Ed West

Ed West

Ed West writes the Wrong Side of History substack

How bad will a Labour government be?

I’m old enough to remember the sense of optimism, hope and promise felt when Tony Blair was elected back in 1997; not by me, obviously, but I could at least appreciate that other people felt that ‘things can only get better’. Whether you think they did or not, Blair transformed the country in his own

The plot to erase the Anglo-Saxons

Sea-thieves messenger, deliver back in reply,tell your people this spiteful message,that here stands undaunted an Earl with his band of menwho will defend our homeland,Aethelred’s country, the lord of mypeople and land. Fall shall youheathen in battle! To us it would be shamefulthat you with our coin to your ships should get awaywithout a fight,

Britain isn’t a free country

I’m old enough to remember when ‘it’s a free country’ was a phrase people used in conversation. It feels like it was the kind of thing they said regularly, either when someone asked permission to do something or when commenting on some particular eccentricity. Can I sit there? It’s a free country. You want to

Peter Hitchens, Lionel Shriver, Mary Wellesley and more

31 min listen

On this week’s episode, Peter Hitchens remembers a Christmas in Bucharest, Lionel Shriver says people don’t care about Ukraine anymore, Ed West wonders if you can ‘meme’ yourself into believing in God, Mary Wellesley reads her ‘Notes On’ St Nicholas, and Melissa Kite says she had to move to Ireland to escape the EU‘s rules.

The New Theists

One of Professor Richard Dawkins’s most influential ideas was the concept of the ‘meme’, which he coined in The Selfish Gene. A meme is an idea or form of behaviour that spreads by imitation from person to person. Memes can be beneficial or harmful to the individual and the wider community. The most successful have

The Tories aren’t being honest about foreign marriages

Western liberalism was built on the principle of marrying out. Our beliefs about the freedom of the individual ultimately stem from the Catholic Church’s ban on cousin marriage, which helped create a worldview that was open, trusting and opposed to both clannishness and xenophobia. The medieval Church’s insistence that marriage be consensual was revolutionary and strange;

Can post-liberalism save the Conservative party?

‘We – conservatives of left and right, all those who believe in the old way – need to win this battle, to restore the conservative normative as the proper basis for our culture and society, with a restored “covenantal” understanding at the heart of families, neighbourhoods and the nation.’ So the MP Danny Kruger writes

What Horrible Histories gets wrong about history

I love the BBC’s Horrible Histories; in fact, I’m on record as saying it’s among the best things about being a parent. The show, which in its first five seasons starred the six actors who went on to make Ghosts, has engaged children and adults alike with a dry wit that owes much to Blackadder. Go and have

National service is a bad idea that won’t go away

My father did National Service and was lucky enough to end up in Trieste, which was probably the best posting around. He was assigned to the intelligence corps, his job to track down former members of the Croatian Ustaše, a pro-Nazi collaboration regime known for bloodthirstiness so extreme that even visiting Gestapo were shocked by their inhumanity.

The rise of the French Intifada

Seven years ago on Friday, a 31-year-old man got behind the wheel of a 19-tonne lorry and purposefully drove it down Nice’s Promenade des Anglais at speed as crowds celebrated France’s Bastille Day. Eighty-six people were killed, including 14 children, the image of an infant’s corpse wrapped in foil beside a toy shocking a country

The long defeat of the French language

After Brexit, it was all going to be so different for Europe. Following years of growing dominance by the English-speaking world, at last the great European project could return to the language of its founders. Well, that’s what the French believed. For many officials in Paris, Britain’s exit was seen as an opportunity to raise the

The Windrush myth

Seventy-five years ago today perhaps the most famous ship in British history arrived at this island. A new nation was born, and with it, a new founding myth. The story begins in the last few weeks of the second world war, when British troops advancing on Kiel in the very north of Germany captured a

Where is the moral outrage about Britain’s grooming gangs?

Tabloid journalism begins with W.T. Stead, who as editor of the Pall Mall Gazette in the 1880s brought news and scandal to the newly literate masses, transforming public culture and politics with it. The son of a Congregationalist preacher, Stead grew up in a strict religious household in Northumberland, in a home where theatre was ‘the Devil’s

What the experts got wrong about migration

On New Year’s Day, 2014, during those sunny, innocent times of Cameron, Clegg and Miliband, Labour MP Keith Vaz headed down to Luton Airport to greet new arrivals coming off the planes. There he met a rather bemused young Romanian man, Victor Spirescu, who had no idea he was going to become the face of migration on

Why the Tories are more diverse than Labour

‘The candidates fighting to replace Boris Johnson as Conservative party leader and Britain’s prime minister reflect the country’s rich diversity,’ the England-hating New York Times put it earlier this week, through gritted teeth, ‘with six having recent ancestors hailing from outside Europe.’  It might seem initially curious that it’s the Conservatives who are so ethnically diverse. In

Boris Johnson’s classic fall

Farewell then, Boris Johnson, and to paraphrase another leader who had rather lost the support of his front bench, what an artist dies with him. Johnson was the most amusing prime minister in living memory, but also the most historically aware. The first British political leader since Harold MacMillan to read classics, he was hugely

What is the point of Boris Johnson?

However badly Boris Johnson’s career ends, it will surely be a better finale than that of his great-grandfather, the Turkish journalist, editor and liberal politician Ali Kemal. Almost exactly a century ago, following the trauma of defeat and the end of the Ottoman Empire, Kemal was attacked by a mob of soldiers, hanged from a

Why the Vikings are winning the culture war

The young woman’s screams were drowned out by the sound of drums. No older than her teens, she had been drugged and raped before being tied down and strangled by four men, while repeatedly stabbed by the older woman in charge. This was the scene in perhaps the most famous accounts of life among the

The phoney war

39 min listen

In this week’s episode: Will Putin invade Ukraine? For this week’s cover story, Owen Matthews argues that if Putin is going to invade Ukraine, he will do so later rather than sooner. He joins the podcast, along with Julius Strauss who reports on the mood in Odessa for this week’s magazine. (00:42) Also this week: