2014

30/12/14 - UKIP's Historic Victory 
The Times

Sir,
Laura Pitel underestimates Ukip’s achievement by describing it as “the first non-mainstream party to win a national poll in 100 years when it topped the European elections” (Dec.27). In 1914 the two main parties, Liberals and Unionists (as the Tories then called themselves) had 272 seats each in the Commons. Asquith’s impressive government had been dependent for four years on the support of Irish Nationalists, the most successful of the smaller parties. Their 84 seats had been won with just 2.5 per cent of the total vote.

Ukip is the first non-mainstream party ever to won a national election since organised parties emerged 335 years ago.

Lord Lexden
London SW1

24/12/14 - Special Advisers
The Times

Sir, 
Is Britain better governed  as a result of the work of more than 100 special advisers to ministers? No one knows (“Special Forces”, leader,Dec.20). A rigorous independent study of their contribution to government is badly needed. That should be followed by cross-party agreement on an upper limit to their numbers and by the establishment of a simple and transparent set of criteria that they would need to meet before being considered for appointment. Allowing ministers to appoint whomsoever they wish is hardly a satisfactory basis for good government.

To complement the work of career civil servants, special advisers need a firm understanding of the policies of the political party whose interests they are helping their ministers to advance.

That is unlikely to be available to those whose political education has been derived principally from a lobbying or public relations organisation.

On the Tory side, many of the best special advisers have been graduates of the Conservative Research Department . It was there that both the current Prime Minister and Chancellor served their apprenticeships. So too did Nick Timothy and Stephen Parkinson whose work is highly valued by the home secretary (“Cameron approved removal of May’s aides from candidate list”, Dec.20). 

Yours faithfully
Lord Lexden
(Deputy Director, Conservative Research Department 1985-97)
House of Lords 

20/12/14 - The diverse talents of Churchill's budgie, Toby 
The Telegraph

Dear Sir
It was not only at meal times that Churchill’s budgie Toby left his mark (“Entertainer Churchill’s dinner table budgie trick”, Dec.13).

This much loved creature slept in a special cage in Churchill’s bedroom during his peace-time premiership in the 1950s. The cage was opened when ministers gathered for matutinal confabulations before the great man got up. In his diary, Churchill's Private Secretary, Anthony Montague Browne, gives an affectionate account of Toby “ flying round the room ,pecking at Cabinet papers, taking nips from the whisky-and-soda at the Prime Minister’s bedside and settling upon the domed head of the Chancellor of the Exchequer with the inevitable consequences”.

Rab Butler came to these meetings with a special silk handkerchief which he used to mop up after Toby, murmuring “The things I do for England”. From his master Toby received only kisses, never rebukes.

Yours faithfully
Lord Lexden
London SW1

1/12/14 - Royal Assassin
The Times

Sir,

Queen Victoria scarcely turned a hair when on March 2, 1882, Roderick Maclean became the seventh person to try and kill her (“ Mad poet who shot at Victoria”, Nov.27). “He had fourteen bullets on him”, she noted calmly. She much enjoyed reading, and replying individually, to the 206 telegrams that came pouring in. Two Eton schoolboys, who had set about Maclean at Windsor station with umbrellas, brought nearly 900 others with them to present an address in the castle quadrangle to which “ I read a short answer” while noting how good-looking her young champions were. She told her eldest daughter: “It is worth being shot at to see how much one is loved”.
LORD LEXDEN
House of Lords

20/11/14 - DJ's Royal Creator
The Times

Sir,
The DJ was not invented by New York’s Tuxedo Club in 1886( letter ,Nov.14). One of the members, James Potter Brown, was introduced to it in England by its creator, the Prince of Wales, later Edward VII. The aim was to enable him to dispense with full evening dress while at sea during the first royal visit to India in 1875. There was no relaxation of other formalities. Sweating in temperatures of 100F, the party rose to toast Queen Victoria at the end of each meal while the band played the National Anthem.
Lord Lexden
House of Lords

11/11/14 - Lord Lexden joins leading lawyers in highlighting threat to libel law reform in Northern Ireland
The Times

In debates in the Lords, Alistair Lexden has consistently pressed for libel law reform in Northern Ireland to bring the Province back into line with England and Wales whose law it shared until 2013. The whole process of reform is now under severe threat. The reasons were set out in the attached letter, published in The Times on November 11, which was also signed by two leading QCs.

