Christopher booker

My 2019: mice, Marrakesh and a fond farewell to my dear friend Christopher Booker

Another year over and it wasn’t all bad, you know. Here are some of my personal highlights. Best birthday parties: my dear old friend Liz Hogg’s 90th and my dear older friend’s Jim Lovelock’s 100th. The latter, in the Orangerie at Blenheim Palace, was possibly the most unboring semi-formal social occasion I’ve ever attended. My table included the philosopher John Gray, a dapper Japanese gentleman who had been blown out of his bed by the Hiroshima bomb, and an economist from northern Uganda who’d narrowly escaped the Lord’s Resistance Army massacres. For her PhD, she had delighted in triggering her thesis supervisors by arguing that western aid programmes don’t work. Jim

Saints and sinners | 18 July 2019

I’m beginning to feel like Donald Sutherland in Invasion of the Body Snatchers: almost the last person on Earth who hasn’t been assimilated by the evil, shapeshifting, floral pod creatures from outer space. Losing my comrade Christopher Booker the other day didn’t help. Nor did turning to the once robustly sceptical Sun newspaper this morning to find a spread on how to cut your carbon footprint and recycle. The final ‘reeeee!’ moment (fans of the movie will get the reference) will no doubt come when I next bump into Matt Ridley and he tells me: ‘We really must heed the wise things the Prince of Wales and Greta Thunberg are

How the first world war inspired the EU | 3 July 2019

Christopher Booker has died at the age of 81. In 2014, he wrote in The Spectator about how the first world war inspired the EU, and why its supporters won’t tell you: Among the millions of words which will be expended over the next four years on the first world war, very few will be devoted to explaining one of its greatest legacies of all, the effects of which continue to dominate our politics to this day. One of the best-kept secrets of the European Union is that the core idea which gave rise to it owed its genesis not to the second world war, as is generally supposed, but

A few of my favourite things

It’s that time of year again when I put aside my wonted snark and share with you a few of my brown-paper–packages-tied-up-with-string moments so as to gladden the heart and remind ourselves that life is about more, oh so much more, than Theresa May’s crappy Brexit deal… Best friends: Michael and Sarah Gove. Many harsh words have been said about Michael and Sarah — many of them, at least in Michael’s case, by me. But the point about good friends — even when they betray every-thing you hold dear and sell your country down the river like some back-stabbing traitor — is that you love them, warts and all, and

This is Leveson’s legacy: a great new way for bullies to muzzle the press

One of the fundamental principles of English common law is that you are innocent until proven guilty. And rightly so, for imagine how unfair it would be if any old loon with an axe to grind had only to lodge a trumped-up complaint with the relevant authorities in order to have you punished for no reason whatsoever. Actually, though, this cruel and capricious system exists in Britain. It’s called the Independent Press Standards Organisation (Ipso) and, as might be expected of the bastard offspring of the Leveson inquiry, it’s doing an absolutely first-rate job of empowering bullies and curbing freedom of speech in order to assuage the spite of that

The hottest year on which record?

Did you know that 2014 was the hottest year ever recorded in the entire history of the world? Probably you did because it’s been all over the papers. Not only that but President Obama slipped it into his State of the Union address and the president of the World Bank quoted it at Davos and the singer and rap producer Pharrell Williams is so concerned that he plans to stage a series of Live Earth concerts with Al Gore to emphasise the seriousness of the problem. And these luminaries must know what they’re talking about, right? After all, it’s not just one distinguished scientific institution which has endorsed the ‘2014:

Escape from Omnishambleshire: the case for the old county boundaries

[audioplayer src=”″ title=”James Forsyth, Matthew Engel and Tom Holland discuss counties” startat=785] Listen [/audioplayer]Just over 35 years ago, in August 1979, Christopher Booker wrote a cri de coeur in The Spectator calling for the return of England’s ancient counties and the repeal of the 1972 Local Government Act, under which most of them had been either merged, mauled, mangled or murdered. It drew a large and almost wholly supportive response from figures as distinguished as Professor Richard Cobb (‘Booker has rendered us all a ray of hope’) and Michael Wharton, a.k.a. the Telegraph columnist Peter Simple: ‘What strange beings, in what strange offices, on what strange drawing-boards, worked out these

Spectator letters: EDF answers Peter Atherton, Christopher Booker on wildlife

Nuclear reaction Sir: Peter Atherton questions whether a new nuclear power station at Hinkley Point is a fair deal for the UK (‘Nuclear fallout’, 22 February). However, his conclusion is based on some unvalidated assumptions. In May 2012, he wrote that EDF would need £166 for each megawatt hour of electricity produced to get a ‘realistic return’. Now he says that an agreed price of £92.50 offers rewards which are ‘eyewateringly attractive’. Neither claim is justified. It is a balanced deal which will unlock £16 billion of investment at the lowest possible cost for consumers. He claims returns to investors of up to 35 per cent. As reported last October,

Spectator letters: Wind and bias, and the Scots at war

Caution over wind Sir: While the broadcast media have assailed their audiences with simplistic yet blanket coverage of the floods crisis, it behoves Christopher Booker to provide a long overdue critical perspective of the Environmental Agency (‘Sunk!’, 15 February). The two main tenets of his article have been ignored by most, if not all, other journalists. With something approaching delicious irony we are then treated in the same issue to a self-serving missive from the Renewables UK boxwallah Jennifer Weber (Letters, 15 February). Replete (as one would expect from an organisation that previously went under the name British Wind Energy Association) with dismissive assertions and bogus statistics, Weber’s letter exemplifies the

An incompetent response to the floods could lose Cameron the election

David Cameron can’t win the next election in the next three weeks, but he can lose it. If the floods see the government forfeit its reputation for competence, then the coalition parties won’t get the credit they need for the economic recovery. As John Major’s experience after Black Wednesday showed, once a government is no longer seen as competent, it doesn’t receive any of the credit for the good things that happen on its watch. Number 10 is acutely conscious of this and, as I say in the column this week, the whole building from the Prime Minister to the Policy Unit is now working on the government’s response. One