2016

23/12/16 - Tribute to Patrick Jenkin
The Times

Patrick Jenkin (obituary, Dec. 22) was one of the best advertisements for the Lords that the House has had. In his late eighties he was regularly in his place amidst a sea of paper, making detailed criticisms of subordinate clauses of government legislation on a host of subjects. I remember him calmly explaining how a particular housing association in London would be damaged by one of the provisions of a housing bill; it was promptly withdrawn. He was also an assiduous reader of The Times letters page. “Another letter from you this morning”, he said to me, as he left the Lords for the last time. It would have amused him that a  letter of mine should have appeared on the same day as his obituary.

22/12/16 - Florence Nightingale in love
The Times

Sir, It is wrong to suggest that Florence Nightingale did not return the love of the handsome writer and book-collector Richard Moncton Milnes (“ Duchess’s library is literary goldmine”, Dec.16) who was later ennobled by Gladstone. He was “the man I adored”, she said. She went through agonies after turning down his marriage proposal, confiding to her diary in 1849 that “since I refused him not one day has passed without my thinking of him, that life is desolate without his sympathy”. But marriage was incompatible with this great woman’s need to “form for myself a true and rich life”.
Lord Lexden
London SW1

21/12/16 - Julian Fellowes's error
London Evening Standard

Dear Sir

Julian Fellowes rails against male primogeniture which he thinks prevented his wife becoming Countess Kitchener of Khartoum (“I’m surprised it’s even legal that only men inherit titles”, 19 December).

The famous war hero for whom the title was created in 1902 was a well-known misogynist, widely rumoured to be gay. Since he had no children, the title only survived through a rarely used device known as a special remainder. This decreed that the earldom should pass to Kitchener’s eldest brother “and the heirs male of his body”. It would have been quite possible to have included provision for a woman to inherit. Kitchener, a woman-hater, specifically ruled that out.

Alistair Lexden
House of Lords

20/12/16 - Prime Minister on a tricycle
The Daily Telegraph

SIR--The paths of asphalt and red gravel that displeased the Dowager Marchioness of Salisbury when she took charge of the gardens of Hatfield House (Obituary, 14 December) had been created at great expense to accommodate an immense Humber tricycle (with a platform at the back for a footman).

This was acquired in 1898 by the third Marquess, the longest-serving Tory prime minister of modern times. Weighing over 20 stone, he felt in urgent need of exercise. Few pounds, however, were shed as he pedalled sedately often clad in a purple velvet poncho. According to a young Tory MP who visited Hatfield “cuttings [had] been made in order to reduce even the smallest hills to tolerably level tracks” involving the removal of some 500 tons of gravel. Peril lurked.

“He is always in terror lest he be ambushed by some of his numerous grandchildren who all think him fair game”. A pair of them were once discovered “with two huge jugs of water” on a wall under which he was due to pass.

Lord Lexden
London SW1

3/12/16 - "Lower than vermin"
The Spectator

Sir: The foundation of Vermin Clubs became a very popular Tory pastime in 1949 (‘The Spectator’s Notes’, 19 November). Many constituencies had them. The badges—sold for party funds—adorned lapels at the party conference that year. (One of them, which ended up in Ulster, is in my collection of memorabilia.) Churchill, who hated Bevan, did not share the general enthusiasm; he pressed for action against his old adversary in the courts. But nothing could dampen the ardour of the party’s shock troops: the Young Conservatives. They shouted Attlee down with cries of ‘Vermin’ at a meeting in Leicester at the 1950 election.
Alistair Lexden
House of Lords

28/11/16 - The Windsors' wedding
The Daily Telegraph

SIR--Lady Alexandra Metcalfe, the woman behind the camera at the Duke of Windsor’s wedding in June 1937 (“Private pictures of wedding that shocked the world”, November 23) was the daughter of Lord Curzon and an ardent supporter of Sir Oswald Mosley. Nicknamed Baba, she was widely known as Baba Blackshirt. 

The host of the occasion at his French castle, Charles Bedaux, whom the Duke had never met, had recently agreed to give “a permanent cut of his business profits” in Germany to the Nazis.

Baba noted in her diary: “It could be nothing but pitiable & tragic to see a King of England of only six months ago, an idolised King, married under these circumstances. [But] he was so sure of himself in his happiness that it gave something to the sad little service which it is hard to describe.” 

He found some consolation for the low turn-out of wedding guests in the interest the event aroused in France. The French post office issued pictorial souvenir covers “en commémoration du mariage de S.A.R. le Duc de Windsor et de Mrs Wallis Warfield, Monts, le 3 Juin 1937—12 heures."  I possess two.

Lord Lexden
London SW1

23/11/16 - Risking Royal wrath
The Times

Sir, Collecting stamps provided King George V with his one constructive hobby. Without it there would hardly have been a game bird left in the kingdom. He vowed to come back and haunt anyone who broke up his albums. Is David White (letter, Nov.21) ready for nights of quarter-deck swearing in return for that block of Penny Blacks that he thinks should be sold to help meet the cost of refurbishing Buckingham Palace?
Lord Lexden
London SW1

18/11/16 - Queen Victoria and John Brown
The Times Literary Supplement

Sir,-- In his engaging review of Julia Baird’s new biography of Queen Victoria (November 11), Mark Bostridge draws attention to an extraordinary attempt by the Royal Archives to prevent the publication of material that is not even in their possession. It is high time that a protocol was established defining the terms and conditions under which the Royal Archives operate. I shall try and find an opportunity in the House of Lords to press for it.