11/11/14 - Putin's rewriting of history 
The Telegraph

Dear Sir
President Putin claims that "Britain and France had destroyed any chance for an anti-fascist front with the Munich Agreement"("There was nothing wrong with the Soviet Union's pact with the Nazis,says Putin", Nov.7). He flagrantly falsifies history. Throughout the summer of 1939, months after Munich, Anglo-French negotiators, led by Lord Halifax, the British Foreign Secretary, held intensive  discussions with  Soviet officials about the possibilities of a mutual defence pact. Neville Chamberlain complained that the Soviets were "the most impossible people to do business with", constantly increasing their demands. Nevertheless, detailed talks about a military alliance began on August 12. Nine days later the Nazi-Soviet Pact was signed. Stalin cynically used the apparent prospect of a Western alliance as a ploy to get Hitler to promise him large territorial gains in Poland and the Baltic states when war broke out.
Yours faithfully
Lord Lexden
London SW1

01/11/14 - We Shall Not Fight
The Times

Dear Sir
Politicians love quoting Churchill. Why did they not heed the words he wrote in 1897 on military action in Afghanistan? “ Financially it is ruinous. Morally it is wicked. Politically it is a blunder”.
Yours faithfully
Lord Lexden
House of Lords

14/10/14 - Andrew Lansley
The Times

Dear Sir
Andrew Lansley’s talent for acting foolishly without regard to the financial consequences first became apparent when, as Director of the Conservative Research Department, he changed the Party’s manifesto for the 1992 election behind the back of John Major’s advisers while it was at the printer. It cost some £50,000 to return it to the condition that the cabinet had approved. If the kindness of the party hierarchy had not saved his career at that point, the NHS budget today would be in a better state.
Yours faithfully
Lord Lexden
(Deputy Director, Conservative Research Department,1985-97)
House of Lords

6/10/14 - Heed Churchill's advice over the European Convention 
The Telegraph

Dear Sir
The European Convention on Human Rights was drafted in 1949-50 by David Maxwell- Fyfe, subsequently Home Secretary in Churchill's post-war government. Its principal purpose,he said, was to provide "a beacon to the peoples behind the Iron Curtain, and a passport for their return to the midst of the free countries".

The Convention set out "the minimum standard of democratic government" which they would need to meet in order to rejoin the European family of nations.No one then envisaged major legal changes within democratic western European countries .

It was on that basis that Churchill expressed strong support for the Convention in a speech in Strasbourg in 1949. He endorsed the establishment of a court on the strict understanding that it " would depend for the enforcement of its judgments on the individual decisions of the States now banded together".

To this original Churchillian vision the whole of Europe now needs to return.
Yours faithfully
Lord Lexden
London SW1

5/10/14 - Deep Blue Boris
The New Statesman

My friend Mark Field doubts whether Boris was a Tory at Oxford (NS Profile, 26 September). He was sufficiently interested to apply on graduation for a job in the Conservative Research Department where his father had once worked--rather by accident, it is true--as its first environment specialist.

My diary records that I interviewed a "Boris Johnston [sic]" on Friday 29 July 1988. I wish I could remember what he said. I retain only a vague impression of merry chatter which led nowhere because glittering prospects in journalism presented themselves to him a few days later. A post would have been his if he had wanted it-- and he would have found himself alongside David Cameron who had been taken on after an interview five weeks earlier. What a pity they missed that chance to establish their rivalry.
Yours faithfully,
Alistair Lexden
Deputy Director, Conservative Research Department (1985-97)
House of Lords

4/10/14 - How Balfour Chillaxed
The Spectator

Sir
Adrian Wooldridge (‘The Cameron Way’, 27 September) refers to one of Arthur Balfour’s hobbies—golf –but omits two others that were no less important to him: tennis (he played on Wimbledon’s Centre Court in his sixties) and being spanked by his mistress, Lady Elcho. He was the greatest prime-ministerial exponent of ‘chillaxing’ in British history.
Alistair Lexden
House of Lords
London SW1

30/9/14 - Hanoverian Succession
The Times

Dear Sir,
Very little has been said or written so far about the tercentenary of “the arrival of the German Georges on the British throne”, to which John Jungclaussen referred ( “ Germany has moved on. Why haven’t you?”, Sept.27). The centenary of World War One has inspired many books; not one has appeared to mark the Hanoverian succession 300 years on. It was not even mentioned in the brief history of Anglo-German relations which you published on September 23.  This neglect is extremely regrettable. 

