2013

31/12/13 - Archduke and Princip

The Times

Dear Sir

The Archduke Franz Ferdinand was almost alone among Austrian leaders in believing that his ramshackle empire must never in any circumstances fight Russia. " A war between Austria and Russia", he wrote presciently, " would end either with the overthrow of the Romanovs or the overthrow of the Hapsburgs--or perhaps the overthrow of both". His death precipitated the very conflict that he had been so determined to prevent. "Weedy,callow" Princip perhaps influenced the course of events to a greater extent than Ben Macintyre (article, Dec.27) allows. He removed the only serious opponent of the warmongers in Vienna.
Yours faithfully,
Lord Lexden
London SW1

12/12/13 - Stephen Ward
The Telegraph

Dear Sir

It is unsurprising that Andrew Lloyd Webber’s acclaimed musical Stephen Ward should have renewed speculation that the controversial osteopath at the centre of the Profumo affair was "murdered by MI5"(letter, Dec.6).

Between 1961 and his death Ward was contacted several times by MI5 which  regarded him as "a difficult sort of person, inclined to be against the government". However, he was not seen as “ a security risk in the sense that he would be intentionally disloyal", though "his peculiar political beliefs combined with his admiration for Ivanov[ the Soviet naval attach`e] might lead him to be indiscreet unintentionally, according reports quoted in  Christopher Andrew’s masterly history of MI5. Apparently  there is nothing in the MI5 files that substantiate the view that his trial was the result of a deliberate Establishment plot to discredit him, let alone that he was murdered.

Fifty years on, all the relevant surviving documents should be thrown open. In July Andrew Lloyd Webber and I raised the issue in the Lords. We were told that  files exist which  contain “ some sensational personal items which would be embarrassing if released. That cannot justify continuing  blanket secrecy. It is widely believed that Stephen Ward was wrongly convicted, and the truth needs finally to  be established.

Yours faithfully
Lord Lexden

11/12/13 - Out on the tiles
The Times

Sir, The cigarette case linking the future Edward VIII with Mrs Pinna Cruger during his visit to New York in 1924 (report, Dec 7) reveals at last the identity of a lover whom his Private Secretary, Alan Lascelles, was too discreet to name at the time.

Within hours of arriving, “a new comet blazed across our sky and Honey’s wagon was firmly hitched to it”, he wrote. “Since then we haven’t seen much of him.” He also eluded the press which was reduced to reporting that “there were hours last night when the Prince was lost.”

Unsurprisingly, George V refused to allow his heir to visit New York again.
Lord Lexden
House of Lords

28/11/13 - Northcote’s demise
The Times

Sir, Daniel Finkelstein (Notebook, Nov 23) refers to the death of Sir Stafford Northcote (by then Earl of Iddesleigh), who had a heart attack in 10 Downing Street on January 12, 1887. He had not been “moved in a reshuffle”. He had been ruthlessly sacked by Lord Salisbury, his successful rival for the premiership, who witnessed the tragic event. As Tory leader in the Commons, Northcote had outranked Salisbury for nearly ten years. His sacking, leaked to the press in advance by Salisbury, was the last in a series of humiliations. Salisbury commented remorsefully: “As I looked upon the dead body stretched before me, I felt that politics was a cursed profession.”
Lord Lexden
(Editor, The Diary of Sir Stafford Northcote), House of Lords

22/11/13 - Edward VIII’s ‘unseen’ booty call
The Times

Sir, The letter from the future Edward VIII to his mistress, Freda Dudley Ward, described as “previously unseen” (“Edward VIII’s ‘booty call’ from his lover”, News, Nov 16) has in fact been seen — though not in full — by readers of his correspondence with her printed in Letters from a Prince, edited by Rupert Godfrey and published in 1998.

The letter in question appears in this book with some omissions indicated by dots, but with the addition of a date, May 12, 1919, and its provenance which is given by its writer as “Buckhouse SW”. It also contains references to lunch and dinner with Lord and Lady Ednam, and to “a game of squash with Do No 2 (the future George VI), who is writing to Sheila (Lady Loughborough), which won’t surprise you”. (The two were having an affair.) Otherwise the text is identical.