This is not the first attempt by the Palace to prevent historians bringing to light fresh information about the relationship between Queen Victoria and John Brown. In 1987, Princess Margaret tried to stop the publication of the instructions included in Victoria’s will that a “plain gold wedding-ring which had belonged to the mother of my dear valued servant and friend Brown…[should] be on my fingers” when she was buried.

The newly discovered reference to a flirtatious episode of 1883(the year of Brown’s death) in the dairy of Sir James Reid, the royal doctor, is just the latest of a number of tantalising but inconclusive comments in the papers of courtiers and politicians that have appeared in print in recent decades. Taken together they show that a very close relationship existed between monarch and attendant without proving that it had a sexual element of any kind. Sir James Reid, a great favourite at court and in constant attendance on the Queen, almost certainly knew the full truth, as the excellent biography Ask Sir James (1987) by Michaela Reid indicates. In addition to what he observed himself, Sir James dealt with a blackmailer who in 1905 was paid from royal funds for over 300 letters about Brown from the Queen to her Balmoral factor, Alexander Profeit. The letters, subsequently destroyed by Edward VII, were described by Reid in his diary as “most compromising”. He summarised the gist of them in a green memorandum book but it was burnt after his death. There can be little hope that a cache of documents will ever be uncovered to put the inevitable speculation to rest.

Alistair Lexden
House of Lords

10/11/16 - The Eleventh Hour
The Times

Sir, When we fall silent at 11am on Remembrance Sunday and Armistice Day, we should spare a thought for Admiral Sir Rosslyn Wemyss. Lloyd George instructed Wemyss, his representative at Allied HQ in France, to ensure that the armistice took effect at 2.30pm. The prime minister planned to announce it triumphantly in the House of Commons. Wemyss defied him, telephoning George V to fix the eleventh hour for the cessation of hostilities.

A furious Lloyd George withheld the £100,000 grant awarded to other service chiefs, and while they received earldoms he got a mere barony.

Lord Lexden
House of Lords

9/11/16 - Princess Margaret's sacrifice
The Daily Telegraph

SIR--Princess Margaret won widespread admiration when, in October 1955, she announced that she was giving up the man she loved, Group Captain Peter Townsend, because she was “mindful of the Church’s teaching that Christian marriage is indissoluble”(report, November 1). 

The Archbishop of Canterbury, the redoubtable Geoffrey Fisher, praised this “thoroughly good Christian churchwoman”. In reality purely secular considerations led to the great renunciation. If the marriage had gone ahead, the Queen’s sister would have had to give up her rights to the throne. That she could almost certainly have accepted. She also believed that she would lose her income from the Civil List which “would have ruined her”, in Townsend’s words.

She was not told that, far from ruining her, the government was thinking of giving her an extra £9,000 year to assist her wedded bliss. She did not have all the facts when she made her decision. No wonder she was bitter afterwards.

Lord Lexden
London SW1

8/11/16 - Brexit and the Lords
London Evening Standard

There are some determined supporters of Brexit in the House of Lords who will not tolerate attempts to stall the process of leaving the EU.

The Conservative Party manifesto at the general election last year pledged that our party would accept the result of the referendum. If the Government introduces legislation before invoking Article 50, we must of course scrutinise it carefully in exactly the same way that we examine all measures that come to us. That is our constitutional duty.

It would be entirely wrong, however, for the Lords to try and delay, or make fundamental changes to, legislation of overwhelming importance that commands the support of the elected chamber—which it will by the time it reaches us. The House of Lords must work constructively to make a success of Brexit; that is what the British people will expect of us.

Alistair Lexden
House of Lords

27/10/16 - Raine and the Tories
The Times (obituaries)

Raine Spencer was the most ardent of Tories. Though disappointed in her search for a parliamentary seat, she always threw herself enthusiastically into general election campaigns. As soon as one was announced she would be on the telephone to Conservative Central Office in search of work. The sight of her in a pinny doing the washing-up cheered many a party hack. Afterwards she would lay on a bus to take her friends to Althorp where we gorged ourselves on meringues washed down with (not very good) estate-bottled red wine. I still have the rather better claret she gave me in 1984 with her whirling signature on the label.

27/10/16 - Diana's stepmother deserves a plaque
London Evening Standard

Princess Diana’s stepmother, Raine Spencer, who died last week, deserves a plaque in Covent Garden. In June 1972 the Greater London Council submitted plans to develop the area to the Tory Environment Secretary, Geoffrey Rippon. Hundreds of historic buildings would have been torn down. However, before plans could be approved, Raine Dartmouth, as she was known then, resigned as chairman of its development committee, declaring that the project would do “irreparable damage to an historic part of London”. In 1973, Rippon turned the plans down.
Alistair Lexden
House of Lords

14/10/16 - Churchill's example
The Daily Telegraph

SIR—Mrs May did not try hard enough last week to “mingle the victorious and the defeated in the EU referendum”, Charles Moore pointed out (Comment, October 10).

She should have followed Churchill’s example when he became prime minister in May 1940. Many urged him to cast aside all who had supported appeasement which, like the EU, had once enjoyed widespread support throughout the Tory party.

He resisted those siren voices in the interests of political unity. Neville Chamberlain became his right-hand man.

When Chamberlain died in November 1940, Churchill said, with tears in his eyes: “ What shall I do without poor Neville? I was relying on him to run the home front for me.”

