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Paul Bede Johnson (born 2 November 1928) is an English journalist, popular historian, speechwriter, and author. Although associated with the political left in his early career, he is now a conservative popular historian.
Johnson adopted a left-wing political outlook during this period as he witnessed in May 1952 the police response to a riot in Paris (Communists were rioting over the visit of American general, Matthew Ridgway, who commanded the US Eighth Army during the Korean War; he had just been appointed NATO's Supreme Commander in Europe), the "ferocity [of which] I would not have believed had I not seen it with my own eyes." Then he served as the New Statesmans Paris correspondent. For a time, he was a convinced Bevanite and an associate of Aneurin Bevan himself. Moving back to London in 1955, Johnson joined the Statesmans staff.
Some of Johnson's writing already showed signs of iconoclasm. His first book, about the Suez War, appeared in 1957. An anonymous commentator in The Spectator wrote that "one of his [Johnson's] remarks about Mr Gaitskell is quite as damaging as anything he has to say about Sir Anthony Eden", but the Labour Party's opposition to the Suez intervention led Johnson to assert "the old militant spirit of the party was back". The following year he attacked Ian Fleming's James Bond novel Dr No, and in 1964 he warned of "The Menace of Beatlism" in an article contemporarily described as being "rather exaggerated" by Henry Fairlie in The Spectator.
Johnson was successively lead writer, deputy editor and editor of the New Statesman magazine from 1965 to 1970. He was found suspect for his attendances at the soirées of Lady Antonia Fraser, then married to a Conservative MP. There was some resistance to his appointment as New Statesman editor, not least from the writer Leonard Woolf, who objected to a Catholic filling the position, and Johnson was placed on six months' probation.
Statesmen and Nations (1971), the anthology of his Statesman articles, contains numerous reviews of biographies of Conservative politicians and an openness to continental Europe; in one article Johnson took a positive view of events of May 1968 in Paris, an article which at the time of first publication led Colin Welch in The Spectator to accuse Johnson of possessing "a taste for violence". According to this book, Johnson filed 54 overseas reports during his Statesman years.
From 1981 to 2009, Johnson wrote a column for The Spectator; initially focusing on media developments, it subsequently acquired the title "And Another Thing". In his journalism, Johnson generally deals with issues and events which he sees as indicative of a general social decline, whether in art, education, religious observance or personal conduct. He has continued to contribute to the magazine, less frequently than before. During the same period he contributed a column to the Daily Mail until 2001. In a Daily Telegraph interview in November 2003, he criticised the Mail for having a pernicious impact: "I came to the conclusion that that kind of journalism is bad for the country, bad for society, bad for the newspaper".
Johnson was active in the campaign, led by Norman Lamont, to prevent Pinochet's extradition to Spain after Pinochet's arrest in London. "There have been countless attempts to link him to human rights atrocities, but nobody has provided a single scrap of evidence," Johnson was reported as saying in 1999. In Heroes (2008), Johnson returned to his longstanding claim that criticism of Pinochet's dictatorship on human rights grounds came from "the Soviet Union, whose propaganda machine successfully demonised [Pinochet] among the chattering classes all over the world. It was the last triumph of the KGB before it vanished into history's dustbin."
He has described France as "a republic run by bureaucratic and party elites, whose errors are dealt with by strikes, street riots and blockades" rather than a democracy.
Johnson is a Eurosceptic who played a prominent role in the "No" campaign during the 1975 referendum on whether Britain should stay in the EC. In 2010 Johnson noted that "you can't have a common currency without a common financial policy, and you can't have that without a common government. The three things are interconnected. So this [European integration] was entirely foreseeable. Not much careful thought and judgment goes into the EU. It's entirely run by bureaucrats."
Paul Johnson has been married since 1958 to the psychotherapist and former Labour Party parliamentary candidate Marigold Hunt, daughter of Dr. Thomas Hunt, physician to Winston Churchill, Clement Attlee, and Anthony Eden. They have three sons and a daughter: the journalist Daniel Johnson, a freelance writer, editor of Standpoint magazine, and previously associate editor of The Daily Telegraph; Luke Johnson, businessman and former chairman of Channel 4 Television; Sophie Johnson-Clark, an independent television executive; and Cosmo Johnson, playwright. Paul and Marigold Johnson have ten grandchildren. Marigold Johnson's sister, Sarah, an art historian, married the journalist, former diplomat and politician George Walden; their daughter, Celia Walden, is the wife of television presenter and former newspaper editor Piers Morgan.