The arrival of George I, a soldier- statesman respected throughout continental Europe, put an end to the longest and most destructive period of party political strife in British history. The Whigs triumphed in the general election of 1715, creating an era of political stability marked by a surge of wealth and prosperity. The defeat of the Tories also paved the way for a reduction in the power and pretensions of its close ally, the Church of England, which had been responsible for years of religious intolerance.

It is not too late to make amends. Having arrived at Greenwich on September 18,1714 , the new monarch was crowned on October 20 in a frugal ceremony at Westminster Abbey which cost £5000.
Yours faithfully
Lord Lexden
House of Lords 

16/9/14 - Ian Paisley
The Times

Dear Sir,
Oliver Kamm (Notebook, Sept.16) does well to remind us of the chilling impression created by Ian Paisley when he bellowed on behalf of the "Protestant and loyalist people of Ulster". It was his frequent appearances on the British television screen which did more than anything else to give vast numbers of people in Britain the illusion that Ulster Unionists were a horde of religious maniacs and political fanatics,a strange and alien breed for whose welfare a malign fate had made the British responsible. In this way, Paisley did more damage to the Union than any other politician of the day.
Yours faithfully
Lord Lexden
London SW1

15/9/14 - One Nation
The New Statesman

Dear Sir,
The myth of a Disraelian vision of "one nation" is so pervasive that even my brilliant historian friend John Bew accepts it in assessing Richard Nixon (NS Essay,12 September). Dizzy held that the two nations--rich and poor--were so divided that they could never be brought together. It was the unloved Stanley Baldwin who first uttered the phrase in a speech on 4 December 1924 when he called for "the union of those two nations of which Disraeli spoke two generations ago...to make one nation of our own people at home".
Alistair Lexden
Chairman, Conservative History Group
House of Lords
London SW1

11/9/14 - David Cameron and Scotland
The Times

Dear Sir,
When the American colonies were lost in 1782(leading article, Sept.8), George III stubbornly refused to accept his prime minister’s resignation. Lord North had to submit it several times, wailing that he could not remain after having brought about “the ruin of my King and country”. The monarch eventually acquiesced. Should Scotland be lost next week, it is unlikely that David Cameron would encounter similar royal resistance if a sense of honour should lead him to conclude that, as leader of the Conservative and Unionist party, he ought not to remain in office. George Osborne, the strategic mastermind, ought to consider his position too.
Yours faithfully
Lord Lexden

London SW1

8/9/14 - Scotland 
The Telegraph

Dear Sir
If it is to succeed,the campaign to save the Union must change course.It has been a grave mistake to rely almost entirely on economic arguments. There is no way of showing decisively that Scotland would be less prosperous outside the Union. Incessant, inconclusive argument over currency,oil and the provision of public services has led to an unproductive and unseemly wrangle which has brought discredit on both sides.

The Unionists must make their case in strong patriotic terms during the days that remain.They must invite the people of Scotland not just to say no to independence, but to say yes to a new and positive relationship with the rest of the United Kingdom on terms of full equality. The Scottish Parliament has been promised additional powers.It should be made clear that their conferment will mark the start of work in all parts of the UK to devise a new constitutional settlement that would bind them together on a federal basis.Unionism would acquire the sense of vision it badly needs and the UK would be put on a firm,stable foundation for the future.
Yours faithfully
Lord Lexden
London SW1

