James Forsyth

A year is a long time in politics

The year of the three emperors in Prussia changed world history. In 1888, Wilhelm I died and was succeeded by his more liberal son, Friedrich III. However, Friedrich’s reign was cut short by cancer. He died after just 99 days. He was followed by his 29-year-old son Wilhelm II – better known in this country

A world of our own making

Two very brief excerpts from Radio 4 last week. First, my wife turned on her radio in time to hear an actor in the afternoon play utter the words: ‘But Bob, you’ve been helping young disadvantaged black kids all your life!’ At which point, she turned off. Two days later I switched on my car

How to save the BBC

Towards the end of his life the art critic Hilton Kramer was overheard leaving a cinema with his wife. One of them said to the other: ‘Darling, from now on could we only see films that we’ve seen?’ I know the feeling. I find it almost impossible to watch most of the films that now

The two books that made me a Conservative

From time to time newspapers invite writers to describe the ‘books that changed my life’. The resulting columns too often dazzle the reader with a display of erudition or passion, rather than tell the more mundane truth. The mundane truth is that our dispositions and the courses of our lives tend to be fixed before

The greatest threat to Holy Island since the Vikings

It’s hard to explain how sad it will be if, after Christmas, Defra officials ban fishing on Holy Island, also known as Lindisfarne, in the North Sea, where the Lindisfarne gospels were written and where men and women have fished for hundreds if not thousands of years. For some reason no one can quite work

Xi, Covid and seasonal schadenfreude

’Tis indeed the season to be jolly.  Over the holidays, we can all put our feet up to view a cracking remake of David and Goliath, ‘The Microscopic Nullity vs Winnie-the-Pooh’, in which a giant bear-like bully has been pushing around 1.4 billion people but cannot prevail against an opponent too tiny to be seen by

In defence of hot baths

I admire stout oldies who, even in good times, refuse to put the heating on unless it’s absolutely necessary. They can’t under-stand why we younger, healthier people are fussing over our energy consumption right now. Do we not know there’s a war on? Even the boomers appear to be making a token effort: stoking their

The Spectator's Notes

What Ladybird Books taught me about history

Visiting my family’s house, now inhabited by my sister, the other day, I dug out the heart of my childhood library, my Ladybird Books. They were the only books I bought with my pocket money when I was a small boy. Each short, well-produced hardback cost half a crown (12.5p). I got one old penny

Any other business

The joy of fulfilling my youthful ambition

Half a century ago this week, I left school in Scotland and travelled to Worcester College, Oxford for an interview to read politics, philosophy and economics. I can still picture the trio of scary dons who quizzed me: the grumpy political historian ‘Copper’ LeMay; the deeply obscure philosopher Michael Hinton; and Dick Smethurst, a jovial