Letters

Letters

A selection of Lord Lexden's letters this year to The Daily Telegraph, The Times, The New Statesman and The Spectator. You can read letters from previous years in the menu to the left.

05/12/18 - Hero in war, hopeless in politics
The Daily Telegraph

SIR - Nothing could be more fitting than the re-creation of Sir Alfred Munnings’s most famous First World War painting in the year of its centenary (‘’Rein supreme”, report, 29 November).

Major-General Jack Seely sits aside his magnificent horse Warrior after the Battle of Moreuil Wood in March 1918, the scene of a great cavalry charge, when victory in that terrible conflict still seemed remote. It was a poignant moment: never again would horses play a prominent part in warfare in Western Europe.

Seely combined immense bravery with utter political incompetence. He was sacked as war secretary a few months before the start of the Great War for amending a key document after the Cabinet had approved it. In 1935, following several meetings with Hitler, he told the House of Lords that Germany had a leader who was “absolutely truthful, sincere and unselfish”.

He was at Harrow with Churchill, who was devoted to him. In June 1940 he presented himself at No 10 in the full dress uniform of a Lord Lieutenant and handed in a message which read: “Hampshire is behind you”. Churchill’s Private Secretary, Jock Colville, recorded in his diary: “I gave the Prime Minister the message. He shook with laughter as he read it and then, quite suddenly, he wept.”

Lord Lexden
London SW1

19/11/18 - Publish those letters
The Times

Sir, Openness and transparency are  considered cardinal virtues. Yet Tory MPs have, since 1991, been permitted to demand a confidence vote in their leader in secrecy. This encourages deviousness and skulduggery. Diaries published by Michael (now Lord) Spicer, a former chairman of the 1922 Committee, show that in 2003 when Iain Duncan Smith was challenged, he received 19 forged letters. A number of those who have now submitted letters asking for a confidence vote in Mrs May have announced that they have done so. This should be made a requirement under the rules which the 1922 Committee administers, releasing the chairman from endless questions about the number of letters he has under lock and key (while checking their authenticity) and enabling the party leader to gauge the gravity of unrest among Tory MPs.

Yours faithfully

Lord Lexden
Conservative Party Historian
House of Lords

17/11/18 - An unhappy admiral
The Spectator

Sir: The happiness felt by the dancing Admiral Sir Rosslyn Wemyss, supreme allied naval commander, on Armistice Day (The Spectator’s Notes,10 November) was short-lived.

He did not receive the grant of £100,000 which Parliament awarded all the other First World War commanders; while they received earldoms, he got a mere barony, for which he was made to wait a year. He told his family these misfortunes were the result of disobeying Lloyd George, who had instructed him ‘to arrange that the Armistice should commence at 2.30 p.m. in order that he might announce it in the House of Commons between 2.45 p.m. and 3 p.m.’

According to his account, Wemyss telephoned George V and got him to tell the government that  the 11th hour would be a far better time to bring the Armistice into effect. ‘When he reported to the prime minister and cabinet  on 19 November, he was shocked to find them ungrateful and vindictive.’

Alistair Lexden
House of Lords

09/11/18 - Baldwin's election
TLS: The Times Literary Supplement

Sir, Jonathan Benthall (In Brief, November 2) ticks off Albert Weale for stating in his The Will of the People that the last election at which any political party won over half the popular vote was in 1935, insisting that the 1931 election holds that distinction.

The author is right, the reviewer wrong. 53.7 per cent of those who voted in 1935 backed Stanley Baldwin’s request for a mandate for general rearmament so that he could extend his plans to give Britain massively increased air defence through the programme to build bombers and fighter aircraft which he had started the previous year.

Alistair Lexden
House of Lords, London SW1

03/11/18 - How the 1918 Armistice came to be announced at the 11th hour
The Daily Telegraph

SIR-- It seems so obvious now that the Armistice should have been signed on “the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month” (report, October 26). Yet it happened only because Admiral Sir Rosslyn Wemyss, the British representative at the Armistice negotiations at Compiègne, defied his instructions.

According to his account, Lloyd George, then prime minister, told him to ensure that it would come into force at 2.30pm, to coincide with the start of proceedings in the House of Commons, where the PM would announce it. Wemyss, sensing the popular appeal of an 11am announcement, got the French and Germans to agree to it.

He then spoke by telephone to King George V, who told the government that he was in full agreement .The original plan was changed and Lloyd George was furious.