The letter came to light along with 262 others when Mr Godfrey was staying with a friend abroad. “Quite by chance I was with him when he opened an old trunk filled with bundles of letters . . . bought from a Canadian work colleague back in the early 1950s.”

The means by which this one letter from the cache came into the hands of a collector in Birmingham would seem no less mysterious.
Lord Lexden
House of Lords

21/11/13 - Reviving the Conservative Party
The Telegraph

Dear Sir,

Nick Boles’s suggestion (front-page article, Nov.20) that the old National Liberal Party should be revived is absurd. A splinter group, it was the product of the specific political circumstances of the 1930s.  In permanent alliance with the Tories, it never succeeded in establishing a distinct identity of its own. It had only 3 MPs when it was wound up in 1968. 

No one doubts that the Conservative Party is infused with strong liberal instincts. What it needs to do is to make clear that it has not discarded other elements of its tradition—above all, its sense of nation. It could make a start on that by using its full name once again: the Conservative and Unionist Party. It could return too to its original emblem which incorporated the symbols of all four parts of the nation. 

It was patriotic pride in nation, not liberalism, which made the Party the dominant political force in Liverpool and other northern towns in the late 19th century, a time when it was known as the Unionist Party. It took its cue from Disraeli who defined Conservatism as “ an instinct for power and love of country”.

Yours faithfully,
Lord Lexden 

18/11/13 - Waverley ubiquity
The Times

Sir, A popular story in political circles in the 1950s (“perhaps only ben trovato”, according to his biographer, Sir John Wheeler-Bennett) paid tribute to the prestige and ubiquity of Lord Waverley who held an impressive variety of posts (Opinion, Nov 7, letters, Nov 11,13 & 16).

A high-level delegation from a totalitarian country was greeted on arrival at the Westminster Stairs by the Chairman of the Port of London Authority, Lord Waverley. Later in the day they had a meeting with the Chairman of the UK Advisory Council on Atomic Energy, Lord Waverley. Later still, at a Buckingham Palace party, they encountered Lord Waverley prominent among the Sovereign’s guests. The following day, issues of coastal defence against flooding were on the agenda and, to their amazement, they found themselves again in consultation with Lord Waverley, who was conducting an inquiry into the problem. Finally, to their absolute confusion, when they arrived at a gala performance in their honour at Covent Garden, they were received by the Chairman of the Board, none other than Lord Waverley. In his report the leader of the delegation was said to have expressed total bewilderment: “This is not, as we thought, a democracy: it is an autocracy run by a man named Waverley.”
Lord Lexden
House of Lords

2/11/13 - Marbles peril
The Times

Sir, The Elgin Marbles could have done with a safe refuge such as the Museum of the Acropolis, commended by Oliver Kamm (Notebook, Oct 29) during the inter-war period. The largely incompetent trustees of the British Museum fell under the influence of Joe Duveen, the world’s most unscrupulous and successful art dealer, who in effect bought his position by lavish benefactions which included a large sum to rehouse the Marbles. He insisted that they “should be thoroughly cleaned — so thoroughly that he would dip them into acid”, as the chairman of the trustees, Lord Crawford, recorded in his diary on May 8, 1931. A terrible disaster was only narrowly averted.
Lord Lexden
House of Lords 

22/10/13 - Lords Emeritus
The Times

Sir, The House of Lords today is widely, though not unanimously, regarded as being oversupplied with members. The Victorians had the opposite problem. In The English Constitution (1867) Walter Bagehot complained that “in the ordinary transaction of business there are perhaps ten peers in the House, possibly only six; three is the quorum” out of a total of 429. Both Gladstone and the Tory leader, Lord Salisbury, favoured the creation of life peers to swell the numbers and get the work done properly, but unimaginative colleagues blocked them. To secure some improvement in attendance, the right to vote by proxy was removed. Perhaps its reintroduction should now be considered.

Lord Lexden

House of Lords

 

5/10/13 - Gay rights
The Times

Sir, Matthew Parris, perturbed to discover that “more than three quarters” of the Commonwealth criminalise homosexuals (My Week, Oct 2), may be heartened to know that a cross-party group in the Lords, of which I am a member, is pressing for action to secure full respect for the human rights of all gay people throughout the 54 countries of the Commonwealth.

