2011

26/12/11 - Polite old stick
The Telegraph

SIR – May I offer two curiously contrasting sociological observations based on my experiences as a (temporarily) disabled person?

On packed public transport in London the sight of a stick causes people of all ages and both sexes to leap to their feet and offer their seats.

But in the street they rush past the quavering stick, pushing through even small spaces. The season of goodwill makes no difference. The words “excuse me” seem to have vanished from the language.

Why does politeness flourish in one arena and surliness in another?
Lord Lexden
London SW1

21/12/11 - Abingdon MP
The Times

Sir, It is unlikely that the kind of speech which your correspondent (letter, Dec 17) attributes to his great-grandfather, whom he describes as Conservative MP for Abingdon elected in 1876, was ever made — by anyone. An MP at that time would hardly have told his constituents that he intended to neglect them for a mere five years. Before the 1911 Parliament Act, the law allowed seven years to elapse between elections.

Furthermore, no Conservative was in a position to make any such boast in Abingdon, one of some 60 corrupt constituencies that still disfigured the electoral system, at the general election held in 1874 (not 1876). The 795 electors returned a Liberal MP, John Creemer Clarke of the piquantly named Waste Court, Abingdon, with a majority of 106 over the Conservative candidate, the Hon Charles Lindsay. Clarke was re-elected six years later.
Lord Lexden
House of Lords 

5/12/11 - Fate of voyageurs
The Times

Sir, Robin Morgan (letter, Nov.30) takes me to task for failing to appreciate the fine qualities of the 386 Canadian boatmen, known as voyageurs, who “performed sterling service” in assisting the Gordon relief expedition of 1884-85, commanded by Lord Wolseley, on its journey down the Nile.

According to Adrian Preston, who edited Wolseley’s journal for publication in 1967, “the boatmen bore no resemblance to the original voyageurs (who had in fact died out) and were for the most part inexperienced lumbermen, lawyers and businessmen”. In his biography of Wolseley (1964), Joseph Lehmann writes that “some were worse than useless, capsizing and smashing boats on the rocks . . . Many of the names alone, such as “Patrick Murphy, Limerick”, somehow lacked the flavour of birchbark shooting rapids in the wilderness . . . [When they reached the Sudan] the voyageurs, though Wolseley wanted them to stay on, unanimously voted to go home. It was reported they were in a drunken state all the way across the Atlantic”.
Lord Lexden
House of Lords

5/12/11 - Cameron’s career
The Telegraph

SIR – David Cameron did not get his first job at the Conservative Research Department as the result of “an intervention from someone based at Buckingham Palace” (Mandrake, December 2).

I took a telephone call from the Palace in June 1988, when David Cameron came for an interview. The voice on the line told me that the Conservative Party was very lucky that such an outstanding young man wanted to come and work for it.

My interlocutor seemed far from happy at the prospect. This was, of course, at a time in Margaret Thatcher’s premiership when she had outspoken critics in Royal circles.If the aim was to help the candidate, the call was counterproductive. He had to overcome the suspicion and hostility that this curious intervention created.

Only a singularly impressive performance in interview could remove them – and that he achieved.
Lord Lexden
Deputy Director, Conservative Research Department 1985-97
London SW1

30/11/11 - Thomas Cook and Gordon’s demise
The Times

Sir, Thomas Cook was not “asked by the British Government to organise an expedition to rescue General Gordon” in 1884 (“The traveller’s friend,” Nov 23). A large flotilla of its steamboats, which took tourists down the Nile, was hired by the British Army at a cost of some £120,000 to transport the Gordon relief expedition as far as Wady Halfa, more than 600 miles from Khartoum. The entire Cook family travelled with the expeditionary force as guests of the commander-in-chief, Lord Wolseley.

Because of the incompetence of Sir Redvers Buller, the chief of staff, the steamers ran out of coal en route and a fortnight was lost — the first of a number of delays which cost Gordon his life. Problems increased after the force had been transferred to special boats capable of riding the perilous rapids beyond Wady. In place of the efficient Cook operation, Gordon’s rescuers found themselves at the mercy of crews composed largely of Canadian lumberjacks and businessmen commanded by a Toronto alderman. No imperial venture was doomed to more certain failure.
Lord Lexden
House of Lords 

18/11/11 - Why Lady Fellowes will never be Lady Kitchener
The Telegraph

SIR – Thomas Woodcock, Garter King of Arms, provides a fuller account than I gave of the special remainder which kept the first Earl Kitchener of Khartoum’s title in existence after his death without an heir (Letters, November 7). In 1902, when Kitchener was made a viscount, a special remainder provided that the title should pass “in default of male issue to his daughters and their male issue”.