As a result, Wemyss did not receive the £100,000 grant awarded to other service chiefs, and, while they were given earldoms, he got a mere barony, for which he was made to wait a year.

Lord Lexden
London SW1

26/10/18 - A better class of insult
The Times

Sir, It is a pity that Matthew Parris cited the obviously light-hearted Wildean comment that Disraeli made about Gladstone and the Thames, which I believe is apocryphal (Notebook, Oct.24). 

What he really said about his contemporaries was much worse. When Lord Aberdeen was prime minister in the 1850s, Disraeli cheerfully disparaged “his hesitating speech, his contracted sympathies, his sneer, icy as Siberia, his sarcasms, drear and barren as the Steppes”.

We need insults with that kind of class today.

Lord Lexden
House of Lords

09/10/18 - Thatcher's Law
The Times

Sir, In her maiden speech in 1960 moving the second reading of her Public Bodies (Admission to Meetings) Bill, Margaret Thatcher said “publicity is the greatest and most effective check against any arbitrary action” by local authorities. The Tory benches today are packed with her self-proclaimed admirers. They should strengthen the law which she put on the statute book nearly 60 years ago to ensure that councils cannot escape rigorous press scrutiny (report and leader, Oct. 6).

Lord Lexden
House of Lords

05/10/18 - A money-making Gladstone
TLS: The Times Literary Supplement

Sir, Ian Cawood (In Brief, September 21) refers dismissively to Gladstone’s third son, Henry (1852-1935), as “anonymous”. He should consult the biography of this successful man, ennobled in 1932, written by Ivor Thomas and published in 1936. Henry was the only member of the Gladstone family to make serious money, apart from the Liberal leader’s father, the slave-owning Sir John. He invested profitably in the railways in India where he also established thriving jute mills, became a Director of the Bank of Bengal and acquired a share of a large timber business. His Russian Petroleum Company, founded in 1897, brought him a fortune from the Baku oil fields. One well produced 330,000 tons in thirty-three days (“Mr Gladstone was fascinated”). His wealth helped sustain both the Liberal Party and the disestablished Church in Wales after the First World War, and paid for numerous memorials to the Grand Old Man. A poor speaker, he politely declined the safe Liberal seats which were offered to him. He was well-known, not anonymous.

Alistair Lexden
House of Lords, London SW1

04/10/18 - Baldwin the builder
The Daily Telegraph

SIR--Benjamin Disraeli did not pass some of the most important legislation to improve housing, as Jacob Rees-Mogg told a meeting at the Conservative Party Conference (Michael Deacon, Sketch, October 2). The claim rests on the well-known Artisans’ Dwelling Act of 1875, which gave local authorities power to pull down slums.

The legislation made little difference. As Professor John Vincent pointed out in his brilliant brief life of Disraeli published in 1990, “not being compulsory, and being rather costly to ratepayers, its practical value was limited.”

The first Tory leader to tackle the country’s housing needs seriously was Stanley Baldwin, the man who invented the famous phrase, “one nation”, wrongly ascribed to Disraeli.

In 1929 at the end of a five-year term as prime minister, he proudly reported that the 930,000 houses built during it “constitute a record in the history of the world.”

Last week a fine statue of this great Tory social reformer was unveiled in Bewdley, Worcestershire, his birthplace and constituency.

Lord Lexden
London SW1

26/09/18 - Death rather than dishonour
The Times

Sir, Sir Walter Bromley-Davenport’s rejection of Dr. Edith Summerskill’s ministrations in the House of Commons (letter, Sept. 25) was not the only occasion when his pronounced right-wing views on healthcare were demonstrated. A few years later he was attacked in his home by a man with an axe. “Don’t let the NHS get me”, he shouted in his extraordinarily loud voice. The assailant fled.

Lord Lexden
London SW1

23/09/18 - One Nation - yet another correction
The Spectator

Sir: Cocky Tom Tugendhat repeats a common error in attributing the famous Tory phrase ‘one nation’ to Disraeli (‘Move aside, Boris’, 15 September). Stanley Baldwin was the first to use it. At the Albert Hall on 4 December 1924 in the aftermath of the Conservative Party’s greatest election victory, 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 which, if secured, nothing else matters in the world.’ 

I shall be quoting these words in Bewdley on 27 September at the unveiling of a fine statue of Baldwin by Martin Jennings.