It is intolerable that in Sierra Leone, for example, gay people can be sentenced to life imprisonment, or in Malaysia to 20 years’ imprisonment with flogging. In 2011 a high-level report calling for the repeal of laws criminalising homosexuality was accepted by Commonwealth heads of government. The Commonwealth’s collective strategy for the future, however, includes no commitment to work for the elimination of criminalisation. The forthcoming heads of government meeting in Colombo must put that right.
Lord Lexden
House of Lords 

25/9/13 - One nation myth
The Times

Sir, Disraeli’s “one nation” is one of the great myths of British politics. Dizzy never used the term (report, Sept 23). He referred to two nations, the rich and the poor, adding that the gulf between them could never be healed. It was Stanley Baldwin who invented “one nation”. Speaking to the Tory faithful in 1924, he said: “We stand for the union of those two nations of which Disraeli spoke two generations ago: union among our own people to make one nation of our own people at home which, if secured, nothing else matters in the world.”
Lord Lexden
House of Lords 

23/9/13 - Prince of Province
The Times

Sir, The Prince of Wales has had insufficient recognition for his work in Northern Ireland, which he has visited with great frequency. The cause of conservation in particular has benefited immeasurably from his many initiatives across the community divide which are promoting reconciliation.

His 65th birthday in November (report and leading article, Sept 20) should be marked by the establishment of Hillsborough Castle, Co Down — the former residence of the Governors of Northern Ireland in limbo since 1972 — as an official royal residence and the headquarters of his activities carried out on behalf of all the people of the Province.
Lord Lexden
House of Lords

14/9/13 - Another Red Ed
The Telegraph

SIR – Ed Miliband seems obsessed with linking himself to leading 19th-century Tories (report, September 11). Last year he compared himself with Disraeli, whose “one nation” philosophy he claims to share. But Disraeli referred only to two nations – the rich and the poor – destined, in his view, to remain divided for ever, as Douglas Hurd and Edward Young show in their brilliant new biography. Now Mr Miliband claims to have discovered another “Red Ed” – Edward Stanley, 14th Earl of Derby, who led the Tories for more than 20 years, longer than anyone else. According to Mr Miliband, Stanley showed his love of the Left by legalising trade unions in 1867. In fact that happened over 40 years earlier in 1824 under Lord Liverpool, a figure long caricatured by the Left as a reactionary. Stanley, a haughty grandee with vast estates in Lancashire, had no more than a mild interest in social reform, passing a Master and Servant Act in 1867, which improved the legal position of workers who were sacked.

Lord Lexden
Official Conservative Party Historian
London SW1

11/9/13 - Palace intruder
The Times

Sir, At least the Queen’s unwanted visitors are dealt with fairly swiftly (report, Sept 9). A 12-year-old boy spent a year in Buckingham Palace early in Queen Victoria’s reign, and was discovered only when he wandered out on to the lawn. In December 1840 the 17-year-old Edward Jones was found under a sofa “ordered expressly for the accommodation of Royal and illustrious visitors”. He boasted that “he had sat on the throne, that he saw the Queen and heard the Princess Royal squall”. The unflappable Queen exclaimed with mock alarm, “Supposing he had come into the bedroom — how frightened I should have been.” This young intruder came back three times. “I thought a description would look very well in a book,” he said. The Queen eventually ran out of patience and packed him off to the Navy, where he did well.
Lord Lexden
House of Lords 

28/8/13 - The lessons which stuck in the mind
The Times

Sir, Joan Olivier’s A-level history teacher peddled a pervasive Gladstonian legend as fact (letter, Aug 26). In its most common form the tale of the Grand Old Man’s hot-water bottle provided him not with early morning tea but with soup at 2am. This arose from a chance remark of Gladstone’s, cherished and embellished by his admirers, that soup retained heat longer than water.
Lord Lexden
London SW1 

24/8/13 - Hanging on every word of Churchill’s oratory
The Times

Sir, In June 1940 one of Churchill’s great supporters, Harold Nicolson, held a junior post at the Ministry of Information which was responsible for arranging broadcasts of the Prime Ministerial speeches and also sponsored Mass Observation. He would not have been greatly surprised that Churchill’s speeches were “met with scepticism”.