But in practice it was inconceivable that there would be even one Countess Kitchener in her own right. In 1902, the unmarried Kitchener was 52. Instead of taking a wife, he concentrated his attention on a favourite aide-de-camp, who, in the discreet words of his biographer, Sir Philip Magnus, “established himself so securely in the affections of his chief that Kitchener never looked elsewhere, and their intimate association was happy and fortunate”.

That meant that only the second part of the special remainder, which made provision for Kitchener’s brothers and their male heirs, had relevance or meaning.

The intriguing question in all this is why Kitchener secured rights of succession for daughters who would never exist. But what is not in any doubt is that his great-great niece, Lady Fellowes, is explicitly barred from becoming a countess.

Could not some version of this bizarre little story be woven into the next series of Downton Abbey?
Lord Lexden
London SW1

15/11/11 - Silent majority
The Times

Sir, Battersea’s respectful observance of two minutes’ silence on Remembrance Day before the Second World War (letter, Nov 11) was not emulated everywhere. Cuthbert Headlam, the Tory MP for Barnard Castle in Co Durham, noted in his diary as early as November 11, 1924, that at his local ceremony “the silence was not maintained . . . [as a result of] an engine puffing away in the near distance and a cart moving almost into our little crowd. I wonder how long the custom of preserving silence will continue,” he asked himself. “Perhaps not even throughout our generation.”
Lord Lexden 
House of Lords 

1/11/11 - Inheriting peerages
The Times

Sir, Now that it has been decided to abolish male primogeniture in the monarchy (leading article, Oct 29), should the first-born also succeed to hereditary peerages?

When the question came up in the Lords recently, Lord Strathclyde said, "There is no simple read-across to succession to the hereditary peerage, which is infinitely more complicated and affects many more families."

Those who favour equality between the sexes are unlikely to be discouraged from pressing for change by the complex practical problems that change would cause, particularly if peerages held by members of the Royal Family are affected by the new arrangements for royal succession.
Lord Lexden 
House of Lords

1/11/11 - Downton ghost
The Telegraph

SIR - Lord Fellowes rails against the "outrageous" restriction of most hereditary peerages to men (despite proposals to change the law on royal succession) which will prevent his wife succeeding her uncle, the 3rd Earl Kitchener of Khartoum (report, October 21).

Even if women were to be given rights of succession, Lady Fellowes still ought not to benefit. The imperial hero on whom the earldom was conferred in 1914 had no time for women. When he died at sea as a result of enemy action in 1916, a favourite aide-de-camp was at his side. Without wife or heir, he was granted an entitlement to keep the title in existence after his death. It specified that only male heirs of his brothers would be eligible to inherit the earldom.

It was the wish of one of our most famous soldiers that there should never be a Countess Kitchener of Khartoum in her own right. That wish should be respected. The misogynist's angry ghost could cause trouble rattling his chains around Downton Abbey.
Lord Lexden 
London SW1

25/10/11 - Wranglings and royal succession
The Times

Sir, The separation of the crown of Hanover from that of the United Kingdom on the accession of Queen Victoria in 1837 (report, Oct 15, and letter, Oct 20) would not provide a happy precedent for any division of the monarch's realms today.

A bitter controversy over ownership of some of the finest jewels in the royal collection soured Anglo-Hanoverian relations for 20 years. After two lengthy commissions of inquiry Queen Victoria was forced to hand over some of her favourite pieces, leaving her "desperately annoyed". She was prohibited from buying the distinctive Hanoverian cream and black horses which had drawn the royal coaches on state occasions since 1714. Her uncle, the King of Hanover, who was extremely unpopular in England, infuriated her by demanding precedence over the Prince Consort. That led to unseemly scenes at a royal wedding when the Hanoverian king nearly fell over after "a slight push" from Prince Albert. He was caught and led away by force by the Lord Chamberlain "fuming with ire".