Alistair Lexden
House of Lords

06/09/18 - The Presbyterian Queen
The Daily Telegraph

SIR-- Queen Victoria’s delight in Crathie Kirk, the church in Aberdeenshire (“Reign Gauge”, September 3), was not shared by all her ministers.

Lord Clarendon, foreign secretary in 1856 and a frostbite victim at chilly Balmoral, told his wife: “There is a good deal of singing (very bad) but there is no kneeling, and they never say the Lord’s Prayer.”

From 1873 Victoria regularly took Communion among the “simple good people” on her Scottish estate, to the horror of her Anglican household who kept her Presbyterianism out of the court circular.

But she was found wanting by one dour visiting minister who gave a sermon on damnation. When told afterwards that “the Queen does not altogether believe in the Devil”, the preacher sighed, “Puir body.”

Lord Lexden
London SW1

24/08/18 - Peterloo myth
The Daily Telegraph

SIR—The Peterloo “massacre” of August 16 1819 should indeed “be on the school curriculum” (Michael Henderson, Comment, August 20).

A crowd of between 20,000 and 60,000 men, women and children arrived at St Peter’s Fields, outside Manchester, in formations resembling troops on parade. Postponed twice, the meeting had been declared illegal.

The government of Lord Liverpool advised local magistrates, on whom responsibility for law and order rested, to act only if violence threatened. They believed that it did; a later inquiry found that the area had been “in a state little short of actual rebellion”.

The death toll was 11. Privately, the government felt that the Manchester magistrates had acted imprudently, but, as the Duke of Wellington pointed out, if ministers had not backed them “others in future would not act at all” when disorder threatened.

Lord Lexden
London SW1

08/08/18 - Justice for Bishop Bell - the Church's shameful silence
The Daily Telegraph

SIR—Will the “wrongs done to the name of George Bell” (Charles Moore, Notebook, July 30) ever be corrected by the Church of England authorities who committed them nearly three years ago on the strength of a single, uncorroborated allegation by “a victim”, as they described her, against a great man who died 60 years ago?

They brushed aside the withering criticism of their conduct by Lord Carlile QC in his independent review last December, and then, disregarding his advice, began another secret investigation into a second complaint of sexual abuse which conveniently reached them in January. Its terms of reference remain unknown. Though highly placed Church sources originally gave June as the expected date of completion, it drags on, with a blackout on all news of its progress.

There was a possibility at one stage that the Rt Rev Martin Warner, the current Bishop of Chichester, might take charge of it. That he should even have been considered is astonishing.

It was Bishop Warner who in 2015 said, “we face with shame the story of abuse of a child” after an investigation which Alex Carlile later found to be fatally flawed. The bishop ordered that his great predecessor’s name should be removed from buildings and institutions in the diocese. Yet, in his maiden speech in the House of Lords in July, he praised the very man to whom he has done such wrong for making Chichester “famous for its contribution to learning and the arts”.

Lord Lexden
London SW1

16/07/18 - Justice for Ted Heath: the case for an inquiry
The Times

Sir, Many will feel sympathy with Wiltshire police’s request for additional resources (“Police seek extra cash and staff to cope with novichok crisis”, July 13). But  it should be remembered that the force would today be some half a million pounds better off if it had not embarked on a reckless campaign to try to prove that Sir Edward Heath was a child sex abuser.

The tone of the campaign was set by the former chief constable, Mike Veale, who was quoted as saying that he was “120 percent certain” that Sir Edward was guilty. Having spent Wiltshire’s money lavishly, Mr Veale was given a Home Office grant of £1.1 million to help him ransack the voluminous Heath papers in the Bodleian Library.

Not a shred of evidence was found, but to save face Wiltshire police refused to close the files on a handful of allegations (one of which was shown to be groundless by The Times recently.  

An independent inquiry is essential to restore public confidence in the ability of the force to manage its affairs properly. The local police and crime commissioner refuses to institute one, so the government must act, as I demanded in the Lords last week.

Lord Lexden
House of Lords

05/07/18 - Was Churchill sexually abused at school?
The Daily Telegraph

SIR--People are constantly trying to find something new to say about Churchill, whose life has been studied in greater detail than any other, having been examined by several hundred biographers.    

Normally, this quest for novelty takes the harmless form of clever remarks which are presented bogusly as quotations from the great man.

