Paul Johnson, friend of Israel and the Jews, dies at 94

Starting as a Labour Party supporter, he moved to the right and eventually was an admirer of Margaret Thatcher


Paul Johnson, the distinguished historian and journalist who was a loyal supporter of Israel and the Jewish people, has died at the age of 94.

His book A History of the Jews, published in 1987, was an international best-seller.

Mr Johnson was a Roman Catholic who published many other works of history, including A History of the Modern World (1983), another global best-seller, and A History of the American People (1997).

Educated at the Catholic public school Stonyhurst and Magdalen College, Oxford, he became a journalist after National Service. He joined the left-wing weekly the New Statesman and became editor in 1965. Under his leadership it achieved its highest-ever circulation of 94,000.

He left in 1970 and became a prolific columnist and commentator for many newspapers and magazines, notably the Daily Mail and the Spectator, as well as embarking on his career as an historian.

Having started out as a keen supporter of the Labour Party, he gradually moved rightwards, largely through his opposition to the power and influence of the trades unions in the 1970s, but his support for Israel never wavered.

Eventually he became one of Mrs Margaret Thatcher’s most fervent supporters, advising her as Prime Minister and helping her with some of her speeches.

He was appointed CBE in 2016. A fearless and combative personality, he was deeply admired in the United States and awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President George W Bush in 2006.

Mr Johnson had been ill for some years. He is survived by his wife Marigold and four children, including the journalist Daniel Johnson and Luke Johnson, former chairman of Channel 4.

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