Lord Lexden
London SW1

14/10/16 - The first women Tory MPs
New Statesman

The normally omniscient George Eaton makes a small slip (Politics, 30 September). Volatile, publicity-seeking Lady Astor was the first female Tory MP, not the modest Mabel Philipson, a Gaiety Girl in her youth and great-aunt of my old friend George Freeman, one of most creative Tories who first devised electorally attractive policies in order  to help John Major twenty years ago (foolishly he showed no interest in them).

Mrs Philipson, a woman of the most generous philanthropic instincts, took the place of her husband, Hilton, a National Liberal, as MP for Berwick-upon-Tweed at a by-election in May 1923 after he had been unseated for fraud committed by his agent. The Tories’ second woman MP hardly opened her mouth in the Commons, retiring six years later to resume her stage career.

Alistair Lexden
House of Lords

30/9/16 - Disraeli and anti-Jewish prejudice
TLS: The Times Literary Supplement

Sir, Rosemary Ashton, in her review of David Cesarani’s Disraeli (September 23) refers to the “jibes and caricatures” which Disraeli endured. Many of his parliamentary colleagues delighted in them. In 1859 a Tory grandee wrote to the party leader, Lord Derby, denouncing “that nasty, oily, slimy Jew”; Derby read out the words to an appreciative audience at White’s. A leading backbencher, Sir Rainald Knightley, was still railing against “that hellish Jew” in the 1870s. The attacks might have been more muted if he had indeed been “unwilling to speak up” for the admission of Jews to Parliament. He could not keep silent on the matter. He shared his rich, upper middle-class father’s Enlightenment detestation of all religious prejudices (except those against Protestant dissenters whom he could not bear). “Where is your Christianity if you do not believe in their Judaism?”, he demanded in the Commons in 1847. When Lionel de Rothschild first took his seat in 1858, he ostentatiously shook Disraeli’s hand.

What, if anything, did this extraordinary man actually believe? His political disciple, Lord Stanley, referred in his diary on November  30, 1861 to Disraeli’s “open ridicule, in private, of all religions”. He may well have been teasing a stuffy young man. He never ceased reading and discussing both Christian and Jewish texts. In 1851 he said that in old age he hoped to write a life of Christ from the Jewish point of view. After carefully considering all the evidence, John Vincent concluded in his brilliant brief biography (1990) that “Disraeli was a Christian of peculiar perspective, not an apologist for Judaism”.

Alistair Lexden
House of Lords

29/9/16 - Tory women leaders and the Carlton Club
The Times 

Sir, If only life at the Carlton Club was really as bizarre as TMS (Sept. 23) paints it. Alas, Mrs Thatcher did not become an honorary man when in 1975 she was took up the traditional free membership given to Conservative Party leaders. The Club discovered to its delight that honorary membership could be given to man, woman or child without restriction. Mrs T snapped it up because it provided her with posh premises where potential donors and others could be entertained at the Party’s expense. The Club cosseted her, presenting her with a huge cake on St Valentine’s Day in 1983. Mrs May could have been an honorary member too as Party Chairman in 2002 if she had shared Mrs T’s breezy acceptance that full, paid membership should be confined to men.
Lord Lexden
Co-author, The Carlton Club 1832-2007
House of Lords

21/9/16 - Harold Macmillan's resignation
The Daily Telegraph

SIR--James Le Fanu (Health, September 19) errs in saying that Harold Macmillan was “persuaded to retire” as prime minister in October 1963 as a result of his prostate trouble, a condition that was entirely benign.

Macmillan was under no pressure to resign. His doctors told him that he would make a quick and complete recovery after surgery. Nevertheless, he reversed his decision to stay on to the next election which he had made clear to the Palace on 7 October.

His surgeon, Alec Badenoch, recorded that Macmillan used his illness “as a vehicle for resignation in order to extricate himself from an increasingly difficult political position”, telling Badenoch: “it came as manna from heaven—an act of God”.

Lord Lexden
London SW1

7/9/16 - Absentee peers
The Times

Sir, It is true, as Baroness Stowell says (letter, Sep.5), that more peers were entitled to sit in the Lords before 1998 than now. Average daily attendance, however, was much lower—some 250 as compared with nearly 500 now.

Previous generations would have been astonished by this dramatic change. Lord Samuel, Liberal leader in the late 1930s, said: “The efficiency of the Lords depends on the persistent absenteeism of most of its members.”

Lord Lexden
House of Lords

30/08/16 - Down with television
The Daily Telegraph

SIR--It took a great deal of pressure to get John Reith and his senior BBC colleagues to approve the first television broadcast 80 years ago (“Britain’s very first night of television”, August 26). They were extremely reluctant to permit the public use of this new medium.

Seven years earlier one prominent journalist had thundered: “The attitude of the BBC in regard to this amazing British invention is absolutely incomprehensible”. Reith himself was one of the principal obstacles. He said “ he was afraid of television”. He believed that programme-makers would provide too much light entertainment and not enough serious education, endangering the elevated values which his creation should, above all, seek to imbue. 

He was of course quite right. Radio is so much better.

Lord Lexden
London SW1

25/8/16 - A great Ulster Unionist reformer
The Times

Robin Chichester-Clark was a central figure in the determined, but doomed, efforts to set Ulster Unionism on a new, liberal course in the late 1960s. He was a principal confidant of Terence O’Neill, the Ulster prime minister and leader of the reform movement, who Chichester-Clark admired for his “courage, idealism and foresight”, as he put it in his important unpublished reminiscences which have been deposited with his political papers in the Churchill Archives Centre in Cambridge.

