Nick Cohen

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Nick Cohen
Nick Cohen
Cohen at the public launch of the Euston Manifesto in 2006
Nicholas Cohen

1961 (age 57–58)
ResidenceIslington, England

Nicholas Cohen (born 1961)[1] is a British journalist, author and political commentator. He is a columnist for The Observer, a blogger for The Spectator and TV critic for Standpoint magazine. He has written for the London Evening Standard and the New Statesman.

Born in Stockport and raised in Manchester, Cohen studied Philosophy, Politics and Economics at Oxford University before entering journalism.

Early life[edit]

Born in Stockport, and raised in Manchester,[2] Cohen was educated at Altrincham Grammar School for Boys and Hertford College, Oxford, where he read Philosophy, Politics and Economics (PPE).


He began his career at the Sutton Coldfield News, before moving to The Birmingham Post, later becoming a contributor to The Independent and The Observer in 1996, where his first story was on 'a seemingly dreary new feature about zero tolerance of crime in the United States, which offered few opportunities to impress my new employers.' Cohen drew a reputation as the scourge of Tony Blair, the former Prime Minister once stated that 'if I listened to Nick Cohen I would never win an election' and Andrew Adonis, who was at the time a Downing Street Policy Adviser, said that 'no one is better at getting under the Government's skin.'


He was an advocate of the 2003 invasion of Iraq,[3][4] and a critic of the Stop the War Coalition.[5] In 2006, he was a leading signatory to the Euston Manifesto,[6] which proposed "a new political alignment", in which the left opposes terrorism and anti-Americanism. An opponent of what he has termed the "tyrannophile left",[7] Cohen has criticised individuals such as Andrew Murray[5] and George Galloway,[8] while expressing his admiration for the opposition movements in countries such as Belarus.[7] He is an atheist.[9] He called for Western military intervention in the Syrian Civil War.[10] He also supported the NATO-led intervention in Libya to oust former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.[11] In August 2014, Cohen was one of 200 public figures who were signatories to a letter to The Guardian opposing Scottish independence in the run-up to September's referendum on that issue.[12] Cohen criticised Ecuador for granting political asylum to Julian Assange and called Ecuador a "petro-socialist authoritarian state".[13]


Cohen is columnist for The Observer and Standpoint and a regular contributor to The Spectator. He has also written for Time, Independent on Sunday and the London Review of Books. He has written five books: Cruel Britannia: Reports on the Sinister and the Preposterous[14] (1999), a collection of his journalism; Pretty Straight Guys[15] (2003), a highly critical account of the New Labour project; What's Left?[16] (2007), which he describes as the story of how the liberal left of the 20th century came to support the far-right of the 21st;[17] and Waiting for the Etonians: Reports from the Sickbed of Liberal England[18] (2009). His most recent book, You Can't Read this Book,[19] was published by HarperCollins in 2012 and deals with censorship. The Orwell Prize for political writing shortlisted What's Left? in 2008.[20]

What's Left?: How the Left Lost Its Way[edit]

In his book What's Left?: How the Left Lost Its Way (2007), Cohen argues many leftists are blinded by instinctive anti-Americanism, with their opposition to imperialism leading them to defend brutal dictatorships and terrorist movements.[21] He focuses on several foreign policy issues: the Bosnian genocide in the 1990s, the Iraq War in 2003,[21] and the broader war on terror, including Israel's conflicts with Hamas and Hezbollah, to argue that many socialists and liberals have misplaced priorities, condemning American and Israeli policies but ignoring the crimes of autocratic regimes.

In Chapter 1, "an Iraqi Solzhenitsyn", Cohen discusses his friendship with exiled Iraqi dissidents in the 1980s, including trade unionists and Kurdish human rights activists, as well as architect and writer Kanan Makiya.[21] He then argues that the British left, in adopting an anti-war position in 2003, effectively betrayed these dissidents by opposing the overthrow of Saddam Hussein. Criticizing the massive anti-war rallies in the weeks before the invasion, he writes: "On February 15, 2003 a million liberal-minded people marched … to protest the overthrow of a fascist regime."[21]