Writing to his wife on June 19 after the “finest hour” speech, he said, “How I wish Winston would not talk on the wireless unless he is feeling in good form. He hates the microphone and when we bullied him into speaking last night he just sulked and read his House of Commons speech over again. Now as delivered in the H. of C., that speech was magnificent, especially the concluding sentences. But it sounded ghastly on the wireless. All the great vigour he put into it seemed to evaporate.”
Lord Lexden
London SW1

17/8/13 - Ulster impasse
The Telegraph

SIR – Colonel Mike Dewar’s bleak assessment of the situation in Northern Ireland (Comment, August 13) shows that no progress is being made towards resolving acute issues such as education and housing, which sustain sectarian divisions.

The Province’s power-sharing devolved government ought to be taking determined action to break down barriers. But it stands idly by, confining itself to vague strategy documents on better community relations, which lead to no practical improvement.

The Coalition Government at Westminster neglects its duties. Recently I asked it to tell Parliament why the Northern Ireland Executive had flatly rejected the new libel law which will shortly be implemented in Britain with all-party support. I was told that it was “not in a position to comment or speculate as to why that was”.

By standing aloof from the affairs of Ulster, the Government will allow Sinn Fein and the DUP, which control the Executive, to draw fat salaries and do nothing effectual in return.
Lord Lexden
London SW1 

16/8/13 - Popular party?
The Times

Sir, The membership of the Conservative Party at its peak was about a million higher than Paul Goodman suggests (Aug 14). A succession of membership drives took the total in England and Wales to 2.8 million in 1952. Similar success in Scotland brought the national figure to well over 3 million — the biggest individual paying membership that any British voluntary organisation has ever achieved.

The party chairman at the time, “Uncle Fred” Woolton, believed that even more would have joined if the party had changed its name from Conservative, which in his view “was certainly not a political asset”, to the Union Party, symbolising its commitment to one nation policies.
Lord Lexden
London SW1 

8/8/13 - Chamberlain's gout
The Times

Sir, My old friend Michael Dobbs, who endures gout so nobly, speculates that Neville Chamberlain’s sufferings may have contributed to his “disastrous months in Downing Street” (letter, Aug 5).

Chamberlain’s very full diaries record only one severe attack of gout during his time as Prime Minister. It occurred in October 1937 during the early stages of his courageous quest to preserve peace which involved taking defence spending to record levels. “I would like to keep the gout out of the press,” he wrote, “if only to avoid all the letters of sympathy and the offers and gifts of remedies that it always brings forth”.

It flared up again briefly the following May, but thereafter his only major health problem was a bout of severe sinusitis in August 1938 as the Sudeten crisis loomed. “Strange as it may seem,” he noted, “I do not feel pulled down or depressed”. It was with unvarying clear-sightedness that he sought an accommodation with the dictators. “I can never forget that the ultimate decision, the Yes or No which may decide the fate not only of all of this generation, but of the British Empire itself, rests with me.”
Lord Lexden
London SW1 

1/8/13 - A disgraceful law
The Times

Sir, Francis Bennion wants Parliament to hold an inquiry into “ the disgraceful way” it created the offence of gross indecency between men in 1885 (letter, July 29).

In introducing his appalling measure late at night on August 6, 1885, the radical MP, Henry Labouchere, said that “he did not think it necessary to discuss it at any length, as he understood the government was willing to accept it”, as indeed it was, making it harsher in the process. The attorney-general in the incumbent minority Tory administration moved an amendment increasing the maximum penalty from one to two years’ imprisonment with or without hard labour. But this involved no abuse of parliamentary procedure. A retrospective inquiry would be wholly unjustifiable.

What could be usefully noted now is the stinging letter of rebuke sent to Labouchere in 1885 by Lord Alfred Douglas. The MP was denounced as a “prejudiced, narrow-minded man, who objected to practices which were a perfect credit to those who were guilty of them ... By the next generation he would be quite out of date and these practices which he condemned would be looked upon as honourable”.