Could members of the Royal Family today avoid similar wrangling if the Queen's realms were split?
Lord Lexden 
House of Lords 

19/10/11 - Liam Fox's future
The Telegraph

SIR - Dr Liam Fox's talents are too valuable to be lost to British public life. He should lead a campaign to prevent the dissolution of the Union between his native Scotland and the rest of the United Kingdom. It was in Scotland that he began his political career, and it is there that it should be revived. A successful Unionist campaign would restore his reputation.

In 1988, four years before he entered Parliament, Dr Fox and I were co-authors of a pamphlet entitled: Making Unionism Positive. It called for action to "re-establish Conservatism on a sound Unionist foundation as a positive force in Scottish politics".

Nearly a quarter of a century later, the case for the Union desperately needs vigorous and effective championing. It is a role that Dr Fox is ideally fitted to undertake, alongside other leading pro-Union Scottish politicians, such as John Reid and Charles Kennedy.
Lord Lexden
London SW1

7/10/11 - Kitchener’s world
The Times

Sir, Perhaps Lady Fellowes of West Stafford should strive to overcome her deep disappointment (Times2, Sept 27, and letters, Sept 30 and Oct 3) by accepting that it was the wish of her illustrious forebear that there should never be a Countess Kitchener of Khartoum in her own right.

Nominally the imperial hero’s remarkable special remainder allowed a daughter to inherit his title, but since he was a confirmed bachelor this was meaningless. The right of succession was effectively confined to his eldest brother plus his male heirs and, “in default of such issue”, to the male heirs of his youngest brother (a middle brother missed out completely).

Kitchener lived in a male world, surrounded by army chums whom he described as his “happy family of boys”. In his last years he settled down with a favourite ADC in an “intimate association (which) was happy and fortunate”, in the discreet words of his biographer, Sir Philip Magnus. Queen Victoria was pleasantly surprised when she met him. “They say he dislikes women, but I can only say he was very nice to me.” He did not extend such forbearance to female members of his family, and would almost certainly have treated the ladies of Downton Abbey brusquely.
Lord Lexden
London SW1

24/9/11 - Not suited to Downton
The Telegraph

SIR - Lord Cowdray is auctioning many family heirlooms ("Chance to take away a taste of Downton's stately style", report, September 14).

Public works contracts, including the Blackwall tunnel, made the 1st Viscount Cowdray a multi-millionaire. Despite this wealth, Julian Fellowes might regard him as an unsuitable dinner guest at Downton Abbey, even though he built the Blue Nile dam, planned by Lord Kitchener, the much-cherished forebear of Lady Fellowes.

Cowdray held the House of Lords in ill-concealed contempt and insisted that hereditary peerages should not continue beyond the third generation. Would such radicalism be acceptable at Downton?
Lord Lexden
London SWI

17/9/11 - Progressive Conservatives
The Times

Sir, Progressive Conservatives are not old Whigs reborn (letter, Sept 3). They have long had a distinct identity of their own.

The Tories, said Disraeli in 1867, must always remember that Britain is "a progressive country" in which "change was constant". There could be no question of seeking "to resist change which was inevitable". All manner of political and social reforms could be undertaken by the Conservative Party as long as they conformed to the (usefully) vague principle that they deferred to "the manners, the customs, the laws, and the traditions" of the people. Throughout his career Disraeli constantly denounced the Whigs on the grounds that they promoted the selfish interests of the commercial classes.

Disraeli's views were embedded deeply in the Tory tradition by the Primrose League, which instilled uncritical admiration of him in some two million, largely working-class Tories before the First World War. The League's handbook opened with the following words: "A democratic and progressive Conservatism is the best guarantee of the greatness and prosperity of our Empire." Stanley Baldwin, a product of the League, quickened the pace of social reform in the inter-war years in accordance with this axiom. Contemplating a massive election victory in 1959, Harold Macmillan, another leader steeped in Disraelian values, declared that "the important thing is to keep the Conservative Party on progressive lines." Philip Collins (Opinion, Sept 2) is very wide of the mark when he claims that Tory progress has occurred only "when conservatives have turned briefly into radicals".
Lord Lexden 
House of Lords

5/9/11 - Cheap money
The Times

Sir, Your leading article ("The Gold Bug", Aug 20) blames the Great Depression of the 1930s on the "catastrophic policy" of raising interest rates in order to defend the gold standard. Britain left the gold standard in September 1931. Interest rates then stood at 6 per cent. They plummeted to 2 per cent in June 1932, their lowest level for 35 years, where they remained (with one brief interruption) until November 1951.