The two men worked together on an ambitious reform programme from which sprang the full extension of civil rights throughout the Province. They talked endlessly on the telephone, O’Neill even seeking advice on what he should do about an Ulster cabinet colleague who “had been spotted more than once accosting prostitutes in Curzon Street on his visits to London”.

It was Chichester-Clark’s friend, Ted Heath, who finally ruined the new Unionism through the premature introduction of power-sharing in 1973. Though right in principle, Chichester-Clark believed that “it was applied too fast and without enough preparation”. This wonderfully accomplished moderate Unionist was never more conscious of the ruin of his hopes than when Heath, having retired, said to him: “Fundamentally you were always in favour of a united Ireland weren’t you?”

6/8/16 - Controversial honours
The Daily Telegraph

SIR--The last Tory dissolution honours list to stir so much controversy was Stanley Baldwin’s in May 1929 (“Cameron nominates more than 40 peerages”, 3 August). It had  five peerages, six baronetcies and 11 knighthoods. A speech-writer got the CH and the staff at No 10 were generously rewarded.

One commentator said “Baldwin is no better than Lloyd George”. Another declared: “It seems more and more difficult to resist the conclusion that honours seldom fall to politicians who do not pursue them”. Plus ça change.
Lord Lexden
London SW1

3/8/16 - the Lords and Brexit
The Times

Sir, My colleagues in the House of Lords would make a grave mistake if they sought to impede Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union(“Peers band together for attempt to block Brexit”, News, Aug.1). The Conservative Party’s 2015 manifesto promised: “We will honour the result of the referendum, whatever the outcome”. The Upper House must abide by the longstanding convention that it does not block manifesto commitments.
Lord Lexden
House of Lords

19/7/16 - Dizzy and Joe
The Times

Sir, Once again Disraeli has been hailed as the founder of one-nation Conservatism (letter, July 15), though it was actually created by a later Tory leader, Stanley Baldwin. But is the much-lauded Dizzy about to suffer the indignity of being upstaged by Joseph Chamberlain, who he derided in the 1870s as having “the manners of a cheese-monger” redeemed only by his habit of “wearing his eyeglass like a gentleman”?

This radical proponent of social reform, who worked uneasily with the Tories for 20 years but never joined them, now seems poised to become their chief source of historical inspiration, thanks to Mrs May’s chief of staff, Nick Timothy (“Political tsar with a hankering for old Conservatism”, July16).
Lord Lexden
Chairman, Conservative History Group
House of Lords

19/7/16 - Women at the Carlton Club
London Evening Standard

The Londoner’s Diary casts a slur on the Carlton Club by claiming that for three decades Margaret Thatcher was the only woman allowed in it [July 15]. Several hundred others used it too during that period as associate members and many women rather liked the arrangement because they paid a lower subscription.

Few of them probably talked to Mrs Thatcher. She made sure that she was surrounded by men.
Alistair Lexden
House of Lords (Con) and Carlton Club historian

13/7/16 - Origins of One-Nation Conservatism
The Daily Telegraph 

SIR--Jacob Rees-Mogg (Comment, July 7) repeats the hoary old myth that Disraeli invented “One Nation Conservatism”.

The great Tory hero thought that Britain would always be divided into two nations—the rich and the poor—between whom “no intercourse and no sympathy” could exist. Any attempt to bring about “the fusion of classes” would “diminish national and individual character”.

Stanley Baldwin was the first Tory leader to speak of ending the divide. In 1924 he told the party that it must work for “the union of those two nations of which Disraeli spoke two generations ago: union among our own people to make one nation”.
Lord Lexden
London SW1

5/7/16 - A house with political history
London Evening Standard

Machinations at 112 Eaton Square played a big part in bringing Churchill to power in May 1940 (“House where MPs sealed fate of Chamberlain is sold for £25m”, 30 June) but some hoped that the property’s owner, Leo Amery, would become prime minister of the coalition government. Labour leaders said Amery was “the Tory whom they would soonest serve under”. Thirty-five years on, some Tory MPs felt that Leo’s son, Julian, should replace Ted Heath as leader. He took calls in the same drawing room where the earlier conspiracy had taken place, and while he decided he lacked the support to rival Mrs Thatcher, he said: “This room has had its place in political history confirmed on a second occasion”.
Alistair Lexden
House of Lords

5/7/16 - Reflections on Michael Gove
The Daily Telegraph
 

SIR--In small matters at least Michael Gove does not always show a strict regard for truth. For some years he put it about that I turned him down for a job in the Conservative Research Department in the Eighties because he was “insufficiently Conservative”. I did not even interview him.

His fine writing has not been free from misfortune. His book Michael Portillo: The Future of the Right - written when he himself was on the right of the Party - had to be withdrawn after its publication in 1995 because he was unable to sustain assertions about a litigious young journalist. That was a pity since it contains a sentence of imperishable political truth: “the Tory Party has shown that it does not reward radicals who resign to launch crusades”.

