piece of work that grisly old pinko really was!

We saw footage of Johnson jubilantly accepting his Stalin International Peace Prize (!), only the second man to have received one (after Picasso). Looking at the various denominational clerics applauding heartily, you realised with a shudder that there’s nothing remotely new about men of the cloth abusing their religious prestige by backing the most reprehensible of wrong causes.

Today, of course, it’s environmentalism — and the usual leftist redistributionism and cultural relativist apologism. Back then, despite all the evidence coming out of the gulags, it was the idea that Soviet communism represented the true spirit of Christ and that the butcher Stalin was some kind of moral exemplar.

The problem with cold wars is that, unlike hot wars, the enemy is not in plain view. Or at least it’s much easier to indulge in the kind of self-delusion practised by the Red Dean, the crowds who cheered on the 1945 football tour by Moscow Dynamo, and by the Cambridge spies.

Philby, Burgess and Maclean: again, of course, we think we know all about them. But once again, Sandbrook performed his clever trick of bringing intimacy and narrative intrigue to the apparently overfamiliar, by beginning with a 38th birthday dinner prepared by a man’s pregnant wife at their home in Kent and interrupted by a knock at the door. In comes someone who introduces himself as a business colleague Roger Stiles. After dinner, the man — Maclean — casually tells his wife Melinda that they have to go on a business trip but won’t be gone more than a day. A lie, of course, because he and Guy Burgess are off to Moscow, never to return.

Two other things I like: the superbly chosen soundtrack with songs so good — ‘A Taste of Honey’, etc. — you wish you could have been young in so beguiling and sweetly melodious an era. And Sandbrook’s pieces to camera in an intriguing selection of knitted scarves. He comes across as an enthusiast with an urgent, thrilling, gossipy story to tell that he’s just dying to share with you and you alone.

Curse you, Sandbrook. Had you been around at school when I was there (which you weren’t) and had we still had fagging (which unfortunately we didn’t), I would have thrashed you to within an inch of your life for your damned impertinence and maddening brilliance.

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  • Nige Cook

    The Cold War really began on 17 September 1939 when Stalin invaded Poland from the East, as part of his pact with Hitler (who invaded Poland the same month from the West). Britain had an Anglo-Polish military alliance, signed 31 March 1939.

    (This quaint piece of paper naturally did the opposite of what Chamberlain intended, starting WWII instead of preventing it. It did nothing to deter Hitler, but it sucked Britain into war. This was virtually a precise repetition of August 1914, when Britain had to declare war on Germany after it invaded Belgium. In that case, Britain’s Foreign Secretary Edward Grey had procrastinated and delayed making clear to the Kaiser’s Germany that Britain would declare war if Germany invaded Belgium, until after German had mobilized millions of conscripts using irreversible railroad logistics. David Lloyd George’s “War Memoirs” make this clear. Chamberlain’s appeasement of Hitler in the 1930s – Chamberlain made clear that “he was acting as his own Foreign Secretary” – exactly mirrored Grey’s 1914 weak handling of foreign affairs. World War resulted in both cases, Britain having to declare war first on Germany, not vice-versa, in 1914 and in 1939. This is not saying that Britain shouldn’t have gone to war, but that appeasement in both cases resulted in precisely the opposite result to that intended. Being a nice guy, or appeasing, just encouraged aggression, leading to war. It didn’t guarantee peace.)

    Stalin was quite content signing the authority for the Katryn Forest Massacre of tens of thousands of Polish in 1940, saving the expense of feeding his prisoners of war. Only when Hitler invaded Russia, was there any lulling of the Cold War. All through WWII, Stalin was funding spies (Klaus Fuchs and friends) to steal the atomic bomb secrets, while British lives were being lost on the freezing Atlantic Convoys supplying guns to Russia. When WWII ended in 1945, Stalin had taken over more of Europe than Hitler had seized by 1939! It’s just absurd to say that Churchill’s Iron Curtain speech marked the start of the Cold War. Why do you think Truman tested two atomic bombs with the world’s media present at Bikini Atoll on 1 and 25 July 1946 (Operation Crossroads)?

    • michaellimb

      And just where does George Smiley fit in with all this?