My fellow peer, Michael Dobbs, has now come up with the extraordinary claim that Churchill was “probably sexually abused” at his revolting prep school, St George’s, Ascot (report, 2 July). There is not shred of factual evidence to support this assertion in the voluminous Churchill papers in Cambridge or anywhere else.

The headmaster of the school was a sadist who beat boys ferociously, splattering the walls of his study with their blood.

Churchill himself later described his “cruel flogging” as exceeding “in severity anything that would be tolerated in any of the Reformatories of the Home Office” in their harshest days in the nineteenth century. “How I hated this school”, he added. 

But accounts of its horrors do not include sex abuse. The writer, Maurice Baring, a near contemporary of Churchill, later wrote candidly about the place. He made no mention of sex abuse, while specifically acquitting the head of homosexuality.

It is now fashionable to speculate wildly about historical child sex abuse.

Novelists should curb their fevered imaginations when commenting on this subject.

Lord Lexden
London SW1

26/06/18 - Tattooing the Royals
The Times

Sir, The future Edward VII was not given to flaunting the tattoo he acquired in Jerusalem in 1862 (“William can mark history with royal tattoo”, June 23).  He seems to have concealed it from his wife. Twenty years later their son, later George V, wrote excitedly to tell his mother that he had been tattooed “by the same old man that tattooed Papa, and the same thing too, the five crosses”. He added: “Ask Papa to show you his arm.”

Lord Lexden
London SW1

15/06/18 - Bridge or Tunnel?
The Daily Telegraph

SIR--Support is mounting for a bridge between Scotland and Ulster (report, June 12 and Letters, 13 June).

This has never happened before.  In the past it was the possibility of creating a tunnel that absorbed attention. In 1897 an engineering genius, Luke Livingston Macassey, who had provided Belfast with a reliable water supply for the first time, drew up detailed plans for a 21-mile rail tunnel between the city and Stranraer, having dismissed the case for a bridge.

A strong Unionist government under Lord Salisbury was in office. Its loyal MPs from Ulster pressed for a grant of £15,000 to get exploratory work started. They received a sniffy reply: “The financial aspects are not of a very promising character”. Unlike the DUP today, they lacked the power to force the government’s hand. So too did their successors when an attempt was made in the Fifties to resurrect the proposal.

Macassey’s plans survive. The DUP should get Mrs May’s ministers to re-examine them.

Lord Lexden
London SW1

23/05/18 - The first Duke of Sussex
The Daily Telegraph

SIR--Charles Moore (Notebook, May 21) refers to the affection in which the first Duke of Sussex was held.

Curiously, his “civil and obliging” nature, commended by the diarist Thomas Creevey, was initially withheld from his niece, the young Queen Victoria.

“I always screamed when I saw him”, she wrote, having been told he would administer severe punishment if she misbehaved. Later, she was much attracted by his soft-heartedness and eccentricities. He sobbed throughout her wedding in 1840, adorned by a black skull-cap to keep his head warm.

In return for his affection she removed the stigma attached to the second wife he had married illegally, by creating her Duchess of Inverness in her own right. Together they amassed a library of some 50,000 books, including some 1,000 editions of the Bible.

Lord Lexden
London SW1

19/05/18 - Wellington's test
The Spectator

Sir, Charles Moore (The Spectator’s Notes, 12 May) is a little premature in suggesting that the current Duke of Wellington has departed from the wise habits of his great forebear by amending the EU Withdrawal Bill in the Lords. The Iron Duke often took strong exception to measures passed by the Commons, but always insisted that in the end the Lords must give way. After denouncing the Whig government’s new constitution for Canada in 1840, ‘In the last stages I prevailed upon the House to agree to, and pass it, in order to avoid the injury to the public interests of a dispute between the two Houses on a question of such importance.’ The test for the current Duke and his supporters comes when the Bill returns to the Lords for its last stages.

Alistair Lexden
House of Lords

19/05/18 - Asquith's 400 new peers - a precedent for Brexit?
The Times

Sir, Further to Matt Ridley’s comment article (May 16), the House of Lords was threatened with 400, not 100, new Liberal peers in 1911, Asquith having drawn up the list of names. The threat was not to “overcome peers’ opposition to Lloyd George’s radical budget”; the Lords had passed it in April 1910 after a year’s delay.

The issue in 1911 was the abolition of the Lords veto on legislation so that Asquith’s Irish Nationalist allies, on whom he depended for a majority, could get the Home Rule government in Dublin to which the Tory majority in the Lords remained opposed. That was achieved by the 1911 Parliament Act with Tory peers abstaining in large numbers to prevent Asquith’s mass creations.