Neville Chamberlain, a brilliant Chancellor of the Exchequer, described cheap money as one of the "two main pillars" of his policy to restore economic prosperity, the reintroduction of tariffs being the other (infinitely more controversial) one. The independent Committee on Economic Information confirmed in October 1933 that cheap money was playing a key part in Britain's economic recovery, which was then well under way in some parts of the country.
Lord Lexden 
House of Lords 

17/8/11 - The King's Council
The Times

Sir, The King's Council of the North - its full title - was not established to "give more power to the North" (report, Aug 15) but to take it from unruly feudal barons and vest it in the monarch, who ruled the region thereafter through a Lord President of the North, by whom summary justice was dispensed under the royal prerogative.

The most effective holder of that office, the Earl of Strafford under Charles I, tried to bring prosperity to the North by promoting drainage schemes. He was denounced for his high-handedness and ended up on the scaffold.
Lord Lexden 
London SW1 

17/8/11 - Victorian London
The Telegraph

SIR – Daniel Johnson (Comment, August 12) contends that Victorian London was "a more law-abiding place than today", citing a huge demonstration in Hyde Park in 1866 when the only casualties were the railings.

It was a different story 20 years later when another mob took possession of Hyde Park, after rampaging through the streets from Trafalgar Square. The American journalist G W Smalley telegraphed details to an amazed New York on February 9, 1886. "As they went, they smashed windows, broke open and plundered shops and restored to themselves a portion of their rights in the shape of watches worn by such capitalists as happened to come their way.

"Once in Hyde Park they attacked carriages, broke them in pieces, beat the liveried menials, insulted ladies who were driving, and stripped men." They marched to Oxford Street "laden with plunder". The police failed to intervene, so for three days the West End was at the mercy of the mob.
Lord Lexden
London SW1

9/8/11 - Tory Heartland
The Times

Sir, Roger Boyes asserts that "Liverpool never, of course, became a natural Tory heartland" ("One-nil to Liverpool: 'We have got a better class of poverty nowadays'," Aug 5). But that is exactly what it did become in the 19th century and what it remained until the Macmillan era.

A succession of powerful Tory party bosses ruled the city council with a rod of iron, backed by strident working-class Protestants and their Orange lodges. Their methods may have been distasteful by today's standards, but they were extremely effective. At the start of the First World War eight of the city's nine constituencies were represented by Conservatives (or Unionists, as they were known at the time), with an Irish Nationalist holding the remaining seat.

In 1939 the Tory tally was the same out of a total of 11 seats. As late as 1959 the Tories won two-thirds of the city's seats. The city was the greatest of all Tory urban heartlands, apart from Chamberlainite Birmingham.
Lord Lexden 
House of Lords 

3/8/11 - Royal Garden Party
The Times

Sir, I wonder if Her Majesty The Queen saw the archive photograph of the 1937 royal garden party ("From the Times archive", Register, July 23). Then a girl of 11, she stands demurely between her parents, King George VI and Queen Elizabeth. To their left other leading members of the royal family, including the unmistakable figure of Queen Mary, converse amiably in groups.

Behind them appear deferential members of their staffs, several discreetly obscured by the foliage of trees. Yet your caption beneath the picture transforms all of them into ordinary garden party guests.

What a terrible act of lèse-majesté!
Lord Lexden 
House of Lords 

26/7/11 - Crichel Downfall
The Times

Sir, Crichel Down would never have become "the textbook case" of how ministers once took responsibility for their departments' mistakes if Winston Churchill, Prime Minister at the time, had had his way (Philip Collins, Opinion, July 22).

A year before the crisis broke in 1954 he wanted to give the property back to its original owner. "The land was taken for military purposes in a national emergency," he said, "it is no longer needed and cannot be retained for some other purpose," particularly since "nationalisation of land is against Tory policy. It seems to me all wrong."

But the arrogant civil servants at the Ministry of Agriculture, who treated the previous owner so high-handedly, disregarded the aged and infirm premier with fatal consequences for their reputations.
Lord Lexden 
London SW1 

23/7/11 - Andy Coulson
The Telegraph

SIR - "Will Andy Coulson be for David Cameron what Christine Keeler was for Harold Macmillan?" asks Andrew Gilligan (Comment, July 19). If so, Mr Cameron has little to worry about.

Macmillan's fortunes revived quickly in the aftermath of the Profumo scandal, with a sharp rise in the opinion polls. At the start of October 1963 he made clear to Cabinet colleagues that he was staying on.