    • Augustus

      Indeed, carbon dioxide plays no role in warming the Earth. It is a very minor element of the Earth’s atmosphere, a trace gas at a concentration of 0.039 per cent by volume. All these people and scientists who supplied falsified and inaccurate climate models to support their global warming claims committed a huge criminal fraud. And now that the Earth’s climate entered a natural, predictable and continuous cooling cycle around 1997 or 1998, those fraudsters are desperately trying to ignore the fact.

      As for the start of the Cold War, I am prepared to believe that it really did start soon after WW2 with the emergence of the two Western and Eastern Blocs dominated by the two superpowers, and with the emergence of the Non-Aligned Movement and proxy wars.

    • global city

      Excellent post!

      Perhaps Churchill’s speech can be counted as the formal declaration of the Cold War with the other instances being the opening shots, just as the formal declaration of WWII itself came after weeks of actual fighting (sinking of merchant shipping) in the North Atlantic?

    • NeilMc1

      Nige – someone voted you down. Your comment was lengthy and knowledgeable, but someone read it and just voted it down. Hard to imagine that a person of such a poor intellect bothers to read the Speccie

  • michaellimb

    Dominic Sandbrook has certainly done a good job, as he has with his previous efforts, but I don’t see how knowing that the critic and the historian went to the same school helps us at all, not least the former’s fantasy that he would have thrashed the other man “within an inch of his life” had they been contemporaries in the good old days of fagging. I went to Harrow but I don’t go around comparing my achievements to Winston Churchill or even Benedict Cumberpatch, let alone stress about the punishments I would have inflicted upon them had they and I been there at the right time, me in the Sixth form and them having to run like the devil when I called out their names. Thank god Mr Delingpole spares us from reminders of his Oxford days.

    • artemisinfrance

      There’s this thing called a sensé of humour…

      • michaellimb

        Oh that it were in evidence here.

  • JamesTennant

    What a load of shit

    • Peter Stroud

      What a pathetic comment.

      • JamesTennant

        Yeah?

      • JamesTennant

        So you really think that the argument that the so called ‘fight against environmentalism’ is equivalent to the cold war isn’t a load of shit?

        • Jules Wright

          Yup. Except it’s not reds over the wall. It’s watermelons in the garden. An infinitely more dangerous proposition if you’re not a watermelon.

          • JamesTennant

            I don’t how to respond to that other than to say that is also a load of shit. You seem to be as deluded as that fool Delingpole, too ideological to see reality.

          • Jules Wright

            You sound like potty-mouth ‘Nan’ Taylor off The Catherine Tate Show. Now then James, this isn’t the CiF asylum. This is The Spectator. If you’re going to make aggressive rebuttals, then argue your case, rather than accidentally – but emphatically – demonstrating why lowering the voting age to 16 is such a daft idea.

          • JamesTennant

            Hilarious. I think I get the parallel you are trying to draw with the cold war. Between what you presumably would argue is a form of communism/socialism: that is environmentalism. versus capitalism or whatever you want to call the political system we have in the west. But it doesn’t add up. Firstly environmentalism is born out of valid concern for the environment.No doubt you’ll refute this – although I could be proved wrong – and say there is no evidence that the environment is imperiled but that doesn’t stack up. It’s fair to argue that zealots will use any argument to push their politics on the world whether its fact based or not and no doubt that has happened in the case of the environment but that doesn’t make genuine concern about the environment invalid nor the need for urgent action to address the problem.

            Secondly you’re talking about a totalitarian political system that covered half the planet and the multi-decade conflict with the dominant political system of the west.

            So to me there is no equivalence. You see what I’m saying?

          • JamesTennant

            Also, as a final point. You may see my little outbursts as childish and perhaps they are, I don’t really care. The reason Delingpole’s disingenuous slippery bullshit is so irritating is that he appears to contain some sort of messianic hallucination and thinks that only he (maybe a few select others) are able to divine ‘the truth’ and all science & fact is irrelevant. All he is doing is giving people of a certain political persuasion a way to continue their ideological beliefs when they’re clearly flawed and need revising. That’s all from me.

  • Richard Moore

    I think the last sentence echos the rhythm of Kenneth Grahame in “the Wind in the Willows” example ..”some people would consider’ he observed, ‘that stealing the motor-car was the worst offence; and so it is. But cheeking the police undoubtidly carries the severest penalty; and so it ought.

