Andrew Gimson

This Kohlian abomination

In the year when East and West Germany were being reunited Günter Grass felt he must start keeping a diary. He was sure what was taking place was a dreadful mistake: At night I often toss and turn, haunted by images of a Germany that can no longer be mine. This Kohlian abomination: egomaniacal, bombastic,

Conduct becoming

Every so often a programme appears which can be recommended even to people who hate television. Parade’s End (Friday, BBC1) is such a work. The awkward — one might think impossible — problem of shortening Ford Madox Ford’s 800-page masterpiece into five hours of television, without violating the spirit of the book or seeming to

Prophet of doom

Enoch Powell was defeated. He condemned Edward Heath for being the first prime minister in 300 years who entertained, let alone executed, the intention of depriving Parliament of its sole right to make the laws and impose the taxes of this country. But Heath was victorious: in 1972 he led the United Kingdom into the

No time for bogus pieties

This is the shortest political memoir I have ever been sent for review. It is a marvel of concision: 27 years in the Commons set down in only 168 pages. Can any Spectator reader point to a briefer example of the genre? Yet I confess that I opened Confessions of a Eurosceptic with a degree

Class system

When my wife said she thought we should educate our three children at comprehensive schools, it was with a degree of trepidation that I went along with her. I was thankful to save the several hundred thousand pounds it would probably have cost to send them to fee-paying schools, money which I at least showed

A safe pair of hands | 7 April 2012

Michael Spicer is too honourable to be a brilliant diarist. As he himself says, ‘I eschew tittle-tattle or small talk.’ These diaries cannot be read, as Chips Channon’s or Alan Clark’s can be, because they offer a joyful cascade of indiscretions. When Clark dies in September 1999, Spicer writes of his fellow Tory MP: ‘We

Anglo-Saxon divide

Philip Oltermann has set himself an almost impossibly ambitious task. In 1996, when he was 15 years old, he moved from Hamburg to London, so he has close experience of both England and Germany. In due course it occurred to him, as a man of wide cultural sympathies, that he ought to be in a

Fear and loathing in Baden-Wurttemberg

Stuttgart Everyone is frightened of the euro. So said the sweet old lady who runs the small hotel where I am staying. She and her husband are Germans who came to Stuttgart from Slovenia 50 years ago. They have worked ‘day and night’ to build up their modest fortune, and now they fear their savings

The rival

Ken Livingstone’s attacks on Boris Johnson seem to conceal admiration How does Ken Livingstone think he is going to beat Boris Johnson in the election for Mayor of London to be held next May? When I put this question to Ken, he launched into an almost admiring denunciation of his opponent: ‘He’s Britain’s Berlusconi. He

The Conservatives: A History by Robin Harris

If David Cameron and his friends wish to know why they and their policies are so despised by some Conservatives of high intellect and principle, they should read Robin Harris. His book is a marvel of concision, lucidity and scholarship, with penetrating things to say about Peel, Disraeli, Salisbury, Baldwin, Churchill, Macmillan and the rest.

Work in progress

At long last Johnson Studies is starting to take off. It had always been my hope, after publishing my own slim volume on Boris Johnson, that the baton could be passed to younger and fitter hands who would place the subject on a proper academic footing. Scholars from Balliol to Bangor would churn out papers

Professional jealousy

 Few words now carry such tiresome connotations as ‘Eton’. Although the Prime Minister and some of his closest colleagues are Etonians, the British press considers it a dreadful disadvantage to have been educated there, especially if one wants to go into politics. This prejudice has seldom been challenged since Iain Macleod’s ‘magic circle’ article appeared

White mischief

Boris Johnson’s enemies are hoping for a final snow-down London woke to snow and people wondered whether this time Boris Johnson would show true grit. His enemies reckon there’s no business like snow business for catching him out. They trust he will be found wanting, as he was by the unexpected snowfall in February 2009,

The Tories’ history man

Andrew Gimson talks to Alistair Cooke, the godfather of the Cameroons, about Dave’s temperament and Hilton’s penchant for ponchos As David Cameron solicits approval for deep spending cuts, he has assured the public: ‘We’re not doing this because we want to, we’re not driven by some theory or ideology.’ Cameron remains very anxious not to

The property bubble is waiting to burst

As a general rule, it is a mistake to go through life thinking about how much one’s house is worth. In the summer of 2002, when I bought my ‘lovely end of terrace period cottage providing compact character accommodation’ in Gospel Oak, London NW5, I assumed I had managed, with unerring incompetence, to buy at

The political education of David Cameron

Eighty years ago this week, the institution in which David Cameron and his closest lieutenants learned their trade was born. The press is fascinated by his membership of the Bullingdon Club, but Cameron owes a thousand times more to the apprenticeship he served in the Conservative Research Department. How dreary those words sound, and how

Cameron is not an enigma, he’s an Anglican

The reason why so many people cannot fathom David Cameron is that he is an Anglican. This gives him considerable (some would say contemptible) flexibility as far as dogma is concerned, while making him intent on upholding a strict (if unstated) code of behaviour. No wonder the Tory leader infuriates those in his own party

Boris for Prime Minister?

Boris Johnson’s first year as Mayor of London has proved something of a shock, especially to his own side. His enemies, including the Tory parliamentary leadership as well as the sort of people who toil on the Guardian’s comment pages, find they have underestimated him. It suited them to write him off as a clown

Carry on, cardiologist

On a Friday morning earlier this year I kept an appointment with Dr Mark Hamilton, a consultant physician and gastroenterologist at the Royal Free Hospital in Hampstead, to ask him about a bowel complaint. I was in two minds about whether my symptoms were significant enough to justify taking up Dr Hamilton’s time. It seemed

King of the charm offensive

There could scarcely be a more delightful way to remind oneself of the British and French statesmen who created the Entente Cordiale, signed on 8 April 1904, than to read this book. Ian Dunlop’s method of composition is unfashionable. It consists largely of the skilful selection of amusing passages from diplomatic memoirs and other works