Lord Lexden
House of Lords

05/05/18 - Enoch Powell and conservatism
The Spectator

Sir: It is easy enough for a remorseless liberal like Matthew Parris (‘They say Enoch Powell had a fine mind. Hmm’, 28 April) to denigrate Enoch Powell on the strength of his widely execrated speech on immigration and some tortured comments on homosexuality. Powell should be remembered as the man who restored conservatism to intellectual coherence in the 1960s. He pointed it away from an outmoded imperialism to a realistic patriotism, and from a largely dirigiste and paternalistic view of economic policy to a radical economic liberalism. It is surely a view of conservatism that will achieve a remarkable vindication at the end of March next year when Britain leaves the EU.

Alistair Lexden
House of Lords

02/05/18 - The Fawcetts - a unique tribute
The Daily Telegraph

SIR--The unveiling of the much-praised statue of Dame Millicent Fawcett (report, April 25) means that a husband and wife have now been publicly commemorated in the same way for the first time outside the Royal family. 

Henry Fawcett, Liberal MP from 1865 until his early death in 1884, was excluded from the Cabinet solely on account of his blindness, as Gladstone told him apologetically.

There are statues of him in the Victoria Embankment Gardens (a short distance from his wife’s in Parliament Square) and in the centre of Salisbury, his birthplace, where he spoke powerfully in support of women’s suffrage in the company of his devoted spouse. 

The Salisbury statue is badly in need of cleaning and repair. In view of the couple’s unique statuary achievement, should not restoration work be set in hand in Salisbury, where tourism needs a boost in the aftermath of the nerve poison attack?

Lord Lexden
London SW1 

10/04/18 - Disraeli's Abyssinian triumph
The Daily Telegraph

SIR—This month, it will be 150 years since an Anglo-Indian expeditionary force stormed the Abyssinian fortress of Magdala to liberate the British consul and a number of others who had been held in chains for over six months by the Emperor Theodore II, unmoved by Queen Victoria’s requests for their release.

Benjamin Disraeli, newly appointed as prime minister, received news of victory early on April 26 1868, “gorgeously arrayed in a dressing gown and in imposing headgear”, as an awed cabinet colleague recorded. With characteristic hyperbole, he reported to the House of Commons that “the standard of St George was hoisted on the mountains of Rasselas”, and raised income tax from fourpence to sixpence to cover the cost of the campaign and the rapid departure of British troops, their mission accomplished.

Is it wise of the Victoria and Albert Museum to make the spoils of war available to the current Ethiopian regime, even in the form of a loan (report, April 4)? Guarantees of safe return could be hard to obtain and enforce, and other requests could follow. On no account should the Emperor’s necklace, presented to Disraeli, leave Hughenden, the house he adored, where it is now displayed by the National Trust, as he would have wished.

Lord Lexden
London SW1

28/03/18 - A chilly Easter in Lexden
The Times

Sir, The implementation of the Easter Act 1928 does not require the formal approval of the Church. The act stipulates only that “regard shall be had” to its “opinion”. Furthermore, parliament is expressly empowered to amend its provisions through the secondary legislation needed to bring it into effect.

Late April certainly does not guarantee balmy weather. The heavy snow in Devon on April 21, 1921 (letter, Mar. 26) was repeated in Essex on April 20, 1945. Through the window my mother watched large snowflakes fall after my birth that day.

Lord Lexden
House of Lords, London SW1

09/03/18 - Attempted political theft
The Daily Telegraph

Sir, Henry Bolton, the former Ukip leader, wants to purloin “Disraeli’s One Nation social conservatism” (“Ukip leader ousted in racism scandal sets up a new party”, Mar. 7). The great statesman never used the term; it was invented more than 40 years later by Stanley Baldwin, who would have denounced such a fraudulent attempt to rebrand Ukip’s socially divisive policies.

Lord Lexden
House of Lords

05/03/18 - Did Churchill drink too much?
The Daily Telegraph

SIR - Lady Avon asserts that her uncle Winston Churchill drank “not more than most men” (report, March 2).

It is true that he would toy with a weak whisky, described by one of his private secretaries as “scotch-flavoured mouthwash”, for hours on end.

During and after meals, however, he imbibed on a scale not seen among politicians since the 18th century. It has been estimated that he consumed some 42,000 bottles of champagne during the course of his life.