  • Tom M

    This article Delingpole is typical of you. You whet my appetite (because I support your climate change ideas) with an attention grabbing headline. Then you proceed to give a review of a television programme, in detail. Having read this expecting some evidence of misdeeds from the climate lobby or even some new information framed in a “cold-war” scenario. I find one sentence only relating to climate. What was the point in writing this article?
    For God’s sake Delingpole stop waffling and write things that get to the point.

    • mikewaller

      I think exactly the reverse. Most of his reviews are good, some excellent [However, having watch the first episode of “Atlantis” with its target young audience, he got it badly wrong on that]; but what I really can’t stand is his idee fixe concerning climate change. Certainly it had no useful contribution to make in this review. My own guess is that if things are not hotting up to quite the extent predicted this is probable because the amount of filth the emergent economies are pushing up into the atmosphere is actually starting to set us on track for some kind of nuclear winter. It therefore seems to me that it would be a very smart idea if we in the West set a good example by making maximum use of clean technologies. It would also help if we stopped turning a blind eye to the environmental impact of all those lovely cheap imports.

      One other thing, as I have already mentioned on another thread this week, if we lost the grid for an extended period of time – which is perfectly possible – our only hope for some kind of semblance of a civilised life would be millions of individual renewable energy sources capable of being operated independently. Now, it may seem pie in the sky; but post apocalypse, failure to have put this in place will seem like the crime of the millennium!

      • Tom M

        Good morning mike. It seems we have both incurred the wrath of JP. Shame he has banned us from reading his articles, he has some good points to make, when he get round to them that is.

        On a more interesting point. I’ve spotted your concerns about the grid before. It sort of resonates, although on a smaller scale, with those who think that the only world catastrophe in waiting is climate change. Have a read of this book, “Our Final Century” by Martin Rees. This chap lists all of the possible catastrophes likely to happen to planet earth and gives our likely survival rate. Climate change isn’t very high up the list. The loss of the national grid doesn’t figure.

        Personally, although possible, I can’t see even multiple terrorist attacks being of a scale big enough to close the grid down for a long time all over the UK. Isolated areas perhaps. “On verra” as they say here.

        • mikewaller

          As you know, Martin Rees is the Astronomer Royal, an a man dripping with international awards. The title “Our Final Century” reflects the fact that he thinks it unlikely that the human race will last another 100 years. On that scale of things, the continued operation of the UK’s National Grid is pretty small beer. However being marginally more optimistic, it is something I think we ought to plan for. In terms of terrorist attacks, I cannot go further than to say that this would involve rather more than knocking over a few towers. Beyond that a few cruise missiles targeted at the biggest generators or a pandemic which wiped out large numbers of key electricity supply workers are other feasible possibilities. I could go on, but suffice it to say that the horrors of living in a world without power have been described this morning on Women’s Hour in respect of the situation in the Philippines. Their focus was on the breakdown of law and order particularly in the hours of darkness. In my view anything that would help ameliorate this should be put in place now.

      • Fergus Pickering

        Apocalypse now! Wow!

    • jamesdelingpole

      The fact that so fatuous a comment earned five recommends reminds me why I don’t visit Spectator comment very often.
      1. It’s a TV review about a Cold War programme.
      2. I don’t write my headlines. It’s not one I would have given it myself because I agree it’s misleading. However, I don’t think it quite justifies your throwing your toys out of the pram in the way you have. Still less does it justify your rudeness, you petulant child.
      You profess yourself to be in agreement with my climate change ideas. Well, I’m not interested in the support of people as noisome as you. You are hereby banned from reading all my articles, since you clearly don’t understand them.
      Oh – and Mikewaller below is too.

      • David Prentice

        The angry old queen in high dudgeon today. Cup of tea and a lie down, eh James?

      • Tom M

        Seven recommends.
        Sorry if we conflate the headline with the article’s author JP. Seems like a natural thing to do and in this case perfectly sensibly criticised.

        Don’t blame your readers, especially those who support you.

      • mikewaller

        I appreciate that the above is intended partly in fun, but it does put me in mind of C.S Forester’s description of, I think, destroyers, as being ships that are eggshells equipped with sledgehammers, the mission of which is to give without receiving. Can’t help thinking that much the same could be said several of the Speckies contributors and quite a number of its digital followers.

      • Fergus Pickering

        Yeah, we have to put up with the bugger but you don’t. Good stuff as always.