22/8/14 - The Speaker and the Clerk of the Commons
The Times

Dear Sir
In his book, Who Goes Home? Sir Robert Rogers, outgoing clerk of the House engaged in combat with Mr Bercow, cites a 1313 statute banning armour from both Houses. Should it be repealed at once to permit a wider range of methods to settle the dispute over the choice of Sir Robert’s successor? He also quotes an 18th-century predecessor who ruled that the Commons should be prepared to consider all expedients to ensure that business was “not subject to the momentary caprice of the Speaker.
Yours faithfully
Lord Lexden
House of Lords

8/8/14 - Royal Yacht 
The Telegraph

Dear Sir
The future Edward VII dominated Cowes week in the early 1890s through his prowess in sailing the first Britannia which later passed to his son (" Britannia to rule the waves once more, Aug. 2). In 1896, however, the Kaiser gained the upper hand sailing the giant Meteor II, a bigger, faster version of Britannia. "The regatta used to be a pleasant relaxation for me", his British uncle lamented."Since the Kaiser took command, it is a vexation". In this early round of hostilities, victory went to Germany.

After the First World War George V gave Britannia a second glorious era undimmed by competition from abroad. In 1934 he calculated that it had sailed in 569 races, winning 231 first prizes and 124 others.

Yours faithfully
Lord Lexden
London SW1

31/7/14 - Lord Lexden suggests ways of resolving a serious constitutional issue in the Lords
The Times

Dear Sir
Quite rightly, the House of Lords supported Baroness Boothroyd by a large majority yesterday evening (“ Boothroyd hits at Lords demotion”, July 28). As we were reminded during the debate, the summary removal of the Lord Chancellor under the last government cost the Lords one of its traditional cabinet seats. That underlines the importance of the remaining historic seat.

Throughout the 19th century the Leader of the Lords was either the Prime Minister or one of his closest colleagues. The Duke of Wellington, who held the position under Sir Robert Peel from 1841 to 1846, defined its principal function as “the avoidance of dispute and division with the lower house”. A bicameral parliament is unlikely to serve the interests of the nation effectively in all circumstances if one of its two houses is unrepresented in the full cabinet to which disputes will always be brought.

This grave constitutional issue must now be permanently resolved. A new report by the Lords all-party Select Committee on the Constitution, of which I am a member, has suggested three remedies, all of which would require a short, simple amendment to the Ministerial and other Salaries Act 1975. The limit on the total number of cabinet posts for which salaries can be paid could be raised from 21 to 22---or, perhaps more attractively, one of the existing 21 could be explicitly reserved for either a member of the House or for its Leader. For those with a sense of history the last will seem the best.

Yours faithfully
Lord Lexden
House of Lords

31/7/14 - The Lords Farce
The Spectator

Dear Sir,

There is even more to the bizarre story of Baroness Stowell , the first Lords Leader without a Cabinet seat, and the Chancellorship of the Duchy of Lancaster than Charles Moore indicates (The Spectator’s Notes, 26 July).

The proposed salary top-up from Tory party funds, subsequently abandoned in the face of an outcry in the Lords, was pointless in the first place. Under the Ministerial and other Salaries Act 1975 any payment made to the holder of the office from outside sources leads automatically to a corresponding reduction in the amount provided by Parliament.

Neither that legislation or any other prevents the Chancellor of the Duchy being paid out of party funds. So there was no legal reason why Mr Cameron should not have stood by his original plan instead of getting her to swop with Mr Letwin to whom the Privy Seal had been offered. Equally there is no reason why they should not swop back again. It would be a pity not to add further to this comedy of political errors.
Yours faithfully
Alistair Lexden
House of Lords

11/7/14 - Lord Lexden exposes a scoundrel at the British Museum 
The Telegraph

Dear Sir

It is wholly inappropriate for the Elgin Marbles to be housed in the British Museum's Duveen Galleries(" Elgin Marbles to move--but not to Greece",July 3). They are named after Joe Duveen (1869-1939) who made a fortune by buying old masters for a song from impoverished aristocrats and selling them at an immense profit to American millionaires. In return for making lavish donations to the Museum, he was made a trustee in 1929, becoming the first dealer ever to buy his way on to the board.

The new galleries for which he paid in 1931 horrified his fellow trustee, Lord Crawford, who described them as " a painful contrast to the strength and simplicity of the new Pergamon Room at Berlin". The Marbles were lucky to escape serious damage. Duveen wanted them to be " thoroughly cleaned--so thoroughly he would dip them in acid".