As D R Thorpe put it in his recent, brilliant biography Supermac, "Macmillan was not brought down by Profumo; he was brought down by his prostate."
Lord Lexden
London SW1

12/7/11 - Society’s hypocrisy over standards of behaviour
The Times

Sir, James Hickson (letter, July 9) doubts whether politicians should maintain contact with the employers of journalists.

No one has ever courted them more sedulously than Lloyd George. In August 1909 he met Lord Northcliffe, the greatest press baron of his age, for the first time. "Would Lord Northcliffe like to see the draft proposals which he was to submit to the House the next day?" his brother recorded. "N. replied that he supposed it to be quite out of order, as it most certainly was. But Ll. G. was after big game. He produced the draft from the drawer of his table, handed it to N. , and told him to make any use of it he pleased in the Daily Mail."

Most politicians have rather higher standards than Lloyd George, but in private dealings with media proprietors it has always been hard for them to keep to the paths of righteousness.
Lord Lexden 
House of Lords 

5/7/11 - Palace restoration
The Telegraph

SIR - For 230 years the British monarch has drawn on funds provided by Parliament through the Civil List. Now George Osborne, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, is to scrap it in favour of a "sovereign support grant", a hideous bureaucratic phrase.

This increases the need for the nation to show its affection for the Queen in a form that expresses our historic traditions. A large sum of money should be made available to Her Majesty in her Diamond Jubilee year for the restoration work that is urgently needed on her palaces and residences, including Hillsborough Castle in Northern Ireland.

The finest British architects should embellish them in memorable form. We can afford it. The Crown Estate, which George III surrendered in return for the Civil List, has an annual surplus of more than £200 million.
Lord Lexden
London SW1

3/6/11 - Carlton House
The Telegraph

SIR – Carlton House, the horse which will be wearing the Queen’s colours in Saturday’s Derby, recalls a nearly forgotten royal residence created by George IV, when he was Prince of Wales in the 1780s.

The buildings and gardens, originally laid out by William Kent, occupied most of the southern side of Pall Mall, eclipsing Marlborough House. Horace Walpole called it “the most perfect palace in Europe” and marvelled at its prodigious cost, saying that “all the tin mines in Cornwall would not pay a quarter” of it.

Eventually the profligate monarch tired of it and ordered its demolition in the 1820s. The Tories built their Carlton Club on part of the site. Though bombed out of Pall Mall in 1940, the club retains the Prince of Wales’s feathers as its emblem.
Lord Lexden
London SW1

3/6/11 - Liberal invitation
The Times

Sir, An invitation to Liberal Democrats to join a majority Conservative government after the next election would not be quite as extraordinary as Rachel Sylvester suggests (Opinion, May 31). Churchill made just such an offer to the Liberals on his return to power 60 years ago. It included the woolsack for Asquith’s son. Clement Davies, the Liberal leader, wanted to take up the invitation, but his colleagues would not let him without a guarantee of proportional representation. At least Nick Clegg ought not to face such an impediment after the AV fiasco.
Lord Lexden
House of Lords

28/5/11 - Parliaments’ mum
The Times

Sir, President Obama did not come “at last to the Mother of Parliaments” when he arrived at Westminster (“Obama’s credo for Britain and America”, May 26). He reached it the moment he set foot in the country.

“England”, declared the great radical John Bright in 1865, “is the Mother of Parliaments”.
Lord Lexden
House of Lords 

14/5/11 - Dizzy Day
The Times

Sir, The restoration of the merry monarch, Charles II, in 1660 was commemorated on Oak Apple Day (letter, May 11). Only one other individual in modern British history, Benjamin Disraeli, has been honoured in a similar fashion. For more than 50 years the streets were filled with people adorned with primroses (generally regarded as his favourite flower) on Primrose Day, the anniversary of his death on April 19, 1881. Perhaps this extraordinary phenomenon should be recalled through a Bank Holiday, giving Dizzy a final victory over Mr Gladstone.
Lord Lexden
House of Lords 

5/5/11 - End of the line in Kensal Green
The Times

Sir, Although Westminster Abbey was used in 1904 for the funeral of the last Duke of Cambridge (letters, May 2 and May 4), commander in chief of the army for nearly 40 years, his marriage to an English commoner in 1840 took place well out of sight. Queen Victoria’s consent, required in law by members of the Royal Family, was not forthcoming for her cousin (and close friend). The Duke’s wife, a former actress known as Mrs Fitzgeorge who bore him three sons, lived quietly on her own in Mayfair. In death they were fully united in Kensal Green cemetery.
Lord Lexden
House of Lords 