Chapters 4 and 5, "Academic scribblers and a defunct economist" and "Boys on the edge of the gang"[21] discuss the Left's reaction to Serbian atrocities against Bosnian Muslims in the 1990s. He details how scholars like Noam Chomsky, along with the Revolutionary Communist Party (RCP), denied the existence of concentration camps and the Srebrenica massacre.[21] He also discusses the Living Marxism trial,[21] in which survivors of Trnopolje concentration camp testified against Living Marxism magazine, which had published an article claiming photographs of the camp were fabricated. The far left's defence of Milosevic, Cohen writes, was not a product of Islamophobia but of instinctive anti-Americanism; once the US bombed Serb forces in 1995, the far left set out to claim the intervention had been unjustified: "The ignoble and inevitable terminus of the reasoning of Chomsky and his comrades was denial. It had to be. The Yugoslav equivalents of the gas chambers of Auschwitz were Srebrenica and the pictures of wild-eyed starving men at Trnopolje. Both had to be denied if the project of blackening the belated intervention in the Balkans was to stand a chance of succeeding."[21] Chapter 9, "Kill us, we deserve it", criticises how many leftists reacted to 9/11,[21] arguing the atrocity was motivated by anger at American foreign policy, rather than by the violent ideology of al Qaeda. Cohen argues that, by dismissing the attacks as a response to American misdeeds, leftists failed to acknowledge the threat of al Qaeda's own hateful narrative.

Personal life[edit]

He lives in Islington with his wife and their son.[22]


  • Cohen, Nick (2000). Cruel Britannia: Reports on the Sinister and the Preposterous. Verso Books. ISBN 1-85984-288-7
  • Cohen, Nick (2003). Pretty Straight Guys. paperback edition: Faber and Faber. ISBN 0-571-22004-5
  • Cohen, Nick (2007). What's Left?: How the Left Lost Its Way. Fourth Estate. ISBN 0-00-722969-0
  • Cohen, Nick (2009). Waiting for the Etonians: Reports from the Sickbed of Liberal England. Fourth Estate. ISBN 0-00-730892-2
  • Cohen, Nick (2012). You Can't Read This Book: Censorship in an Age of Freedom. Fourth Estate. ISBN 978-0007308903


  1. ^ "Nick Cohen". Presseurop. Retrieved 13 January 2013.
  2. ^ Nick Cohen Waiting for the Etonians, p. 23
  3. ^ Nick Cohen (14 January 2003). "The Left betrays the Iraqi people by opposing war". The Daily Telegraph. London. Retrieved 28 September 2012.
  4. ^ Nick Cohen (16 February 2003). "The Left isn't listening". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 28 September 2012.
  5. ^ a b Nick Cohen (7 April 2003). "Strange bedfellows". New Statesman. London.
  6. ^ "The Euston Manifesto". 11 September 2001. Retrieved 6 April 2012.
  7. ^ a b Nick Cohen (16 January 2011)."The Pope's unholy alliance with the dictator". The Observer. London.
  8. ^ Nick Cohen (17 April 2005). "Following Mosley's East End footsteps". The Observer. London.
  9. ^ Nick Cohen (12 February 2009). "Hatred is turning me into a Jew". The Jewish Chronicle. London.
  10. ^ Nick Cohen (1 January 2012)."The west has a duty to intervene in Syria". The Guardian. London.
  11. ^ "EU support for Arab rebels is shamefully late". The Guardian. 13 March 2011.
  12. ^ "Celebrities' open letter to Scotland – full text and list of signatories". The Guardian. London. 7 August 2014. Retrieved 26 August 2014.
  13. ^ "Oppressive states such as Ecuador crush the web's power". The Guardian. 6 September 2015.
  14. ^ Cruel Britannia: Reports on the Sinister and the Preposterous – Nick Cohen – Google Books. Retrieved 28 September 2012.
  15. ^ Pretty Straight Guys. Retrieved 28 September 2012.
  16. ^ What's Left?: How the Left Lost Its Way. Retrieved 28 September 2012.
  17. ^ "Biography" Archived 6 September 2006 at the Wayback Machine.,
  18. ^ Cohen, Nick. "Waiting for the Etonians: Reports from the Sickbed of Liberal England by Nick Cohen". Retrieved 28 September 2012.
  19. ^ "You Can't Read This Book : Nick Cohen". HarperCollins. Retrieved 28 September 2012.
  20. ^ "2008 Book Prize Short List", The Orwell Prize
  21. ^ a b c d e f g h i What's Left?: How the Left Lost Its Way. Harper Perennial. 2007. Retrieved 17 December 2013.
  22. ^ 'Law without Order', New Statesman 2004, 'Waiting for the Etonians' p.99

External links[edit]