Yours faithfully
Lord Lexden
London SW1

7/7/14 - Edith Cavell
The Times

Dear Sir
The execution of Edith Cavell made a profound impression on the then Prime Minister, Herbert Asquith(“ Wartime heroine Edith Cavell is honoured with £5 coin”, July 5). “She has taught the bravest man amongst us a supreme lesson of courage”, he said in 1915,” and in this United Kingdom and throughout the Dominions of the Crown there are thousands of such women, but a year ago we did not know it”. Overnight this hitherto unyielding opponent of votes for women, who had been physically attacked by Mrs Pankhurst’s suffragettes, was converted to the cause.
Yours faithfully
Lord Lexden
House of Lords 

1/7/14 - Lord Lexden expresses admiration for the Prince of Wales’s discussions with politicians
The Times

Dear Sir
We are fortunate to have a Prince of Wales who takes a close and constructive interest in politics (“ Prince tried to influence policy ,say Blair ministers”, June 30). In the eighteenth century heirs to the throne used politics destructively to attack the monarch. After that they were debarred from all involvement. As Prince of Wales the future Edward VII was not allowed to see a single state paper. The future Edward VIII, who was prohibited from holding serious discussions with politicians, developed facile right-wing views unchecked. Wisely, Prince Charles has been allowed to equip himself with the full understanding of politics that will enable him to perform his duties as a constitutional monarch well. Furthermore, at a time when parliamentarians are fobbed off with incomplete and misleading answers to questions, the nation gains significantly from having a Prince who engages in rigorous private exchanges with our rulers. On no account should this invaluable role be diminished by making his comments public.
Yours faithfully
Lord Lexden
House of Lords 

18/6/2014 - Stuck to the seat
The Times

Sir, Tories have not represented Canterbury since 1835 without interruption (“Tory addiction”, June 14).

Between 1880 and 1885 the constituency had no MP. It was disfranchised as a result of electoral corruption. A Liberal candidate at the 1880 election made it known that he had been offered £1,000 to stand down. The Tories owned up but spread the dishonour by revealing that he had tried to extract £2,500 as his price for withdrawing.
LORD LEXDEN
House of Lords

6/6/2014 - The last hotly contested Tory victory in Newark 
The Telegraph

Dear Sir
The last occasion on which the Conservative Party campaigned so intensively in Newark was in 1832 immediately after the Great Reform Act. Their leading candidate in the then two-member seat was none other than Gladstone, at that time “the rising hope of the stern, unbending Tories”.

On the day of his nomination he spent six and a half hours on the hustings with stones missing his head by “twelve inches”, as he noted with his customary precision. “An outrageous noise, in groaning, hissing, and shouting prevented him proceeding” with his speech.

Nevertheless he finally emerged at the head of the poll by 89 votes in an electorate of 1,575 after lavish sums had been spent on free food and drink. “I was born Red, I live Red and I shall die Red”, the victor proudly proclaimed, that being the defiant Tory colour.

Yours faithfully
Lord Lexden
London SW1

3/5/2014 - Queen Mary
The Spectator

Dear Sir
Richard Ryder (‘The poor man in his castle’, Apr.26) confines Queen Mary’s war-time tyranny at Badminton to the house, but it also extended to the estate. ‘ “ Now, Aunt May”, her niece the Duchess of Beaufort told her, “ remember that those shrubs outside the stable wall are not to be touched”; the next day Queen Mary took her out and every shrub was gone, revealing a naked wall which then had to be cemented and painted. “I’m so glad to see you like my yesterday’s work”, she said’. Surely her spirit should be powerful enough to quell the outbreak of gay orgies with which the estate is currently afflicted.
Yours faithfully
Alistair Lexden
House of Lords 

22/5/2014 - PM on the Tube
The Times

Dear Sir
One especially modest prime minister took care to retain his anonymity as he travelled home to Baker Street by underground from Westminster (letter, May 21). “ Good Lord!”, said a fellow commuter. “ Do people ever tell you that you are the spitting image of Clement Attlee?” “ Frequently”, he replied.
Yours faithfully