Though it took more than a generation, and the road to reform was, in Wilde’s phrase, “red with monstrous martyrdoms”, a wholly disgraceful law, repealed years ago, is now held in utter contempt. That is what matters.
Lord Lexden
House of Lords

24/7/13 - The royal baby’s arrival secures the long-term future of the monarchy
The Telegraph

SIR – There are now three heirs in the direct line of succession to the Crown for only the second time in British history.

In 1894, the birth of a great-grandson to Queen Victoria reinforced a sense of pride in the Royal family, which had been wholly lacking at the start of her reign.
Today, the British people, once again, have the good fortune to live under a secure monarchy, which can contemplate the long-term future with confidence.
Lord Lexden
London SW1 

22/7/13 - Honorary member

The Times

Sir, Margaret Thatcher was not “granted an exception” to enable her to become a member of the Carlton Club in 1975 (“David Cameron declares war on the gentlemen’s club”, July 18). Like all Tory leaders, she was made an honorary member. The club was delighted to find that there was no bar on women enjoying that status. She spent more time in the club than any other recent Tory leader apart from Harold Macmillan, who also loved the Cameron family’s favourite, White’s, declaring that “two thirds of its members are gentlemen and the rest crooks” which gave it a unique fascination. At the Carlton Macmillan treated Mrs Thatcher with patronising levity. At a gathering in 1979 he muttered in a loud stage whisper, “Now, I must remember I am unveiling a bust of Margaret Thatcher, not Margaret Thatcher’s bust.” In 2009 she became the president of the club where one of the rooms will shortly be renamed in her memory.
Lord Lexden
Carlton Club historian 

25/6/13 - 'Disgraceful'
The Times

Sir, The only person who seems to have been seriously annoyed by “the obscene phrase” which appeared in The Times on January 23, 1882, was Sir William Harcourt into whose speech it was inserted (Feedback, June 22). The Home Secretary was quoted as saying that “he felt inclined for a bit of f***ing”. His son, “Loulou” Harcourt, denounced the “disgraceful interpolation” in his diary.

At 10 Downing Street, however, Gladstone’s Private Secretary, Edward Hamilton, described it in his diary as “the most amusing feature of the week ... Harcourt will never hear the end of it”. Lord Wolverton, the Paymaster- General, reported with glee that copies of the edition in which it appeared “were fetching 20 shillings at Brighton”. Several days passed before The Times printed an apology.

Hamilton noted with some satisfaction that it “of course has drawn more attention than ever to the compositor’s obscene line”.
Lord Lexden
London SW1

20/6/13 - Stephen Ward’s dealings with the Foreign Office
The Telegraph

SIR – Michael Ward’s loyalty to his uncle, Stephen Ward, does him great credit (Letters, June 17).

However, in his authorised history of MI5, The Defence of the Realm (2009), Professor Christopher Andrew quotes a confidential MI5 report which states that Ward “assisted the Foreign Office by passing official reports to Ivanov”, adding that a senior Foreign Office security official confirmed that “suitably tailored FO material had been channelled to Ivanov via Ward” with the personal approval of the then foreign secretary, Lord Home. MI5 strongly disapproved of this covert operation by the Foreign Office, since Ward lacked all discretion.

At one point the Security Service recorded him as boasting that “Eugene [Ivanov] also met Jack Profumo with me socially and on another occasion he met Princess Margaret. He admired her lovely hair, and she was furious when he pretended he did not think it was her real colouring”.
Lord Lexden
London SW1

14/6/13 - Christine Keeler wasn’t the spy that she thought
The Telegraph

SIR – Christine Keeler should not reproach herself unduly for having “betrayed her country” (report, June 10) 50 years ago.

Unwittingly she probably served the country’s interests when she left an envelope at the Soviet Embassy addressed to Captain Ivanov, who enjoyed her favours at the same time as John Profumo.

The notorious osteopath, Stephen Ward, who committed suicide in 1963 after being convicted of having profited from her immoral earnings, was used by the Foreign Office to transmit secret messages to the Soviet Embassy via Ivanov with the aim of calming East-West tensions.