      • Jackthesmilingblack

        James, your castigation of those hypocritical dumb$hits (and I say this with all due respect) that give a thumbs up to an illogical fatuous comment strikes a chord. They don`t necessarily agree with the writer, but simply want to vote against you. But that`s Brits for you.

  • Jackthesmilingblack

    Can Identify with James` lone struggle. May you soon achieve that final vindication. For the last decade or more I`ve been pushing for the UK MSM to use “Myanmar” rather that the former colonial name, “Burma”. And finally BBC have got the message, presumably from HMG.
    You did get the memo, right Spectator?

    • Bonkim

      Burma sounds better and today’s Myanmaris are Buddhist fascists not deserving to be counted within the Family of Man.

      • Jackthesmilingblack

        How do you feel about Zimbabwe, Bonk?
        Kicking Muslim ass, them Buddhists can`t be all bad.
        Too much emotion, not enough logic I venbture to suggest.

        • Bonkim

          Zimabwe is a criminal state – no different from Sri Lanka, and Burma. No matter Muslim, Christian or any other being persecuted – minority persecution knows no colour or sect.

          • Jackthesmilingblack

            BBC World has totally switched to Myanmar in the last month. Didn`t you get the memo?
            So a cultural imperialist like you doubtless still uses Rhodesia, Ceylon, Persia… as country names. How do you feel about the New North American Colonies. You`ve just painted yourself into a corner, Bonk.

          • Bonkim

            It is of no consequence to me – I shall continue to use the old names that I am familiar with.

            Burma or Myanmar – fascist nation – same Ceylon or Sri Lanka – War Criminals. Nothing but contempt for these tin-pot despots pretending to be civilized.

          • Jackthesmilingblack

            Try not to be your brother`s keeper, Bon.
            Several years ago, that old nutter Glenys Kinnock was calling for Lonely Planet publications to be banned/boycotted because of their guidebook covering Myanmar (Burma). But when BBC took a controlling interest, Glenys was kicked into touch.

    • Daniel Maris

      Myanmar has been around for more than a decade on the BBC. They have vaccilated on it I think, with Burma coming to the fore more recently . I don’t mind it being Myanmar as long as they say Paree when they refer to Paris and Roma when they refer to Rome…

      • Jackthesmilingblack

        “Myanmar has been around for more than a decade on the BBC.”
        That`s drivel. See below.

  • Daniel Maris

    Effing hell – you “let’s stick together” schoolboys are effing annoying. It’s so typical of you lot – you really can’t look past the school tie.

    Sandbrook’s programme was an inoffensive but rather pedestrian stroll through the Cold War. No cliche was left challenged by the end. However it was useful to remember how – when the capitalist class were scared of being dispossessed by Communism – they provided quite good benefits for workers in the non-Communist countries. Since Communism has disappeared things have got decidedly worse for workers.

    I would have preferred a much more probing account of the Cold War. One that really looked Imperialism in the face, that looked into the claims of Beria’s son that Beria was not a believer in Communism, that examined how Stalin shocked Communists at the end of the war by talking about reclaiming Russian Imperial land from the Japanese, and maybe how the Kennedys were actually quite imbued with radical socialist ideas on their side.

    • Fergus Pickering

      No. I like the programme he made. Your sounds ballsachingly dull.

  • neilcraig

    I don’t agree about the nobility of the cold war and Deller’s article shows why. His major enemies are British pseudo-intellectuals but the actual war was about pointi8ng nuclear weapons at the USSR and threatening genocide on a scale Hitler could never have matched.
    At no time did the USSR actually want to conquer the world by military means. Their continued occupation of eastern Europe was because the army there was the only counter they had at the time to our Bomb. If the US had been willing to negotiate Russia going back to its own territory with a convincing promise not to start a nuclear holocaust and to provide the sort of financial aid Germany got they would have jumped at it.
    If Dellors had said that the proper reaction to red Deans had been to go through the cathedrals, Whirehall and BBC with submachine guns blazing he would have had a case, because they were the enemy of British freedom, as they still are thou7gh now under the ecofascist flag. But threatening a conventional and nuclear war against the Russians because we couldn’t control our own politics was immoral.

  • NeilMc1

    Unfortunately, the same weakness and appeasement in the West has emboldened islam and will eventually force us to react in the same way to protect liberty and decency.

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