Was it just imagination, or did the Queen show a certain froideur when she received her speech at the last State Opening of Parliament from her Lord Chancellor, who had been so widely suspected of speaking ill-advisedly to Mr Rupert Murdoch about the royal views of Brexit?
Lord Lexden
London SW1

1/7/16 - What Boris should have done
The Times
 

Sir, Boris Johnson has a surfeit of self-confidence and a lack of self-discipline. Both would have been curbed if he had taken up my offer of a job in the Conservative Research Department in July 1988, a place where his father Stanley had mastered the political trade. He would have learnt to look at political issues in rigorous detail in order to write long factual briefing documents about them. He would gained the qualities that he conspicuously lacks. A few weeks before David Cameron had snapped up a post dealing with trade and industry issues.
Lord Lexden
Director, Conservative Political Centre, 1988-97
House of Lords

1/7/16 - Devolution and Brexit
The Spectator 

Sir: A comprehensive devolution scheme—home rule all round—was not lost when war broke out in 1914, as Andrew Marr suggests (Diary, 18 June). Having floated the idea, Asquith got Winston Churchill, then Liberal Home Secretary, to examine the practicalities. He told the cabinet that a single English parliament was ‘absolutely impossible’ and proposed seven regional legislatures for the UK’s largest country. No further work was done and the Liberals’ third Home Rule, like its predecessors, was confined to Ireland. Those who hoped for more had to be content with Asquith’s vague and insincere reference in debate to the possibility of a ‘larger and more comprehensive policy’ in due course. There was no first step towards a set of looser ties which would have made it easier for the UK’s component parts to make separate arrangements after Brexit.
Alistair Lexden
House of Lords

24/6/16 - Electioneering in military uniform 
The Spectator
 

Sir: Officers were not reluctant to appear in uniform at elections after the First World War (letters, 18 June).  The picture of retired Brigadier-General Sir Algernon Bewicke-Copley on his election address as Conservative candidate for Doncaster in 1922 shows him in full dress uniform, cocked hat and feathers. His election slogan was ‘We must not put up with slackers’. The Tory vote dropped sharply.
Alistair Lexden
House of Lords

11/6/16 - The Royal Yacht - How the Queen was let down by her ministers
The Daily Telegraph
 

SIR--Tony Blair was not responsible for the decision to decommission the Royal Yacht Britannia (report, 5 June).

Blame rests with John Major’s Cabinet and in particular with its Chancellor, Ken Clarke, who insisted bizarrely in 1995 that maintaining it at taxpayers’ expense would “damage public support for the royal family”. He was, however, forced to accept in January 1997 that it should be replaced by a new Royal Yacht which would be presented to Her Majesty during her Golden Jubilee celebrations in 2002. Blair is to blame for the failure to build it.
Lord Lexden
London SW1

11/6/16 - First news of Waterloo
The Times
 

Sir, It is not surprising that Nathan Rothschild was widely believed to have made a killing on the Stock Exchange during the day in which he was the only person in London who knew that Waterloo had been won (letter, June 8). Wellington himself believed the story. He put it around that the great banker’s agent who brought the news from Ostend in “strict silence all the way went with Rothschild to the Stock Exchange where he did his little business”, going on afterwards to see the Prime Minister, Lord Liverpool. In fact Liverpool was told at once, but refused to believe the news until corroboration arrived. 
Lord Lexden 
House of Lords

3/6/16 - A points system for immigration
The Daily Telegraph
 

SIR--David Cameron, the Prime Minister, says that a points system to help control immigration is “the wrong approach” and would “trash the economy” (report, June 2).

The Conservative manifesto for the 2005 election, for which he had responsibility, stated that “we will introduce a points-based system similar to the one used in Australia. This will give priority to people with the skills Britain needs”.

Briefing sent to Tory candidates added that “as in Australia, we will consult businesses every year to ensure that the right balance—involving the right number and type of immigrants—is struck by the points system”. Why is that policy now wrong?
Lord Lexden
London SW1

31/5/16 - Chuchill and the Londoner's diary
Evening Standard
 

Sir, Winston Churchill did not fill in for his journalist son Randolph on the Diary in 1938 as a result of the latter “going to Munich as a young army officer” (26 May). The Nazis would have sent him straight back home. It was the year that Chamberlain reached his Munich deal with Hitler which both Winston and Randolph denounced. Winston’s Diary work let Randolph take time off for army training. Such was Winston’s unpopularity at this point that most of the press banned him from writing. The Evening Standard was a proud exception.
Alistair Lexden
House of Lords

16/5/16 - The woman who really deserves a statue in Parliament Square
The Daily Telegraph
 

SIR--The proposal to put up the first statue of a woman in Parliament Square (report, May 12) is to be warmly applauded.

However, the person who most deserves this honour is not one of the militant Pankhursts, but Dame Millicent Garrett Fawcett-- a founder of Newnham College, Cambridge and leader of the 50,000-strong law-abiding women suffragists.

As a result of determined peaceful agitation by this group, a Women’s Suffrage Bill secured the backing of a majority of MPs in 1897. It was reintroduced several times over the next 20 years with ever increasing backbench support, but the tactics of the roughly 5, 000 suffragettes made it easier for Herbert Asquith and his fellow Liberal ministers to resist the passage of the Bill into law before the First World War.  By the time that success was finally achieved in 1918, the suffragettes had fizzled out.

It is time that proper public recognition was given to Dame Millicent, whose unremitting work over nearly 50 years makes her the real heroine of the long campaign.
Lord Lexden
London SW1

12/5/16 - Not alone in 1940
The
Times 

Sir, The Prime Minister has reiterated the widely held view that Britain made a “lone stand” in 1940 (“Cameron invokes legacy of Churchill”, May 9). It is untrue. Every country of the Commonwealth and Empire fought from the beginning to the end. It is unlikely that defeat in the Middle East could have been avoided without the large contingents of troops provided by Australia, New Zealand and India.