It is likely that her envelope contained information provided by the Foreign Office.
Lord Lexden
London SW1

29/5/13 - Emily Davison
The New Statesman

Dear Sir, The widely held belief, repeated by Laurie Penny(In the Red,30 May), that Emily Davison “leapt in front of the king’s racehorse” is at odds with the conclusions of the sympathetic coroner , Gilbert White, at her inquest on 10 June 1913. The evidence, which included her return ticket to London, convinced him that “Miss Davison did not make specifically for the King’s horse, but her intention was merely to disturb or upset the race...Her object was not to take her own life”. He added in kindly vein that it was “ an exceedingly sad thing for an educated lady to sacrifice herself in this way”.
Yours faithfully,
Lord Lexden
House of Lords

29/5/13 - A busy man
The Times

Sir, John Lubbock (“The man who made your Bank Holiday Monday”, May 27) did not expect the day of leisure to be passed in idle merriment. Londoners in particular had no excuse for failing to take brisk exercise. As a champion of open spaces in the 1870s, Lubbock helped to stop greedy private developers seizing Blackheath, Hampstead Heath and other public parks. For the more cerebral he published a list of the 100 best books which included Aristotle, Spinoza and Descartes. He was encouraged by the success of his own authoritative work on ants, bees and wasps which went through five editions in a year. He was convinced that dogs as well as humans could profit from his scholarship, and spent long hours trying to make canines literate.\
Lord Lexden
London SW1 

23/5/13 - Salisbury’s ‘infestation of constituents’
The Times

Sir, The 3rd Marquess of Salisbury, a great but neglected Tory leader (letter, May 21), would probably have been remembered more fondly had he not possessed the habit of disparaging party activists, which appears to be fashionable in the Tory leadership again today.

“A hotel infested by influential constituents is worse than one infested by bugs”, he once said. “It’s a pity that you can’t carry round a powder insecticide to get rid of them”.
Lord Lexden
House of Lords

4/5/13 - Another club
The Spectator

Sir: Buck’s was not the only club of which Lady T was a member (Letters, 27 April). When she became Tory leader in 1975, the then all-male Carlton was delighted to find that there was no bar on her becoming an honorary member, as all her predecessors had. She accepted with alacrity and visited the club frequently over the years for lunches, dinners and receptions, which were always packed with her admirers. In 1979 Harold Macmillan, the first person to be elected president of the club, unveiled a fine bust of her by Oscar Nemon. Shuffling towards it in his carefully practised manner, he said in a stage whisper heard by everyone, ‘Now I must remember I am unveiling a bust of Margaret Thatcher, not Margaret Thatcher’s bust.’

She strengthened the affection in which she was held by rushing round to St James’s Street in July 1990 to inspect the damage and comfort the injured among staff and members alike following an IRA bomb attack. In 2009 she became the club’s second president.
Lord Lexden
Carlton Club Historian, London SW1

24/4/13 - Suffragette's death
The Times

Sir, It is very unlikely that “the sacrifice” made by Emily Davison for the suffragette cause at the 1913 Derby was intentional (letter, Apr 22). She had a return ticket to London in her pocket. Gilbert White, the West Surrey coroner who conducted her inquest, concluded that “Miss Davison did not make specifically for the King’s horse, but her intention was merely to disturb and upset the race . . . Her object was not to take her own life,” he went on, “but it was an exceedingly sad thing for an educated lady to sacrifice herself in this way.”
Lord Lexden
House of Lords 

15/4/13 - State funeral for Lady Thatcher
The Times

Sir, Wednesday’s funeral does indeed have precedents but not as many as your leading article (Apr 13) asserts. Charles James Fox’s funeral in Westminster Abbey, unlike Pitt’s six months earlier, was privately organised. The Morning Chronicle reported on Oct 11, 1806, “this was not a ceremony ordered by the State, and conducted according to the etiquette of the Herald’s College”, though the numbers who attended equalled those at the State funeral of his great political rival. Canning too “was buried, privately at his own request, in Westminster Abbey near the grave of Pitt”, in the words of his biographer, Charles Petrie.