20/4/11 - Let’s launch Boris Water Buses on the Thames
The Telegraph

SIR – Nigel Henson (Letters, April 13) would like to use the Thames to get to work. Just over a century ago, the newspaper editor, R D Blumenfeld, who had used the London County Council’s “beloved Thames steamers” to get from Chelsea to the Temple, bewailed the sudden withdrawal of this excellent service.

He wrote in his diary on February 11, 1908: “The Council has lost an average of £50,000 a year on them. I think the fares were too high for popularity, and there were not enough boats. They ought to run at five-minute headway, like omnibuses!”

Surely the ever resourceful Boris, hero of the bicyclists, could find a way to get commuters happily afloat too.
Lord Lexden
London SW1 

19/4/11 - No coupon
The Times

Sir, There was no coalition couponed candidate in Asquith’s East Fife constituency (letters, April 14, 15 and 16). As Roy Jenkins makes clear in Asquith (1964), the constituency “had not even needed the spur of the coupon (Lloyd George and Bonar Law, with self-conscious generosity, had withheld it from the Conservative Sprott) to vote him out”.
Lord Lexden
House of Lords 

15/4/11 - Coalition spirit
The Times

Sir, Vernon Bogdanor (“Coalitions fail from the bottom, not the top”, April 12) rewrites history by turning Asquith into a supporter of the coalition between Lloyd George and the Conservatives, which ousted him as Prime Minister in 1916. Asquith was not defeated at the 1918 election “despite receiving the coupon” as a coalition candidate. It was as leader of an independent Liberal Party that he fought that election, losing the seat in East Fife, which he had held for 32 years, to a Conservative by 2,000 votes.

His opponent’s placards proclaimed: “Asquith nearly lost us the War. Are you going to let him spoil the Peace?” The spirit of coalition was conspicuously absent.
Lord Lexden
House of Lords 

19/3/11 - Bring back the Patrick
The Telegraph

SIR – When the Queen visits the Republic of Ireland, it should be the Royal Standard with its glorious Irish harp, not some archaic substitute (Letters, March 9) that is broken over Dublin Castle for the first time in 100 years. Not even the most ardent Irish republicans have called for the harp’s removal from the Royal Standard.

This visit should be marked in a permanent fashion by reviving the Order of St Patrick, the national honour of the whole of Ireland for 140 years. The Queen remains Sovereign of the Order.

Since 1922 the revival of the order has been discussed fitfully in both countries. In 1946, George VI brought it up with the Attlee government but was discouraged because of “the possibility of the Eire government raising difficulties about the Patrick”. In 1963, however, the Irish government examined the possibility of recreating it to recognise the service of those who “had done honour to the state”.

Its re-establishment now, on an Anglo-Irish basis, to reward distinguished citizens of both countries, in particular those who were at the heart of the Northern Ireland peace process, would be a fine enduring memorial to the Queen’s forthcoming visit.
Lord Lexden
London SW1

18/3/11 - Queen Victoria and ‘the Munshi’ (£)
The Times

Abdul Karim was adored by the monarch, even when she was given some unexpected, and not pleasant, news

Sir, There can be little doubt that Queen Victoria adored her Indian servant, Abdul Karim (“Tantrums and tension at Court when Queen Victoria fell for ‘the Munshi’,” Mar 15). She was infuriated by the racism that he evoked among her courtiers. She poured out her highly charged feelings in long letters to her doctor, Sir James Reid, who at one point was asked to supply “a long list of drugs”, including many poisons to the highly favoured retainer.

At “a very excited interview” in April 1897 Reid told her that “people in high places” were saying that “Your Majesty is not sane”. Yet her devotion survived the sternest test: later that year Reid informed her that her Munshi was badly infected with gonorrhoea. Though “greatly taken aback”, she remained in thrall to him. Lord Salisbury, then Prime Minister, concluded that “she really likes the emotional excitement” that Karim aroused.
Lord Lexden
House of Lords 

11/3/11 - History teaches us to vote ‘No to AV’ (£)
The Times

Sir, Our nation’s history is deeply rooted in our parliamentary democracy, a democracy in which, over centuries, men and women have fought for the right to vote. That long fight for suffrage established the principle of one man or woman, one vote. The principle that each person’s vote is equal, regardless of wealth, gender, race or creed, is a principle to which generations of reformers have dedicated their lives. It is a principle upon which reform of our parliamentary democracy still stands.

