Frank Johnson

A puzzle still unsolved

Sara Moore would explain a rise to power as astonishing as any in history. A down-and-out house-painter and plebeian agitator becomes master at 43 of a country whose most influential classes expected its rulers to be of some social standing, and not to look absurd. The Marx, Lenin and Stalin, all in one, of his

How did an immigrant to England get into the Home Secretary’s office?

How did an immigrant to England get into the Home Secretary’s office? News that various Nigerian cleaners, working on Home Office premises dealing with immigration, were themselves illegal immigrants was amusing enough. But people are always wandering around Home Office premises whom staff cannot be expected immediately to identify, no matter how hard staff might

Waiting for Gordo, by Margaret Beckett

‘You don’t have to be an intellectual to enjoy Beckett.’ A theatre critic, in this centenary year, wrote on Sunday, ‘You don’t have to be an intellectual to enjoy Beckett.’ Many theatregoers must also have thought that, for maximum enjoyment, it helps to be a pseudo-intellectual. Doubtless plenty of the people at present lauding Beckett

A rather unBritish achievement

Listing page content here Who would have thought that the British, of all unexotic peoples, would turn out to be good at ballet; both at dancing and choreographing it? One minute they could do next to nothing of either. The next the world knew about Britain and ballet was that this damp, dour island off

Hugo Chavez: a man with the perfect name to be a Cameroon MP

Two weeks ago I mentioned here the Venezuelan President, Hugo Chavez; I think he is the international Left’s best hope at present: anti-American without being bin Laden. He causes trouble for the United States, but in the old-fashioned Cold War way for a Latin American: delivering two-hour speeches about gringo imperialism to various mobs, attributing

Be as bad as you like, but be sure to call an inquiry

By the weekend, the Conservatives had achieved the feat of making their own funding become just as much ‘the issue’ as Labour’s. The papers were full of sharp-looking loans which the Tories, as much as Labour, had received from the capitalist class. The Prime Minister and his allies had succeeded in making any scandal appear

The wobbly Anglo-French tandem

In the spring of 1916, the young French officer Charles de Gaulle was captured at Verdun. The French demanded from the British a diversionary offensive to prevent the entire French army from collapsing. Most British troops were not yet trained for such an effort. Nonetheless, they opened an offensive on the Somme. There, the young

View from the engine room

Most readers probably remember the name Guy Liddell, if at all, as the Fifth Man. Or possibly the Fourth, since we remember the first three, Burgess, Maclean and Philby, but cannot remember the next one, since the name kept on changing between Straight, Hollis and others. Liddell’s death in 1958 was largely un- noticed. He

Why Mr Duncan refuses to drop his knickers

Mr Alan Duncan, the Conservative transport spokesman, announcing in the Daily Telegraph his candidacy for the party leadership, was quoted as likening the Tories’ situation to Marks & Spencer’s: ‘…a fantastic brand in good times, but if you have a lousy CEO and lousy knickers you don’t do well, and like M&S we need both

A landslide in the Midi

Dept d’Hérault Our TGV, slipping through La France Profonde from Lille to Montpelier three days before the referendum, would now end its journey earlier, at N

Who is the 16th least influential person in Britain?

The Daily Mirror this week put us all in its debt by publishing a list of the 100 least influential people in Britain. Many of us are tired of those lists of the 100 richest, or most influential, or most powerful. So many of them are people of whom we have never heard. Those responsible