Lord Lexden

London SW1

 

10/5/2014 - Queen Victoria and Nudity
The Times

Dear Sir,
Queen Victoria’s taste for nudity was confined strictly to paintings. She would been horrified that Spencer Tunick has invoked her in support of his ventures (“Artist hails queen and country for our love of nudity”, May 6). She told her second daughter that anyone who even talked about anatomy was “disgusting”. She could not avoid the prying eyes of doctors when giving birth, but thereafter she was never seen in the buff again. Her medical advisers had to guess the state of her health from the endless flow of information that she provided about it. Even so, the fact that she had a ventral hernia only became known to them when they finally  examined her after her death.
Yours faithfully,

Lord Lexden

House of Lords

30/4/2014 - War and Peace
The Times

Sir,
Halifax and Churchill were not so far apart in May 1940 as Daniel Finkelstein suggests(Apr 26). They agreed that the war should be ended through a negotiated settlement; the demand for Germany’s unconditional surrender was adopted as policy only in 1943. Both wanted to preserve the British empire. Churchill said that “if we could get out of this jam by giving up Malta and Gibraltar and some African colonies he would jump at it”.

As Andrew Roberts puts it in his biography of Halifax, but for Hitler’s blunders of declaring war on both Russia and the US in 1941, the war might well have stayed unwinnable for Britain.

The two men had to ask themselves whether tolerable conditions for peace could be found.

19/4/14 – Exams
The Spectator

Dear Sir
My hero, Freddie Forsyth, errs in saying that Churchill “passed no exams” (letter, Apr.12). He took immense pride in just managing to scrape through the Sandhurst entry exam in 1893. “ I consider my triumph”, he wrote later, “was in learning Mathematics in six months”. The crammer in the Cromwell Road where he achieved this proficiency complained that he was “ rather too much inclined to teach his instructors instead of endeavouring to learn from them”.
Yours faithfully
Lord Lexden
London SW1 

14/4/14 - Electoral graft
The Times

Sir, Sir David Butler (letter, Apr 10) attributes “the relative purity” of 20th-century elections in Britain to the decision in 1868 to give the courts power to settle disputed contests. Yet corruption continued to rise after 1868. John Gorst, the Conservative Party’s chief agent, wrote in 1883 that “election expenses had, during recent years, increased to a scandalous amount (in order) to distribute money amongst the greatest possible number of electors, and a candidate who refused to conform to this universal custom had, or was believed to have, no chance of being returned”.

It was the Corrupt Practices Act, passed in 1883,which produced electoral purity by placing strict limits on the amounts that could be spent. This led the political parties to turn for the first time to unpaid volunteers marshalled on the Tory side by the Primrose League, founded on April 19, 1883, which provided the Conservative Party with an army of some two million faithful constituency workers.
Lord Lexden
London SW1

5/4/14 - A better sort of earl
The Telegraph

His great-grandfather, the 5th Earl, who gambled away the family fortune in six years and then devised a system to break the bank at Monte Carlo (but failed), was part of the Marlborough House set that fawned on the future Edward VII when he was Prince of Wales. He was tolerated because his sister, the Countess of Warwick, was for a time the Prince’s maitresse-en-titre (later she tried to use her love letters to blackmail the Royal family, but was forgiven).

The new senior courtier’s grandfather, who died in 1929 as Lord Loughborough before inheriting the earldom, tried but failed to win the friendship of the next Prince of Wales, later Edward VIII. “He was sacked from the RN College, Osborne, my first term there in the summer of 1907”, the latter recalled. He was much taken, however, with Lady Loughborough, as was his brother, the future George VI, her lover before his marriage.

In entering the service of Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall, the current Earl has made up for the failings of his predecessors.
Lord Lexden
London SW1

4/3/14 - The wartime spy who never wanted to be Smiley
The Telegraph

SIR – John Bingham was one of our most remarkable Second World War spies. The M15 documents that have just been released (“Spy who turned Hitler’s British supporters into unwitting double agents”, report, February 28) show the scale of his achievement in neutralising the espionage of British fascists, who were more widespread than is supposed.

