Nigel Lawson (Lord Lawson of Blaby) begat

Dominic (Editor, Sunday Telegraph) and

Nigella (columnist); Nigella married John Diamond (columnist and broadcaster)

Lord Lawson is the founder of Britain's most prominent media family: former City editor of the Daily Telegraph and editor of the Spectator, he went on to become Chancellor of the Exchequer and now crowns his career by advertising M&G financial services on television (telly modelling is becoming a habit among ex-chancellors: Lord Healey did it first).

In his Thatcher-period prime, curly black locks glistening, vast of girth, beaming complacently as he presided over his Boom, Lawson looked every inch the patriarch, an Everest of a father. From the scholarship he won at Westminster to go to Christ Church, Oxford, and the First in PPE he gained there, his career was drenched in glory. And having shone at the Financial Times, the Telegraph, the BBC, the Times and the Spectator, he got clean away from Fleet Street, becoming one of the three or four most important ministers around Thatcher for most of her years in office.

Dominic responded to the challenge gamely, shinning up the same tree and doing almost as well: same school (after a bad experience at Eton), same Oxford college (exhibition, not scholarship); then the Financial Times (he was energy correspondent at the same time Dad was Secretary of State for Energy), editor of the Spectator; then finally outdoing Nigel by becoming editor of a national broadsheet. When he was on the threshold of that final promotion, Henry Porter wrote of him, "He is furiously ambitious - so ambitious that you can taste it."

At the Sunday Telegraph he has continued to cultivate a reputation for abrasiveness, arrogance and cheek. He is a loyal friend and a good hater.

His last move in his long war with the veteran columnist Sir Peregrine Worsthorne was to sack him with on one week's notice; Worsthorne has been with the Telegraph papers for 44 years.

Nigella did not find the challenge of an over-achieving father quite so congenial. "In my experience," she wrote in the Times earlier this month, "in ... high-achieving families ... the ambition to succeed academically at all costs is more often than not the sign of the unhappy, unconfident child who feels the need to earn parental approval."

What misery those guarded words bespeak! Yet Nigella has not done too badly since being sprung on the irritated staff of the Sunday Times by editor Andrew Neil 12 years ago. She made a solid reputation for herself as a restaurant critic, then became a general columnist on the Standard, where her picture byline (she is a stunning beauty, words not usually applied to her brother) seems to grow larger by the week. Her marriage to super-hack John Diamond cemented her position in the centre of media London.

And yet they are not happy. As both Nigella and John write the sort of columns which are the literary equivalent of upending a laundry basket and rummaging through the underwear, we can say this with confidence. "I was lying awake last night, three in the morning, temples tight, eyes shot, neck knotted," Diamond confessed on 1 February: he can't sleep, and can't lull himself with a book because the wife can't stand him having a light on.

The following week found Diamond moping around London Zoo "on a bitter Sunday lunchtime at winter's fag end", sneering at the divorced dads, consumed with shame at the thought that they were mistaking him for one of them, when the only reason he is there is because Nigella has the 'flu.

Attentive readers would have seen it coming. Why, only three days before in a piece for the Times entitled "I'm too tired to talk to Al Pacino", Nigella wrote. "I own up, I'm tired, always ... I'm so tired ... after the British Film Awards on Saturday night, I was too tired to stay ... I try not to moan, publicly at any rate. I do know I'm not mining coal ... My tiredness ... has blossomed into a neurosis in its own right ... Like a lot of permanently exhausted people, I take on too much out of a sense of shame at my own lassitude...."

What journalist today would think of going into politics? Not Dominic Lawson for one, who when editor of the Spectator pointed out that he had far more influence than most MPs. But Nigella has one sound reason for following Daddy into the House: it would provide an excellent excuse for not having to write any more tosh like this.

Peter Popham

Comments