Churchill calculated that on land Britain and the Commonwealth had more divisions than the United States in fighting contact with the enemy until the summer of 1944. This essential element of Allied victory, said Churchill, reflected “our union in freedom and for the sake of our way of living, reinforced by tradition and sentiment”. His closest wartime colleague, Anthony Eden, added that the countries of the Commonwealth “saw clearly from the first. The vision of the men beyond the seas gave us courage”.
Lord Lexden
House of Lords

7/5/16 - Centenary of the Somme
TLS: The Times Literary Supplement

Sir,--David Roman (Letters, April 29) believes “the overarching strategic objectives in the Somme were extremely modest”. On the contrary, they were extremely ambitious. Douglas Haig sought a decisive victory by breaking through the formidable German trenches. Under his carefully laid plans, the greatest artillery bombardment ever seen and the massive infantry attacks that followed were designed to clear a route for his cavalry regiments which would then sweep the Germans from the villages and towns of northern France. Military historians debate the extent to which grave tactical errors by British commanders on the one hand, and the sheer strength of the German defences on the other, thwarted Haig’s ambitions. There was a second strategical objective which was successfully accomplished. Intense fighting at the Somme enabled the French to survive an even greater struggle at Verdun by diverting German troops from it. Defeat at Verdun would have spelt disaster for the allies by opening the road to Paris to the forces of the Kaiser. Churchill’s famous heartfelt plea for a strategy that did not send “our armies to chew barbed wire in Flanders” naturally strikes a deep chord. But, as Andrew Roberts puts it in his recent book, Elegy: The First Day on the Somme, “if there was a way of fighting the First World War that did not involve trying to smash frontally through formidable defences, neither side discovered one”.
Alistair Lexden
House of Lords

25/4/16 - Tories and tariffs
New Statesman

Simon Heffer (“The Tory wars”, 8 April) errs in stating that only “a minority” of Tories backed tariff reform in 1903. Chamberlain’s crusade swiftly captured the enthusiastic support of most of the party. Advocates of free trade were subject to merciless attack from fellow Tories in the constituencies. After the disastrous 1906 election the parliamentary party consisted mainly of tariff reformers. After the second election of 1910 Lord Hugh Cecil, son of the great Lord Salisbury, was almost alone in carrying the tattered banner of Tory free trade in the Commons.
Alistair Lexden
House of Lords

24/4/16 - The lucky few
The Spectator
 

Sir: David Cameron’s ‘historian friend’ who has been asked to establish how many Tory leaders have quit entirely of their own volition will not have a time-consuming task (‘Cameron’s plan for a graceful exit all hinges on the referendum’, 16 April). There are just three. In May 1834 the Duke of Wellington, then leader in opposition, passed the baton amicably to Sir Robert Peel, convinced that the next Tory premier should be in the Commons. The great Lord Salisbury departed serenely with his fame at its height in July 1902 at the age of 72, determined to avoid the mistake made by some of his predecessors who, in his words, stayed after ‘their intellects had evaporated’. The third is the well-known case of Stanley Baldwin in May 1937. He said, ‘I go of my own choice, in my own time, and on the top of my form’. Will David Cameron be able to say the same when he departs?
Alistair Lexden
Official Conservative Party historian
House of Lords

22/4/16 - Kohinoor
The Daily Telegraph
 

SIR--The Kohinoor diamond became Queen Victoria’s property in 1849, but she had to wait until 1854 before it was placed in her hands by its last Indian owner, the 16-year-old Maharajah Duleep Singh (“Britain should keep Kohinoor diamond, it was a gift, says India”, 19 April).

She liked the donor almost as much as the jewel. “He is extremely handsome and speaks perfect English”, she noted.

Later in life the royal favourite lost his looks and went badly off the rails. After failing to become Tory candidate in Whitby against Gladstone’s son, he spent much time with Piccadilly prostitutes to whom valuable gems were liberally dispensed. It is fortunate that the Kohinoor was firmly in Queen Victoria’s possession.
Lord Lexden
London SW1

11/4/16 - Justin Welby's conception at No 10
The Times

Sir, Justin Welby’s conception in March 1955 (News, Apr 9) occurred as Churchill struggled to reconcile himself to his forthcoming retirement as prime minister on 5 April. It was an exceptionally difficult time for his staff. “ You will find the P.M. very depressed”, Welby’s mother, who had typed up Churchill’s last major speech in the Commons, told his doctor, Lord Moran, on March 21.” He has given up reading the newspapers and sits about staring into space”.

Eight days later, reinvigorated, he told the Queen that he was thinking of putting off his resignation. As his private secretary, Anthony Montague Browne bore the brunt of Churchill’s moody irresolution. Could the drinking session during which Welby was conceived have been an escape from the stress of these circumstances?
Lord Lexden
House of Lords

9/4/16 - Yound David and George
The Spectator
 

Sir: Both David Cameron and George Osborne gained experience as political novices in the Conservative Research Department, but they did not form a ‘Smith Square set’ (‘The Conservative crack-up’, 26 March). Cameron ended his four-year stint after the 1992 election, departing with other leaders of his ‘brat pack’. Osborne, arriving two years later, could not get out fast enough, leaving in 1995 to join Douglas Hogg at Agriculture at the start of the BSE crisis (which I told him confidently would be the end of his political career).