The referendum on May 5 that threatens to introduce a system of “Alternative Voting” — a voting system that will allow MPs to be elected to Parliament even if they do not win the majority of constituents’ first preference votes — also threatens to break this principle.

For the first time since 1928 and the granting of universal suffrage, we face the possibility that one person’s casting ballot will be given greater weight than another. For the first time in centuries, we face the unfair idea that one citizen’s vote might be worth six times that of another. It will be a tragic consequence if those votes belong to supporters of extremist and non-serious parties.

Twice in our past the nation has rejected any threat to the principle of one citizen, one vote. The last time, in 1931, Winston Churchill stood against the introduction of an alternative vote (AV) system. As he argued, AV would mean that elections would be determined by “the most worthless votes given for the most worthless candidates”. He understood that it was simply too great a risk to take.

The cause of reform, so long fought for, cannot afford to have the fundamentally fair and historic principle of majority voting cast aside; nor should we sacrifice the principle that generations of men and women have sought: that each being equal, every member of our society should cast an equal vote.

For these reasons, we urge the British people to vote “No” on May 5.

Professor David Abulafia, Dr John Adamson, Professor Antony Beevor, Professor Jeremy Black, Professor Michael Burleigh, Professor John Charmley, Professor Jonathan Clark, Dr Robert Crowcroft, Professor Richard J. Evans, David Faber, David Starkey, Professor Niall Ferguson, Dr Amanda Foreman, Dr John Guy, Robert Lacey, Dr Sheila Lawlor, Lord Lexden, Simon Sebag Montefiore, Dr Richard Rex, Dr Andrew Roberts, Professor Richard Shannon, Chris Skidmore, MP, D. R. Thorpe, Alison Weir, Philip Ziegler, Professor Lord Norton

22/2/11 - A stuttering end
The Telegraph

SIR – At the end of The King’s Speech, a stutter is overcome (“Stuttering caused by genes and not childhood trauma”, report, February 21), but, despite Lionel Logue’s efforts, it was only a temporary cure.

On May 17, 1945, George VI addressed both Houses of Parliament to mark the end of the war. Harold Nicolson, then an MP, wrote in his diary: “We listened in silence to the King’s speech. ... He has a really beautiful voice and it is to be regretted that his stammer makes it almost intolerably painful to listen to him.”
Lord Lexden
London SW1

22/1/11 - Brideshead would have been an unsuitable royal home
The Telegraph

SIR – The Lygon family might not have been overwhelmed with joy if Madresfield, their enchanting ancestral home in Worcestershire (which Evelyn Waugh was to immortalise as Brideshead), had been commandeered for royal use during the Second World War (report, January 18).

At the insistence of George V, the head of the family, the 7th Earl Beauchamp (Brideshead ’s Lord Marchmain), had been forced to live abroad in 1931 after his homosexuality came to the attention of a shocked monarch.

Beauchamp’s seven broad-minded children were infuriated. Though the exile felt able to return to his beloved Madresfield after the coronation of George VI in 1937, his health was broken and he died the following year. His home would not have made a suitable royal billet.
Lord Lexden
London SW1 

4/1/11 - Coalition Cement
The Telegraph

SIR – There is nothing remarkable about the willingness of Liberal Democrat ministers to make disparaging comments about their Conservative coalition colleagues. They are following the example of Lloyd George, the last Liberal prime minister.

During his coalition government of 1916-22 he ridiculed his foreign secretary, Arthur Balfour, as “the scent on a pocket handkerchief”. He castigated his closest Tory colleague, Bonar Law, as “weak”, adding “B.L. ought to take to drink” to give himself courage.

Curzon was “insufferably pompous”; Salisbury, head of the great Tory house of Cecil, “would make a very respectable booking clerk”. Colleagues rushed to deliver the insults to their victims.

Lloyd George had the great merit of never minding what other people said about him. He paid heed to some wise words of Anthony Trollope. “It is a common practice for people to make disobliging observations about one another. Why do we profess such shock and surprise when we hear what is being said about us?”
Alistair Cooke
London SW1