The three 19th-century PMs who had state funerals — Pitt, Palmerston and Gladstone — did not have full military honours.When Gladstone died in May 1898 his family was asked “to choose between a pompous funeral a month later, with a procession through the streets of London and stands for spectators, or a simpler and immediate ceremony. It chose the latter,” as Philip Magnus puts it in his life of Gladstone.

Churchill’s funeral is the only close precedent for Thatcher’s, both as regards its character and venue. All other public funerals for statesmen and politicians (as well as several private ones too) have taken place in Westminster Abbey.
Lord Lexden
House of Lords

 

13/4/13 - Rock’s fall
The Spectator

Sir: Patrick Rock made a powerful contribution to his own defeat at the Portsmouth South by-election in 1984 (Politics, 30 March). In a radio discussion he managed to get the name of the constituency wrong and claimed credit for a hospital that had not been built. Rock is an extraordinary combination of the naive and the astute (as regards political tactics, not strategy). The last time I saw him he was wandering down Whitehall on the day of a civil service strike, his back covered in stickers proclaiming the merits of the strike. He is blessed with great redeeming charm.
Lord Lexden

London SW1 

9/4/13 - Lord Lexden offers a personal Unionist perspective on Margaret Thatcher's Northern Ireland policy
The Telegraph

SIR – Margaret Thatcher was a passionate Unionist, deeply committed to retaining Northern Ireland as part of the United Kingdom. Yet in 1985 she signed an Anglo-Irish Agreement which gave Dublin a direct, guaranteed say in Ulster's affairs. Since then its role has grown significantly.

This was at odds with her convictions. She was brought to it by irritation, nearly despair, with Unionist politicians who throughout her premiership bickered among themselves so much that she was unable to establish an effective, practical relationship with these natural allies.

"Margaret will be a great Unionist Prime Minister," Airey Neave told me when I was his political adviser. That was shortly before his murder in 1979. It is tragic that events in Northern Ireland thwarted this prediction.
Lord Lexden
London SW1 

2/4/13 - Not complaining
The Times

Sir, In rebuking me for suggesting that Disraeli would have opposed Lord Justice Leveson, Mr Kempster (letter, Mar 30) forgets one of Dizzy’s most celebrated comments: “I make it a point never to complain.”
Lord Lexden
London SW1 

28/3/13 - Disraeli's dictum
The Times

Sir, Disraeli was always rude about those who tried to suggest that beneath a superficial Toryism he was a “a respectable political liberal” (letter, Mar 21). Liberals existed, he said in 1872, “to make war on the manners and customs of the people under the pretext of progress”. Not a bad description of Lord Justice Leveson and those who support him.
Lord Lexden
House of Lords

19/3/13 - War stories retold
The Telegraph

SIR – I am delighted that Airey Neave’s “long-forgotten” account of the wartime escape line run by Belgians is at last back in print (report, March 15). Little Cyclone was the second of five war books that he wrote, the last of which was published just four months before his murder by Irish terrorists in March 1979.

I cherish the copies of his books that he gave me when I worked as his political advisor during the last two years of his life.
Lord Lexden 
London SW1 

13/3/13 - Royal tattoos

The Times

Sir, The future Edward VII was very proud of the tattoo he acquired in Jerusalem in 1862 (“How party Prince woke up with a tattoo”, Mar 8). His taste was inherited by his son, the future George V, who visited Jerusalem 20 years later. He went to see “the same old man that tattooed Papa” and “acquired the same thing too, the 5 crosses”, telling his mother (who was apparently unaware of her husband’s adornment) to “ask Papa to show his arm”.
Lord Lexden 
London SW1 

18/2/13 - Protected species
The Times

Sir, The future Edward VII is unlikely to have felt any deep distress over the accusation in 1896 that he had broken the law by shooting a protected owl (“Shooting prince bang to rights”, Feb 15). He mocked conservation measures. One of his closest friends awoke from a drunken stupor at Sandringham to find a dead seagull in his bed after introducing a Bill in Parliament to protect the species.
Lord Lexden
London SW1