In 1998 it was revealed Johnson had an affair lasting eleven years with the writer Gloria Stewart. Stewart went public with the affair to the newspapers after what she saw as Johnson's hypocrisy over his views on morality, religion and family values.
Johnson's books are listed by subject or type. The country of publication is the UK, unless stated otherwise.
Anthologies, polemics and contemporary history
Johnson, Paul Bede; Abel-Smith, Brian; Calder, Nigel; Hoggart, Richard; Jones, Mervyn; Marris, Peter; Murdoch, Iris; Shore, Peter; Thomas, Hugh; Townsend, Peter; Williams, Raymond (1957), "A Sense of Outrage", in Mackenzie, Norman Ian (ed.), Conviction, London: MacGibbon & Kee, pp. 202-17.
Johnson, Paul Bede (1957), The Suez War, London: MacGibbon & Kee.
——— (1958), Journey into Chaos, Western Policy in the Middle East, London: MacGibbon & Kee.
——— (1971), Statesmen and Nations, Sidgwick & Jackson. An anthology of New Statesman articles from the 1950s and 1960s.
——— (1977), Enemies of Society, Weidenfeld & Nicolson.
——— (1980), The Recovery of Freedom, Mainstream, Basil Blackwell.
——— (1981), Davis, William (ed.), The Best of Everything - Animals, Business, Drink, Travel, Food, Literature, Medicine, Playtime, Politics, Theatre, Young World, Art, Communications, Law and Crime, Films, Pop Culture, Sport, Women's Fashion, Men's Fashion, Music, Military - contributor.
——— (1985), The Pick of Paul Johnson, Harrap.
——— (1991) , The Oxford Book of Political Anecdotes (2nd ed.), Oxford University Press.
——— (1988), Intellectuals, Weidenfeld & Nicolson.
1994 The Quotable Paul Johnson A Topical Compilation of His Wit, Wisdom and Satire (George J. Marlin, Richard P. Rabatin, Heather Higgins (Editors)) 1994 Noonday Press/1996 Atlantic Books (US)
1994 Wake Up Britain - a Latter-day Pamphlet Weidenfeld & Nicolson
1996 To Hell with Picasso & Other Essays: Selected Pieces from "The Spectator" Weidenfeld & Nicolson
1993 Gerald Laing : Portraits Thomas Gibson Fine Art Ltd (with Gerald Laing & David Mellor MP)
1999 Julian Barrow's London Fine Art Society
2003 Art: A New History Weidenfeld & Nicolson
1972 The Offshore Islanders: England's People from Roman Occupation to the Present/to European Entry [1985 ed as History of the English People; 1998 ed as Offshore Islanders: A History of the English People] Weidenfeld & Nicolson
1974 Elizabeth I: a Study in Power and Intellect Weidenfeld & Nicolson
1974 The Life and Times of Edward III Weidenfeld & Nicolson
1976 Civilizations of the Holy Land Weidenfeld & Nicolson
1977 Education of an Establishment in The World of the Public School (pp. 13-28), edited by George MacDonald Fraser, Weidenfeld & Nicolson /St Martins Press (US edition)
1978 The Civilization of Ancient Egypt Weidenfeld & Nicolson
1981 Ireland: A Concise History from the Twelfth Century to the Present Day [as ...Land of Troubles 1980 Eyre Methuen] Granada
1983 A History of the Modern World from 1917 to the 1980s Weidenfeld & Nicolson - Paperback
^Foreman, Jonathan (10 December 2009), "Winston Churchill, Distilled", The Wall Street Journal, p. D6.
Robin Blackburn "A Fabian at the End of His Tether" (New Statesman 14 December 1979, reprinted in Stephen Howe (ed) Lines of Dissent: Writings from the New Statesman 1913-88 London: Verso, 1988, pp284-96
Christopher Booker The Seventies: Portrait of a Decade Allen Lane, 1980 (chapters: "Paul Johnson: The Convert Who Went over the Top" pp238-44 and "Facing the Catastrophe" pp304-7