Wankerati and proud of it. My day at the Battle of Ideas.

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I’m taking time out from slipping up and down the Thames on Lady Lucy to attend the Battle of Ideas . By the end of this weekend, I’ll have been to 10 debates on everything from “Are dating apps the end of romance” to discussion on political populism. I even got in a 90 minute nostalgia-fest on Rough Trade records last night.

If this sounds random – it is. The Battle of Ideas is a two day though-fest set in the warren of halls and cinemas in the City’s Barbican complex. Organised by the Institute of Ideas under their forthright leader Claire Fox, this festival has been around a long time. I’m a newbie to both the Institute and the Battle and I’m asking myself – “where have I been?”.

You might think this kind of event is packed out with middle aged academics in search of social purpose. You’d be partly right. But among the 2000+ delegates yesterday were a lot of students, quite a few school kids and a fair number of millennial, busy being happy – despite their “oppressed” status.

I learned a new word ‘Wankerati’ – of which James Delingpole is strangely proud. I met with my colleague Hilary Salt who was chairing and speaking all over the shop, I even got an invite to the Guildhall School’s production of the Crucible by way of after show relaxation.

The wonder of being there

Talking with those who’d flown in to London for the event, I realised just how lucky we are to live in a town- a land – thought be a world thought leader. I got to hear just how fortunate to have debates of this kind (rather than the Trump/Clinton kind). Best of all I found out what it means to spend two days arguing with people (in the nicest possible way)!

One of the themes of day one was the isolating impact of sitting at a computer studying blogs, playing minecraft or watching music on YouTube. It didn’t have to be said (though it was said – rather too often) that being in the company of other people – in real time – is clear vivid and real.

I spent most of the first half of the social media discussion I was insocial media discussion I was in , consulting twitter about Yeovil Town’s precarious defence of a 1-0 lead at Crewe Alexander. The lady next to me (who turned out to work for google) admonished me at the end “couldn’t that have waited”. Of course she was right – I nearly missed James Delingpole speaking to the “wankerati”. I did manage to hear a sociologist from DEMOS say Shitgibbon a number of times.

I suspect Delingpole was close to losing his nerve afterwards. He shouldn’t be.


I spoke with Frederika Roberts (panellist)- afterwards, resilience is a key attribute if you are going to be on twitter.

It was good that the man was as obnoxious in real life – I call that integrity!

“Got myself a walking, talking  – living troll!”

 Paul Lewis from studio to cinema

I also missed, my mate Rob Hammond on the radio, though I did bump into Paul Lewis – who was interviewing him – in the flesh. We ended up talking about Paul’s beard and whether he was morphing into the Ancient Mariner; from Wilkie Collins to Samuel Taylor – as i thought.

Paul was debating  whether the super-rich are heroes or vilains in Cinema 1 but i had to leg it half way through to discuss “the blockchain- what’s all the fuss about”.

Incidentally, if you want to hear David Blake and Rob hammering it out over actuarial assumptions , you only have to press this link.

Join the wankerati

Alternatively, you could come down to the Barbican today, or next year and be the next victim of Delimpole hate crime!

James Delingpole is a writer, author and broadcaster unfortunately best known as the sceptic who helped break the Climategate scandal. But actually, like almost everyone, he’s totally sick of the sterile, dishonest, global warming debate, which in fact is only interesting insofar as it’s a manifestation of the broader culture wars. The Culture Wars do matter very much – which is why James carries on fighting them. But frankly he’d be much happier spending all day shitposting on Twitter, writing the occasional novel, living off the generosity of some billionaire benefactor and foxhunting three times a week. Apparently he’s much nicer in real life than in print.

It takes all types to make a world!




About henry tapper

Founder of the Pension PlayPen,, partner of Stella, father of Olly . I am the Pension Plowman
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