If, however, both men lack interest in ‘the preoccupations of MPs’ they follow in a fine Tory tradition. In 1905 Balfour was deeply impressed with the knowledge of Hong Kong displayed by a stranger who turned out to be a member of the Keswick family. He would be a great asset in the Commons, Balfour told him. ‘Well, said Mr Keswick, I may as well state at once that I have been a loyal supporter of yours in the House for the last five years’.
Alistair Lexden
House of Lords

1/4/16 - A Prince of Wales at war 
The Daily Telegraph 

SIR--The future Edward VIII was always uncomfortable about the decorations conferred on him during the First World War (“Edward VIII: I didn’t earn MC”, March 30). He felt anguish at being kept out of the front line.

“I do hate being a prince and not allowed to fight with those brave fellows”, he wrote in 1915, when he had to be compelled by his father, King George V, to put on the Russian and French medals that had been awarded to him.

The letter, which has just come to light, is not the only one in which he referred to his embarrassment at receiving the MC in June 1916. He told the married Lady Marion Coke, with whom he was then in love: “I don’t deserve it in the least. There are so many gallant yet undecorated officers who should have the decoration long before me”.

She provided comfort by telling him to think about her initials: “You now have your little MC”.
Lord Lexden
London SW1

1/4/16 - The first Tory leadership election 
New Statesman

A definitive account of the 1965 Tory leadership election (Letters, 11 and 18 March) was provided the late Professor John Ramsden, in his authoritative work The Winds of Change: Macmillan to Heath, Ramsden writes, “[Reginald] Maudling was favourite: he had had wider ministerial experience… a Daily Express poll suggested that the public preferred Maudling to Heath by 44 per cent to 28 per cent”. As for the actual electorate in this contest, “for Prime Minister most MPs would probably have preferred Maudling, but since it was a leader of the opposition that was needed they opted for Heath’s more abrasive manner”. Maudling thought he would coast to victory, fighting a campaign that was “over-confident and half-hearted”. Much duplicity was practised by the wily electors. Forty-five MPs promised their votes to both candidates.
Alistair Lexden
House of Lords

30/03/16 - Palmerston not Pankhurst
The Times

Sir, Roger East says that he will be “the Emmeline Pankhurst of golf” after being deprived of his right to play at Brocket Hall (“Ousted golfers take a swing at club”, Mar. 28). The suffragette leader, who hated the sport, would have mocked him for even thinking of chaining himself to the gates. He should have invoked Lord Palmerston, a former owner of the Hall. No one insisted more vehemently that Englishmen must enjoy the rights they had acquired. He kept himself fit by vaulting over the Brocket railings until the age of 80. Would not Mr East be more likely to win over the Hall’s new Chinese owners if he impressed them by emulating Palmerston? 
LORD LEXDEN
House of Lords

21/3/16 - A second tragedy at a historic home
The Daily Telegraph
 

SIR--Wythenshawe Hall’s recent fire (report, March 19) is not the first grave misfortune to befall it. During the Civil War, Robert Tatton, a somewhat lukewarm royalist, decided to resist the local parliamentary forces when they advanced on the house in November 1644. The defenders’ resolve was stiffened when they were barred from the nearby churchyard, forcing them to bury their dead in the unconsecrated garden. An enraged woman killed the parliamentarians’ second in command. Two cannons had to be brought from Manchester to “reduce” the Hall in February 1645. The Tattons later got it back from the Roundheads for £707 and restored it. This time the task falls on the people of Manchester who have owned the Hall and its grounds since the 1920s.

16/3/16 - Winston's wager
The Times
 

Sir, It is untrue that Churchill “didn’t have this money to spare” when in January 1901 he bet an American host £100 that the British Empire would not shrink over the following decade (“How Churchill bet his bottom dollar on the Empire”, Mar. 11). He was in fact flush with funds, having pocketed some £1,600 (over £190,000 today) lecturing on his hair-raising exploits as a journalist during the Boer War. Takings were a little disappointing in the United States because of “a strong pro-Boer feeling which has been fomented against me”, as he reported to his mother, but he had “magnificent audiences” in Canada.
Lord Lexden
House of Lords

5/3/16 - Today's leading Tories at the start of their careers
The Spectator 

Sir: Harry Mount points out that Boris Johnson is two years older than David Cameron (Diary, 27 February). Both, however, began their careers in the same year. On 15 June 1988 I interviewed David Cameron for a post in the Conservative Research Department; on 26 July it was Boris’s turn (‘Johnston’ in my diary) . The former was signed up to cover trade and industry issues (memorably forgetting the trade figures when Mrs Thatcher asked him for them). Boris was invited to follow in the footsteps of father Stanley who had been the Department’s first environment expert in the Heath era. But journalism lured him away. Would they have forged a lifetime’s close and harmonious friendship if Boris had reached a different decision?
Alistair Lexden
Deputy Director, Conservative Research Department 1985-97
House of Lords, London SW1

1/3/16 - The Daily Telegraph's postbag
The Daily
 Telegraph 

SIR--The total volume of correspondence arriving at The Daily Telegraph in its early days must have been huge.

Groaning postbags brought many other letters in addition to those intended for publication. The paper’s rules and regulations in the 1860s stated sternly: “All communication with those engaged in every department must be made by letter. The Porter cannot carry messages or transmit notes… The Editor cannot be seen by anyone; all communication with him must be by means of letter”.