Very substantial regular intake enabled him to avoid insobriety. The only occasion on which he was seen drunk was at the Tehran Conference in 1943 after a long night exchanging toasts with the Soviet leaders.

He wrote: “I had been brought up and trained to have the utmost contempt for people who got drunk—except on very exceptional occasions and a few anniversaries.”

Lord Lexden
London SW1

19/02/18 - Votes at 16 - and all other rights too?
London Evening Standard

Legislation to give votes to 16-year-olds will not run into any problems in the House of Lords [“Voting age could be cut to 16 before the next general election, says senior Tory”, February 15].

Labour and Liberal Democrats, who have a majority in the second chamber, will speed its passage enthusiastically.

If they had had their way, the voting age would have been lowered for the EU referendum. An amendment to include 16-year-olds passed the Lords, but was overturned in the House of Commons.

It is obviously unsatisfactory to have a lower voting age for the Scottish Parliament (with the Welsh Assembly expected to follow suit) and a higher one for Westminster.

Indeed, maybe 16 should become the new age of majority for everything -- including buying cigarettes, jury service, and fighting on the front line which currently start at 18?

Can different rights at different ages be justified any longer?

Alistair Lexden
House of Lords

15/02/18 - The true heroine of the women's suffrage campaign
The Spectator

Sir: Jane Ridley (‘Women on the warpath’, Books, 10 February) claims that Millicent Fawcett and her suffragists had ‘got nowhere’ by the time the militant suffragettes came on the scene in 1903. In fact Fawcett’s law-abiding movement with a membership of some 50,000 (far more than the quarrelling Pankhursts ever managed) had won round the majority of MPs by 1897. Between that date and final victory 20 years later, there were always more MPs in favour of women’s suffrage than against it, though the gap between them shrank during the years of the suffragette campaign. Its violence has to be high on the list of factors that delayed victory.

Ridley repeats the claim that Emily Davison ‘jumped out in front of the King’s horse at the Derby’. The coroner at her inquest concluded that ‘it was evident that Miss Davison did not make specifically for the King’s horse, but her intention was merely to disturb or upset the race’. She had positioned herself on a bend where she could hear, but not see, the horses approaching.

Ridley feels that Dame Millicent should not be alone in having a statue; Mrs Pankhurst should have one too. She already does. It stands, much admired, just beyond Parliament’s Victoria Tower where it was unveiled by Stanley Baldwin in 1930, two years after he had faced down intense opposition from Churchill and the Tory right to give women the vote on the same terms as men. Mrs Pankhurst died just after the legislation had passed, as the proud Tory candidate for Whitechapel.

Alistair Lexden
House of Lords

09/02/18 - Votes at 16?
The Times

Sir, It took a succession of bravura Commons performances by Disraeli to gain the support of his deeply suspicious MPs for his “major reform expanding the franchise” to include urban male householders in 1867 (“The Tories could profit from votes at 16”, Daniel Finkelstein, Comment, Feb.7). How on earth could timid, tongue-tied Mrs May educate her party, in Dizzy’s famous phrase, to accept another bold expansion of the electorate?

Lord Lexden
House of Lords

05/02/18 - Advice for the Archbishop on the Bell case
The Spectator

Sir: Unfortunately the Archbishop of Canterbury was not in the House of Lords on 22 January when I called on the Church to accept the Carlile Report’s central conclusion that, in the absence of convincing evidence against the great Bishop Bell, his name should never have been publicly besmirched (The Spectator’s Notes, 27 Jan.). Lambeth should heed the wise words of the Bishop of Peterborough who said that ‘where the complainant has a right to be anonymous, there seems to be a case for the respondent also to be anonymous… until there is overwhelming evidence to suggest guilt’.

If the Archbishop expressed belated remorse for not adopting such a course, which is in accordance with official police advice, he might begin to calm the furore that he has aroused.

Alistair Lexden
House of Lords

02/02/18 - Slashing suffragette
The Daily Telegraph

SIR--It was on July 17 1914 that the picture of Thomas Carlyle in the National Portrait Gallery was attacked (“Portrait slashed by suffragette ‘Hatchet Fiend’ goes on show”, 30 January).

The 31-year-old assailant, who gave her name as Ann Hunt, was Margaret Gibb from Glasgow. She and her sister Ellison, well-known in their native city as chess-players, had been breaking windows in Dundee and then in London.