13/2/13 - The Thatcher statue
The Telegraph

SIR – The museum manager in Grantham should have been congratulated, not censured, for her efforts to secure the statue of Margaret Thatcher (report, February 9). Our greatest post-war prime minister praised her native town lavishly in her memoirs: “Beyond home, church and school lay the community which was Grantham. We were immensely proud of our town; we knew its history and traditions; we were glad to be part of its life.” I shall get these words inscribed on a brass plaque, which would incorporate her coat of arms and the town’s. That should shame Grantham into commemorating her.
Lord Lexden
London SW1 

11/2/13 - Political patronage
The Times

Sir, Mr Coolican (letter, Feb 6) can have little confidence that Nick Clegg will kill the “deplorable proposal” to make senior civil service appointments subject to greater ministerial control.

On the day that his letter was published, the government informed the House of Lords Select Committee on the Constitution, of which I am a member, that candidates for the top posts should be considered by an appointment panel whose composition would presumably be decided by ministers. The panel’s shortlist would then be vetted by the independent Civil Service Commission (which at the moment is in full charge of the whole process) after which ministers would make “a choice between those appointable candidates”.

This cumbersome, politically charged procedure has no merit. In a debate in the Lords on the accountability of civil servants on February 7, grave disquiet was expressed by me and other more distinguished peers. The leading expert on the issue, Lord Hennessy of Nympsfield, urged peers “to watch like hawks for signs of slippage back into the — for some — tempting restoration of political patronage at the top of the Civil Service”.

Mr Coolican rightly gives Gladstone credit for purging political patronage, though he was Chancellor of the Exchequer not Prime Minister when he received Sir Charles Trevelyan’s proposals in 1853. No one showed greater reforming zeal than Trevelyan. His suggestion that the highest posts might be decided by the First Lord of the Treasury was designed to mitigate the hostility that his attack on patronage was bound to provoke. As it was, the outcry against him was so ferocious that the implementation of his report, recommending open competitive examination for entry to public service, was delayed until 1870.
Lord Lexden
House of Lords 

18/1/13 - Lifespans
The Times

Sir, The lives of David Assersohn’s friend and his friend’s father span a period of 161 years (letter, Jan 16). Their achievement is narrowly beaten by the millionaire Sir Charles Tennant who was born in 1823 and his youngest daughter Kay, half-sister of Margot Asquith and the first woman life peer. She died in 1994. Father and daughter together spanned 171 years.
Lord Lexden
House of Lords 

14/1/13 - Kaiser’s ‘reunion’ with Victoria
The Times

Sir, In suggesting that the Royal Mausoleum at Frogmore would be an appropriate resting place for the Kaiser’s remains, Professor J. W. Humberston (letter, Jan 8) conjures up the touching spectacle of a family reunion with the German Emperor finding himself “close to his maternal grand-parents, Queen Victoria and Prince Albert”. Such proximity might well seem wholly unsuitable.

The Kaiser’s Germany was the complete opposite of the liberal democracy for which Albert constantly strove. As for Victoria, she regarded her country’s future enemy as “ that very foolish, undutiful and — I must add — unfeeling boy . . . I wish he could get a good ‘skelping’ as the Scotch say (flogging)”.

She refused to allow him to attend her Golden and Diamond jubilees. But he redeemed himself as she lay dying, supporting her with his one good arm for two-and-a-half hours. Perhaps he does deserve a place near her.
Lord Lexden
House of Lords

10/1/13 - The Commonwealth
The Telegraph

SIR – Hugo Swire (Comment, January 8) says that the United Kingdom is connected to all Commonwealth countries “through historical ties”. What ties do we have with Mozambique and Rwanda, which have joined the Commonwealth in recent years?

If ending male primogeniture for the succession to the throne is such a fine “symbol of a modernising institution”, why stop there? The same move should surely be made by all senior members of the Royal family. In the changed conditions to be created by the Succession to the Crown Bill, it will hardly be satisfactory if Lady Louise Windsor, the first-born child of the Earl of Wessex, is not given precedence over her younger brother, Viscount Severn. The same principle might also be applied to enable Princess Beatrice to become Duchess of York on her father’s death.
Lord Lexden
London SW1