The Spectator

Nigel Dempster RIP

Nigel Dempster RIP
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His critics called him vain, snobbish, jumped-up and vicious - all true - but Nigel Dempster was also generous (he felt uncomfortable if anyone else paid for lunch); charming (displaying exaggerated and affected old-world manners which made women redden with appreciation) and exceptionally funny (with a theatrical sense of timing when recounting a juicy anecdote).

But The Greatest Living Englishman (as Auberon Waugh only half-jokingly dubbed him) was an incredibly complex character - his Daily Mail colleague and contemporary mischief-maker, Peter McKay, believed he was so beset by his "demons" that it was a wonder Dempster could ever sleep.

As one who spent many years in the same office and accompanied him to endless parties I never really knew what made him tick, what motivated him to start, day after day, with a blank sheet upon which a column of seven or eight stories would have to be created. Perhaps the greatest clue was when he once described himself as "society's moral policeman" - a ridiculous position for him to assume, given his own fallibilities - his aggression, bourgeois principles, excessive drinking and his unfaithfulness. But his swaggering sure got him noticed. Not that he seemed to enjoy it much in the end - "Nobody ever thanks you for doing a job like this,' He once complained. “All you ever get are complaints."

Adam Helliker was Nigel Dempster's former deputy on the Mail and Mail on Sunday and is writing a biography of him.