In March 1914, Margaret had been sentenced to two months in Holloway for attacking a policeman with a dog whip. Her next target was unfortunate, for Thomas Carlyle was a great hero to Emmeline Pankhurst, who was extremely displeased by the severe damage to his portrait.

The Gibb sisters returned in some disgrace to chess-playing in Glasgow, where their only recorded sources of excitement in later years were long, happy holidays together in Japan.

Lord Lexden
London SW1

27/01/18 - Ulster-Scotland link
The Times

Sir, Ulster Unionists might well have got a rail tunnel to Stranraer in 1890 if the then Tory prime minister, Lord Salisbury, had been dependent on their votes (“Now the Northern Irish want a bridge built from Scotland”, Jan.24). Plans were drawn by an enterprising engineer, but a hefty government subsidy was needed to tempt investors. Salisbury, with a majority of more than 100, said, “take away that Ulster begging bowl”.

Lord Lexden
House of Lords

26/01/18 - That statue again
London Evening Standard

There are several reasons for applauding Westminster council’s decision to turn down the proposed statue of former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher [“Architect handbags council for rejecting Thatcher statue”, January 24].

It is far too soon after her death, in April 2013, and her family do not like the design. But above all, it is not worthy of her.

A peer’s robes cascade impressively around the person (as they do in Benjamin Disraeli’s statue to which the plinth designer refers). However, Thatcher is depicted in what looks like a non-conformist minister’s gown with frills and a chain added. Where is the strength of character for which she will always be remembered?

She has been given the tired, mournful expression of a person whose life has been a failure, which couldn’t be further from the truth. This statue must be junked.

Lord Lexden
House of Lords (Con)

19/01/18 - An insult to Margaret Thatcher
The Times

Sir, The proposed Thatcher statue must be vetoed (report, Jan.18). It makes her look like a rather dowdy and unhappy provincial lady mayoress. The sculptor has put her in a terrible, simplified version of her peer’s robes without her Garter regalia. The face lacks any trace of the strength and determination brilliantly captured by Oscar Nemon in a 1979 bust at the Carlton Club. This statue insults her memory.

Lord Lexden
House of Lords

08/01/18 - Prince Charles at Gordonstoun
The Daily Telegraph

SIR-- The portrayal on Netflix of Prince Charles’s misery at Gordonstoun has been contested by one of his contemporaries who claims that it does not “remotely resemble” the truth (“Gordonstoun ‘nothing like in The Crown’”, report, January 4).

When researching his biography of the Prince published in 1994, Jonathan Dimbleby had access to letters which he sent to his parents and others from Gordonstoun. They record a life of deep unhappiness.

“I hate coming back here,” he wrote in his third term. “I hardly get any sleep because I snore and I get hit on the head the whole time. It’s absolute hell.”

Things had not improved at the end of two years. “The people in my dormitory are foul. Goodness they are horrid, I don’t know how anyone could be so foul… I still wish I could come home. It’s such a hole this place.”

It was only in music, painting and acting that he found relief, giving a notable performance as Macbeth in his last term.

Netflix has been justly criticised for making some serious errors, but its depiction of Prince Charles’s time at Gordonstoun is not among them.

Lord Lexden
London SW1

02/01/18 - Airey Neave remembered
The Times

Sir, Kemi Badenoch, MP, a rising Tory star, must read the well-crafted books written by her hero Airey Neave (“Tory’s love for great escaper”, Diary, Dec.28). One of the best, They Have Their Exits, first published in 1953 and still in print, describes his escape from Colditz -- characteristically, he gave pride of place to the ingenuity and bravery of others rather than his own.

He never gave much thought to his own safety, a habit which remained unchanged during his involvement with Northern Ireland after 1975. He was murdered, not by the IRA, but by the so-called Irish National Liberation Army, a splinter group, whose bombers remained at large and briefed the journalist Paul Routledge for his unsympathetic biography of Neave published in 2002.

It is a pity that the policy that Neave devised for Northern Ireland is not better known. When I saw him for the last time the morning before his murder, he gave final approval to the words which were to appear in the 1979 Conservative election manifesto: “in the absence of devolution, we will seek to establish one or more regional councils with a wide range of powers over local services.”

Devolution has been absent from Northern Ireland for almost a year. The suspended Assembly at Stormont could be reconstituted along the lines Neave proposed.

Lord Lexden
(Political adviser to Airey Neave, 1977-79)