Nor could anyone enjoy a calming cigarette during perusal of the missives. “No tobacco is to be smoked in the Establishment”, the paper’s proprietor decreed.
Lord Lexden
London SW1

20/2/16 - Ted Heath and the Police
The Times

Sir, The voluminous Heath papers, bought by the Bodleian Library for a vast sum, are in a mess and need cataloguing (article and leader, Feb.19). The police would do a great service to scholarship if, instead of paying bobbies to become researchers, they gave the money to the Bodleian’s trained archivists who could read every document for signs of sexual depravity and sort out this major archive at the same time. That would salvage something worthwhile from this otherwise ludicrous enterprise.

Lord Lexden
House of Lords

9/2/16 - Britain's independent schools today - some facts
The Daily Telegraph

SIR--Alison Pearson (article, Feb.3) perpetuates the potent myth that parents need to “fork out north of thirty grand” to send their children to independent schools.

Roughly 14 per cent of the 520,000 places in schools belonging to the Independent Schools Council cost this amount, which has come to be regarded as typical. It is in fact the average fee in boarding schools-- of which Britain now has very few.

The vast majority of pupils in the independent sector are in day schools, where average fees are around £13,000. Most of these schools are small, teaching fewer than 350 pupils. The image of independent schools as grand, expensive and elitist is out of date. Twenty-nine per cent of pupils in these schools are from a minority ethnic background, the same as in the state sector. Partnership schemes of all kinds are growing steadily; more than 700 are listed on the new Schools Together website, a joint venture between the state and independent sectors.

It is unsurprising that the Labour Party clings to the old myth. The rest of the country should discard it.

Lord Lexden
General Secretary, Independent Schools Council, 1997-2004
London SW1

3/1/16 - Macmillan and the Profumo Affair
The Times

Sir, The Profumo affair was not “the final nail in the coffin” for Harold Macmillan (“Macmillan saw enemy run rings around MI5”, Feb.1). By September 1963 he was doing well in the opinion polls and told his cabinet colleagues that he would fight the general election due the following year. An urgent prostate operation led him to change his mind in early October—unnecessarily so because the problem was benign and he made a swift recovery.
Lord Lexden
House of Lords

30/1/16 - A Unionist policy for Northern Ireland
The
Spectator

Sir: Charles Moore draws attention to the bond between Airey Neave and Ian Gow (Notes, 23 Jan.). If Neave had lived to become Northern Ireland Secretary, as Mrs Thatcher intended, Gow would have been his Minister of State. ‘Ian will be with us’, he told me more than once as we worked on his plans. The objective was to establish a new system of local government in the province and jettison devolution, to which we were all were totally opposed. If Stormont had become history, Mrs Thatcher would have been in a much stronger position to crush demands for devolution eleswhere. The Neave/Gow policy would have restored unionism to the central place that it once occupied in the Conservative party.
Alistair Lexden
Political Adviser to Airey Neave 1977-79
House of Lords

27/1/16 - Tribute to Cecil Parkinson
The Times

Cecil Parkinson was the most popular Chairman the Conservative party has ever had, winning enormous respect among those who worked for him in Conservative Central Office between 1981 and 1983. He was the only Party Chairman who regularly toured the building. He would sit on the floor and crack jokes. He taught us not to be afraid of Mrs Thatcher when she descended on us.

He brought us our first computers; the young Oliver Letwin sat up all night to master their intricacies. With one of the finest party professionals, Sir Anthony Garner, at his side, he modernised the arrangements for training constituency agents and increased their numbers, bringing the party’s organisation to a standard of efficiency which his successors sadly allowed to decline.

I remember how shocked he was on his return to the party chairmanship after the 1997 election, not least because some high election bonuses had been promised to individuals who did not deserve them. His lasting services to his party included the chairmanship of the Conservative Archive Trust which we set up together in the mid-1990s at the Bodleian Library.

The trust ensures the preservation of the largest collection of documents in the possession of a British political party, going back to the mid-19th century. He appreciated the importance of agents, and organisation, because he was the first constituency chairman to preside over the party.

11/1/16 - The Queen Mother and Edward VIII
The Daily Telegraph

SIR--Michael Thornton (Features, January 7) dismisses the claim that the Queen Mother wanted to marry the future Edward VIII, saying that it “cannot possibly be correct”.

It is possible he is wrong. During the summer and autumn of 1922, she turned down her future husband’s repeated proposals, prompting speculation that she was after his elder brother. At a ball in October 1922 the two of them spent a great deal of time together “laughing their heads off, the picture of happiness”.

Edward’s failure to take matters further made it clear to her that she would not become his queen, but the rumours persisted. On 5 January 1923 it was widely reported in the press that they were to marry. “Too stupid and unfounded”, she wrote in her diary—words that hardly suggest that she was affronted. In a subsequent letter she would tell him that he was “delicious”.

Her affection for her brother-in-law, later the much derided Duke of Windsor, never disappeared. Her biographer, Hugo Vickers, has observed that “she retained a soft spot for the Duke (the man he used to be and might have become) deep in her heart”.

Lord Lexden
London SW1

1/1/16 - Lynton Crosby's Knighthood
The Times

Sir, Lynton Crosby’s knighthood needs to be seen in historical context (reports, Dec.31). It continues the practice, which goes back to the late 19th century, of honouring the most senior figure in the party’s central office after election victory. Until twenty years ago that person was always a highly experienced professional party agent who had given years of service for modest financial reward. The decline of the party’s organisation has ended that fine tradition and engulfed what remains of it in scandal. Lynton Crosby, who was paid a vast salary, has probably never set foot in a Tory constituency office outside London. No wonder his honour has aroused such widespread criticism.

Lord Lexden
Director of the Conservative Political Centre 1988-97
House of Lords