This modest hero, who was also the 7th Baron Clanmorris – an Ulster title without property – was not treated as respectfully as he deserved by his protégé, John le Carré, who immortalised him as George Smiley. He was hurt by the portrayal of his secret world in the novels.

The author, Bingham once said, “was my friend, but I deplore and hate everything he has done and said against the intelligence services”. No one cared more about his country and its institutions than John Bingham, to whom we owe so much.
Lord Lexden
House of Lords SW1

26/2/14 - Cabinet ‘gimmick’
The Times

Sir, Monday’s Cabinet meeting in Aberdeen was an obvious political gimmick, laboriously planned (report, Feb 25). The only previous meeting of a coalition Cabinet held in Scotland took place in the council chamber of Inverness town hall on September 7, 1921. It was totally unplanned. The Liberal Prime Minister, Lloyd George, happened to be on holiday near by when an Irish crisis blew up.

The then Tory leader, Austen Chamberlain, said, “This is outrageous, dragging us up to Inverness” as he boarded the night train from Euston with his colleagues, including the Home Secretary, who went quickly to his berth “with a bottle of whisky and six soda water bottles”.
Lord Lexden
House of Lords

13/2/14 - An alternative to Scottish separation
The Telegraph

SIR – Benedict Brogan’s great-uncles (I was overawed by one of them as a Cambridge undergraduate in the Sixties) would not have described themselves as Conservatives and Unionists, but simply as Unionists (Comment, February 11). Under this banner, the party encompassed a good deal of what has now been absorbed by the Scottish National Party. Scottish Unionism asserted the country’s full equality with England. The Conservative brand, arrogantly imposed by Ted Heath in 1965, demoted Scottish national pride.

 

The Conservative Party today should turn the challenge of Scottish separation into an opportunity to recreate a Unionism that fulfils Scottish patriotism once again and inspires the entire United Kingdom with a sense of common purpose. A new constitutional settlement is needed that embraces all parts of the country fairly and equally, possibly on a federal basis. It is at this point, not after the Scottish referendum, that debate about a positive alternative to separation should begin.

 

Lord Lexden
London SW1

11/2/14 - Bong, bong
The Times

Sir, My friend Lord Finkelstein should tell his visitors confidently that Big Ben is named after Sir Benjamin Hall (Notebook, Feb 8).

The great 13-ton bell arrived in London by sea (nearly sinking during the voyage) in October 1856. On October 22 The Times commented: “All bells, we believe, are christened before they begin to toll, and on this occasion it is proposed to call our king of bells ‘Big Ben’ in honour of Sir Benjamin Hall, the President of the Board of Works during whose tenure it was cast.”

I always cite this when my visitors quiz me about the alternative theory that the honour belongs to “Big Ben” Caunt, a much-loved prize-fighter in his day, but whose fame had faded after his retirement from the ring over a decade earlier.
Lord Lexden
House of Lords

1/2/14 - The Ward files
The Spectator

Sir: Michael Ward (Letters, 25 January) looks forward to seeing the conviction of his uncle, Stephen Ward, overturned when the transcript of his trial is disclosed. Recently, however, the government revealed that no transcript exists. Earlier this month the House of Lords was astonished to be told that only ‘partial records’ survive. We were also told that only one of the six files seemed to be entirely secret. I suggested that the historian Peter Hennessy should be asked to visit the files and clear up the confusion. Nothing could be done ‘for another 100 years or so’, I was informed. The establishment seems determined that Ward should continue to be denied justice. 
Alistair Lexden
House of Lords
London SW1

13/1/14 - Princes at Cambridge
The Telegraph

Dear Sir
With the arrival of Prince William, Cambridge University has the grandson of a reigning monarch among its dreaming spires for only the second time in its history. In October 1883 Queen Victoria’s grandson, Prince Albert Victor, known everywhere as Prince Eddy, came into residence  at Trinity College with a don who was a radical MP and outspoken critic of the monarchy as his neighbour. “ He hardly knows the meaning of the words to read”, wailed his tutor. After two years the most that could be said for his scholarship was that he had “ a fair memory for the more picturesque parts” of English history. It is perhaps not surprising that the university has made no reference to this interesting royal precedent.
Yours faithfully,
Lord Lexden