Paul Johnson

Why I believe in God

Paul Johnson, the historian, journalist and author has died at the age of 94. He wrote a column for The Spectator from 1981 to 2009. The piece below is from our 2012 Christmas issue. Rest in peace. My belief in God is not philosophical. It is not rooted in metaphysics or reason. It springs from

School’s out: the true cost of classroom closures

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Schools have been closed for almost three months – what is the true cost of these closures on pupils (1:00)? Plus, have Brexit negotiations started looking up (13:15)? And last, are the statue-topplers of Rhodes Must Fall going about their mission the wrong way (22:45)? With teacher Lucy Kellaway; the IFS’s Paul Johnson; the Spectator’s

The IFS backs Philip Hammond in National Insurance row

Philip Hammond is under pressure over his National Insurance contributions hike. More than a dozen Tory MPs have so far criticised the plans and Downing Street has refused to rule out a rethink. But the Chancellor does still have some allies; the IFS has just thrown its weight behind the plans. Here’s what its director, Paul Johnson,

Spectator Books of the Year: Paul Johnson on Citizen Clem

John Bew’s biography of Clement Attlee, Citizen Clem (Riverrun, £30), is a winner, though it might have been improved by cutting. Attlee was a more interesting man than people supposed. He read an average of four books a week, wrote a good deal of verse and almost made a movie. He was acerbic. The sharpest

A deeply stricken country

When, many years ago, I finished reading Cecil Woodham-Smith’s fine and tragic The Great Hunger, I swore never to read another book about the Irish famine of 1845-9. But they continue to be published, and they do not always agree. Tim Pat Coogan’s The Famine Plot: England’s Role in Ireland’s Greatest Tragedy, whose title says

The Story of the Jews, by Simon Schama – review

The recorder of early Jewish history has two sources of evidence. One is the Bible. Its centrality was brought home to me by David Ben-Gurion when I went to see him in Jerusalem in 1957. He had a big Bible on his desk, and banged it repeatedly with his fist: There, it’s all there, the

Paul Johnson reviews ‘C.S. Lewis: A Life’, by Alister McGrath

C.S. Lewis became a celebrity but remains a mysterious figure. Several biographies have been written, not to much avail, and now Alister McGrath, a professor of historical theology, has compiled a painstaking, systematic and ungrudging examination of his life and works. Despite all the trouble he has taken, his book lacks charm and does not

Reason to believe

My belief in God is not philosophical. It is not rooted in metaphysics or reason. It springs from the heart and the senses. It is practical. Every Sunday I attend the 11 o’clock Mass at the Jesuit church in Farm Street, Mayfair. I have been doing this, intermittently, for decades. For me, Farm Street is

Apologia pro vita sua

Any fair-minded person who has looked into the matter knows that Conrad Black was wrongly convicted. Indeed under English law he would not have been prosecuted at all, I believe, and had he been so, the judge would have thrown the case out on the first day on the grounds that the pre-trial publicity had

A weakness for beauty

James Stourton is not only a successful auctioneer and chairman of Sotheby’s but also an accomplished writer, the author of the delightful Art Collectors of Our Time (2007). He has now produced a book about how the English, and subsequently the British, set about acquiring and presenting works of art. He has been helped by

Fearsome and devilish

This life of the 11th Lord Lovat, executed on Tower Hill in 1747, in the aftermath of the ‘Forty-Five’ Rebellion of Bonnie Prince Charlie, is primarily a work of pietas. Its author is the daughter-in-law of the last Lord Lovat, who landed with the first fighting troops of the D-Day invasion of Europe, striding ahead

Who are the losers now?

Keith Lowe’s horrifying book is a survey of the physical and moral breakdown of Europe in the closing months of the second world war and its immediate aftermath. It is a complex story and he tells it, on the whole, very well. Though the first world war took the lives of more uniformed young men,

The age of achievement

Doctors say it’s all downhill from 45. History suggests otherwise A study in the British Medical Journal suggests that our brains begin to deteriorate from the age of 45. Examining the vocabulary, comprehension and memories of 7,000 45- to 70-year-olds, the researchers found a 3.6 per cent decline in the second half of their forties.